I am a writer, but that's not what I aspired to be. I wanted to be a dancer. I took classes for 12 years, often crawling to the bathroom on all fours in the morning because I could not stand up, due to grueling hours at the studio and muscles that were stretched beyond their limit.

After surviving the audition for an elite dance class at the University of California at Berkeley, I felt I was on my way to realizing my dream. But one semester later I was called into the dance director's office and told I didn't have what it takes. For one thing, I could not do a pirouette. For another, I had breasts and, according to tradition, those just get in a dancer's way. Marinating in defeat and shame, I watched The Turning Point compulsively and felt ill.

I was demoted to the general phys ed dance class. After a few weeks, I had to admit it was more fun than the highly structured and competitive environment of the elite class. I also declared a new major: English literature. Although this was my second choice, it became abundantly clear after I joined the workforce that it was the right one for me. The job opportunities were a lot better, as were my long-term prospects for pleasure. Reading and writing are not only vastly more rewarding than shin splints but you can do them when you're 90, whereas you very rarely see women that age performing Giselle.

It was in a college poetry-writing class that I met my first big love, Reed. He admired my poems and looked, not incidentally, like a young Marlon Brando. We dated until the end of the school year, when he informed me that he still loved his ex-girlfriend. I was so devastated that I missed my own graduation because I could not bear the thought of seeing them together.


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