I, Tonya: Power vs. Pretty


I am a clumsy person. I am in fact so clumsy, that last month as I was walking up to the stage at Quinn’s here in Beacon while performing, I tripped and sprained my knee, bruising the bone badly in the process. It was the second time I had fallen last year, and busted this same knee (the earlier culprit had been a patch of black ice in the train station parking lot on the morning of my 32nd birthday). A lot of people saw what happened. It was embarrassing. But I had friends there who helped me up off of the floor and got me home. And then, even though I couldn’t put any weight on the leg in question, I hauled myself up two flights of stairs to my apartment, using only my other leg, my arms and the bannister. When I reached the top, I was quietly pleased with myself for how physically strong I was for doing that. But nobody saw it. They just saw me fall an hour earlier.

It’s hard to be a woman who isn’t naturally graceful. It’s hard to be known as someone who doesn’t perform femininity in a way that makes people comfortable. I have strength, but I’ve been clumsy my whole life, and people often find that off-putting. For a while I worked in an office alongside a woman who couldn’t lift a box of samples that weighed more than ten pounds, but she was willowy, wore designer clothes, and moved in a delicate manner about the room. She spoke in a near whisper while I was criticized for talking too loudly on the phone with our vendors, (most of whom I had relationships with prior to joining this company). She was perceived as the perfect representative of our department, while I was relegated to carrying heavy boxes to the back storage room, and told by my awful boss that no one wanted to see a fat girl in a skirt.