I am no stranger to talking about vaginas. After five years of talking about vaginas, raising money for vaginas, even making anatomically correct vagina cupcakes for an annual charity production of The Vagina Monologues, I thought I’d seen it all.
I was wrong.
Hubs, who normally acts squeamish whenever I talk about vaginas, and who puts his hands over his ears whenever I dare even mention periods, actually sent me this article today.
Did you know DISNEY once made a short film about getting your period??!!
Yes, the media giant most known for delivering sanitized-for-you-protection stories about cute animals and princesses in distress, actually made an informational animated film about menstruation.
You guys, they actually say the word “vagina” in it. More than once. And there’s a even a mention or two of the “rectum”.
Check out the link to the article if you want some history about WHY Disney made this film – and apparently others like it.
And while the film certainly plays into antiquated gender stereotypes, I’d say it’s pretty revolutionary in its rather scientific explanation of what the hell is going on in your body when Aunt Flo visits. Can you even imagine a film like this playing in a place where they still practice female genital mutilation? Hardly. You’d probably be sent to prison.
Below is the film in its entirety if you’d like to check it out for yourself.
Who knows, maybe in a parallel universe, “Frozen” is actually a story about IVF.
I hadn’t, until my 15-year-old stepdaughter asked if I was interested in reading her favorite book – a book of poetry, no less.
I am not normally a poetry person. I continually try to open myself to poetry, and there are some poets I do love (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings and Mary Oliver come to mind), but I often struggle to make a connection to poetry. To hook into what the poem is conveying. I have problems finding my way in.
But when a 15-year-old girl gives you an opportunity – an invitation – to peek into her world, to have a glimpse of what grabs her attention, what penetrates her heart, what expresses even a sliver of her own inner life – you don’t say no. It’s an honor to be let in.
So, she deposited “Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, on my nightstand. I’ll admit — it sat there for two weeks before I finally picked it up. But the universe has a way of tapping you on the shoulder by way of synchronicity, so when a close friend shared a Rupi Kaur poem on Facebook, I took the hint and immediately picked up the book.
You guys – wow.
First of all, the language is simple and bold. There’s no fluff, no fancy constructs, no unnecessary elaboration. It gets straight to the point and immediately taps into some decidedly raw feelings.
Secondly, the subject matter speaks to what is arguably the every day experiences of many women around the world. It’s about hurting and loving and losing and healing. It’s about vulnerability and strength. It’s about learning to be female in the modern world. It’s about self-knowing and growth.
The poet is in her early 20s. She was born in Punjab and moved to Canada when she was 3. In addition to writing poetry, she performs spoken word and writes fiction and plays.
But to get to the point – Rupi Kaur gives me hope for the future.
Why? Well, millennials are often maligned in our culture, characterized as being lazy and self-absorbed and stupid. And, OK, when I see interviews where young people can’t correctly tell you who the Vice President of the United States is or who won the Civil War, I worry. I do. This characterization isn’t totally unfounded.
But when I read Kaur’s poetry, and when I know that it resonates in the soul of a 15-year-old girl on the precipice of adulthood, I’m fucking grateful. I’m grateful that our culture has birthed young women who are unafraid to speak about their experience, their emotions and their bodies.
For the past five years I’ve been involved with charity productions of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day and One Billion Rising. I know that odds are 1 in 3 that a woman will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. I know that we have thousands of years of patriarchal culture to unwind before women can feel safe and heard and equal.
But I think we’re making headway. The teenage girls I know are smarter about their bodies than I was at their age. They have less shame. Many have cultivated an emotional intelligence that probably outstrips men twice their age. They are empowered in many ways. There is still work to do, of course, but I can see how positive change has affected this next generation.
And it gives me hope.
If you haven’t, check out “Milk and Honey.” And if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Did you know 1 in 3 women worldwide will be beaten or raped during her lifetime?
Did you know that with 7 billion people in the world right now, that amounts to ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS?
That’s one billion too many.
That’s why every year I add my voice to the One Billion Rising rally that happens on Valentine’s Day all over the world. The campaign started in 2013 and was launched by Eve Ensler, the same woman who brought us The Vagina Monologues.
Every year, people gather together all over the world to express their outrage, dance and rise to demand an end to the violence and justice for those who have experienced gender violence.
This year, I joined the West Hollywood rally and, as usual, it was an inspiring day of speeches, music and – most of all – dancing.
Yes, a big component of the revolution is dancing, and in particular a flashmob dance – an opportunity for everyone to join together, to take up space and to experience the joy of their bodies in motion. Debbie Allen choreographed a dance set to the song “Break the Chain” by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, and it is amazing to see dozens or hundreds or even thousands dancing together in the streets.
Look around you. Chances are someone near you is one of the 1 in 3. Maybe you are one of the 1 in 3. Maybe it’s time for us all to break the silence and break the chains that hold us back and keep us quiet.
If you’d like more information about One Billion Rising or would like to get involved, click here.
You probably already know that every year I perform in a charity production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and every year I make a few dozen vagina cupcakes to sell in the lobby before the show. Because who doesn’t want to eat a vagina cupcake, amiright?
Hell, my cupcakes even appeared in the first edition of Karen Alpert’s book “I Heart My Little A-Holes.” (I say first edition, because when HarperCollins picked it up for publication, they cut my chapter, saying it was too risque. Vagina motherfuckers.)
But I can hear you out there, thinking to yourself, “If only I knew how to make these myself at home. They’d be terrific at the school band bake sale!”
So as part of my contribution to mankind, I thought it was about time I clued everyone in on how to make these at home. It’s pretty easy, you guys! Just follow these simple steps I’ve outlined below. And if you want to see how I learned, then check out Chaos Bakery’s video “How To Make a Vagina Cupcake” on YouTube.
For real, there’s videos out there about this.
Step 1 – Have a reason to make vagina cupcakes, such as you’re doing The Vagina Monologues (duh), you want to make a graphic impression at a baby shower, or you want to explain anatomy in a relatable way to a high school biology class.
Step 2 – Bake cupcakes. I did mine from a box. Because, honestly, noone really even notices the flavor when they are biting into an anatomically correct vagina cupcake. I added a little food coloring to give them a more “fleshy” appearance.
Step 3 – Frost lightly. Again, I added a little food coloring to aid in the flesh-coloring. Add more or less to make it the flesh color you desire. We all know there are an infinite number of flesh colors out there.
Step 4 – Make some fondant (you can do this ahead of time). Here is the recipe I used. It’s pretty easy to make your own, I would discourage buying it pre-made because it’s kind of gross.
Step 5 – Fashion the outer lips (the labia majora if scientific terms turn you on) with your fondant. I cut out circles of fondant using a glass and cut each circle in half. Then you fold up the straight side a little bit to make the lips. The frosting on the top of the cupcake holds the fondant in place.
Step 6 – Add a clitoris. You can use fondant, as Chaos Bakery does, or get creative. This year, I used strawberry-flavored tic-tacs and Starburst jelly beans because it’s Easter. Why not?
Step 7 – Fashion the inner lips (labia minora) with little scraps of fondant. Mine are kind of wild and crazy. Make ’em long, make ’em short, whatever. They come in all sizes.
Step 8 – Spread a little frosting around the outside. You will now attach the “pubic hair” to that. I used toasted coconut, chocolate sprinkles, and gold sugar and pressed it into the frosting. Shake off the excess. Or go without!
Step 9 – The final step is to use a little food coloring to color the inner lips to give them dimension. I used red gel and purple gel food coloring, depending on the color of the cupcake.
Voila! There you have it. Vagina cupcakes you can make at home. Here are some pictures of all the different kinds I made – a total of 60. So many vaginas, so little time!
And here is the video from Chaos Bakery. Chef Bev does an excellent job walking you through all the steps.
IN VAG WE TRUST! GO FORTH AND MAKE VAGINA CUPCAKES, YOU VAGINA WARRIORS, YOU!
I like food a whole lot. I also like making food a whole lot, and my husband likes making food a whole lot. We like trying new foods and expanding our palates and tasting different wines, and…. Well, you get the picture.
I also eat my feelings. I have lots of feelings. So this adds up to a whole lot of eating and a whole lot of food.
Okay, I’m skeptical too. It seems everyone these days has their own diet book. But I’m also intrigued.
Writing has been a way into myself this last year. I’ve discovered that my creativity is heightened and I feel more fulfilled when I write. This was a huge surprise to me. I’ve always hated writing in the past.
So why not try using writing to help break this cycle of weight loss and weight gain? It’s worth a try, right?
I haven’t finished the whole book yet, but I’ve begun the program. It consists of seven tools:
The Four Questions – 1) Am I hungry?, 2) Is this what I feel like eating?, 3)Is this what I feel like eating now?, and 4)Is there something else I could eat instead?
The Culinary Artist Date
HALT – Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired
The Body Buddy
I’ve been doing my morning pages every day for six months, and yesterday I started my journal and a daily walking regimen. Will I keep with it? I don’t know. But I’m going to share my progress and obstacles with you here.
I’m willing to give it a try. Anybody care to join me?
I want to talk about the “C” word today. No, I don’t mean cancer. I mean cunt.
Did that get your attention?
What is it about the word cunt that inspires such a strong reaction?
I’m rehearsing “The Vagina Monologues” this month for a charity production on March 28th. One of the monologues specifically deals with the word “cunt”. It reclaims it, if you will. The woman in the monologue attempts to show us what makes the word cunt so wonderful, so luxurious, and so energizing.
But not everyone feels the same way. In fact, many in the cast don’t like the word. And we’re a pretty open-minded bunch of vagina warriors.
Although its first use is under debate, scholars generally seem to agree that it is derived from a Germanic word “kunto”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it’s first known use was as the name of a London street – “Gropecunt Lane”. How’s that for descriptive? It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became a taboo word, and didn’t generally appear in print until the 20th century. Wikipedia gives a pretty thorough explanation of its history, if you’re interested.
What is clear is that it is one of the only words in the English language that still has the power to shock and provoke.
I daresay the only time I ever hear the word used is in the pejorative. Look it up on Dictionary.com and you’ll find this:
All senses of this word are vulgar slang and are very strongly tabooed and censored. The meanings that refer to a woman and a contemptible person are used with disparaging intent and are perceived as highly insulting and demeaning. There are many words used to refer to people in sexual terms. However, to call a person a cunt, especially a woman, is one of the most hateful and powerful examples of verbal abuse in the English language. See also gash1.noun, Slang: Vulgar.
1. the vulva or vagina.
2. (a) a contemptuous term used to refer to a woman. (b) a term used to refer to a contemptible person.
3. sexual intercourse with a woman.”
I have friends who are careful never to use this word to describe anyone in a negative light. I myself am guilty of doing this, and going forward will try to eradicate from my vocabulary – especially as an insult to another woman.
What does the word cunt inspire in you? Do you see it as bad word? Or do you want to reclaim it, like Eve Ensler?
2015 marks the fifth year that I will be involved in the Downtown LA production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. You would think after five years that the experience of working on this play could no longer stretch me, shock me, or push my buttons.
But you would be wrong.
The play premiered in 1996, and is a candid conversation about the realities of having a vagina. It’s based on a series of interviews that Ensler conducted with 200 women about their views of sex, relationships, and violence against women. Some of the monologues are hilariously funny, others dark and moving. All are incredibly informative. Did you know, for example, that the clitoris has twice the number of nerve endings as the penis? (Check out Natalie Angier’s book Women: An Intimate Geography for even more astonishing facts).
Over the last five years I’ve performed a couple of different monologues, and they each have allowed me to stretch myself, explore different aspects of my personality and examine my own relationship with my vagina, my gender, and my sexuality.
Hell, I’m thrilled that I can even say or type the word “vagina” now without embarrassment or fear. I think many other women feel the same way, and we have Eve to thank for having the courage to start this conversation.
I mean, I even make anatomically correct vagina cupcakes for the production every year. I got this, right?
So imagine my surprise after all these years, after all these conversations about vaginas, and sex, and violence, and all the other stuff that comes up when you discuss something like this, that I would actually do something in connection to the show that made me nervous. That made me want to hide under the couch or feign the flu or hell, anything that could get me out of what I agreed to do.
We want to have a blow-out this year, for the fifth anniversary. So our producer/director decided to have a sexy photoshoot on the top of a building downtown, the product of which we would use as our publicity shots. Arden Ash – an amazing photographer and fashion technologist – was on board to take the photos.
I’m almost 40 now, and I’ve gained a bit of weight, so the idea of being sexy on top of a building in broad daylight was kind of intimidating. I don’t feel as sexy as I used to, and I certainly don’t have the bod that some of my fabulous women friends involved with the show do.
I tried on lots of different outfits at home, trying to figure out what to wear that would make me feel good enough, and hide the parts I don’t feel so fantastic about right now.
But you know what? That’s not what this show is about. This show has nothing to do with hiding who you are. So even though I was nervous, and even though I didn’t feel great about showing this sorta lumpy body to the world, I ultimately decided that hiding who I am right now in this very moment is counter to the spirit in which this play was created.
So I put it out there, lumps and all. Here is one of my shots. Yes, I’m nervous about showing it to you, but maybe my willingness to do so might inspire other women to feel less insecure about their bodies.
Nobody is perfect, and I think my strength and my purpose in life is to show others that we can have rich, meaningful, and fulfilling lives without being even close to perfect.
I don’t have a perfect body. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have confidence. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy what my body does. That doesn’t mean that OTHER people can’t enjoy what my body does, what it is capable of doing. It’s healthy and strong and has carried me through this life and goddamit I’m going to CELEBRATE it!
Let’s celebrate our bodies, ladies, instead of hiding in shame. Let’s own who we are, and let our voices rise above the Negative Nellies and Danny Downers. Let’s not let other people decide how we should feel about our bodies, our minds, ourselves.
(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/14/14)
I braved the mall yesterday. I thought malls were dead. Apparently, I was mistaken. As it was the second-to-last Saturday before Christmas, the place was absolutely mobbed. It took me 20 minutes to find a parking space! I even held my pee for three hours because the line for every bathroom was 20 deep. Well, for the ladies room anyway. You men have it so easy.
Why on earth would I submit myself to this insanity? In a nutshell – to buy some new clothes because mine don’t fit anymore.
I’ve put on a few pounds this year. And by a few I mean 20. It’s been kind of a hard year over here, and I deal with it by eating my feelings. And eating my stress. And eating my boredom. And, hell, eating my happiness, too. Basically I eat everything for every reason. And now my clothes don’t fit.
I had a talk with a friend about this recent phenomenon lately. She, too, has gained some weight, although hers was a result of two little humans she incubated, birthed and subsequently nursed. Her reaction to not fitting in her clothes has been NOT to buy new ones because, as she says, it will inspire her to lose the weight.
I used to feel that way, too, but I don’t anymore. Because day after day after day of opening my closet, surveying the contents, and realizing I can only comfortably wear maybe 15% of what’s in there is incredibly depressing. Instead of inspiring me to lose the weight, it’s inspiring me to eat more. Because emotions. And I eat those.
When I went to Weight Watchers my meeting leaders would tell us to get rid of our fat clothes as soon as possible. This, supposedly, encourages us to keep the weight off. It just means I have to spend more money on clothes when I inevitably yo-yo back up. That’s how it has always been for me. I’ve gained and lost the same 30 pounds for the last 20 years.
So I said – fuck it. I’m not going to be a party to shaming myself daily. I am heavier right now than I’d like to be. But that doesn’t mean I can’t LIKE myself right now and FEEL GOOD about how I look when I gaze in the mirror. Those size 4 jeans staring at me from the bottom of my dresser do like to whisper to me, “you used to be so thin that we were getting too big for you!” But there is no reason I can’t have a size 10 pair of jeans sitting on top of them, shouting, “Girl, you still look fabulous! Don’t let those skinny bitches make you feel bad!” Thus the trip to the mall.
Even though I am trying my best to be good to myself and gentle with my psyche, it is hard to stare at your underwear-clad body in the harsh light of dressing room mirrors (except for Ann Taylor Loft which, blessedly, has soft, warm and flattering light). There are things that bulge and sag that didn’t before, and seeing it several times over the course of an afternoon is not exactly uplifting.
What I did notice, however, was that I was in desperate need of a new bra. Every time I took my shirt off it looked like my boobs were trying to escape. Some women gain weight in their face or their butt or their thighs. I gain weight in my boobs. Like, crazy, fucking weight. The poor bra I was wearing was waving the white flag of surrender. It looked really tired. And my boobs didn’t care how they got out of there, whether it was over the top, out the sides, or covertly underneath, they wanted out.
Usually, when my boobs get big I try to be economical by buying a new bra at Target. When I lose weight they are the first to go, and bras are expensive. But the thought of going to Target AFTER the insanity of the mall was too much to bear. I decided to step into Victoria’s Secret instead.
If you have never gone through the bra-buying experience at Victoria’s Secret, I highly recommend it. As soon as I walked in, a sales associate came over and asked it I needed some help. I casually mentioned I needed a bigger bra because I gained some weight. No sooner did those words leave my mouth than she went into action as though she had been preparing for this moment her entire life.
She asked what size I thought I was. When I’m thin, I’m a 36A. When I’m not as thin, I can go up to a 36C. So I told her 36C. She got out her measuring tape, made some calculations, and informed me that I was now a 36D.
WHAT?! NEVER in my life have I had a D cup! No wonder my poor bra looked like it had been to hell and back. Where did these boobs come from? Is that what aging does? No wonder my mom has enormous boobs. I can see my future, and backaches figure prominently.
Anyway, she asked what kind of bra I was looking for, which for me is simple – no push-up and no lace. She filled out this little card and escorted me back to the dressing room where another sales associate met me. This woman took a look at my card and then consulted this GIGANTIC wall of sample bras in every size. She pulled out four and sent me back to a dressing room. Every bra fit perfectly and felt like heaven. I bought two. I’m actually EXCITED to wear them!
(On a side note, the only other woman to come into the dressing room while I was in there also commented to the sales associate that she needed a new bra because she had just lost weight. Is that the only time women buy new bras? When we gain and lose weight?)
What does all this mean? Well, I’m still going to make a New Year’s resolution to take off some of this weight, because honestly it makes me feel gross. I didn’t just toe the line between a weight where I feel okay and a weight where I can’t stop obsessing over my body – I jumped over it with apparent glee. It’s time to reign it in. BUT – I’m not going to give in to the shame of it. This is where I am right now. There is NO REASON that I can’t celebrate myself, even with all my imperfections. I WILL dress in glitter this holiday and draw attention to myself, even if I don’t look like my ideal self. And I WON’T get rid of these clothes as soon as a lose a few pounds. Because I may need them again someday and that is OKAY.
Oh – and if you need a new bra, you absolutely have to go to Victoria’s Secret. They will HOOK YOU UP.
“Step Away from the Mean Girls…and say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks. Are you ready to stop colluding with a culture that makes so many of us feel physically inadequate? Say goodbye to your inner critic, and take this pledge to be kinder to yourself and others.
This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself. The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you’re too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose too big; just look into the mirror and see your face. When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgment, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world.”
(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/23/14)
Unless you are completely disconnected from the Internet, chances are you read something about Renee Zellweger’s face over the past couple of days. It seems just about every media outlet, celebrity journalist, blogger, and anyone with a Twitter account has piped in with their two cents. Scroll through your newsfeed and you’ll no doubt see before and after pictures of her face, expressions of shock and dismay, and opinions about women over 40 getting plastic surgery. Some people find her new look appalling. Some think we should just ignore it. Others have defended her.
My original reaction was one of mildly shocked confusion. How could someone’s face change so much that they no longer look like themselves? I clicked back and forth between pictures, trying to figure out what was different, but the changes are subtle. Yet, there’s no denying she no longer looks like Bridget Jones. I felt the familiar mild annoyance I generally do that women over 40 continue to perpetuate this notion that we all have to live up to impossible beauty standards, and continue to look like young versions of ourselves, even when we’re older. I, myself, have considered plastic surgery on this nose of mine, thinking that would solve some of my problems and people in Hollywood would like me better. So far, I’ve succeeded in talking myself out of that. I have worked very hard to like who I am, and I don’t really want to undergo elective surgery that may drastically alter my appearance. I want to look like me when I look in the mirror.
But then I read her response in People magazine and I thought, “Hey, she’s right, who am I to shame someone whose appearance has changed?” My confusion and annoyance about the differences in her face morphed into annoyance about all the attention people were paying to it. I liked that she had made many of the same changes that I’ve been working on as I get older, namely slowing down, spending more time with a few important people, getting more rest, nurturing my creativity, and learning more about my authentic self.
But then, goddammit, I read this article in LA Weekly, and my opinion changed again. Amy Nicholson makes a great argument that it’s okay – nay, that it’s actually very important – that we’re upset about Renee’s Zellweger’s face. The actress’s refusal to acknowledge that she has had any cosmetic procedures to alter her look, that they are instead the result of being well-rested and happy, is a terrible affront to all us average Sallys out there. No matter how much sleep I get, or how many home-grown vegetables I eat, I’m never going to look like a “movie star”. Nicholson argues that her changed appearance just proves that talent and personality are much less important than beauty.
I already know that beauty is king, I don’t need any additional reinforcement of that idea.
So, here’s where it gets tricky for me. I appreciate Zellweger’s response that people should focus more on the positive changes she’s made in her life to make it happier and more fulfilling, and spend less time obsessing about her looks. But I also agree with Nicholson, that ignoring it does nothing to mitigate the idea that women need to always look as beautiful and as young as possible, even if it means going under the knife.
This makes me want to tear my hair out! I don’t know what to think anymore!
I was very opinionated as a teenager, and in my early 20s. But since I hit 30, if you present me with two opposing ideas and make a good argument for each, I cannot decide how to feel about it. I no longer see issues in black and white. I’ve had too many life experiences, things I thought would never happen to me and family, that have forever altered my ability to see issues as inherently good or inherently bad. I tend to shy away from hot button issues because my thoughts aren’t generally solid one way or another. I’m terrible at arguing a point, especially with someone who is very persuasive, because I then see it from another point of view and my own arguments seem hollow.
I thought this development as I get older, this inability to be fervently opinionated, was the result of having a more tender heart, of feeling a little weaker. A friend (someone who is, coincidentally, a great persuader), challenged me that it is not weakness, but wisdom.
I’d like to believe my indecisive nature is a result of wisdom gained over the years, but I’m not so sure (ha! There’s that indecisiveness again). Now with Renee Zellweger staring me in the face with her new face, this issue is more confusing than ever.
(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/2/14)
I’ve been neglecting any type of formal exercise for awhile now. Truth be told, it’s been a couple of years. I used to run regularly and go to the gym, but since we moved to a house in the suburbs, the only exercise I’ve gotten is in my garden, muscling the ground into submission and yanking weeds out by their throats (who knew gardening was so violent?). I keep thinking I’ll take yoga again, or practice at home, but I don’t. It just seems like too much trouble. I’d rather spend that time (insert anything other than exercise here).
As a result, I’m now 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be, and not feeling so super great about myself.
So when my friend, Whitney, suggested we take a Vintage Burlesque class on Tuesday, I was a little resistant to the idea. Okay, I was a lot resistant. I haven’t been in touch with this sagging sack of flesh in quite some time, so the idea of trying to put on some sexy moves in front of other women was off-putting. However – the class is taught by our mutual friend, Kristina, whom we both adore. It’s a new endeavor for her and for the studio where she’s teaching, Studio Soma East in San Gabriel, so when Whitney suggested we should go simply to support our friend, there was no way I could say no.
I am so glad I went, you guys!
Once upon a time, I was really in tune with what was going on inside my body. Hell, I spent three years and untold amounts of money getting an advanced degree in Acting. I spent mornings practicing the Open Choreography of the Williamson Technique and afternoons understanding the subtleties of my alignment and how it affects my voice, via the teachings of Kristin Linklater. I was acutely tuned into my sensuality, and was training my body to become an expert tool of expression. Upon moving to New York City, I was a founding member of a physical theater company, Theatre Lila, and spent many post-work evenings exploring Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints and practicing contact improvisation with my fellow artists in a gorgeous studio at Dance Theatre Workshop that had an unrivaled view of the Empire State Building from its wall of windows. I marveled at how my fingers would vibrate when I spoke, knowing that tingling sensation was the result of years of work opening myself up and allowing my voice to freely resonate in every chamber inside me.
My fingers haven’t tingled like that in quite some time.
As the class began, we learned a few of the basic moves of Vintage Burlesque like the hip bump and the shimmy. In case anyone was fearful of what might be in store that evening, we were gently reminded that everyone stays fully clothed in this class. Much of what makes Vintage Burlesque so titillating is the suggestion of sexiness and the coy connection you make with the audience, not the actual revelation of body parts.
We moved into some simple stretches from there. As someone who once spent so much time and energy learning how to communicate with my body, it is embarrassing to admit how long it has been since I even allowed myself any stretching. It felt so good just to do a few simple neck rolls and to stretch out my hamstrings, rolling slowly back up my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. The memory of all those years of training my body started to whisper to me, and encouraged me to settle into this experience.
What followed was 45 minutes of learning a routine, and how to sell that routine to an audience. And what surprised and delighted me most was how easy it was to connect to my body again. The muscle memory is still there, carrying with it all that I have experienced and all that I have learned. At first, when I watched myself in the mirror, I was critical of what I saw – a woman who has let herself go and gotten a little fatter than she’d like. But it wasn’t long before I was able to set those thoughts aside and just enjoy myself, and luxuriate in the experience. Even though I don’t feel particularly sexy in my everyday life at the moment, it was so easy to connect to my sexuality and sensuality through the burlesque. I could feel myself taking sexy back, one shimmy at a time (thank you, Justin Timberlake).
What I find so appealing about burlesque is that it doesn’t have anything to do with how you look on the outside, and has everything to do with how you feel on the inside. Burlesque is an expression of your personal sensuality, and no matter what your size, shape or age, you can feel sexy yourself and be sexy to others while doing it. It is the best kind of workout, because not only do you move your body (I worked up quite a sweat), but you can’t do it mindlessly – you must be connected to yourself in order to make it work. There’s no going through the motions, here. It forces you to go inside and find what makes you you, what makes you beautiful.
Who wants to take a class with me? I’m ready to tingle again!
The spirit of the time as experienced by me, Amy Clites