Why I stopped ballet — a question I couldn’t answer

I picked Berry up from ballet class today, along with Duncan and our new after-school nanny. She was crying for a reason I didn’t quite ever get–something to do with trying to do cartwheels.

As I hugged her and tried to cheer her up, I talked about doing ballet myself as a kid. I took classes from age 4-7 and loved it. I was quite the little ballerina. 🙂 And then I stopped.

And the natural question was asked, “Why did you stop?”

What is Berry that asked? Or Duncan? Or a parent of another child? I don’t know now–the shock of realizing I couldn’t answer it must have prevented the memory from forming.

I came up with an answer of sorts. Not a good one. Not one that prevented more questions. “Something disastrous happened.”

“What happened?”

Well…the simple truth that I couldn’t say was that something really bad happened. I was in the changing room of some community center after a performance and some old man (the janitor? a grandparent? some dude off the street?) got me in an adjoining room and did unspeakable things to me that should never happen to a 7-year-old. I have an idea what. I still don’t fully remember. I know he said he watched me on stage and couldn’t take his eyes off me. That I looked lovely. Or something like that.

I know that afterward, on the way home, I cried hysterically. But I wouldn’t tell my Mum why. She tried for days, but I wouldn’t speak about it. And I refused to go to ballet ever again.

I know he threatened me or my family. I have a feeling I fought back — because that’s what I do. Which is probably where the threat came in.

And then I locked it away, somewhere in my head, for years.

It didn’t keep me off the stage, in the end. Although I think it’s still part of why I refuse to let my light shine too brightly.

But what do I tell my daughter? Who I let go to ballet and perform in shows. How do I teach her to fend for herself but not be afraid of everyone?

I haven’t figured that one out yet.

I love the kids’ innocence. But they need to know that sometimes people make bad choices that really hurt other people. They need to know that most adults are OK. But that if someone ever touches them in the wrong kind of way, it’s OK to hit and kick and scream and bite and do everything they can to defend themselves. And that any secret an adult tells them to keep is one that they need to tell. That’ll make surprise parties and presents a bit tricky, but they’ll figure out the nuance one day.

I don’t want them to grow up afraid to be without me. Because I can’t be with them all of the time — I’ve got that work thing to do and it would drive me insane. And it’s not healthy.

So I’ll ponder that one for a while and hope she forgets about it while I do. At least until next week.

One thought on “Why I stopped ballet — a question I couldn’t answer

  1. Hugs and love to 7 year old you, and mommy you. You are an amazingly strong and loving woman and I miss you!

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