Returning, Imperfectly

I used to be a ballet dancer.

Long, long ago in a lifetime far away, I had a lithe, muscular body and endurance like you wouldn’t believe.

I was an athlete.

Which, saying aloud, makes me guffaw. I AM SO NOT AN ATHLETE.

Except that I was. I took classes 5 days a week, every week, with rehearsals starting at least 6 months before our yearly performance. I went to a summer program with a well-known ballet company. Ballet was my life from age 11 through 17.

And now? Ha. Ahaha. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I am definitely not an athlete. Not even a little. Not in the slightest.

For a while, I held on to my hard-earned muscles. I was flexible and strong for a long time. And then. I wasn’t. And for a long time, I didn’t miss it. Ballet is rough. I never had the body for it—I had a big ass LONG before big asses were fashionable (and holy shit thank god for that transition). My body prefers to be a solid size 10/12 no matter what I eat and almost no matter how much I work out, and it weighs way more than it looks like it should. Now, I am pretty damn comfortable with it. My body, and all its lumpiness, is my body. But for years and years and years, I worked hard (and unhealthily) to change my body from what it is. And, of course, because I do not have a traditional ballet body, I was never going to be a successful ballet dancer. Even if I’d been good enough to ever get out of the corps (and I wasn’t)… my body would have held me back. And so, for about 15 years, I didn’t miss ballet at all. It was nice not to have people judging my body all the time (out loud, anyway). It was nice to just be a person, whatever size or shape I was. My weight and shape went up predictably after I quit dancing and fell in love a few times, and then bizarrely, my weight and shape went back down a bit after having babies. I learned to love my body while it was at its biggest, and it has since evened out to where it wants to be when I’m maintaining physical and emotional health at the very base level—size 10/12—and I’m good with it. I still have plenty of lumps and bumps, as I always have, plus some newer ones, but I feel mostly fine about it. (That said, I nearly burst into grateful tears upon seeing this image from Universal Standard’s landing page. This model is lumpy like me! CAN WE ALL PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BODIES ARE SOMETIMES LUMPY. Thank you. FFS.)

Image Source: Universal Standard

But all of a sudden in the past year… I’ve started to miss ballet. Like… a lot.

And I’m not really sure what that’s about. I’ve written about hating exercise in general (and that’s still pretty solidly the case), but what I do like is moving my body. I like feeling strong. I like feeling like I can lift a couch or dance for 4 hours without being in pain the next day. I miss that. I used to be able to lift all the furniture and dance and dance and dance.

And, for whatever reason, my yoga experience last year just didn’t scratch that itch. It didn’t make me feel strong. It just emphasized that I don’t feel strong. And that made me feel sad. I’m worried that going back to ballet would do the same thing. I still don’t have a ballet body. I am still lumpy and bumpy with a big ass and a size 10/12. And I can no longer complete a développé wherein my toes are above my head. I’m worried that the combination of ballet body dysmorphia memories plus muscle memory and the failure to be able to complete movements that were once easy for me would send me over the edge. And yet I still yearn for it. Even though other kinds of exercise make a lot more sense for me now (particularly considering my foot that enjoys spontaneously developing stress fractures), it doesn’t lure me the way ballet does. Money is keeping me from signing up for classes for now, but I think ballet classes are in my future again. I think I need to get back in touch with my body. Understand how it moves now. Feel the intimacy of strengthening my muscles and increasing my flexibility in time with music. It’s different now, my body. But I need to get to know it as it is now. I need to come back to it, in all its imperfection.

It'll be nice to relearn what it means to be in my body now. To feel what it's like to make this body strong again.

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