Monday, October 20, 2008

The Invisible Me

The Invisible Me

I was going out for dinner to a new Sushi place with my neighbor, and we got to talking about self image issues. I pointed out to him that looking deep down into my soul, my becoming a horn player, and a good one, directly was a result of the pleasure I felt after I performed and as a result of that feeling, that my body image felt invisible.

Let me explain; I started to play the French Horn at the age of 12 in Junior High School. I had the extreme good fortune of receiving a private Horn teacher almost from the first week. The School Board that my school was a part of, had a special deal with one of the horn players from the Toronto Symphony, to give private lessons to horn students in junior and senior high schools. In the beginning years I did not perform in public. My first public perform was later in high school at the age of 15. There was an Art Exhibit in the auditorium of my high school, and a stage/platform was placed in the middle of the auditorium for live performances. I was asked to perform with piano accompaniment given by my vocal coach, the Mozart 3rd horn concerto, second movement. This was a very scary moment for me. Here was this overweight, I think I was about 240 pounds by then, young girl, up on a stage for all to see and hear. I was scared shitless. My knees and lips were shaking from the nerves. But I got through it, and although it wasn’t by far my finest moment, I did receive praise for doing it from some students and teachers that were listening to the performance. That praise really felt good! They actually were giving me compliments! There you have it, the moment my body felt invisible.

With this new power and “ good feeling” endorphin rush, I thought, I like this! I love playing in public! If I become a good player, then people will like me for being a good horn player, and then they wouldn’t notice my hideous obese body. Ah but this good feeling didn’t last…My bubble was blown apart for a few weeks; when I got home and my mother told me that my dad had attended the performance and that he left in disgust! I was shocked and very hurt of course. She explained that he felt totally embarrassed that his fat daughter was up on a platform stage for all to see and hear. So now not only could every one see his obese daughter, she also was making a spectacle of herself by playing her horn in such a terrible manor with cracked notes all over the place. I didn’t talk about the performance at the dinner table the next night. It’s as if again I didn’t exist. I went back to band practice, and back to my own dark world of binge eating late at night after brushing my teeth escaping with my stash of Reece’s’ Peanut Butter Cups under my bed.

In the meantime my mom still took me to my horn lessons once a week, thank god she did support me, and because of her support I did keep practicing, simply because no matter what my dad said or felt, I still liked to play the horn! Over the next 3 years I did not invite my dad to any of my performances fearing he would be once again be embarrassed and hurt me again. When I was about 18, I auditioned and won the audition and got accepted into the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra. I had to approach my dad for money for a trip the Orchestra was taking to Banff, Alberta, to a Canadian Youth Orchestra Festival. I was terrified, so terrified, that I started crying even as I entered the room to ask him. I started the conversation with, ‘Dad I auditioned and was accepted into Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra”, he didn’t’ believe me! Oh man, this is going to be harder I thought! “no really I did!” I said, here’s the letter to prove it! He read the official letter of welcome from the youth orchestra. He sort of grunted and said Oh.. okay, in a non interested way. Now the hard part, “Dad I need your help to pay for the trip the orchestra is taking us on to Banff”… he was not pleased. So here was my moment , here I got into this fine prestigious youth orchestra and on top of that, we where going on tour to Banff, and all my dad’s reaction is, a grunt, and how much will this cost me?

He did in the end pay for my trip. I do think I made a breakthrough to my dad that night. He had to acknowledge that his daughter was perhaps a good horn player after all. From that moment he did start attending my concerts again, and this time did sort of complimented me on the performances, although he always compared our youth orchestra concerts to recordings he heard at home, and thought the recordings were better.. ah.. duh?.. of course they were better, so the criticism part was still a part of his post concert reactions, but at least it wasn’t as much about his disgust of my body. My young years as a horn player were not easy. But I did get through it in some way, performing in public was the greatest “ High” I ever experienced, and playing well even more of a kick! Those happy endorphins were as addictive as my Peanut Butter Cups and I wanted more! As I always told friends, when they ask, “how did you come to start playing the horn and becoming a musician?” my answer to that question was, “ well I didn’t choose the horn and music, the horn and music choose me!”


Hilda said...

Al die dingen over je vader wist ik niet. Ik heb hem toen in de zomer van '76 niet echt goed leren kennen. Dit te lezen schokt me wel. Wat moet je ongelukkig geweest zijn, Wendy. Iedereen heeft complimentjes nodig in zijn leven!
Dus: Wendy, je ziet er echt zoveel beter uit dan de laatste keer dat ik je zag. Keep up the good work!

Wendy Limbertie said...

ah.. thanks Hilda.. I was sad in my youth, but my Mom sure helped me through the tough times!