Sometimes, the anticipation of a big move is scary, daunting and stressful. But for me, it was exhilarating. I was looking forward to a huge new place, new people and so many new opportunities. I was bored in Tampa – I felt trapped in a role that wasn’t really for me. Kind of like forcing a square peg into a round hole – I didn’t quite fit.
I even tried to force my two worlds together – exotic choreography – bringing burlesque back. With my budding, renewed friendship with Jen as my manager, I convinced her that a choreographed routine on stage would be fantastic – just what the club needed to add some fun and excitement for the girls and the customers. I think she knew from the beginning that it wouldn’t work. Not because it was a bad idea, but trying to organize a bunch of strippers into a routine, including memorizing lyrics and choreography and attending rehearsals, was damn near impossible. It was doomed from the start. Frustrated, I gave up that idea. The exotic version of Cell Block Tango from Chicago would have to wait.
My other opportunity to merge my two worlds met with a bit more favor. Jen attended my final performance in the ballet world. This was not originally intended as my adieu to ballet, but I suspected as much. It was the most nervous I’d ever been. I had a solo and very complicated choreography. But that wasn’t what made me so nervous. Over the past several months, I had not been dancing in classes and rehearsals ten or more hours a day anymore – and my body showed it. I wasn’t fat by any means, however, my body now had the chance to fill out more naturally. My breasts blossomed, my hips curved and my thighs thickened – not ideal in ballet. There was not much I could do about it, either. The more depressed I got, the more I slacked. I have one hell of a sweet tooth and in sugar, I found solace. I actually spoke to my mother about it, too. Cried, actually. Her response to my tears: ‘It’s just your body filling out as a woman.’ I hung up on her. She didn’t get it and never would. Actually, I think she enjoyed the fact that this was happening to me.
Growing up, my mother was an avid runner – an amazing athlete with a stellar physique. Her and my stepfather ran marathons, worked out – it’s what got me into athletics and caring about my body. They were even hunters. I remember going to one of their ‘treks’ (no idea what to call it), where they would hunt all day with a group of friends, bring back their kills and cook everything in a massive barbecue. I had fun as a kid, dancing around the roasting pig and staring into the eyes of a bear, whose head was on a pole. Crude, but memorable. And boy, was he tasty. Later in my childhood, they became vegetarians so my sister and I followed suit – kinda. We would have meat every once in a while. Once I was a teenager and my mom was onto her second marriage and fourth kid, her body revolted. She couldn’t get the weight off and became extremely lazy and cynical. I can say lazy, because she wouldn’t lift a finger to do anything. She’d just order us around – get her slippers, get her some chips, go upstairs and get your brother. I had no sympathy for her weight complaints. In my mind, she did it to herself. But now, I was watching my body change without my consent – and it sucked. But unlike my mother, I wasn’t going to take it lying down.
I kept dancing and landed this role – but my body wasn’t cooperating as well as I’d hoped. The night of the show brought such severe angst, I thought I was going to lose it. It took several layers to get myself ready: sports bra, sheer leotard, full body stocking, plus the costume itself – I felt entirely hemmed in, hopeful that I wouldn’t tip over in my toe shoes. It was during the performance that I realized this would be it for me – I was never going to be a lead again – a prima ballerina. I almost cried on stage. I have a copy of the show that I’ve never watched and probably never will. I’m certain this wasn’t my worst performance, but I’m not absolutely sure it was my best. It’s one of those moments in life where the memory is by far better than the reality and I’d prefer to keep it that way.
Unfortunately, a new reality emerged. While I wasn’t considered fat by normal standards, when you’re naked, every ounce counts. And my ounces were quickly adding up to pounds. So when Jen asked me into the office during my next shift at the club, it wasn’t to clap me on the back – it was a warning.