So I’m six feet tall. This has relevance, promise. By the time I was in fourth grade I was taller than everyone else AND I was getting boobs, because nature decided I needed multiple targets for the bullies in school. Since I was about eight I’ve been a pretty consistent failure at being a feminine female. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been called “sir,” regardless of makeup or the fact that I have a DD chest.
Model material, you may say…after all, aren’t a lot of supermodels tall and boobaliscious? Not this girl: my body wasn’t my friend. It still isn’t. I’ve been overweight since I was young and really overweight since college. A lot of that is the same (boring!) body-hatred-punishment bullshit that I KNOW is happening but have a hard time getting over. It doesn’t need to be analyzed here, because really, how fucking typical do I want to be?
I don’t expect to be Marilyn Monroe or Lana Turner, sexpot extraordinaire. I don’t expect to be Kate Moss either (good lord, I like food people, not drugs). Hell, I idolized Hepburn (Katherine, duh) and wanted to be Ripley. But I’d really like to love my body and work with it instead of feeling like I’m locked in constant battle with my mortal enemy. Seriously, your mortal enemy in this mortal life really shouldn’t be the FUCKING BODY you pilot.
Ah well, I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all? I focus on it for a while and get lazy or distracted and decide “fuck you world, I don’t care if you think I’m pretty/thin/womanly or not,” but that’s not the answer: ultimately it’s the love/loathing dichotomy that needs to change.
Luckily, I’ve found one (legal-to-view-in-public) physical thing can do something pretty damn cool that a lot of women can’t or don’t. I can bellydance.
I found Middle Eastern dance a decade ago when I couldn’t take my eyes off of Aliyah Sahar at the MN Renaissance Festival. Inspired and terrified, I LONGED to be able to move my body in that graceful, sensual way. I longed for the joy of movement and the utter joy of being female that bellydancers have.
And I found it. Over a remarkabe ten years, not only did I get to learn from Aliyah but managed (bafflingly) to become her friend, and both occurrences have been constant bright facets of my life ever since. (I’m not saying that to get free classes, FYI.)
Bellydance celebrates the female body in the best possible way, and even though it’s incorrectly thought of as akin to stripping, bellydance is all about harnessing female energy and powerful beauty, regardless of a woman’s size, age, race, or class. I adore the female friends I’ve made in the community and the support I’ve received even though I’m not a size 2. I adore the acceptance and encouragement and even the sparkly/jingly/makeup/girly aspects. I adore that no matter how hard class is, no matter how awkward I feel or gangly I am, for at least moment every time I dance I feel like a beautiful woman.
After a decade of awkward classes, stilted performances, frustration, joy, solos, and teaching I feel like I can say: I’m a bellydancer.