Death of a Ballerina
One of the perks of having a blog is that no one gets to see you. Recently I’ve discovered that quite a few people think I’m a dude. Nope. I’m a chick.
Don’t feel bad if you were one of those people. I think it’s awesome. My kids call me “Tinkerbell in biker boots” since I’m only 4’11” but can tune a carburetor. So far I’m liking the perceived testosterone. Now I’ll tell you why.
When I was about eight years-old I had a living, breathing Barbie Doll for a baby sitter. Michelle was thirteen but could easy pull off twenty. Besides being tall, blonde and leggy she was, and to this day still is, the sweetest person I’ve ever met. AND on top of all that she was already well on her way to becoming a prima ballerina.
Michelle’s mother, a former Russian ballerina herself, ran her own dance studio. My broke ass family couldn’t afford lessons so everyday after school Michelle would spend hours teaching me how to dance. It took a while but eventually I got pretty good. By the time I was thirteen all I wanted was to be a ballerina like Michelle. Before she left home for dance school Michelle begged her mother to let me into one of the studio’s dance programs for free, saying I had what it took to be a ballerina like her. Her mother said she’d only let me in after she saw me dance.
So I danced while Michelle and her mother watched. To this day I remember Michelle’s face clearly, smiling as I danced, impressed with the skills she taught me. When I was finished Michelle whispered in my ear that my performance was the best she’d ever seen. Michelle’s mother said something else. “Yes dahling, you are perfectly lovely. Just like a Barbie Doll. Well…not a Barbie doll, you are like one of those dolls your government forces its companies to produce for dark-haired children that no one really wants. Your eyes are too big for your head. Too distracting. Your teets are too big, your ass is too big, everything else…(looks me over)…too small. For these reasons and more, you will never be a dancer.”
Yes, I’m paraphrasing but it was damn close; especially the crack about the eyes. That moment set me on the path the rest of my life would follow. A path that led to motorcycles and tattooed boys and rock music. Then something strange happened. I wrote a book.
A book about motorcycles and tattooed boys and rock music (I did throw a ballerina in there who, now that I think of it, suspiciously resembles Michelle). You know what happened? Instead of a Russian dance instructor my ears rang with the voices of critique group members. “Yes dahling, your writing is perfectly lovely. But unless you throw in a vampire or make your protagonist a teenage girl no one will publish your novel. EVER.”
Once again I had a choice to make; believe in myself and what I knew I wanted to accomplish or cave and write a novel that the “experts” believed the market would accept. The sad truth is that the critique group is right. If I don’t write to what the market wants I won’t get published. No hard feelings, Big Six. I completely understand. But that’s not why I write.
I write because I’ve spent my life surrounded by broke ass kids just like me. And no one writes books for us. Because we’re not the book buying public. Because we’re broke. So yeah, I get it. But I wrote the book anyway. For her. The daughter who looks just like me. The one who refused to be a ballerina for Halloween and demanded to be a pirate instead. And I let her.