October 23, 2014 – To Twirl or Not To Twirl
Last night I was lucky enough to see “Kinky Boots”, the Broadway musical sensation with music by Cyndi Lauper about a shoe factory in England which takes on a niche market and creates thigh-high, sexy, stiletto heeled boots for transvestites in order to keep the company from going out of business. It was FABULOUS with a capital F! The music, the sets, the dancing, the costumes and a message of kindness and acceptance all wrapped up in a glorious package of brilliant actors and actresses strutting in the most magnificent footwear my eyes had ever seen. I love good musical theatre and this was beyond superb.
The flash of the stage lights and cacophony of music has been tickling my brain all day and thus my naturally digressive mind began to ponder. What would have happened had I opted for voice and dance lessons as a youth? Surely that could have been myself up there belting out tunes and shaking my tushie during the dance numbers right? I have stage presence. I have a robust personality. I just missed out on proper youth training!
Never mind that money was extremely tight growing up in a house full of seven children. (Also to be noted; in era of my youth when dinasours roamed the earth, there were not 4,000 extracurricular activities or select sports that today we feel inclined to push our children into in the remote possibility that they may be the next Pele, Hank Aaron, Matisse or Beyonce.) There was also only one dance academy in our little town and the cost for a session of dance classes was equitable to feeding a family of nine for a month.
Another prohibitive factor in my lost quest for Broadway glory could have been the “late blooming” of my coordinative state. I distinctly recollect the glorious summer of my seventh year when my parental units caved to my begging and gifted me with baton twirling lessons for my birthday. I remember proudly stepping out of the family station wagon at the park where the training was to begin that splendid summer day, clutching my brand new lustrous silver baton with the pearly white tips. I marched shyly towards the group of confident girls who were already twirling batons up and around wrists and flipping them skywards. I stood slightly outside the group with my mouth agape as the Head Majorette began to explain the dexterity and manipulation involved with “the twirl”. I balanced the baton on my finger tips, dropped it to the ground approximately 172 times and then spent another hour hurling the baton up into the air and running away as fast as I could to avoid being hit by the return flight. After two hours I climbed back into the family station wagon and announced that “I was done with baton twirling now”.
My mother gave me the standard pep talk as defined in the parenting manuals along the lines of “you have to start somewhere”, “you can’t expect to be great the first day”, and “practice makes perfect”. So I sighed deeply and went and stood in the back yard for an eternity and practiced finger manipulations and under knee passes. Several thigh bruises later I was actually starting to get the hang of things and dreams of sparkling majorette uniforms began to bubble in my brain. My confidence suddenly cresting, I decided to “humor my mother” and go back to camp.
At the park the next day I began the finger warm ups with the lineup of knobby kneed girls wondering if my sudden prowess was noticeable to the twirling instructors. I glanced up from under my eyelashes at the girls on either side – they were full of pep and enthusiasm and didn’t seem to have a single baton shaped bruise anywhere. A niggle of doubt started to crystallize in my brain.
Day two’s task was to master the “around the forearm twirl”. The coaches gave us an example and then proceeded to do a slow motion demonstration showing us how to roll the baton gently up and around the forearm with an effortless gliding motion. No problem. I began my smooth back wrist flip with supreme confidence. The gleaming silver metal caught the sun and twinkled as it slowly flipped perfectly around my elbow and continued its arc directly into my right eyeball. Twenty minutes later when it was determined that I had not dislodged a cornea, I came to the mindful conclusion that no amount of sequins was worth the danger this particular sport entailed. When the station wagon pulled up later I clambered in and announced, “I am REALLY done with baton twirling now!”
My mom took one look at my blackened eye, bruised forehead and forlorn expression and simply nodded.
Forty (plus a few) years later I am still grateful to mom for simply understanding that my ego was going to be crushed in the stampede of twirling fiefdom and after icing my wounds and kissing my forehead – presented me with a brand new Nancy Drew book. I think the thought of my flinging a metal rod around the house near her valuables may have been part of her reasoning, but I also think she knew I would find my own destiny in a more practical setting – like the library.