I spent the last hour sitting on the couch hemming my son’s ballet pants for his recital tonight. He’s spent the last hour hopping around me like a little duck, flapping his hands a little with each bounce. There needs to be a word for beyond excited, because that’s where he’s at right now. He’s worked hard to get to the point where he could watch me hem these darn spandex-y velvet pants.
Two years ago, he attended his sister’s ballet recital and fell in love. He was four, and begged to be allowed to stay and watch the entire thing, long after we’d reached the intermission when we could have politely left.
He watched the male dancers, and kept whispering, “There’s boys! They let boys do it!”
For the next year and a half, he talked relentlessly about the day he would take dance classes. (We don’t let the kids start extracurricular activities until First Grade, and we limit them to one at a time.) When other boys talked about the sports that they played, he would say “I do ballet” long before he set foot in his first class.
His dad wasn’t sure of the wisdom in having his son dance when we live in a place where competitive sports are an integral part of the definition of what it means to be a boy. Our son held firm, “Yeah, but I’m a boy, and I do ballet.”
On the first day of class, he grabbed my hand and dragged me from the car to the studio. He was the only boy in his class, and the girls gave him a few uncertain looks. A few of them asked out loud why there was a boy in their girl class.
“It’s not a girl class,” he told them. “It’s ballet, and boys get to do it too.”
Last night was the dress rehearsal. He walked out onto the performance space, hit his mark, and owned the stage. It had been two years since he’d watched the recital which had so captured his attention, and here he was, doing ballet.
In culture which tries so hard to force boys into perfect little boxes of what “being a boy” is supposed to look like, I’m so proud that our son has decided to define that for himself. It takes a lot of courage to walk out on that stage and dance in front of an audience, almost as much courage as it takes to be a six-year-old boy who stands in front of the teasing older boys on the playground and says firmly, “I don’t care if you don’t want to dance. I like it, it’s fun, and I do ballet.”
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