Children, while naïve, have excellent instincts and are alert to changes in the world around them. My instincts kicked in at my first dance recital. The second half of the show was in full swing, and despite the fact we were kindergartners, they thrust us into the center of the final act. We all stood in the center of the cafeteria that had been converted into a makeshift dressing room. Dark construction paper lined the windows and portable mirrors were strategically placed so the competitive dancers could fix their flyaway hairs and smudged eyeliner on their way to their fifteen dance that night.
“Alright, Opposites Attract, line up!” A high school girl ordered. I scrambled to my spot in the front of my class. The dance moves tapped throughout my head as my stomach twisted into a painful knot. I knew this dance better than tap or ballet, but I was still filled with nerves. Something felt like it was going to go terribly wrong.
We marched ourselves down the hallway toward the auditorium. Each giant gray locker tempted my young hands to tap their metal sides, but I knew the older girl would have yelled at me if I tried. The girl in front of me had her long blonde hair braided and wrapped into a bun on the back of her head. The fluorescent lights overhead cast glittering light out of her hair. No one was supposed to draw attention to themselves with the use of glitter, but this girl decided the rules didn’t apply to her. She was probably a senior.
I hated makeup. I remember looking toward the older girls, thinking their faces must have been created like that, and one day my lips would turn a deep scarlet and my eyelids a royal blue. Every time my mother tried to put makeup on me at that age, I would fight with every fiber of my being to keep my eyes open. I failed each time.
My tan gore boots barely made a sound on the linoleum floors. All the girls had been instructed to keep their mouths’ shut. A few hours before we had been led down the hallway in pink slippers and gauzy blue tutus, but now we were dolled up in black and white striped pants and tank tops. We had traded out giant blue bows for silky ribbons that tickled the back of my neck when I did my jazz squares.
Back stage was pitch black with velvety curtains billowing from the ceiling. I would have looked around at more of the older girls and their bizarre bikini-like outfits, if I hadn’t gotten the urge to use the bathroom. Being a kindergartner, I knew when to use the restroom, I wasn’t someone who would wet themselves.
I tugged on the arm of the senior girl, “I have to pee.” I gave her the most serious look I could muster, but she neglected to believe me.
“You’re not serious.”
“I have to go,” I repeated desperately. I couldn’t deny it at this point. I was practically bursting at the seams. My instincts weren’t misleading me, something was certainly wrong.
The older girl rolled her eyes with a pissed off face before she nudged her friend, “She has to go to the bathroom.”
Her friend looked equally disgruntled by the idea, “No you don’t, you’ll have to wait. You’re going on now.”
The speakers had begun to play the familiar “two steps forward, two steps back” tune I wouldn’t get out of my head for months to come. I felt choked up as they shoved me headlong onto the stage. My little feet carried me for a split moment in front of the crowd as they cooed at all of us “little girls.” Before I realized what had happened, I was off stage once more, bawling to another girl about how much I needed to use the restroom.
As a child, my instincts screamed for me to listen to my bladder. I was admonished for it after the recital had ended. I faced many iterations of “why didn’t you go earlier?” It wasn’t until several weeks later and a visit to the doctors that I discovered I had a bladder infection all along. Sometimes, a child just knows they have to pee.