Same Body, Second Glance: Day Fourteen

July 14, 2014


Let’s talk, for a moment, about the hard parts.  The portions of our bodies that are difficult to accept.

The picture I’m sharing with you today is a picture of my knees.  They’re a little strange, as far as knees go.  If I stand with my ankles together, they point slightly toward each other, and there’s a narrow gap between my bowed legs from ankle to thigh.  It’s the sort of thing the average person would never notice — the result of a slight anatomical anomaly, a twist in both my femurs.

Years ago, I was a ballerina, and a decent one — the kind of dancer displayed at best advantage with both feet off the ground.  There’s a term in ballet called ballon (accent on the second syllable), which is the ability to hang suspended at the top of a leap for a longer period than usual.  It is, in essence, the illusion of making time stop while you’re in the air.  That was my gift.  It made me a fun dancer to watch, but more importantly, it brought me joy.  In the middle of a jump, I felt just a little bit transcendent.  

When I was a teenager, and finally just reaching the point where I began to take that art seriously, a certain dance instructor sat down with me to talk about the problem of my knees.  She suggested that if I wanted to go much further with ballet, I’d reached a point where I ought to consider finding a surgeon who could break and reset my legs to improve their lack of linearity.  Ballet is all about the perfection of line, and my legs were plainly imperfect.  No matter what kind of crazy stunts I could pull in the air, those curved lines would always hold me back. 

It wasn’t much later when I quit ballet.

To be honest, I’ve never quite gotten over the feeling that my legs just aren’t right … that there’s a fatal flaw in the machine, one that can’t be overcome by passion or power.  I don’t like myself from the waist down.  Aside from my pajamas, I don’t own a single pair of shorts.  But lately, I’ve begun to believe in the idea that I can see beauty there anyways, if I just teach myself how to look.

Over the next week, I’m going to try to re-see this part of myself.  You’re invited to join in the process.  I welcome your encouragement, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to share my process with you.  It’s a joy, truly.

Thank you. ❤


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      1. Awhh thank you so much I really appreciated that ! (: your post was so nice ! I could definitely relate to it. My legs are skinny and I totally understand what your talking about how your knees go inward.. Mine is extremely noticeable

        Liked by 1 person

  1. WOW what an extraordinary loss of joy to the world, but most importantly to yourself! Life can be SO cruel, and that in the name of so-called perfection!
    I thought perfection was a good thing, in terms of myself, until I came upon Brene Brown. Nope! It turned me into an Ice Maiden (someone defined me in those exact words).
    What a waste of a good life because I knew that inside of me I was so much the opposite of an ice maiden that the pain was almost unbearable. But, clearly nobody was seeing that.
    Time for change had arrived. It is never too late.
    Thank you for sharing. You build my courage ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like to think of myself not just as a recovered perfectionist, but a deliberate imperfectionist now. I am playful about imperfections & really do see them as interesting & sometimes quite subversive. 🙂 I understand your perspective (at least a little bit!) Grateful for both of us that those ice-maiden days are thawing into spring. 🙂

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  2. Ballet is tough. I couldn’t imagine that sort of surgery in order to continue/further your career. A strong person would say to you “Oh – that’s just a constructive critique for a ballerina”, but I could see how that would stick with you. Throughout elementary school, I was told I was ugly a lot with a “big nose” and I still feel insecure about how I look. Those feelings will always be at the back of my head, but I feel much, much more comfortable in my skin. I’ve also come to accept my nose. It’s my nose, no one else has it, I didn’t have to pay for it (lol) and with it comes one of the sharpest senses of smell ever…hence my love of perfume. Keep on keeping on!!! xo

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    1. It’s funny how those voices stay with us over time… But I love how you managed to find beauty in yourself where others saw something different. It’s really true; our flaws are sometimes the most interesting things about ourselves. And beautiful, too! 🙂

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    1. ^ I totally get that. I’ve come to enjoy it immensely now as part of the audience, which is enough for me. 🙂 And also, I realize that in a lot of ways ballet is in me still: I can walk beautifully in terrifically high shoes, & sit gracefully in awkward chairs, & what’s better, *feel* graceful doing it. I bet you know exactly what I mean… It sounds like a funny thing to be grateful for, but life is full of tiny gifts we might as well enjoy when we can. ❤

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    1. I’m glad I didn’t either. 🙂

      Ballet is about perfection, and there are a great many ballerinas who are willing to go to excruciatingly great lengths to create it. While I still love the art form — everybody likes to see a little perfection played out in front of us every now and then — I’m so glad I chose a different way …

      The way of messiness and freedom, complexity and roundabout thinking. It’s a good place to be. 🙂

      Glad you’re here with me!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a shame in a way about the ballet, I suppose, but I can’t help but think you made the right decision not to have your legs broken and reset. Just the thought of it makes me feel queasy.

    I’m afraid I’m not an expert on supposed perfect knee and ankle shapes, but for what it’s worth, I think yours look perfectly charming and certainly a good deal more presentable than the two hairy tree trunks I got stuck with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I truly am laughing now. 😉

      And yes: you’re so right. I can’t imagine actually going through with something like that — I’m not even sure if anyone actually does it, although in China, surgical leg extensions have been outlawed because for awhile they were so coveted and caused so much terrible physical damage. It’s remarkable how far some are willing to go for beauty and status… But I suppose we all have parts of ourselves that we would change if we could, no matter the cost.

      More and more, I find I kind-of like my crooked legs, my imperfect life. It’s nice around here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. It sounds crazy. Maybe it *was* crazy.

      On the upside, getting out of ballet opened up a lot of other really nice opportunities for me. I started running track and field afterward, which was a healthier environment, and even got into the long jump, which was a good place to put my skills to work. I’m less of a perfectionist these days, and I’m okay with that.

      Thanks for your encouragement. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many times when a road closes, it opens many new ones. Running track? Compliments. Sure cleans the head. And long jump? Had to look it up in english. Would that include “triple saut”? (Don’t know how it translates? Triple jump?) That’s amazing. And also supports my argument that though there still is a lot to do, women’s place in society has improved. In the 70’s no-one cared about female sports. To-day, in many disciplines women stand a very high ground.
        Congrats on dropping ballet. “Break a leg my…!”

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          1. I can imagine. I totally sucked at those things. I was more into horse-riding, fencing. I even had a bout of parachute-diving. (If you haven’t, try it. Nothing comes close, except, perhaps mountain climbing) 🙂
            keep flying.

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              1. Fencing is an “ode” to beauty? Sounds corny, but the elegance and control in what basically was a killing “game” I always loved. Congrats on your skydiving. Ain’t that something?

                Liked by 1 person

              2. I practiced for about 10 years. All three weapons, with a preference for “fleuret” (foil?). I like saber, very spectacular. “Epée” is heavy. The weapon is heavy and even with all due protection, a “point” hit with the sword can get you bruises. Do it. in but a few months you can fence reasonably well. It’s different. It’s fun.

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