I Knew I’d Be Picked

By Rachel Remik

It was happening, just like it had in Busch Gardens’ version of Germany when I was eleven years old. It had been during an Oktoberfest celebration when a very blonde niedlich young man in lederhosen extended his hand, inviting me onstage to dance with him. Although I wanted nothing more than to be an active participant in this rousing celebration, I remained glued to my seat, petrified of being gawked at by the rest of the revelers. Twenty years later and here I am again, this time in Disney’s recreation of Hawaii, with a muscled, grass-skirted kane holding out his hand, asking me to hula with him onstage.

I started taking inventory of all the reasons why it would be an awful idea, starting with my appearance. The dress I had on was all wrong, but it had become the back-up plan when I’d somehow managed to eat my way out of the dress I’d wanted to wear, a pretty black flower print my mother had brought back from Hawaii. In the white flowered cotton replacement from JC Penney, I felt like just another tourist in a fake Hawaiian dress at a staged luau in a replica of a Polynesian village. But my annual two-week cross-country jaunts with friends Marni and Lisa were adventures I looked forward to and saved for all year, which meant whether or not I attended the luau naked, I owed it to them as well as myself to have a good time.

There were pre-luau festivities designed to get the crowd excited about the show while introducing facets of the culture, one of them being a Hawaiian man who was painting tribal patterns on people’s faces. We paused to watch with a small crowd that had gathered, among them a gorgeous blonde in a tight black mini skirt, probably size two. She was chatting up the artist, clearly interested in more than his skill with a paint brush. He juggled it all like a pro, concentrating on his latest human canvas while maintaining a polite awareness of those nearby.

After a while the crowd thinned out and moved on to other attractions, including Marni, but Lisa and I claimed a nearby bench to continue watching the face painter. He saw us in his peripheral vision and asked with a smile if I would like to have a sitting when he was finished with his current project. I had to admit his work was beautiful, but I felt a bit too insecure to have black tribal paint covering half my face.

“How about you?” he asked Lisa.

“Why not,” she answered, and slid into the hot seat, and I envied her guts to do it.

Since Lisa really couldn’t move her face while he worked on her, I struck up a conversation, asking how long had he been face painting, where did he learn to do it, was he really from Hawaii.  He answered diplomatically, and when I asked how long he’d been with Disney and how he liked it, he gave the kind of response most men do when they want to intercept an unwanted advance: “My wife is in the show, too, so it works out well.”

Then I understood: he thinks I’m like the blonde who was coming on to him earlier. He’s probably hit on all the time and needs to maintain the barrier between guest and performer. What he couldn’t begin to understand was that my plus-sized insecurities would never find me mimicking the behavior of a size two.

So I asked about his wife, where he met her and how long they’d been at Disney. When we exhausted that topic, I entertained him with stories of my trips with Marni and Lisa, three single girls and the comedy of errors that arose each time we ventured out onto the road. Soon he was laughing, completely at ease, and I felt a boost of pride. Did I actually seem interesting to this cultured man?

After he finished with Lisa’s face – which looked like a rung in a totem pole – my group went to find our seats. Although a fair distance from the stage, they were set up on a platform high enough to provide not only a view of the show but the entire audience.  There was an aisle right below us and our Hawaiian man walked by on his way backstage and tapped on the ledge in front of our table, hitting me with a dazzling smile. It was at that moment I knew I had made the connection I’d hoped for. I had made him feel like a person, and he had made me feel more than just a big girl.

Halfway through the show the performers came down into the audience to select people to come up on stage to learn to Hula. As our man jumped down from the platform, I immediately turned to Marni and Lisa.

“He’s going to come get me,” I told them.

I knew this not because I felt that he wanted me, liked me, or because I was the most beautiful woman in the place. I knew he’d come for me because of the way I’d made him feel.

Sure enough, he headed right for our table, came behind my seat and helped me out of it. I went freely, forgetting I hated the way I looked in my dress, and then there I was at the front of the stage, dancing in front of the entire luau.

Back at my table, my two best friends told me how great I looked up there, and I had to admit I felt fabulous. I felt a certain vindication for the skinny girl I once was, who couldn’t leave her seat those many years ago, afraid to shine. In both bodies, I had been afraid to be seen, but in this larger one I had decided to take the risk, to be happy and be noticed. To be picked.

About this writer

  • Rachel Remik

    Rachel Remik

    Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rachel Remick majored in Radio-Television-Film at Temple University before moving to Las Vegas, where she was employed at a popular live music venue on The Strip. Now a resident of Tampa, Florida, she co-owns a wholesale and online gift boutique. Both her fiction and narrative non-fiction stories have previously been published in several literary magazines, among them Bluestem, Rosebud and The First Line.

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2 Responses to “I Knew I’d Be Picked”

  1. Lisa Murphy says:

    Awesome job, my old friend! If I may add it’s also age and wisdom that played a part in your decision to go with it..And be interesting is very attractive! Your imagination was always one of your qualities. It has made your writing captivating!!! ❤ Lisamarie

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Great story which proves no matter the age or size, confidence is beautiful!

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