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At least, this is the lie I tell myself, how I am able to face my reflection in the mirror every day without collapsing into a puddle of regret. After spending a year at a dance conservatory in London, I quit. A year later, I tried again at a university in my home state of Virginia. But two years in, I broke my foot and decided to switch to a major that was less tied to my physical integrity: journalism. Soon, I became the arts editor of the school paper.
Now, 10 years after graduating from college, I have three beautiful sons and a successful freelance writing career. But the fact that I quit before I had the chance to see if I could truly succeed haunts me to this day. I struggle to articulate this level of experience when explaining my background to people. Our culture fetishizes determination, grit, success. We are told again and again that hard work will eventually pay off, that quitting is practically unforgivable.
It is spring in New York City and I am My dance teacher has driven me and one other student up so we could take a few master classes at various schools and studios around town and so that I could audition for a place at the Joffrey Ballet School. I taste my first Indian food, buy chunky pleather platform loafers, do ballet poses for photos next Wanted muscular thick mexican dance partner the rocks in Central Park.
As a young dancer in a tiny college town, I had envisioned a vast, sun-filled affair, but I underestimated how strapped for space cities are. The worst part of any audition is always before it starts. I pull at my itchy pink tights and readjust the leg holes of my black leotard. It helps that none of the other girls here are auditioning; they are students and I am just a guest in the class. I am nervous but unintimidated. I know how to do this.
The class goes well. Really well. I remember all of the combinations, remember to smile. I am energetic and quick on my feet. Most Wanted muscular thick mexican dance partner, I can keep up with the other students. After class, I excitedly head to the changing room, surprised by how well I did and hopeful of my chances at being accepted into the school.
I stop in my tracks, trying to process this comment without crying or letting on that I heard. But in that moment, my spirit is crushed. So many thoughts swirl through my head on the rest of our trip. These thoughts eventually crystallize into confusion, questions.
Why had I been blessed with these talents in this body? What does it mean when your body is your art? Can a thicker brush not make just as beautiful strokes? I come late to dance. Later than most anyway. As a naturally quiet, introverted person, dance is a revelation. I discover a world beyond words, where movements tell stories in ways that words only ever dream of doing.
Soon, I am training for two to four hours a day. Homeschooling means I can be driven to studios an hour from my home to take classes multiple times a week with more advanced teachers. Finally, I am living with other families or my dance teacher during the week so I can train at the best school in the region.
I am getting better and better. I revel in my ability to balance en pointe forever and turn with ease. I once did five rotations in a single pirouette turn. The typical maximum for women is three. When puberty hits at 15, weight begins to stick to me. I begin to sport fleshy hips, meaty thighs, a blossoming bosom. In this profession, rarely is anyone bigger than a size 4. Ballerinas are supposed to be beyond human: to evoke ethereal, otherworldly beings that toe the line between the sensual and the virginal. To have noticeable breasts and hips is to interrupt this fantasy with grotesque sexuality, to remind the audience that you are indeed human.
After that audition, I begin to doubt my abilities, question my chances of one day becoming a professional dancer. From then on, I never see exactly what I want in the mirror. Mirrors are unavoidable for most dancers, covering the walls of nearly every studio. I spend hours in front of them every day. I like the lines I see reflected, the shapes I can contort into, how I can mimic the movements of my teachers with Wanted muscular thick mexican dance partner ease. What the mirror also shows me now are my birthing hips and Wanted muscular thick mexican dance partner boobs, the wiggly bits of flesh hanging from my upper arms.
Now when I see all my fellow dancers reflected in the mirror around me, I see not how harmonious our movements are, but how their slight frames magnify the generousness of my own. I am 17 years old. And after visiting a dozen doctors in my small hometown — enduring painful cortisone shots that provided no relief — we drove two hours to see this doctor because he is the company doctor for a big regional ballet troupe.
His comment leaves me embarrassed, scrambling for an answer. I did try modern dance later, when I was in college. At school in London, I was placed in the highest level of ballet and the lowest level of modern. But no parental punishment was worse than what I could inflict upon myself. Not for kissing boys, mind you — that was fun — but for being fat. To drown out the hum of the treadmill, I turn up the local alternative rock radio station on my cassette Walkman.
It features heavily in the rotation this summer. I keep running. The air conditioning struggles to counteract the stifling humidity. Best grow gills or flounder and die. I run for an hour every day, pushing the incline button higher and higher, pushing the speed button again and again. Through the sweat and the muscle aches.
I stop only when I get so dizzy I worry I might pass out and fall. I run away from my fat, away from the possibility of failure. I run and I run but I never get where I want to go. My grandmother presents lovingly prepared, home-cooked southern food — fried eggs and meat-and-potato hash, beautiful pies — but I eat only Wanted muscular thick mexican dance partner meal a day and refuse the rest. I quickly discover that trying to induce my own vomiting is much too traumatic and difficult.
So instead, I down excessive amounts of milk of magnesia laxative. Nothing I try le to much in the way of weight loss, mostly because I am simply messing with my metabolism.
When I start eating a healthy amount of food and stop abusing laxatives, I put the weight right back on. Our culture is very clear that overcoming your shortcomings to emerge victorious is the only acceptable ending to such stories. But years of hearing how incorrect my body was took its toll. It becomes too difficult to reconcile your physical talent with your physical inadequacy. Talking about it releases the hounds of self-loathing and crushing regret, who nip determinedly at my ankles. Yet writing, while still a creative pursuit, does not feed my soul in the same way that dance — the world beyond words — does.
My heart aches to move again, to get lost in myself, to get lost in music, in motion, in space; to trace those familiar patterns and shapes that still come so easily to me as I twirl safe in my kitchen. I want so much more. I want to be in a real studio with my peers; on a real stage. If merely mentioning dance to someone spurs a rush of inadequacy and failure, who knows what actually taking a class might unearth within me. Besides, I am not like them.
I am not one of those people who merely took a few ballet classes in middle school. I could have been a professional. I got too close, so it hurts too much. Olivia Campbell is a journalist and essayist specializing in medicine, mothering, arts, and history. Looking for more great work from CatapultWanted muscular thick mexican dance partner daily online magazine and publishing platform?
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