Three Things I Learned at My First Burlesque Show

When I was in the Sex Surge, one of my best tools for dispensing sexual energy was dancing. I’d dance in my bedroom, in various stages of undress, and move in whatever way my body wanted to. Undulating arms, slow hip sways, circles with arms uplifted, pulsing chest- whatever worked, whatever my body wanted to say. (So, straight up- I know me talking about this and describing myself this way probably turns on a few folks. Fantastic; you have a good time. But what I’m really here for is telling the truth. My truth. The truth [as well as I know it] about sex and desire and spirituality and growth. Turn on is awesome, but truth is even better.)

I also really wanted to take a burlesque class during that time. I even signed up for one, but it was cancelled. In any case, I was fascinated by it- the sexuality, the sensuality, and removal of clothing. It looked like a lot of damn fun not only to perform but also to engage the audience and entrance them with my body.

Well, I finally went to a real burlesque show two nights ago and it was fantastic. There were five performers and it centered around the theme of ‘winter wanderings.’ There was a fun number where the Elf on the Shelf (who, honestly, I detest) was reimagined as a closeted rebel dancer. And one where the performer started out as the Snow Miser, with lots of layers, and then gradually undressed herself to be the Heat Miser, with some fantastic undies that would heat anyone up.

As with anything, I was looking to gain insight and definitely found it. Here’s what I learned.

I am definitely not 100% heterosexual. (And I think it’s the rare person who is, honestly. Most of us wonder ‘what would it be like with <someone of the same gender>?’ which is totally natural, fwiw.) I think all bodies are beautiful. And certainly women are part of my fantasy toolbox, but the question of whether I’d actually be sensual and interact with a woman was always sort of ‘I don’t know’- because it definitely happened at clubs, but never with anyone I thought was cute. But, yeah- some chicks are hot and that is all there is to it. And if one of them wanted to press her body up next to mine, I wouldn’t have minded. I just wanted to run my hands along those legs.

Of course, the thing is, that’s not part of what my partner and I allow in our marriage, so it will remain a fantasy. But that’s just super clear to me now.

 

Maybe my post-breastfeeding boobs aren’t that bad. Like a lot of women, I have been saddened by the aging demise of my breasts. The aren’t perky. They are lower on the frame than they used to be (which might also be a biking joke, idk). I enjoy seeing them in my sports bra when I’m working out more than my lingerie, honestly.

But! The burlesque show reminded me that, hey, boobs are boobs and they are all pretty fantastic. The 30 year-old woman who hadn’t breast fed *also* had flat boobs. And so maybe mine weren’t that awful by comparison. Also: I think really good pasties probably help any set of boobs. So, I might need to get me a pair. There was also a woman there- 50+ and full of curves- that made me think maybe my 42 year-old body would work okay in a burlesque number. Maybe I just need some cute boy shorts to cover the crepe-y skin below my bellybutton. And a bustier and some heels. And after that I think I could definitely do my own number.

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

Taking it all off slowly is so fucking hot. So, I learned that you can get a cute little skirt to button to the bottom of your bustier and that you can take it off, ever so slowly, as you dance. Gloves, jacket, skirt, bustier skirt, bustier, bra- and you’re left with undies and pasties. And the slower you go, the better it is. I’ve talked about this before. Some of the dancers had to move quickly based on the song they were dancing to, but the slower they went, the better it was. I caught my breath and gritted my teeth in anticipation when one woman spent a full minute taking off her glove (her glove!). Anticipation- when you know satisfaction is on its way- is one of the best things ever.

One of the things I’ve learned in my everyday life this past week is about the magic spot between fear and desire. When there is something you really want, but you’re afraid of it (doing it, getting it, going through the experience of it)- that is a very sacred place. It is the place of full potentiality; the place just before they light the fuel to put the rocket into orbit.  And if you can tip over into letting desire lead you through fear, it feels really wonderful to get to the other side. It feels kinda like fireworks in your body, honestly. I feel like this about trying out burlesque for myself- I want to, but I’m afraid. But I think the desire will pull me through.

 

So, now I’m thinking about taking a class and getting an outfit and dancing to some fantastic holiday song.  And I’m not sure I’d make it on to an actual stage. But if I do, I’ll let you know. I’ll be untying lots and lots of bows on this package.

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06 Dec 2017

After I published this post I was screwing around on Pinterest and I saw a picture that read, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I stopped and stared at it for a few minutes and realized that within this post I had stolen my own joy.

This time last year I was getting ready to do a boudoir photo shoot (yes, that kind) and my body had started betraying me in ways I found depressing. I gained about 15 pounds and lost about 1/3 of my hair over the next three months. I felt truly awful in my own body. Incredibly uncomfortable about how it felt to have that extra weight on and watching my beautiful brown hair fall down the drain each day. It was painful and depressing and made me ugly cry a few times. (I really loved my hair. Like, really.)

[This is not about body shaming or weight shaming. I believe we can feel happy in our bodies at whatever size suits us. I don’t begrudge anyone their extra 10, 20, or more pounds above their ‘goal weight’ – my body simply did not feel comfortable for me.]

Over the course of the Spring and Summer my doctors and I began to suss out what the problem was and start to fix things. Over the last six weeks I’ve finally dropped the extra weight and begun to see evidence that my hair is growing back. I feel like myself again.

What I learned over the Spring and Summer was that I still had issues with what patriarchy demands my body to be (lean, pretty, un-aged, sexy) and that some of my sense of worthiness resides in a fit, pretty, sexy, un-aging body standard. And that sucks.

I proceeded to work on removing the unworthiness I felt and the voices of patriarchy that make demands of my body, but what you see here in this post is another example of it. I looked at something I wanted- to try burlesque- and found my body inadequate compared to what I saw the ‘standard’ was. I also made judgements about my body based on what I thought an audience would like to see. What the actual fuck do I know about what people want to see when they go to a burlesque show? Exactly nothing.

What I did in the course of making these comparisons and judgements was steal my own joy. Because you know what? I love my body. Even when it was more pounds than felt comfortable and less hair than felt beautiful (by my own standards). I really, really love my body. It has its troubles, but my body does so many beautiful things. It smiles and laughs and twirls and orgasms and speaks and curls up and shivers and dances and loves. I really, really love my body.

So, perhaps the most important part of this post comes after the original writing. The remembering of how much I love my body, and that comparison comes from standards outside myself, and that I do not need to steal my own joy.

If I ever dance burlesque I’m sure I will have judgements about myself- but hopefully they are only because I’m a beginner, not because I am inadequate. There is always work for women to do to carve out the bullshit that patriarchy feeds us. And you can see some of mine on display right in this post. But that’s how we grow. We find the wound, we see it, we acknowledge it, we clean it out. And then it can heal. And healing is one way to reclaim our joy.

 

 

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