That Ballerina Moment
A friend of mine once told me that she knew she was old that day she woke up and realized she’d never be a ballerina.
I think she was in her 50s.
I was stunned that anyone harbored such crazy dreams beyond the age of 10.
Despite countless Saturday morning classes at Miss Alice’s School of Dance, I always knew I’d never be a dancer. My mother made sure of that.
“Your feet are too big,” she once observed after she saw me struggling to untangle one of my size 9s from the barre. “And for someone so little you’re really clumsy.”
Hey, don’t hate on my mama. She was just being honest. My feet were huge. And, despite being tiny as a child, I was uncommonly awkward.
Still, it took me decades to feel old. It didn’t really hit me until last Sunday. That’s when I when I crashed my bike, just a few feet away from the annual Boardwalk Art Show and its throngs of fans.
I was pedaling my beach cruiser on the bike path when I got stuck behind one of those four-wheeled surreys packed with goofy tourists. Seriously, who rents those stupid things? Whose idea was it to allow them on a bike path? And why do they always let the 5-year-old steer?
I shouted the obligatory “On your left,” as I began to pass the slowpokes.
But at that moment, the kid holding the wheel made a sharp turn. To the left.
Right in front of me.
I had just enough time to let loose an expletive before I smashed into the contraption and went down. Hard.
OK, it was a low-speed crash that wouldn’t have even slowed down one of the competitors on the Tour de France.
But I’m decades older than the spandex boys and my bike weighs more than theirs do. And suddenly it was on top of me.
I could feel the art lovers staring. Laughing, no doubt. Waiting to see if the old woman would get up or just lie there on the bike path and expire in the sun.
If only. I wanted to evaporate.
Instead, I pretended all was well. I tried to leap to my feet, but lurched up unsteadily. I assured the tourists I was fine. I told them to enjoy their stay. I apologized for my mouth.
“Not hurt!” I grinned through clenched teeth to a few people who'd gathered nearby, as I tried to execute a jaunty jump back onto my bike seat.
As soon as I’d pedaled out of sight I stopped to survey the damage. My ankles were skinned, my thigh was throbbing, my hand was red and swollen.
I started to laugh.
I realized this was my I’ll-never-be-a-ballerina moment.
I’ll never be a bike racer. A dancer. Or a mountain climber.
Of course, I was never going to be any of those things. My feet are too big. I’m too clumsy.
And now, I’m too old.