When you are raising three beautiful daughters you find it hard to deny them anything. So when my wife signed our middle daughter up for ballet classes I was delighted that she embraced it completely. She has always been our quiet one, hard to reach and seeming a little sad almost all of the time. Her sisters are athletes, loving hockey, volleyball and softball. That is right in my aging jock wheelhouse. My budding ballerina apparently has the strength and coordination of her sisters, but shows it in a much different way.
So I was completely on board when my wife enrolled her in ballet. My wife is not very interested in the sports which the other girls love, although she attends games and tournaments. I am in my element with the two sports-obsessed girls, helping coach and working with the kids in our own backyard. It was great that my wife and daughter now also had something in which to immerse themselves. I did do some volunteering, “roadie” work during dance performances, but my wife took on costuming and photography within the dance company. She has always been so reluctant to join in and work with other parents, making this new adventure very satisfying all around. I thought it was great that she had found her niche.
And our daughter was completely in her element. She danced and twirled around the house and never ever refused to go to practice. Over the course of a couple of years she worked herself into more advanced roles in the company. When dropping her off a couple of times the director pulled me aside and let me know how much they appreciated the work my wife was doing and very talented my daughter was. My wife threw herself completely into the ballet scene and it seemed like a good thing.
Everything seemed to be on track. Even though my wife and daughter were rarely home for dinner as the big Christmas performance approached we coped as a family, I thought, the other two girls and I enjoying the sports and looking forward to the dance extravaganza as well. When my wife ended up having to work a little overtime just a week before the program I arranged to have some other parents bring the other girls to their practice and I traveled with my middle daughter after school to the dance rehearsal she had scheduled.
My daughter is never super communicative but she was bright and eager to talk as we left the house. I did notice as we got closer the downtown dance studio she got quieter. I just chalked it up to intensity and nerves.
When we parked she ran ahead of me and disappeared into the labyrinth of hallways and practice rooms. I took a seat in the main auditorium for the three hour practice. As the young dancers began stretching and readying for the practice on stage I noticed a man talking intently with my daughter. I realized he was the choreographer from a picture I had seen in the lobby. Once he was done talking with my daughter he looked out into the auditorium, fixing his eyes on me.
I felt a little uncomfortable. He simply stared at me while other parents were in their seats. He then pulled out a cell phone and seemed to text, furiously moving his fingers on the device.
Within a minute my cell phone beeped. It was a text from my wife. She told me to leave our daughter at dance, that she would drop by and pick her up on the way home from work. I waited for a break in the practice and walked over to tell my daughter. She seemed distracted and nervous but said OK.
As I walked out of the auditorium the choreographer was in my way. I excused myself and tried to walk around him. He would not move and I finally brushed past him. As I moved around him he muttered something.
When I got to the car I wondered what the deal was with the choreographer. I tried to decipher what he had muttered. I realized he had said, “She is not for you.”
Who? My daughter?
Or… Some things that had been bothering me started to shift into place. Late night whispered phone calls. Hang ups on our landline. Trips to the dance studio without our daughter because the costumes needed finishing or the brochure for the next performance needed editing.
Not for me? My wife is not for me?
But is she for you, Mr. Choreographer?
My marriage ended that night.
[The above story is from our reader John Blunt.]