Dancer


Portrait by Andrea Forgacs


I’ll tell you a story about a little girl

Who forgot how it felt

To own her body.

I was once a dancer

Pointe shoes and white lace

Hair orchestrated just so

I saw in the mirror a version of myself

That was unafraid

I spun until my feet threatened to bleed

Lauded my blisters as trophies

I used to count every callous

Instead of sheep

And, as I slept,

I saw stages and stars.

So when did I begin to dream in grayscale?

Perhaps it was when my costume stood out

Because my teacher refused to order an outfit in my size

She said,

“You must understand, that girls your age

Look like girls,

Not teens.”

I was seven.

I never told my mom why I stopped dancing

I scrubbed away at my callouses

Hoping

That if I rubbed hard enough

some of myself might go too.

I wanted to be a dancer.

Everywhere I looked, my world became miniature

As if I was a life sized doll

Confined to Barbie’s Dreamhouse

Soon it became less tiresome to simply stop moving.

Tiny doors stronger than any bars

Plastic floors threatened to collapse under my weight

Hands too large to dust play furniture and so

Barbie left too.

Her home gone to ruin

Just like my pointe shoes.

Trapped inside my miniature world,

I lost my sense of time

So when my father told me

I ought to eat fewer sweets

I batted one eye

Swallowed my pride

And wrote a note on my skin:

Eating seems to be a private exercise unless you are thin.

Once I understood the unwritten rules

Life became easier

Or so I thought

I donned a uniform of long sleeves

And loose pants

Never stretched too far toward the sky in PE

Lest my stomach tell too many stories

About what I ate the night before.

As we reached for our toes

I cursed my ankles

For their lack of hallowed corners

Clung to the sides of crowded hallways

Afraid to take up too much space.

By age ten, I no longer myself unafraid

In the mirror

I saw a ghost.

I wanted to be a dancer.

I didn’t realize

You don’t need a costume to dance.

Sometimes I still forget.

Story by @bbhowie

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