Before I almost perished from consumption (ok, perhaps not really, well, I mean, I did have the symptoms, I may have had it, we don’t know…) I enrolled in ballet class. Despite being in my 30’s both chronologically and according to the scale, and having never had a lick of dance instruction, I thought it would provide the poise, discipline and gluteal muscle tone I lacked. Also, I am an avid connoisseur of Russian masochism. What was the worst that could happen? I could die? Dancing to Tchaikovsky? This is discouraging? … Several male family members and Vladimir Putin (appearing in one of my pre-class jitters nightmares) found it acceptable to give me a vaudeville act once-over up and down and an imaginary audience a look like, Is this woman *insane*? Hahaha! A whale, in a tutu, did you ever!
I had a small, well, somewhat not small nervous breakdown after my first class. It was days before several people informed me that a crisis of personal faith following one’s first ballet class is rather de rigeur. Prior to that, all I could do was sit in a hot bath wailing, praying for someone to come saw off my legs, trying to remember how long people can go without food.
Following a enough self-affirmations to arm me against the male gaze and his sadistic friend, the dance studio mirror gaze, I returned to the next class. That’s a lie. I went out of spite and pride. And I became obsessed. I craved the vicious high of pushing myself physically and seeing improvement week by week. Muscle memory stopped being an obscene PTSD burden but a choreography skill. A dark neurosis lurked, I’d taken up a sport requiring me to reject and distort my natural body, but it was motivational and disciplining in ways pills and therapy could never be. And I was happy.
I went the first week I was sick. I haven’t been back since. I’m not happy.