The studio is cold as it always is. As I walk in I paint the windows with the warmth of my fingers, raking the condensation into pools. Girls cover every crevice of every room and mothers stare down at their phones or stumble around with the little ones at their feet. I walk straight to the back to change: I could walk this space with my eyes closed, the map of my memory guiding me through the daily steps that I take here for hours – class after class. Slowly my friends filter in to the back room to change and prepare for class. Each girl claims a spot behind a locker door and climbs into her shell of privacy using clothes to tent herself – because being naked, being exposed, invites others to write on the blank canvas of our bodies, deciding what they should be. I do the same and carefully build my tent.
We make our way into the room for our class cheerfully and chat together about the latest from the day. I sit down in front of the mirror to stretch and my muscles curve to accommodate each movement. I see and feel my body working – moving to learn and grow. But when I look further into the mirror, SHE frowns back at me. I stare back curiously.. I begin my class and dance furiously to impress her. I stare into her eyes, seeking approval and she turns away, unimpressed. I start to realize that the girl in my reflection does not seem to be able to jump as high. Her body is large, her thighs wide and belly soft.. The other girls that I see in the mirror are jumping high, and twirling weightlessly. But the girl I see across from me stares at me (only me) and points critically – as if its my fault. My black body suit paints my body and the straps seem to get tighter – leaving dark red marks indenting my skin.
I am confused as I am not in control of how my reflection acts. She yells at me and tells me that I can’t dance fast enough and that I need to dance longer to be able to jump as high as the others. Sweat covers my face in beads but I blink it away because I know that I need to try! Try for longer legs and a tighter tummy – to jump higher, to move faster. The girl in my reflection does not change no matter how hard I try. The girl across from me is still larger than the other reflections.. The girl draws lines in the condensation on the mirror – an outline. I match up my body but no matter how hard I try I can’t fit. I CANT FIT.
Class ends and I climb back into my tent of clothes…
The girl in the mirror follows me home.