in which the Bee learns an important, though bitter, lesson
I was driving to work this morning, when my phone rang. It was the school nurse at the middle school, calling to tell me that the Bee was having a nose bleed, and was freaking out all out of proportion to the situation. The nurse said, “she’s screaming and crying, I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s clearly something else going on, but she won’t tell me what it is.”
When a middle school nurse says she’s never seen anything like it, I pay attention.
I explained that the Bee lives with her dad during the week, and that I hadn’t seen her that morning–but that one of us would come get her. I frantically called landisdad while I changed directions to head for what I still sometimes think of as home, but he was getting ready for work himself and didn’t hear the phone.
When I got to school, the Bee was sitting on a chair sobbing with a mass of tissues in her lap, and the nurse said, “I found out what’s wrong–she’ll tell you…”
We walked to the car, and she burst into hysterical sobbing again–and told me, through her tears, that the cast list for the school musical had been posted that morning. And that not only hadn’t she gotten the part she wanted–but she hadn’t gotten any part at all, just a role as a featured dancer.
In addition to that, the teacher who is directing the musical told the kids yesterday, “Now you can’t get upset when I post the cast list. It’s not professional.”
This morning, when the Bee went to look at the cast list with her friends, she cried. And the crying made her have a nosebleed (which happens to her from time to time), and it made her cry harder, because she was afraid that she was looking unprofessional.
When the Bee told me that, my heart broke a little, because I knew that a lot of what was going on with her at that moment was the fact that she was filled with shame about the fact that she was upset, and was therefore letting a teacher down by doing something she had been expressly told not to do.
I took a deep breath, and I said to her, “Bee, I never ever thought I would say this about a teacher, but fuck her. It is not okay for anyone to tell you that you are not allowed to have the feelings that you have. It is okay for you to be upset, and disappointed.”
We drove home, and she sobbed some more. I told her she didn’t have to go back to school today, if she didn’t want to, and she said, “please don’t make me go back.”
We had a long talk about why the “being professional” metaphor sucks when you are talking about middle or high school theater–the first part of which being, of course, that you are not getting paid, and therefore not a professional. How professional actors get to audition for something more than once a year, and therefore can afford to feel disappointment less keenly. How professional actors get to find out they didn’t get a part in the privacy of their own living rooms, not in front of the friends who got the parts they wanted.
And that professional actors get angry, and sad, and they cry when they don’t get roles. But they don’t have to spend the rest of the year working with the director who didn’t cast them, because that person is their teacher.
We walked to the coffee shop in town, and I bought her a chocolate chip muffin, and talked about how this meant that she wouldn’t have to quit field hockey. And she cried. We got home, and I sat down to do some work and she sat on the floor and leaned against my leg, as I stroked her hair.
We’ll see what happens, how her thinking evolves–I am guessing she will stay in the play, because she does love being on stage. But with a director like that, I wouldn’t blame her for quitting.