Friday, January 18, 2013

Fiction Friday: Little Prima

I committed to post once a week and I CANNOT believe it is already Friday!
This may be cheating, but here is an original short piece I wrote for class this week. I put myself on a time limit and had to follow strict guidelines about the format and length, so it could be better, but I'll stop making excuses. It's not a bad first draft. It's a little darker/more risque than what I usually write, but unfortunately I think a lot of women live this story. Hope you enjoy!

Little Prima

The fan in the corner clicked loudly while it rotated from one side to the other, losing the battle to cool the air that the sunbeams coming through the window warmed. “Hold, hold, hold! Smile! Suck in your tummies! Hold, hold, hold! And relax,” said Miss Tammy, “Alright ladies! Clap for yourselves!” My dance teacher was my favorite adult, other than my mom and dad. Her high pitched voice was always so cheerful and her she looked like a princess with her brown hair always in a tight bun and her long legs wrapped in pink. “Next, we’re going to learn a step called Pas de Chat. That is French for Step of the Cat. Who here has a kitty? Raise your hand!” I raised my hand, feeling full of pride.
For the next decade I worked daily to perfect my craft, my sport. In middle school I was accepted to the Connecticut School of the Arts and I took two to four hours of dance classes every day, often stretching through lunch hour. When I earned my pointe shoes I was dismayed to find raw shavings of the skin my feet bloody in the lamb’s wool padding in my shoes. Working through the pain made me stronger though, better even. As competition heightened and my weight dropped, the hours I spent icing my knees and hips felt like they were worth it just to see my name on the casting list next to Odette, Clara, Juliette, Giselle, and Copelia. I had more grace and beauty than any other dancer out there and I knew it. I was born to be a Prima.
“You look lovely tonight,” whispered Ben from the patio. I gave him a shy, half smile, feeling my life might as well be over at twenty-six weighing an appalling 111 pounds. I leaned over the balcony to peer down on the city streets. “It’s really beautiful up here. Look at the sunset,” I fanned myself gently with my hand, “I love when the sky is dark pink like this.” I coldly sipped my wine and picked over his “famous” bruschetta to find the smallest pieces of tomato while we chatted. “Tell me how long it has been?” Ben suddenly put his arm around me. I knew what he was asking. I hadn’t been given a decent part in years. Three years ago I never would have done this, but I was no longer above dating a casting director for parts. I stood and he quickly got up and pressed my body against his. He ran is hand down to the small of my back. I felt a twinge of excitement, hoping he wouldn’t notice the beads of sweat rolling down my back. As I lay in Ben’s bed later that night, I was consumed. What if Ben didn’t give me the lead role? If I get evicted will Ben let me stay with him? My heart began to pound and I couldn’t swallow.
After that and in the following weeks I found that my anxiety became my constant companion, even after I was given the lead role of Ben’s new progressive ballet. I used to enjoy the ritual of powdering my feet, tying my ribbons and warming up at the barre before each show. Now I spent that time wondering if Ben was cheating on me, even though I didn't really care. As the stage lights burned my eyes, when I took my bow I could only think of how badly I wanted to be in my bed under my white sheets and lean against my white wall smoking a tiny white cigarette. The moment the curtain fell I bolted for the back door, still in my tutu. I quietly escaped only to find a father with his little girl waiting. “Miss! Miss!” cried the little girl. I took a breath and smiled, “Hi there!” “You were so pretty and I wondered if I could have your autograph,” the little girl beamed with a toothless grin. “Sure,” I said slowly. Her dad thanked me and handed me a sharpie pen. The girl shoved a small kitten into my hands. “This is Kitty and I’m Samantha.” I took a deep, horribly painful breath. “Oh, well what do you want to be when you grow up?” “A ballerina! Like you!” I handed her the cat and mustered my final smile. As I turned, I wondered if this is how it feels to run over a kid with your car.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is Your Presence Present Enough?: The Death of Social Graces

I went to cotillion and I was raised by a mother who believes in bringing a hostess gift and writing thank you notes for every item or special display of care a person receives. So, let me say, I may be a bit sensitive on this issue, but I can't help but notice a recent trend and I want your opinion.

 I overheard a girl in line at a coffee shop the other day talking to a friend. The first girl asked, "So are you going to so-and-so's wedding?" "No, I can't really afford a present right now and we're not really that close," she replied. "Oh, really? I'm going, but I'm not bringing a present. I figure my presence is their present." There was an awkward pause, "Oh, well, if you're not bringing a present, I guess I can enjoy the free dinner and booze and not feel bad about it." They laughed. I rolled my eyes. Etiquette teachers from days passed rolled in their graves.

I would say that I'm shocked, but I'm not. Personally, I would rather not go and send a card, or go an just make something small instead of eating out one night, than take from a host/hostess without expressing my appreciation as a guest, apparently some people don't think that is not a big deal.
 Over the years I've been to many parties, and weddings, even very formal weddings, where people show up empty handed, take what is given to them, and leave.

I understand we're all busy and sometimes this kind of thing can be overwhelming (I by no means claim perfection myself), but does that make it okay to preplan not give a gift when it has been a common social practice to bring some sort of gift or offer of help to a host/hostess when they went to a lot of trouble to host you?
Perhaps the formality of the event depends on whether or not you should bring a gift, but what do you think?
Where is the line?

Would you always bring a gift to a wedding/bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah/birthday? Or at least a card?
Would you offer to bring something to a friend's dinner party?

What situations constitute the need for a thank you note?
I'm not asking to judge, but I'm asking because I'm genuinely curious.
Am I old fashioned or is this acceptable behavior for an adult?