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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.

::: ::: ::: :::

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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slow hands

There’s a new song on the radio that I am digging, Slow Hands by Niall Horan.

I just wanna take my time/
We could do this, baby, all night, yeah/
‘Cause I want you bad/
Yeah, I want you, baby/

Slow, slow hands/
Like sweat dripping outta my dirty laundry/
No, no chance/
That I’m leaving here without you, baby/
I, I know/
Yeah, I already know that there ain’t no stopping/
Your plans and those slow hands/

Not to get too critical, but I’m not sure about that sweat metaphor. I get the slow part, but sweat dripping from dirty laundry is not what I’m thinking of when I’m looking for metaphors about ‘slow hands.’  However, if a dude is eating right and exercising, his sweat is definitely a turn on, especially if it’s from the exertion of waiting for my slow hands to work their magic.

I also dig the song because it’s very clear the woman is in charge and he’s ready to roll with whatever she’s got planned. Amen, my sisters. [Tip to the dudes: always make your lady come first. Read this book. Do what it says. And if you don’t know if she’s come, ask her. And if she doesn’t know, find someone to help you figure it out. Female satisfaction leads to male satisfaction, youknowhatI’msayin’?]

Anyway…I dig this song because it speaks to something that I’ve learned after 20+ years of sex: the slower the better. In any given encounter (sexual, sensual, intellectual, etc) each move is a step towards the goal (sex, orgasm, connection, etc.) and if you can enjoy each step, rather than racing through it, it’s so much more delicious.

I will also say that one thing I think is different about my generation (or maybe it’s just my age) is that I don’t assume flirting will lead to fucking (a greater theory is outlined in this post). There are 200 steps between flirting and fucking (maybe 300-400 if you do it right), and no one step guarantees that the next step will happen. Each step- each touch, each eye contact, each sentence- is it’s own stopping point, it’s own playground. And the more you see it this way, the slower it goes- but it makes each step that much more exciting.

I made the mistake recently of not clearly communicating what I was looking for in a connection and I think my acquaintance jumped to the conclusion that ‘connect’ meant ‘fuck.’ Alas, no. I’m terrible at hiding my meaning, so if I ever ask for a particular type of connection that’s all I’m asking for. If I want an intellectual connection, that’s what I’ll ask for. If I want a sexual one, that’s what I’ll ask for (although, the chances of that are 0.000001%; my marriage is really fantastic). And if I want slow hands, I’ll ask for that, too.

One of the things the Slow Hands song reminded me of was the love scene from ‘Top Gun.’ I re-watched it a few weeks ago for the first time in 25+ years (??) and the one thing I was struck by is that, in the scene when they finally get down to it, and Kelly McGillis is standing there in a white-collared shirt, and Tom Cruise is in his jeans…you realize either this is the second go, after the quick, dirty, ‘ohmygod, I want you’ round or, they have been going rather slowly and this is all the further they’ve gotten in a couple of hours. They are going so slowly because they want to enjoy it all. And, ohmygod, the thought of going that slowly that just sets my mind|body|spirit on fire.

Can you imagine spending an hour undressing your partner?
Can you imagine going so slow it’s painful? (Ah, the pleasure of pain.)
Can you imagine feeling every moment- every button opening, every finger running across hot skin?
Can you imagine being strong enough to not rush?
Can you imagine the heavy breath of desire coming from your partner as they wait?

Yes. That slow.
Go that slow.

 

 

The benefits of going slowly aren’t just about turn on. They are about connecting more intimately- don’t just kiss me- touch and smell and lick my lips. Going slowly is about mindfulness- notice my pleasure by noticing my breath. And noticing yours. Going slowly is about sensuality and enjoying all your senses in any given encounter (sexual or otherwise). This isn’t a list of What Turns Me On, what turns me on is the organic, curious exploration of every little thing. The benefit of going slowly is to squeeze as much pleasure out of each moment, each touch, each motion, so that you are completely full of, and completely entranced by, the experience of your partner.

Going slowly is also about the joy of tension. I am not great at holding tension, except in my imagination. In my imagination, the best, slowest kiss goes like this:

He gently backs me up against a wall or a car so my back is supported*. He steps forward and presses his hips into mine, just enough pressure to let me know he’s there. We connect from hips to chest like a zipper being zipped up, very slowly. His hands are holding my neck, pressing at my waist, running along my sides- everywhere. Look me in the eyes, lover. Look at my eyes, my lips, listen to me breathe. When I start to moan from desire, that’s the moment to lean in closer and put more pressure on my hips. Smell the nape of my neck. Keep waiting. And when I can’t help myself and I put my hands into the waist of your pants and pull up your shirt from the back just so I can feel your skin, then get ready to kiss me. Keep looking in my eyes- watch the smoke of lust darken them- and hold this moment. Because this moment is where we cross the line and never go back. Hold the tension as long as you can. And then, kiss me.

[This should take approximately as long as  ‘Ball and Biscuit’ by The White Stripes. Like, really, slow the fuck down.]

See? Awesome, right?
(I even turned myself on with that one.)

But in real life, I have had to learn to slow down. Eighty-percent of the time I’d basically just pull my partner down and kiss them**. I have no patience, sometimes. It has taken me twenty years to learn that slower is most often better. Twenty years of practice to really understand it and use it to my advantage. Twenty years to also understand that ‘slow hands’ is a tool you can use in a lot of places to enjoy life more.

So, try slow hands and see what it does for you. It’s great for sex, but it also applies to lots of places in life. Slow hands in the shower. Slow hands when you’re cooking. Slow hands when you’re dressing. Slow hands when you make the bed. Slow hands when you do chores. The mindfulness, the noticing, the enjoyment. Take it all in and let it nourish your body, mind, and spirit, because ‘Slow Hands’ and sensuality are one of life’s greatest gifts.

*Because no one likes to fall over when they are being well-kissed.
** I am short; everyone has to bend over to kiss me.

 

 

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Music Mapping

Ya’ll- it has been more than a month since I last posted. Wow.

Actually not so much wow. Life has been a roller coaster lately, but in the best way. I haven’t had time to post. I haven’t had thoughts useful enough to post. And, in all honesty, what this space means to me, and does for me, is changing. I’m not sure where we’re heading yet.

But tonight I feel so grand.

Two days ago, I realized I hadn’t made myself a playlist in a year. Not that I hadn’t picked up some new tunes, but I hadn’t made a playlist of where I was at or what I was feeling in the last year. It kind of makes sense- this last year was rough, and I didn’t want certain people up in my energy (and my energy is my music), so the lack of playlists was a very good reflection of where I was at.

But it’s time to share again.

This post isn’t so much a playlist as it is a map of where I’ve been in the last few months, but via music. The little clusters of songs are like dots on the map of my life- places I’ve stopped as I’ve grown in the last few months.

::: ::: :::

Mother’s Day and Marriage

People, my marriage is awesome. My partner and I are doing fab; just last night he was sweeping the dining room as we were talking and he said, “You are so perfect for me.” I love our love. These songs are what I’ve been humming since Mother’s Day.

Kat Dahlia | I Think I’m in Love
Falling in love with my husband all over again.

Crazy Town | Butterfly
I’m feeling so free and loved lately.

Depeche Mode | Home
A forever fave describing our love.

The White Stripes | Ball and Biscuit
He sent it to me from England. I thanked him when he got home.

 

New Stuff

New music that’s rockin’ my hips, my mind, my soul.

alt-j | In Cold Blood
Their latest. I love it. Still contemplating seeing them when they hit town.

Bed of Liars | Violence
I just dig this one. Loud. Very loud.

Coldplay | Strawberry Swing
Actually, old music. But it’s going to be the first song in my “New House” ritual.

 

The Summer of 7th Grade

No clue why, but I have been reminiscing about the music from the summer of 7th grade. 1988. Probably because I’m packing singles tapes (tapes!) that have travelled from the West Coast and another dimension.

Breathe | Hands to Heaven
Oh, god. This song. Full of my favorite emotion, bittersweetness.

Jon Secada | Just Another Day
I bought his CD as one of my BMG “Buy 10 for 1 penny” offer (along with Montell Jordan).

Richard Marx | Don’t Mean Nothing / Hold On to the Nights / Right Here Waiting
Dedicated to the three boys I desperately wanted to date in 7th grade.

Peter Cetera | Next Time I Fall
When Amy Grant went secular it meant we all could. I used that later when I left the church.

 

I’ll leave you with this. A seasonal favorite.

The Sundays | Summertime
We saw them on their last tour. They named their daughter Billie. I will always love them. And you will always find me inside this song in the summer.

 

 

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Tequila on Thursday Morning

Last Thursday, May 18th, I sat at my desk at 10 am and took two shots of tequila.*
One for Chris Cornell’s death.
And one for his life.

The life that came through that amazing voice.

::: ::: ::: :::

I haven’t said anything yet, because my grief is not over. Barely begun, honestly. The 3-day emotional cycle of social media is not enough for this death, for me.

Chris Cornell was someone I chose to listen to, a few years after the biggest rush of grunge. I bought Temple of the Dog as one of my 10 CD selections with BMG (only a penny, do you remember that?). It wasn’t a case of being caught up in the music of my generation, it felt more intentional than that. It was an adult purchase, inside of my budding adult sense of myself.

He was important because of his talent, because of his emotions and how much he loved Andrew Wood, because of how his beautiful voice conveyed all of it. But also, for me, because his voice and music fed the seeds of my self.

::: ::: ::: :::

Because I am from Seattle, I have a lot of friends back there, and with Chris Cornell being a son of that city, there were lots of memories.

A former roommate talked about taking a Chem class with Soundgarden’s bassist, Hiro Yamamoto at Western Washington University (my alma mater. I remember when he came back from class to tell us what had happened, how it had been discovered. Great story, not gonna tell you; it’s his business).

Another friend, who I knew had worked for the King County Coroner’s office (but didn’t put two and two together until she shared), talked about being part of the team that catalogued and packed up Layne Stayley’s remains when he was found in 2002 (15 years ago, my god). Another voice that can never be duplicated, lost to drugs. (“So many sharps,” my friend said, “so many.”)

And people who had served Chris Cornell around town. Or seen him in the early years. There was a comedy show in Seattle in the 1990s called “Almost Live” where Billy Nye got his start. Soundgarden was part of “The Lame List” piece once. (See also: ‘High Five-n’ White Guys’ and ‘Chihuly and Jones’ – INFJ’s have a terrible sense of humor.)

Who had not seen him in concert once or twelve times? When Lollapalooza was still a mud fest in what was the backwater of Enumclaw, WA. (For a joke we call it ‘Enum-scratch.’) I listened to each song as people posted their favorites and felt my own connections. I read some reports and some posts (this one is my favorite) about what his music meant. And I thought about why I had included him as one of the first members of the ‘Shiva’ board on Pinterest (which seems a ridiculous thing to say as a Gen-Xer: Pinterest). He embodied the full sense of masculinity to me. He was not afraid of himself. He had his demons, to be sure. But he explored so much of life, of himself- and made beauty from it. I deeply admire that.

I had last seen him when he came to Providence on his solo tour. He was on stage simply to have a good time with music. The kid who sat next to me was not born before 1996, and I took umbrage with his youth, but not with his taste in music. Chris Cornell as a god of both our youths. And there he was, taking requests, also denying requests, and just messing with music until it sounded good to him. He left the stage as a warped chord echoed so loud it hurt. It made your head buzz in the way you knew you would not be able to speak in a normal tone of voice until the next morning.

::: ::: ::: :::

But now, at 42 and with a master’s degree in mental health, one thing in particular stays with me: mid-life masculine depression. Yes, Chris Cornell dealt with depression and anxiety either due to or related to his drug use. But so many men deal with undiagnosed depression at this age. At the very least, it deadens them and kills their relationships, and sometimes their work.

I work with many women whose male partners suffer from depression (which has different symptoms than female depression). Male-specific symptoms of depression include physical ailments, anger, and reckless behavior. Men tend to turn their depression outwards, while women turn it inwards. And, especially for men, treating depression makes them feel inadequate. So they don’t treat it…and their relationships falter or they lose their job…and they feel inadequate so they don’t treat… You see where this goes.

There are a variety of reasons that depression happens in men. We all have inside of us the capacity to have every mental health disorder there is in the book. But the silence of it is what makes it so dangerous for men. As my friend, Jenifer said, “Suicide was stalking him (Chris Cornell) and we couldn’t help. How could we have known suicide was stalking him?” Only if he told us.

And the same is true for those around you. If you suspect you are (or your partner is) depressed, please seek help.There are lots of treatment options, many of which are not pharmaceutical (if that bothers you).

Male mid-life depression is a thing.
Male depression is a thing.
And you can have treatment and support.

The music of your life is deeply valuable to someone. Many more ‘someones’ than you suspect, probably. Your fans want you to live, just as we wish Chris Cornell could have.

::: ::: ::: :::

I think there is more to say about Chris Cornell’s death, but it’s not yet formed. I’ll share it when the time is right. And if you’re mourning- maybe it’s finally time for that trip to Seattle. Here’s my map. Visit ‘A Sound Garden,’ will ya?

Blessed be, Chris Cornell. Rest in peace.

 

*I’m not given to drinking much. I like a little wine sometimes, and some champagne on New Year’s Day. But Thursday morning I needed the burning gold of tequila running down my throat in the same way the hot tears ran down my cheeks.

 

 

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Full Moon in Virgo + Winning the Lottery

Hello! Oh, I missed the moon again. I gotta get back in that groove. Anyways…here is the quick version of what’s happening with the moon this past Sunday.

If you found some truth during the dark moon of Feb 25-27, that truth should have made itself clear in the past week leading up to Sunday’s full moon. It may have been about love and relationships (Venus is also in retrograde, which means your love/relationship truths and personal BS will also be coming up) or just connecting to others.

The full moon on Sunday, March 12 was about fully recognizing or committing or accepting that same truth from the new (dark) moon in February. Mystic Mamma says this moon is about a woman becoming free (can I get an ‘amen’!?), letting go of what no longer works and becoming more of her true self. I imagine that is the way good relationships really find you- by being unapologetically yourself (and fuck ’em if they don’t like it. someone else will).

In general with this moon we are letting what needs to pass away dissolve itself, and allowing what needs to be created to find seed in our psyche and hearts. Life is a journey, though, so maybe the truth was a bit hard to grasp or seemed to get fixed and then the truth bumped up again. That’s how life goes, what can I say?

In any case, this full moon is also about cleaning that crap up (letting go, telling the truth, starting something new, whatever it may be) and moving on. Be brave- take a step towards what you know is true, even if it sucks, even if it hurts. Because moving towards the pain of ‘right’ is better than being stuck in the ‘meh’ of habitual.

And that’s all I got about that.

::: ::: ::: :::

Dudes, I have not picked a song for this year yet. Although I think one might be picking me. We’ll see about that.

In the mean time, some songs are piquing my attention.

 

| HeavyDirtySoul | by Twenty-one Pilots

I cannot save your soul (unless you ask); you gotta do that yourself.

 

| Believer | by Imagine Dragons

Pain is a great teacher.

 

| Human | by Rag’n’Bone Man

You can’t blame one person for every failing. We all hold responsibility.

 

| Blame | by Bastille

‘This is my body and soul here.’

[There’s a theme with these songs, I know…I know.]

::: ::: ::: :::

Lastly, dudes, I won the lottery. I’m a gal whose love languages are time and touch. (And words, because words touch me invisibly and they take time to create.) Last night my beloved and I wrapped ourselves around each other like infinity symbols, sliding along each other, over and over, and fell asleep curled together. Today we woke up to a snow storm, still entangled, and sleeping late (which is a rarity with kids).

This, to me, is winning the lottery. His time and his touch. And so much of it. Money makes life easier in some ways, but experiences are what keep our hearts alive. Give me enough money to have these experiences; I want no more than that. And then give me all of the experiences I can hold, all of them that I can see, smell, touch, taste, hear, and live.

The older I get, the more I know how precious these things are. I want no extra gold. I only want to be held in warm arms and loved.

 

 

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