So many possibilities for the prompt this week! Serious - a death, a plague. Literal - an earthquake, a mudslide. Fun - first kiss, first airplane ride. Love - a wedding, a birth. It would be fun to take this prompt and do 3 versions. And, of course, there's always the choice whether to write fiction or non-fiction. I tend to prefer to write fiction for the Red Writing Hood since I have my blog for non-fiction, but this one called me to go autobiographical. So, here's what I ended up with:
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I could never have imagined that I would love something so girly. Most of the time I preferred to dig in the dirt with trucks, play softball and be rough and tumble. Kids decided that I must be a boy since I had short hair and didn't want to wear a dress or play with dolls. I wished I had some way to belong in the category of "girl" other than my anatomy. This dichotomy of gender and expectation was an invisible membrane that surrounded me and prevented me from being able to settle into an identity.
My parents encouraged me to do and be anything, and offered me opportunities to participate in lots of activities, partly because they were forward-thinkers, and partly because my mother, herself once a tomboy, wanted to get me out of the house to burn off energy. In addition to playing softball, I took ice skating lessons, swim lessons and eventually played soccer and tennis. So when they signed me up for dance, the hyper-active, outgoing part of me was glad for an activity while the tomboy side was dreading the idea of having to put on tights and a leotard.
The dance studio where I began my training was owned by a couple in their 50's, Miss Nina and Mr. Bill. Their influences were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They were not big on Madonna or the new MTV; a bit of Fosse was as edgy as they got. The dress code was strictly black leotards and pink tights (white t-shirts and black shorts for boys), no crazy neon colors, no cute little tutus. Girls with long hair were required to wear it in a ponytail or a bun, and Miss Nina was known to pull on those to get students to focus in the right direction. A poster that read "DISCIPLINE" was the only adornment above the barre. She demanded a lot from us, and for a bundle of energy who needed an outlet, it was a perfect fit. I craved the structure and loved the hard work.
The rigidity of their system was evidenced by the age-restrictions for classes for the different styles of dance. I began attending when I was five. My only option was a combo class - half an hour of tap and half an hour of tumbling. At some point I switched to a full hour for each, but I can't quite recall when. Once I was eight, I was allowed to start ballet. I know it was a big deal that I was finally old enough to do it which is the only reason I can think I would have wanted to since ballet is such an exceptionally feminine style.
I don't remember the specifics of that first class, the steps we learned, the music that was played. What I do remember is how I felt. Euphoric. Free. The barrier dividing me was gone, and I was enveloped in a snug, comfortable layer of wholeness. Though I still enjoyed boyish interests, I had found my niche in feminine pursuits. For the first time, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, doing what God created me to do.
I had only seen myself from one perspective until then; the whole world shifted.
**Footnote: Miss Nina is at least in her 80's and still teaching little ones a few times a week at the Parks and Rec.
This post was inspired by the prompt "begin your piece with the words, "I could never have imagined" and end it with "Then the whole world shifted" in 600 words or less. Constructive criticism welcome.