A tall-ish guy in a fitted black polo carrying a clipboard was booming out numbers. My number had been called. I was 63.
Okay. Here we go.
The bikini competitors were forming a line down the hallway leading to the stage. We were in a high school, but it was a large, remodeled high school and what I could see so far of the stage, it looked pretty big. This wasn’t my alumni high school stage.
I had spent time on a stage before.
As a child I took ballet and we had performances every year. The entire season we would prepare for this show. The teacher would show us our costumes out of a catalog, our parents would order it, and we would anticipate the day when it would come in.
One year I was a Gingerbread Girl in Hansel and Gretel. Another year I was just an extra dancer in a white tu-tu with sparkly green trim. Another time I wore a red white and blue leotard, fishnet tights and a white hat with a ribbon trim.
I always wanted a solo.
I remember one year in particular we stood in a half circle with our hands up, palms out, trying our best to look like gingerbread men while we watched an older, high school girl play a witch. She had a stunning, black flowing skirt, a shiny black leotard and she spun around on stage on pointe.
I remember thinking she looked beautiful and hoped to one day be the witch, or have any solo part, and look just like that. Truthfully, I never got that solo. My mom convinced me to quit dance when I got to junior high.
Now here we were, lined up like cattle, getting ready to walk out on stage. My heart pounded.
I did my best to embody an alter ego. I pressed my shoulders back, stood up tall.
“I can tell that you don’t believe in yourself…” my posing coach’s words echoed in my brain and I shoved the thought aside. One woman turned toward me, “This music kind of sucks,” she said.
Music? I hadn’t even noticed what was playing. I just nodded, “Yeah, it does,” and rolled my eyes.
Pound. Pound. Pound…my heart thudded.
We were walking out now. Head up…butt out. The walk we do looks kind of ridiculous. It reminds me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons when Bugs would put on a women’s dress and try to hide a bird cage underneath it like the old fashioned dresses with the large rear ends. Wait, maybe that was the cat — -not the rabbit.
Anyway, the object is to show off our glutes (important in bikini) and so you need to contort your lower spine into a deep C-shaped arch. Hello Lordosis.
I try not to think about the 5 inch heels that I am balancing on and stride widely to an “X” taped on the floor that some woman was pointing me toward.
My mind goes on auto-pilot and I go right into my front pose. Flare the lat, shoulders square, leg out, but not too far, stand up — up more — oh wait…butt out. Holy crap, now we are getting ready to turn. Okay, deep breath. Transition. Arms out…slow down! Hip up, smile, smile, okay now step, turn, look over your shoulder.
Ugh I hate this part. I look like Ziggy peeking over a wall like in those early 80s cartoons.
Okay, now back pose. Place your hands and arch arch arch. Turn your feet out but keep them planted. Okay, now steps in, step out, now turn. Shit. I just bumped the girl next to me.
“Sorry,” I whisper. I imagine knocking down the entire line-up like we are dominoes and stifle a giggle nervously.
Now front pose again. Wait, the judge is talking. What did she say? We are all standing there, in front pose and straining to hear what she said.
“55, switch places with 60.” Two women throw a hand up in the air like they have been called out in class and strut over and switch places.
“63 switch places with 58.”
Oh my god that’s me. I throw my arm up in the air and pop out my butt like Bugs Bunny with a birdcage and waddle over into some other girl’s spot. We are kept up here doing this, switching places over and over again, for what feels like an eternity. I’m losing my pose.
“I can tell that you don’t believe in yourself.”
I stand up taller and push my butt out so far I am sure I popped a disc. Okay, maybe not, but it was intense.
Finally we file off stage. I did this three more times — -two other divisions and an individual walk — what they call a T-walk.
In the end, I didn’t place.
I know this is my first show, but a part of me was hoping I’d get that one special moment… But, it was fun. And I have to say, I’m a bit hooked. All of the weird food, hours of cardio, fitting the gym in when life schedules feel out of control, weighing out food to the gram — all of it.
So, I decided to do it again. We went out afterward to a tiny dive pub that had an Impossible burger. I was a bit over-dressed in a pleather green dress from Target and still coated in deep orange. I ate the burger and the french fries. I laughed with my family. I came home later and ate a full bowl of cereal that I did not weigh on the scale.
And now… here we go. I’m four weeks out till my next show.