Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Tale of the Pink Tutu

Remembering back to when at five, maybe six, I took my first ballet lessons, and the pink tutu I so adored. It fit like a glove, and looked like the tutu the girl in this photo is wearing. I took to dance as a fish to water, but the structure and discipline of ballet was somehow inimical to me.

Truth be told, friends, I crapped all over my one and only pink tutu. That's right, I didn't like ballet lessons though I adored wearing the tutu. I didn't like being told how to dance, which way to face, which way to move, and it was then that I discovered I was mildly dyslexic. The ballet teacher would say "turn to your left," and I'd turn to my right. It was humiliating. She said "You obstinate child. You're deliberately doing the opposite of whatever I tell you." That wasn't true. I got mixed up between left and right.

Anyway, one day I came home from a ballet lesson with sharp stomach pangs, and I rang the doorbell. My mother was on the phone, as usual, and it took forever for her to answer the door. I wondered how I would make it all the way up the long staircase to the front door when I had to go to the bathroom so bad, so bad that I crapped in my little pink tutu.

I was so afraid that my mother would scream and yell that I tried to hide the evidence, hung the pink tutu up from the shower rod (had to climb up on the toilet to reach the shower rod), and there it was--the tutu with feces dripping onto the bathtub. My mother came in and said, "You really don't want to take ballet lessons," so that was the end of my career as a ballerina. She never asked why.

A few years later, in elementary school, the teacher would stand over me insisting that I hold the pencil a certain way. I think her name was Mrs. Finfer. My nickname for her, at the time, was Mrs. Finger which, of course, she didn't like. She'd chide me about not holding the pencil a certain way when finally I blurted out, "Nobody tells me how to hold a pencil. I'm a writer." It was an epiphany. It was as if, at that very moment, everything that I'd try to say up to that point had suddenly crystallized.

I think about that tutu today. Something there is about dance that defies all rules, all regimen. Something there is about imagination that is eternally wild. The little girl in the pink tutu still lives inside me.