“I quit.” I yell, throwing my ballet shoes on the floor to emphasize the point.
I watch as my mother’s eyebrows converge on her nose and her lips purse, putting on her game face ready for a row.
“Just like that?” she counters as her arms cross over her chest, her version of bringing her fists up in preparation for the next blow.
Just like that? I have been in ballet since I was old enough to stand. I became the ballerina I wanted to be by seven but continued to satisfy my mother and her missed life opportunities. I’ve been done.
“Yes, just like that.” I say, making an attempt to stand my ground this time.
“You can’t give up now. You just moved up to pointe. You need to give it some time.”
Nope, no way. I caught a glimpse of the other girls’ feet when I arrived to my first pointe class. Their bones protruded in unnatural angles, their toenails blackened and their flesh purpled. My stomach dropped at the thought of the pain and the prospect of my beautiful feet becoming grotesque disfigurements.
“I just can’t do it.” I half-whine. She will never get it. This was her dream, not mine.
“You have to at least try.” She punches back.
I did try. I tried to not let the other girls’ feet distract me. I finally had my own pointe shoes. This was every young ballet dancer’s dream. Receiving your first pointe shoes was imagined to be like having the glass slipper fit Cinderella’s dainty foot. You were supposed to become the princess and live happily ever after.
“They hurt so bad.” I say while curling my toes in my sneakers to stretch them out. At least one of my toes gives an audible crack, loud enough for my mother to hear. She blatantly ignores the sound.
“Your body will get use to it.” She argues. “Every ballet dancer goes through some discomfort at first.”
Discomfort? She has no idea. My feet felt trapped the instant I tied them on. Much tighter than my standard slippers, they put pressure not only on my toes but on the middle of my heel due to the supporting shank.
Practice started at the barre with our usual stretching. Then from first position, we rolled up on pointe. My toes screamed. I could hear their agony reverberate throughout my body. They wanted nothing to do with this madness. I wanted to pull my shoes off at that instant and storm off. But I had to save face, I would never hear the end of it at school not to mention what my mother would say. I toughed out the practice, teeth clenched and lips pulled tight to keep the tears from coming.
Standing before my mom now, I let one tear stream down my cheek. Just one.
“You’re crying now?” She lets her guard down, arms uncross and go in for the hug. “You can’t let one practice get to you. Pick up your shoes and put them away. We’ll try again tomorrow”
I stand there letting her hold me. I don’t want to go back to the studio. I want to sulk away from this life she made. But I have no voice to fight back. My head and shoulders drop as I pick up my shoes and wander back to my room to rethink my strategy.
She won this round, but the game is not over.