jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

Choir, Clothes, and the Constant Chipping Away of My Humanity

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I love to sing, I love to sing in choirs, and I don’t do nearly enough of either.  So you might think that when invited to join a one-gig choir, I’d jump at the chance. Well, that would be nice, but I’ve learned not to take things for granted.

Director:  I’ll send you all the details, and the only cost to participate is the purchase of one of our polo shirts to wear during the performance.

Me:  *nervous sigh* Okay…what sizes do your polo shirts come in?

Because I’ve learned the hard way that they might not have my size.   Fortunately these did, and so for two weeks I’ve been happily rehearsing and tomorrow we perform.  All’s well that ends well, right?  Not so much.  Last night at rehearsal ladies started asking what we were going to wear with our polos.  The director wasn’t there, and some of them felt they should just make an executive decision. Black pants, said one.  No, khaki, said another.  To both I said I couldn’t do that.  The response?  You’d think I hadn’t spoken.  So I said, “That is not going to happen for me.”  Still no reply, only a look of puzzlement.

I left upset instead of elated, figuring that once we heard from the director, I’d bow out if necessary.  Do people really not recognize the intense amount of privilege inherent in assuming that every person can walk into a store and find a particular item of clothing with one day’s notice, and budget for it to boot?  Because this is not a thing I can do.  Searching for a specific piece of clothing is likely to take me through several stores, and still not be successful.  And if I do find it, it will cost far, far more than the same item in a straight size.   Seventy dollars for a pair of black pants I’ll wear once is not why I’m working a second job.

Now choir isn’t life or death, but every instance of discrimination-and that is what it is-erodes my sense of being and worth.  I used to accept the fault thrust upon me in these situations, but I no longer do, and yet the task of building myself back up each time exhausts me.

Even more importantly, large-scale discrimination-the life or death situations, the wage gap people of size experience, the bullying from strangers and parents and so on-this is built upon the little discriminationsTreating us as less than, second class, irrelevant, unworthy in even the smallest ways, even unintentionally, perpetuates the lie, because those things are not true of any person.

The director has spoken, and we’re to wear anything we like with our polo shirts, so I’ll be singing tomorrow.  But I won’t be feeling quite as much like I belong.

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