Recently I’ve had the pleasure (read agony) of dissolving a creative partnership. There are two ways I could go about approaching this very rocky time in my life. I could A.) Sweep the situation under the plush Persian rug and go on in a very Stepford Wife manner as I leave with nothing but the sound of my heels clicking in retreat through the back gate, or B.) I could address it as a grown arse woman and stand up for myself while approaching the situation with the upmost integrity (think the poignant tact of Condolisa Rice and the sharp whit of Amal Aziz-Clooney). I chose neither option, but rather I wish to address this subject as Leslie Knope, with a Pawnee sized dose of humor, waffles and self deprication.
I have found the old saying, “Nice guys finish last”, to be utterly false. The truth is, nice guys never enter the competition in the first place. We’re too busy organizing the main event. We’re the cheerleaders, mascots, yearbook photographers and prom committee members. We take it upon ourselves to make sure the members of our society have freshly baked cupcakes at club meetings and glittery signs boasting their name at the finish line. We are the hype girls, and god forbid a hype girl forgets her place. We belong in the background, lifting others up not sharing in the spotlight, because the moment we are discovered we become a threat. PEOPLE OF AMERICA: THIS MUST CHANGE, LIKE YESTERDAY!
Elementary school was my first introduction to the hype girl turned fifteen minutes of fame scenario. It was the 3rd grade and I was fresh off the seclusion of a two year stint on the mission field in Mexico with my quirky do-gooding family. I was formerly the only blonde girl in my entire village, I was completely unfamiliar with the competition and constant comparison that flourished amongst the society of traditional elementary school. I was completely unaware of the need to stand out because, frankly, I was so busy just trying to figure out what the heck and where the heck I was. I had learned to embrace the fact that I was different without flaunting it. My complex was less of a need to be popular as it was a need to just become a part of the culture. That was, until I returned to my hometown.
My welcome back to the states was one for the books. On the first day of third grade I was thrilled. On the second day I was in full blown culture shock. Other kids weren’t interested in my homeschool-free-study inspired pre-flood theories of the garden of Eden. Nay, they were more interested in the plot of latest Rugrats episode, Jack’s death in Titanic, and the impending outcome of their MASH games. I was doomed. DOOMED, I Tell You! I wasn’t allowed to watch Rugrats because of their ‘rebellious spirits’ (due to the fact that they were constantly escaping the safety of the playpen by jigging things open with Tommy’s diaper screwdriver). Titanic, FORGET IT! As for MASH, I had been taught that such fortune telling was ‘witchcraft’ and should be avoided like the plague. I was overwhelmed, how-ever was I going to fit in?
By October I had figured out the system of the American elementary culture via a series of covert operations. 1.) I would sneak in to the living room after school and just as my grandpa fell asleep I would turn the volume down to a low humm and flip the channel to Nickelodeon, catching every Rugrats episode sans parental guidance. 2.) My cousin and I discovered that HBO alowed us to continually replay not ONLY Jack’s death but also Kate Winslet’s iconic portrait sesh. We became tata experts in no time. 3.) I grilled my mother on the occult, dark magic and witchcraft relentlessly until I finally decided MASH was nowhere near the witchcrafti-ness of the ouiji board or the post-cafetiria “Bloody Mary” mirror games. I caved and learned a bit of entry level origami in the process.
A few weeks into my American education I was set for a semester of success. That was, until our 3rd grade play auditions.
One fine day in music class, our teacher announced that the 3rd grade would be conducting the Autumn portion of the school wide ‘Play of Season’s’. She described our portion of the play and split us up in to pairs by height. Once we were seated in little couples, she played ‘The Turkey Tango”; a very catchy song about a Turkey named Fred, from Durango who liked to tango. We were then given red paper roses, to hold in our tiny 3rd grade mouths, as we learned the Spanish Tango. This all sounds pretty hilarious to me now, but to a child in culture shock it was no laughing matter.
My tango was less of a dance and more of a foot squashing session. No matter how hard my poor teacher tried, I just refused to be led by my partner. I mean, why did HE get to lead just because he was a boy? Why, I was a much better dancer and I had a much greater affinity for the Spanish culture. Red hot tears began to stream down my face as my entire American dream began to crash down around me. I threw my red rose on the ground in protest and sat huffing in my grimy mave plastic chair. I will never know what lead my teacher to her final decision, but I can only guess it was my sudden flair for the dramatic and unintentional-feminist ideals. She pulled me aside and told me her plan. I was a little unsure, but I knew it was a whole lot better than a months worth of toe crushing tango routines.
On the day of the school play I was horrified. I looked down at my wobbly little yellow stockinged chicken legs through the peep holes of my costume and gulped down my pride in defeat. The floor was full of Spanish Señoritas and dapper Spanish Gentlemen. I stood by the gymnasium doors, wobbling beneath a cardboard refrigerator box turned turkey costume. I panned the audience and stopped on the third row. There it was staring straight back at me, my aunts camcorder. The one device that could immortalize this moment for all eternity. The song started, a streak of fear ran through my wobbly little yellow chicken knees and I took the floor. I tango-ed to the right, I tango-ed to the left and I made that floor mine. Solo American turkey on a dance floor full of happy ‘Spanish’ children. It seems I couldn’t escape may past, no matter how hard I tried.
On Monday, I dreaded facing my peers. Sure, I received praises and accolades from my adoring family on my expert tango-ing skills. Yes, I felt a little turkey sized rush of adrenaline surge in to my neon turkey limbs. But this was the 3rd grade lunch room, where pizza was as square as my comrades. We didn’t dance to the beat of our own drum, we didn’t even dance (aside from the tango); and then I go and light up the floor like a turkey in a fryer. As I approached my lunch table I contemplated dropping my tray off at the dish counter and making a quick exit to the nurses office. Right before I could make my move I heard a whisper. “Turkey Girl.” I froze, the blood running to my tiny cheeks. “Turkey Girl!” This time it was louder. “TURKEY GIRL!” By now it was a full blown chant and just before the tears filled my tiny little eyes something wonderful happened. The table burst into applause. I was met with high fives and smiles of acceptance. I was the “Turkey Girl”.
It turns out, I learned A LOT in 3rd Grade.
#1- The Rugrats were rebellious, but so was I.
#2- Kate Winslet’s tatas weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Also, Jacks death made no sense (there was a whole door, ONE ENTIRE LIFESAVING ISLAND OF WOOD!)
#3- MASH was not an accurate form of fortune telling, but “Bloody Mary” was true witchcraft and my cousin Laura had the scratches to prove it.
#4- You don’t need a partner. You can tango alone.
Some of us weren’t meant to be lead by partners, and we weren’t meant to be chorus girls either. Some of us were meant to be soloists, learning how first to lead ourselves before teaching others how to dance the solo tango. Some of us are just neon stocking-ed soloists. Sure, sometimes you’ll partner up, but if you rely on the support of a partner or thrive on their accolades you’ll never find your limelight.
From now on, I tango solo.
P.S. Incase you are questioning the validity of this story, I have done some googling and have come up with the ORIGINAL ‘Turkey Tango’. You’re welcome…