J.J. Miller recalls her mother's (self-fulfilling?) prophecy.
I can visualize my 11-year-old self, a four-foot-tall brunette, in a sky blue leotard and heavy makeup, center stage for our final performance at Bay Country Camp of the Theater Arts in Maryland. It was a moment of glory, I felt sophisticated and grown-up, and frankly, as beautiful as Miss America on her best day. So I was shocked when, back home in Virginia, going through the photos with Mom, she said, "We need to talk. Look, J.J., at the way you're standing onstage. Your tummy is sticking out, and your back isn't straight. Honey, you come from a family of short women, and this will be something you'll have to struggle with the rest of your life, so you need to learn how important it is to stand up straight and hold your stomach in now. Weight will always be an issue for you."
I was mortified. (Do all my camp friends think I'm fat
?) I was devastated. (Fat people can't become famous actresses!) And I was confused. (Did she just say forever
Today I wonder if, in that moment, a self-fulfilling prophecy was uttered that changed my life irreversibly and hardwired in my psyche my own personal cross to bear. It seems impossible, but I sometimes think, "Could I have been a thin girl?" Because I have to admit I remember the palpable, almost physical shift that happened in my brain that day, and I can't help but think that day is when my lifelong struggle with my family, my mother, and, mostly, my own body began. "You're the fattest ballerina" and other shocking comments from mom and dad...