I had just stopped at yet another destination in the Wisconsin Classic Tour* and I still didn’t have any friends except my sister and myself so the world was pretty much alright still. We were casually checking out the sophisticated downtown culture, and we noticed a black sign with a silhouetted girl in a tutu frock and stylish high heels kicking up one of her legs at an arabesque.
Golddiggers. Lakeshore’s Finest Adult Entertainment.
I was six-and-a-half years old.
“Look mommy, it’s a ballet studio!” I screamed. Maybe I could finally make up for that one horrible recital last year when I couldn’t find my place on the stage with the other girls and spent the whole time trying not to cry as I shuffled around helplessly. I could perfect the art of dancing and be like the photos of Russian ballerinas in the book–
“That’s not a ballet studio sweetie,” mommy said, laughing a little.
I pondered that word. Golddiggers. People digging gold. I thought about the stories I’d heard of Alaskan settlers in the eighteen-hundreds looking to try their luck panning tirelessly day after day in pitiful streams looking for little nuggets of gold, far and few though they appeared. Prizing it, hoarding it, lusting after it.
I pondered that word. Adult. I hadn’t really noticed it before. Grown-ups, doing grown-up things. What did grown-ups really do anyway? There were things I felt were in the dark hidden from me, things like the way mommy laughed when she told me nicely that it wasn’t a ballet studio, things like “when you’re older,” things like the scary-looking signs of bars and even the Golddiggers sign after a few more trips past it that scared me a little inside wondering why it exuded suspicion. People at church always told me I was so “grown-up” the way I walked down the hallways with arms folded taking tiny steps raising my hand before speaking in Sunday School. Being grown-up was cute. But being an adult was big. Too big.
I pondered that word. Entertainment. My exposure to that word came in the form of commercials on Disney VHS tapes before the movies started, promising “entertainment” and the way the man said it pronouncing the t’s hard with his teeth made me think of watching those very movies, playing loud board games, my family sitting on the couch and smiling with their teeth showing while we watched a funny video together. But this time, the very word itself was suspiciously lurking in the corner of the sign, hiding itself almost like it was ashamed of being there. I wondered if I should feel ashamed.
Golddiggers. Adult. Entertainment.
Brain cells clicked together and somehow they knew they should file the information away immediately so as to not trouble my little mind just then.
In the meantime though, I decided it was okay if I didn’t go to ballet studios anymore.
*aka the circuit of Wisconsinite dwellings I have taken up in the past two decades. Compare to: the Wisconsin Pro Tour, which consists of a careful all-hands-inside-the-vehicle ride through the Slums of Miller Walk Lee and/or driving endlessly through amber waves of grain and rundown barns with JESUS SAVES painted on in white lettering and saying “at least it’s not Illinois.”