Relief welcomes new blogger, Michelle Metcalf. Today's entry is her first in a series titled "Among the Irreverent."
On my first day of ballet class, I showed up in a bathing suit and pantyhose. My mom didn’t get around to ordering a black leotard beforehand, and I don’t think we had the extra money anyway. I was four, but I distinctly remember anticipating what it would feel like to take off my coat and to not look anything like anyone else—the bathing suit was a white one-piece with bright blue, green, and red almost Aztec looking patterned lines of dots and zigzags. My pantyhose were also white, thick textured wool—the kind of pantyhose that little girls wear to church with dresses and black patent Mary Jane shoes in the winter, not the thin pale pink tights that ballerinas were supposed to wear. I remember crying on the couch that was in front of the window at our new house while my mom gathered her purse and keys to leave. I still can recall the wet spot on the olive-gold velour saturated with snot and tears, and how I pressed my face into the cushions to muffle my sobs of dread.
Our first ballet lesson would be a lesson in leaping. The ballet term for this is grand jeté, “big thrown step”. The instructor, Miss Beverly, had this oven mitt with eyes and teeth and short little legs that looked like an alligator, which she placed in the center of the studio. We lined up against the dance bar along the back wall each waiting for our turn to make a running jump over the oven mitt. She called this activity, “the swamp” and I quickly got the gist: run and grand jeté, or be eaten.
Suffice it to say I am feeling faint echoes of the aforementioned experience as I begin this first entry, maybe even about writing in general. Full disclosure: there has again been some crying on the couch. Not to mention recurring fears of being devoured alive.
Mostly, I fear that I don’t or won’t have anything interesting to say. Should I be funny? (I can be funny, but should I be funny? What if it is perceived as snarky? So should I be more serious, reverent? Like, should I throw in some Bible verses as epigraphs and quote Thomas Merton and Wendell Berry a lot? I can do that. I can. But do I have to?) And what kind of impression do I want to make for my first impression? (I mean, you never get a second chance to make one right? How’s that for pressure?))
One would think that my graduate degree in creative writing would somehow be serving me right now, at least in terms of providing some sort of it’s-just-a-blog-not-a-thesis- kind-of-confidence as I begin. OK, and for the record, I just want to say that I absolutely did NOT Google “How to Write a Blog Entry” or scan eHow articles for instruction. (And even IF I did do this, it would have most likely only been helpful in the form of procrastination time disguised in the name of “research”.) More importantly, you would also think that, by now, I would’ve already incorporated the ballet class metaphor: the predictable tie in to the grand jeté, the lesson in leaping as perfect segue into leaping into the world of blogging. I could, I guess; but I just can’t. You won’t find any of that here. Turns out, I showed up then the same way I do now--dressed should I accidentally fall in.
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Michelle Metcalf often wonders if her hesitancy to dance wildly at weddings with the rest of her friends is somehow linked to the alligator in ballet class, but she's not sure. She's also become slightly more accustomed to not always dressing like everyone else. She lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband and dog.