Ballet Squid Chronicles: Dances with Moobs

I am not the world’s most patient person*.

*Wow! Shocking, IKR?

I doubt I would have been regardless (hello, hyperactivity and short attention span), but the circumstances of my upbringing and much of my life since have taught me that I need to pursue what I want immediately and relentlessly.

The result?

Waiting really freaks me out.

I mean, not short-term waiting. Like, once the appointments are made or the tickets are purchased or whatever, I’m fairly cool. Maybe not as cool as a typical person would be, but cool for me. Like, I can shut the hell up about it and think about other things. Likewise, I’m not terrible at waiting for minor things, or acquisitions of tangible goods (I keep my stuff in the future; that way, I feel like I already have it, and I can relax and save my money to purchase things — and, often, by the time I have enough money to make a material purchase, I’ve decided I don’t really want it anyway).

It’s major, important stuff and skills-acquisition that seem terrifyingly subject to immediacy.

So right now I’m in a spot where waiting for one Big Thing is making me wait for another Big Thing.

I decided last year that I really, finally need to get off my butt and get the surgical correction going on for my gynecomastia. Because, seriously, there are a few ladies in my ballet classes with smaller boobs than mine, and part of me is like, “Yeah, but … you know, ballet, there are lots of girls in ballet with no boobs, so you really shouldn’t freak out so much” while the rest of me is like OMGWTFBBQ 100%


First: that wasn’t the raison d’etre for my decision. Just a keen reminder; a kind of sand-in-the-underpants thing.

Second: Mine are not, you know, the most epic knockers in the room by a longshot, but it’s still awkward, and I still go to class in a gynecomastia vest — which is not, you know, super uncomfy, but seriously, I fantasize about the day I can dance unencumbered by said vest. I still feel awkward, and it still sucks (BTW, this is one of the reasons I’m still wary of getting back on meds: in short, THANKS, RISPERDAL >.<). It's also one more thing to wash at the end of the day, even though I have two vests (I had four, but I'm too slim for two of them now, which means they do nothing, and I'm holding out against buying any more).

Worse, while I actually think hands-on corrections are essential to teaching ballet technique, there is definitely a part of me that freaks out in giant letters every single time my teachers' hands get anywhere near my chest … Or, for that matter, near the little bits of "fluff" that squelch out of the arm-holes of my gynecomastia vest, which somehow manages to be too big in the chest and too small in the shoulders, FFS.

I am seriously thinking about ordering a bigger vest and tailoring the crap out of it, just for ballet, so it will fit my broad-shoulders-and-tapered-torso shape. Only thinking because, let’s face it — I’m not that organized, and while I can do basic sewing-y repairs, I really don’t sew that well.

I found this all more survivable when I wasn’t dancing for a while, and my biggest concern was whether or not I could get away with wearing a t-shirt on the rare occasion that I got a chance to swim. Sure, I would actually swim a heck of a lot more if I could wear just a rash guard or whatever; there are a lot of pools that won’t let you swim with a full-on T-shirt, and your typical rash guard, when wet, turns into a giant billboard proclaiming, “ASK ME ABOUT MY GYNECOMASTIA VEST!” Which, you know, I DO NOT WANT.

But beyond that, before I started dancing again, I didn’t really have to worry about it (bizarrely, it’s never really been a big deal on the bike, even though cycling also involves skin-tight clothes).

It didn’t even freak me out as much when I was doing modern dance in high school — but ballet is probably the most deeply gendered of theatrical dance forms, and as gung-ho as I am about living My Big Queer Androgynous Life much of the rest of the time, in the studio I am just another dude who is supposed to learn mens’ technique and maybe someday do pas-de-deux without dropping anyone.

I would like to not find myself wondering, mid-pirouette, whether my vest is showing. I would like to not find myself constantly and surreptitiously adjusting the blasted thing because it does weird things during barre or adagio. I would like to not watch myself in the mirror while we’re doing little jumps and wonder whether that’s my boobs jiggling or just my shirt. Heck, I’d like to feel as if I can wear a fitted tank top when it’s hot in the studio. That would be really nice. Or a white t-shirt EVER.

Predictably, my health insurance company (which is otherwise pretty great) doesn’t want to cover what they reasonably consider a cosmetic procedure.

No amount of whining, “BUT BALLET, GUYS! COME OOOOOOOOON!” will convince them: clearly, my insurance company is not staffed entirely by compulsive dancers.

Their position is basically:

“Millions of dudes for hundreds of thousands of years have lived full (and also presumably firm, round** :V) lives with gynecomastia throughout human history, and surgery is expensive, risky, and can involve complications.”

**If you can’t laugh at yourself, laugh at other people like you, I guess?

I get it, I really do: this is my choice.

And in fact, while he is demonstrably a leg man (quick aside: Thank Heaven I’m a dancer/cyclist!), it’s a choice even Denis feels weird about: on one hand, he wants me to be happy living in my own skin; on the other hand, he’s simultaneously pissed off that we live in a world where the margins for what’s okay for a given gender are so narrow that I feel like I have to go under the knife and worried that Something Bad Could Happen Because Anaesthesia Is Terrifying.

So at the end of the day it’s my choice, and one we’re paying for out of pocket (Denis is not so stubbornly against the concept as to not be willing to pay for my surgery, which is very sweet of him), so that means waiting until we have saved enough money to feel like we can spend almost $8K on a thing***.

***Yes, part of me just looked at that figure and went, “Holy pas-de-deux, Batman, that’s nearly FOUR THREE (okay, y’all, I really can’t math) YEARS of ballet tuition if I do five classes per week!”)

…All of which means, since our finances have been a little more restricted of late due to some of the vagaries of getting paid when you work in private practice, that I am saving my pennies and waiting.

Which also means that I am taking fewer ballet classes right now**** so I can take more ballet classes with fewer gynecomastia vests later. Which means that there’s a part of my brain that is convinced that I’M FALLING BEHIND!!!



****Yes, this is a very recent decision; and by “decision” I mean, when I told Denis I was going to class on Monday evening, he said, “We need to keep it down to ten classes per month for now.” I made great pains to not throw a fit like the spoiled kindergartner that I am on the inside, and I mostly succeeded.

(Yes, on one level, I’m totally making fun of my own internal histrionics, here. On another level, though, this is exactly how I feel. Exactly. Especially since I managed to make it to class basically twice over winter break, and I am well and keenly aware of how much progress I lost, and that two classes per week with an extra two per month is just barely enough to keep moving forward at a respectable pace.)

Part of me is convinced — since I’m not good at waiting, and we’ve had a couple of small crises in the past two years that have resulted in the surgery being put off — that waiting means This Is Never Going to Happen (for that reason, I’m planning to put down my deposit ASAP, once I finally decide which surgeon I’m using). Part of me is aware that we’ve run into a deadline: I need to get this done, for sanity’s sake, before I go off to graduate school. I really want to get it done this summer, before Burning Man, so I’ll be fully healed and recovered throughout fall and winter and can go be awesome at Sun King next summer.

Part of me is really ticked off that my “four to five classes per week” plan has to stay on hold until the end of the semester (when, presumably, I can contribute a little more to the household income stream and thus pay for my extra classes without endangering the growth of the pool of funds being saved for surgery).

Part of me is aware that this is First World Problems All Over the Place.

Part of me keeps saying, “Okay, but it’s only ’til May.

Part of me admits I have absolutely no idea what kind of gainful work I’m going to find that will allow for our travel plans (because Burning Man choreography project!).

Part of me just thinks that this is really all too much to think about in the first place.

So there you have it. Possibly the most stream-of-consciousness post I’ve ever composed: Dances with Moobs.

FWIW, this post has reminded me that I intend to write more about the interesting nexus of gender and ballet, because it’s something I think about fairly frequently and it’s also something that Denis and I chat about over dinner on a regular basis (and, of course, anything we chat about must inherently be so fascinating that the whole world needs to read about it).

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2015/01/29, in balllet, dances with moobs, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Ok, explain ballet “squid” … sounds tough the whole gynecomastia thing, I assume you have looked into the Risperdal class action suit thing? sorry if you already said.

    • No problem! WRT the class action thing, I didn’t mention it. Denis is exploring that avenue on my behalf, so that might wind up helping us to sort this.

      So, “ballet squid” — when I first started dancing again, I had soooooooo much trouble with my arms, which did not want to be grateful and coordinated,even when my legs were being awesome. I felt like a Squid with legs trying to dance 😀

      This is less of an issue now, but I still have my “squidly” moments!

  2. *Graceful (thanks, autocorrupt). They don’t want to be grateful, either, but that’s a different problem entirely.

  3. Aww man, just wanted to say I totally feel where you’re coming from (though I’m a girl, but in ballet class boobs are still a no-go, as I’ve found out).
    I hate wondering “Did they stare because my technique during that combination was awesome, or because the chest was bouncing?”. So awkward! Wish I could wear those backless leotards or bright colors without my warm-up sweater. I’ve contemplated going under the knife but yes, it’s out of our price range for now and anesthesia is terrifying (and unfortunately, Boyfriend is not supportive of that AT ALL). I would love to go to Sun King, but there’s no way that’s happening with my chest.
    I also want to go swimming so bad, but every public pool I know of has a “no-T-shirt” rule which really sucks.
    Sometimes I have good days when I almost come to terms with it and just do my thing – or better, feel like embracing my differences – but other times I feel like “This chest is ruining my life! If it wasn’t there I would feel so free – I could do anything!” which is probably not the heathiest approach to the situation…
    I especially hate it when friends say stuff like “Don’t let that stop you, just do it anyway!” when they clearly have not been there, don’t feel mortified by everyday actions (such as even going for a walk without a baggy sweatshirt) resulting in comments from passerby and obvious stares. I get it that they’re trying to be helpful or supportive, but it’s so not working!
    But I am so glad I went for it and started ballet, boobs or no boobs, as it’s made my life so freaking happy!
    (Sorry for the ramble-y comment.)

    • No problem at all about the rambly comment (I make rambly comments all the time!).

      I so hear you about the thing where people try to be supportive and they’re like, “JUST DO IT!” and you’re like, “If you were living in my body…” Yeah. And there’s this part of me that doesn’t even get why I feel the way I do about it (like, part of me is all, “Why should I care if people notice that I’m wearing this vest, or that I have moobs?”) … And yet I do care to a degree that sometimes startles me.

      I think this problem has to be even more complex for women in this culture. Like, I kind of expect ballet people “get it,” dancers understand that we operate within a sub-universe where body-type standards are very, very different from those of the outside world, and wherein there is a certain degree of (more or less unspoken) enforcement — like, you’re not a “real dancer” if you don’t meet X, Y, or Z criterion, but it’s no longer the done thing to say so openly). But people at least understand within the ballet world.

      Meanwhile, the surrounding culture seems to think that “bigger is better” should be applied to everything (or, well, certain body parts more than others, I guess), and has trouble grasping why someone living with a culturally-approved form of bigger might actually find it to be worse.

      I’ve known a couple of girls who’ve had reduction surgery because of back problems, and at least one who’s run into difficulties with a significant other over it. It’s sad and weird 😦 I’m sorry to hear your bf isn’t supportive of the idea (he otherwise sounds like a good guy, though!).

      All this said, I too am so glad I went back to dancing … it really has made my life so much better, and in all honesty, it has made me much more confident about my body than I used to be. There’s a level of, “Meh, people see me less dressed than this every time I’m in class,” that makes it easier to not feel like I should dress in shapeless, baggy clothes all the time. But there are still a lot of things I would wear and do that I don’t because of it.

      I hope you’ll find a solution that works for your situation, and I hope you’ll always keep dancing (in no small part because I like reading your blog :D) — it would be awesome to run into you at Sun King someday, boobs or less boobs!

      • Wow, I think I agree and/or can relate to literally everything you said in the reply – that is awesome! So many people just don’t get it…
        Yeah, I definitely do not plan on letting this stop me from dancing, there’s just no way! At the same time, in the past I did let being very overweight keep me from doing pretty much anything (and to be honest, if I hadn’t changed my eating habits I probably would still have continued that way.) But dancing has given me so much body confidence, and just plain amazement with the human body, that there’s just no going back.
        Thanks for the great reply. It made me feel so much better that anyone gets it, however weird that sounds.

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