I always wanted to be a ballerina. Somehow I thought it would make me more swan than duck, more girl than boy. “I want to take ballet lessons”, I announced to my mother one day. In the kitchen preparing dinner, she stopped to consider my fervent request. “Are you sure?”, she asked, as if a seven-year-old can ever be sure about anything. But I was sure. And for the next eight weeks I walked toe heel toe heel to a small community centre bursting with equally fervent seven-year-olds who had the same ideals of grace and beauty as I did.
My best friend thinks there was some mystery coding in almost every little girl between the ages of five and 10 who grew up in the 1960s — they HAD to go to ballet school. Chubby, clumsy, it didn’t matter. “I was no different”, she shared. “When I was ten I asked my mother if I could go to the ballet school a couple blocks from our house. She was classically supportive as usual. In a sing songy voice she said, ‘You’ll be soooorrrryyy’…she was correct, again.”
The outcome of all those classes didn’t seem to matter to our underdeveloped egos—we just wanted to dress in tutus and dance. As a seven-year-old, my body acceptance was still firmly intact and I launched myself across the floor like a duck to its first pond. Two months later, it became rather apparent that I was more Forest Gump than Karen Kain, and even at that tender age I was self aware enough to know my Swan Lake days were over before they had begun. For years after, according to my mother, I walked around the house on my tippy toes, as if the less I touched the ground, the more I could touch the sky.
I no longer aspire to be a dancer, having made peace with my limitations, but I still aspire to…
Photograph inspired by Chrissie Hynde; thanks Ric Kokotovich