This is totally off-topic. I mean totally and completely. I had an amazing bowl of bean soup at MomAlone in Clear Lake on Sunday, but that’s about the only thread that connects this post to the regularly scheduled ramblings of this blog. This last weekend I went home.
According to my very academic, very scientific research on the subject (asking a couple of people I know), many people have the classic stress dream on occasion. You know the one-- the one where you show up for your final exam and you realize that you haven’t attended a single class during the semester and panic ensues? Well, maybe because this was a pretty common occurrence for me during those four amazing booze-soaked years in college, I have a completely different stress dream altogether.
In my stress dream I am at the 1894 Opera House in Galveston, Texas and I step out onto a darkened stage only to be illuminated by a single spotlight right at the moment I remember that I’m supposed to be dancing my solo and I haven’t bothered to learn the dance. It’s seriously the most terrifying thing I can imagine apart from the side-eye my mom gave me as a kid when I did something truly offensive like say the word “bitchin’” or wear my hair slicked back like a Robert Palmer girl while wearing a gray flannel suit (the latter of which prompted her to ask me if I was feeling confused about my sexuality). My particular stress dream is probably scary and anxiety-provoking for me because it was my actuality as a kid; I took dance lessons for fourteen years, performed on that very stage time and again and I never did learn my solo until minutes before performing it to a house of almost a thousand people.
This last weekend I traveled home to attend the 40th anniversary of the dance studio where I took lessons and where my mother is also a teacher. Traditionally the graduates perform a number on the stage during the semi-annual (that’s the one that means every other year, right?) recital and this year’s performance drew almost a hundred girls for the routine. Every other year my mom insists on my presence at this performance and every other year I hide backstage and refuse to dance. No one, and I mean no one, not my very small but very scary mother, not even Miss Jill, my teacher during the most formative years of my life, could ever convince me that stepping out on that stage could possibly be a good idea. Not for me and certainly not for the innocent people sitting in the audience.
So there I was, preparing to field the same question that I field every time I do this recital thing-- why aren’t you dancing if you’re here all the way from LA?-- and making sure I had a well-rehearsed yet off-the-cuff quip for my former dancemates that didn’t make me seem so vain, self-important, angry and/or afraid. And that’s when I realized that my 20 year standoff with the stage at the 1894 Opera House in Galveston, Texas is nothing more than 20 years of perpetuating some bullshit childhood myth about myself based on a lot of nothing.
Not to get all heavy, but I decided when I was in high school that drama was my brother’s domain, literally, since he was the actor in the family, and that being behind the camera was somehow more tasteful and dignified than wanting to be a performer; I was no (wo)man’s trained monkey. So I made arrangements to study film in my future and to vehemently not dance. It was just some decision I made when I was young, an act of suburban rebellion against my mom, the Tiny Dancer herself, and I have stubbornly clung to this for 20 years without ever examining the immature emotions behind it.
So to repeat myself, there I was, being pressured by the Tiny Dancer (she put my NAME in the program), my dance teacher and my former classmates, these people that I’ve trusted and known my whole life, all of them saying the same thing-- don’t be scared! No one cares if you don’t know the steps! It’s the 40th anniversary! You HAVE to!-- and my heart began to beat really, really fast. I thought about all the fun I had with these amazing girls and how all this time has gone by... maybe I CAN remember the combination from “Flashdance”... why was it that I’ve refused to dance and why did I hold my breath and stomp my feet in the first place and maybe this year is different?
Then it dawned on me.
There is not a tutu or a pair of dance pants on this planet that could possibly contain my swelled sense of pride and/ or my fear. And though my stalemate with the stage continues despite this momentary falter, and though this stalemate was and is, in all likelihood, born of pig-headed teenage hormonal cantankerousness, that’s A-OK with me. I’m just fine backstage.
Next week we’ll be back in normal form. Sans tutu. Maybe. But until then: Soup on!