Chapter 8 of Lauren Margison‘s series, The Cardinal Diaries: Embodying The Care We Wish To See is here! If you missed the earlier instalments, you can read them here: chapter one | two | three | four | five | six | seven.
In our next chapter, our soprano songbird embodies meditative composure when faced with a toxic comment in the middle of rehearsal. With trepidation, she raises her voice to speak up and in doing so, opens perspectives and engages important conversations.
I swallowed it. I swallowed the comment like a dry pill. Wincing inwardly, hoping there would be no outer signals to alert those around me to the biliousness within.
I forced enough of a laugh to remind myself that there was enough oxygen around me to breath. I forced enough of a laugh to move on. I forced enough of a laugh to say, “I am not strong enough to fight right now”, but not enough to say, “what you’ve said is acceptable”. I forced the same laugh I had forced many times before, and I hoped beyond hope I wouldn’t have to force many times again.
I struggled to maintain eye contact with anyone in the room, but the biggest struggle was maintaining eye contact with myself in the mirror hanging crookedly to my left.
Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I say that the comment was not acceptable? I could feel the warmth of my own shame creep it’s way up from my toes and slowly engulf me. Tears hot as lava strained to make their way from my eyes to my cheeks, but I forced them into retreat. The only thing that felt more dehumanizing than being fat shamed in the middle of rehearsal was being pitied for it.
I forced myself into a state of meditative composure and made a particular point of dodging the eyes in the room that knew me on a level deeper than the notes I sang, and the smiles I supplied. I had heard comments like these many times before, and despite my optimism, I knew I would hear them again. My inner voice raged and thrashed within my breast, trying to claw its way to some sort of justice. I hushed it. I was used to hushing it. Every performing artist that resided in a body that took up more space than that of a size 0 was used to hushing that rage. That rage for me was nothing more than my hurt in a heavy trench coat. That rage wasn’t really rage at all, but confusion. Confusion that someone could be so blind to think that something as arbitrary as a person’s size could somehow be used to lessen that person. To make an attempt to dim their light. To create an environment so toxic that the only option for that person would be to build a wall around a part of their heart that once was exquisitely vulnerable.
How could someone’s unbridled lack of tact be the cause of so many walls being built within the hearts of beautiful, sensitive, large bodied human beings? How could we go on accepting this as canon?
“Wait…” the word burst forth with a faltering force. I glanced about and saw a myriad of eyes on me. My instinct to diminish myself pulled my shoulders up to my ears and held my head down. I fought against it.
“Am I not doing my job?” I said with trepidation masquerading as gumption.
The response was a confused utterance clearly implying that I was certainly doing the job that I was hired for, and doing it very well.
“Then why is my body being discussed?” The shifting sand beneath my feet was becoming solid ground, and my shame was melting away.
The source of the initial comment stuttered and sputtered like a boiling kettle. Madly glancing around the room searching for some form of vindication. He laughed a similar laugh to the one I had so recently forced. I could feel his regret growing like an auguste balloon.
I didn’t like this much better. I scanned the eyes of this man for evil. I found none. I could find only short-sightedness.
“I am a person, independent of my body. I am an artist, independent of my body. My body may take up more space than you deem acceptable, but frankly, I don’t care. I am an excellent artist, and a good person.” I glanced around the room seeing the many faces brimming with support.
I saw a change in the face of the man who made the comment. I hadn’t swayed him completely, but I made him think. This business is about telling stories… about opening ourselves up to new perspectives and creating windows where there once were walls. I maintain that most people who continue to judge are not themselves bad people, but are looking at walls expecting to see the sky. Sometimes the best thing we can do, is embody the care we wish to see, by taking the hand of those blinded by society, and walking them to the windows we have painstakingly made, in order for them to see the beauty of that vast cerulean sky.
Lauren Margison is a singer and writer from Toronto, Ontario. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, and the Atelier lyrique of the Montreal Opera. She was a first prize winner of the George London Competition. Lauren continues her vocal training under the tutelage of Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka.