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We had a show on Friday and like having a bad hair day on the same day as a job interview, I was having a bad body image day on the same day as a show. There are a lot of things about playing on stage that I had to learn to cope with and one of the first of the worst obstacles was learning to accept the way I looked.

And it’s not that I look bad or that I look unusual or that I have deformities, I don’t. I look normal enough, but when I look in the mirror I don’t think I look normal. I think I look bad. Too short. Too wide. Too dark. Too everything. Like a lot of people I have days when I think I look okay (not great, mind you) and days when I don’t. The morning of the show, I woke up thinking I was …. and yes, haven’t we all done this? … I thought I looked fat.

It was that kind of day. A bad hair day is one thing. An “I look fat” day is quite another. For me there’s nothing worse. A too-short day isn’t that bad. A too-dark day, I can live with, but a too-fat day…oh god. The ‘too fat’ idea is the most paralyzing and when I see myself in mirrors or windows, I think I look huge, that my body takes up the size of the city block. Now, put that idea together with: people are looking at me, and you have nothing more paralyzing. The problem with public performance is that people are looking at me — I’m on stage, for pete’s sake, they’re supposed to look at me. But somehow, before I really started gigging I thought they would only look at me when I wanted them to, on those days when I thought I looked okay. But no. They’re looking at me even on days when I think I look …sigh…fat. On Friday, both those ideas whirled around in my head all day. Too fat. People are looking at me. Too fat. Oh no, they’re looking at me. It’s a wonder I even made it out of bed.

On days like these, I have to get a grip on myself fast or there’s a chance I’ll never make it to the show. I learned a trick. I shared this trick with Alicia, who was preparing to go to a cocktail party with “Nate Berkus’ people.” We were having lunch at Taste of Heaven in Andersonville.

“When I started playing I was the largest size I had been in years – a fourteen,” I said.

She nodded her head knowingly.

“In other days, I would not have thought of being on stage if I wasn’t a size 8. It was like being a certain weight was my permission for being seen. When we started performing I couldn’t drop twenty pounds overnight. So I learned a trick.”

I pushed a string bean to the side of my plate.

“I visualized myself as a size 5 before shows. I pictured myself as a size 5 instead of a fourteen. And even though I wasn’t really a size 5, somehow picturing myself as a smaller size changed how I acted. And you know what happened?”

“What?”

“From the first moment I walked into a bar or a club, men would notice me and be complimentary. I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t the size that counted but how I felt about myself. That freed me up from obsessing about how I looked to concentrating on how I played.”

“That’s a good trick.”

“It sure is.” She said.

So that was the trick I practiced. Did it work? Sort of. But it didn’t matter. What’s important is that I got up there and played anyway. And you know what – it didn’t matter whether I was a size fourteen, a twelve, or a five, because while I was playing I was just having fun. And thank God (or Goddess) for anything that lets you forget to judge yourself.

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