The Ramifications

I have weird thumbs. They’re at a funny angle to the rest of my hand, but that’s very me. There’s a lot about me that’s unique; that’s a funny angle to the rest of life.

In our elementary school, students picked instruments in third grade that they would play in fourth. I wanted to play one of the big brass band instruments. The older kids all sat in a line in the cafeteria—a flute, a tuba, a saxophone, an oboe, a bassoon and some sort of horn. I stopped in front of the girl who was playing the trumpet. She was a fifth grader, so much older than my third grade self. She was tall and pretty, with long blonde hair and preppy clothes; in other words, the complete opposite of me. I was short and a little pudgy, with brown hair and hand-me-down clothing. 

“Here.” She extended the trumpet my way.

“I don’t know what to do with it.” I wanted to know though.

She brought the trumpet back up to her own mouth. “Like this.” She puckered her lips up against the mouthpiece and somehow made a pretty sound. (Or, as pretty as trumpets can be).

I took the trumpet gently. I too wanted to make a pretty sound. But when I held it up to my mouth the way I had seen the older girl do, but nothing happened. 

“You’re doing it wrong,” she told me, taking the trumpet back. “Like this.” She demonstrated again.

I took the trumpet back with a dubious glance at her. 

“You have to get your lips better on the mouth piece. Sort of like a fish-face, but sort of not.”

I tried again, but I still couldn’t make the instrument make any sound.

“I think your lips are too big,” she informed me, in the voice of a much older and wiser student. “They’re a little…weird.”

I heard that all the time. I was weird because my clothes weren’t brand label. I was weird because of the food I brought for lunch. I was weird because I always had my face shoved in a book. But this was different. She wasn’t talking about something I was doing, something I had a choice in. She was talking about…me. 

I realized then that I wasn’t right for brass or wind instruments. I didn’t fit. My lips were, as she had so eloquently put it, weird.

With that, a string player was born. I liked the violin. It was small and compact and made lots of high notes; I was a soprano back then, and had a firm appreciation for the higher register. But the violin cost money to rent, money that we didn’t have. In the back of the tiny orchestra room where not many students gathered were two racks; one rack had a line of cellos, and the other a line of basses. The school loaned them out to students, using the appeal to finances to draw them away from the shiny appeal of the violin. And I went for it. I chose the cello because it was not quite as heavy as the bass.

Playing the cello ended up working out for me. I played on the school’s cello until I got to high school, at which point I started teaching private cello lessons for a downtown music store to help pay off my own cello. Eventually I played at weddings and in symphonies. So while I started out with the cello because I didn’t have any other option that fit me, it became a part of me. 

Not all teasing works out that well. That girl teased me, and it ended up leading me to something positive I still do to this day. But teasing and bullying don’t always end positively. There are many ramifications that never get considered. And things stay with you. The good, and the bad.

My thumbs never really bothered me until I started playing the cello. They kept me from holding my bow properly. To this day, they still do. The other kids would make fun of me; my hand gets tired easily from trying to hold the bow, so I have to switch periodically to an almost club-like grip while playing to give myself a break. My teacher used to offer me prizes to hold the bow properly, but I never really could. And in my head, I thought that if she was offering me something for the desired end result, there must be something wrong with me if I couldn’t change myself. 

My thumbs have always been the way they are. But I never knew they weren’t normal until I realized there were things they kept me from doing. Until my teacher told me they were wrong, my grip was wrong. That’s the funny thing, about being weird. Weird isn’t weird until someone points it out to you.

Once you know, it’s like none of you fits. So sometimes, it is one hundred percent better to say nothing. To not know.

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86 thoughts on “The Ramifications

  1. nessa54 says:

    I was bullied and teased too, but unlike you no one ever gave me a a specific reason. I was just ugly. As a kid I didn’t understand. What was ugly? Why did I have to have this label? Those childhood memories lead me to do less then honorable things in my pre-order years. Those words sparked my journey from slutdom to freedom.

  2. thebudapestsider says:

    As I say, it is all about perspective. Weirdness is relative just like everything else in the world. Nice post.

  3. Reblogged this on strippedwalrus and commented:
    Ignorance is bliss… most of the time.

  4. mukerjisid says:

    Reblogged this on Siddhartha mukherjee photography and commented:
    To not know.

  5. zareenn3 says:

    Thank you for sharing this. You’re really brave. Nothing weird about that at all.
    But it’s true that some comments do stay with you, specially most things you have heard from family and close friends in childhood. Even if they point things out for your own good, it still feels bad.

  6. Great pic, no surprise on the stats…but really good to bring awareness to….thank you!

  7. Weird is good. Weird is unique. I think it is what makes you you and separtrs you from the norm. Whatever the norm is, we shouldn’t have to feel pressured into being that way. Own your lips and thumbs with enough confidence to make them envy you.

  8. aikmangreen says:

    I think every one has weirdness in them. It’s also said that everyone is unique, I prefer to hear and say it that way. Isn’t it rude to point?

  9. sheketechad says:

    What a beautiful transformation of input received into something graceful produced. Oh, and cellos rock 🙂

  10. nimmo0725 says:

    You have done such a good job putting it into words what it is to be called weird. I’have always had people call me weird, but i love how you have made that feel ok. Tanks for sharing 😀

  11. rduerr1 says:

    Reblogged this on WHAP 2014 … and BEYOND! and commented:
    When thumbs take a Leading Role.

  12. C.e. says:

    A relatable and touching post ~

  13. Everyone is weird. As soon as we understand that concept, I think the world will be better off. Lovely prose my dear. Rarely a piece of writing has me wanting to you how the author’s thumbs look!

  14. bj365fashion says:

    so well put loved it

  15. The most inspiring part of this finely written post is that you clearly emphasize for the reader that the “weird” attribute of yourself … in this case your thumps is what makes you a stronger player musically. I mean think about it if your thumps were not the way they are, do you think you would play better? Appreciate the uniqueness because most of the time it’s what makes us stand out as different and actually build ourselves in who we are as a person, and in your circumstance your weirdness is something I would want to be known because you excel at what you do!

  16. Jose says:

    I can relate to this piece in every way, great writing.

  17. So true. We all have things that aren’t normal! People talk and say mean things because they can…but that doesn’t mean we aren’t all unique and beautiful in our own way. You keep doing your thing, you inspire more people than you even know.

  18. judygurfein says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your beautifully written story. Glad you’ve turned teasing into triumph.

  19. recentcoinz says:

    If you ever saw Roy Clark’s hands, he didn’t look like a guitar player, but that man was a genius with anything he could pick.

    The moral of music, or anything else, is to improvise, adapt and overcome. If you can’t play in the classically “pretty” manner, so what. Its the sound coming out of the cello that counts. No one is going to say, Oh, did you see how she was holding that bow. It was just lovely.”

  20. bonbonhs says:

    Beautiful! Keep doing your best ❤

  21. Perhaps it’s more about the end destination rather than road traveled to get there. You likely create beautiful music with those thumbs that force a wrong grip. Maybe those “wrong” thumbs allow for a different sound.. interpretation. Your uniqueness begets unique results. Maybe if your thumbs were “normal” all you’d be able to play would be percussion… and I don’t recall a good rendition of the Wedding March using drums. 🙂

  22. stockforda says:

    “Weird isn’t weird until someone points it out to you.”
    Quote of the day, right there.

  23. Irene Suwarno says:

    I agree on what you say ‘To not know’. I understand how you feel. Don’t be discourage of the negative things people said to you. Keep trying your best and never quit.

  24. Amanda Carter says:

    I had never really thought about being “weird” in this way.. very interesting and touching. Thank you for sharing!

  25. lulu says:

    I really enjoyed what you shared. I wish more people realized that words have power behind them .

  26. stevereesphotographyni says:

    It’s all the little things to do with us that make us so unique and special! 🙂

  27. awelchie24 says:

    Beautifully written!

  28. We are all weird, It’s called being unique

  29. ari1141 says:

    Reblogged this on ari1141 and commented:
    So true and applicable to so many peoples’ life stories.

  30. judetomejr says:

    Thank you.nice i like

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