Category Archives: Body Stuff

Taking Sexy Back, One Shimmy at a Time

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(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!

betty

The Skinny on Being a Fat Girl

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/7/14)

poms

I was a fat girl. I was the kid who never met a cookie, cake, pizza, sugary breakfast cereal, donut or ice cream she didn’t like. I didn’t really have a shut-off switch, and never learned to practice self control. I drank Kool-Aid with extra sugar with my dinner every night. McDonald’s Happy Meals were a staple in my house. I would sneak three Oreos from the cookie jar, eat them, and THEN ask my mom if I could have some Oreos and I would eat three more. I shopped in the “Pretty Plus” section at Sears.

My brother, three years my senior and a normal, healthy weight, found my growing weight problem the perfect tool to use against me. When I irritated him, which was almost daily, he would call me the Blue Whale. Eventually, he and his friends morphed that into Blue Shamu because it had a nice ring to it. Kids in the neighborhood heard him call me that and soon everyone was calling me that. I remember getting off the bus one day after school, and several kids stuck their heads out of the bus windows as I was walking away and shouted “Blue Shamu, Blue Shamu!” at me. It was devastating as an eight year old.  I still think of it from time to time if I’m wearing blue.

I took tap and jazz lessons as a kid, for several years. As I started to gain weight, I started to feel more uncomfortable in my leotard and tights. My mom took notice and suggested it was time I go on a diet. I was bigger than all the other girls in the class. I feigned stomachaches before class so I wouldn’t have to go. Eventually, my mom said she wasn’t paying for classes I wasn’t attending, so that was it for tap and jazz at Miss Shirley’s Dance Studio. I was sad but also relieved.

In junior high I tried out for the Tigerettes, our school’s dance team. Basically, it was what all the girls who didn’t make cheerleader did. You still got to wear the cute cheerleader outfits, but you did a choreographed dance at half time instead of cheering during the game. At my first football game, some boys walked by me and said I was one of the ugliest cheerleaders they had ever seen.  I cried that night, and no doubt soothed myself with a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.

My first year of high school there was this kid, Phil, who was in one of my classes and decided he didn’t like me for reasons I can’t remember. Anytime I would pass him in the hall he would act like there was an earthquake, because he said I was so fat I made the floor shake when I walked by. That was hard to absorb at 14.

These are the memories that come to mind when I think about being a Fat Girl. No doubt there are many more, and if I took the time to write them all down it would be a Young Adult trilogy series.

At 15 I decided to do something about my weight problem. I was tired of being the subject of scorn and ridicule.  I didn’t have the discipline to starve myself, and somehow I managed not to develop a binge/purge problem.  I asked my mom if I could go to Weight Watchers. I was the only kid in the group, which met in the basement of the YMCA.  I bonded with middle-aged ladies who weighed me weekly on a scale set up behind a curtain for privacy.  For the first time, I learned what a healthy diet was. I was only encouraged, never discouraged. It was a safe place, and I was glad I had found it.  These were my people.

I lost 45 pounds and became a Lifetime Member at age 16.

I’ve gained that weight back, and lost it, and gained it again, and lost it.  It’s a pattern in my life.  I still sometimes go to Weight Watchers, and I’m almost 40. My inner Fat Girl is always going to be there. It has become part of my identity, and I suspect it will always be. As an adult, I’ve learned ways to cope with it.  I’ve cultivated meaningful friendships with men and women who would never judge me by my weight.  I’ve learned to treat myself gently, and to love my body no matter what size it is.  But I still feel uncomfortable in my clothes sometimes, and worry that my face is too fat.

I have a 14 year old step daughter, and I see her struggle with many of the same body issues I have. Is that a right of passage for every teenage girl? I am vigilant about not disparaging my body in front of her. I want to teach her to respect her body, to feed it healthy food, and to feel good about it no matter what it looks like. But I have no control over what other people say to her, the media messages she is bombarded with, or what happens to her while she’s at school.

All I can do is be good to myself. I try not to equate my self-worth with my pants size. It isn’t always easy and I have my good days and my bad days. But really it starts and ends with me. It is essential for my well-being and health that I remain my own best friend. I don’t negate compliments I’m paid about my appearance. I smile when I look at myself in the mirror. When people tell me I’m beautiful, I choose to believe them. Because I believe I’m beautiful on the inside, and that shows on the outside, no matter what my physical appearance is that day. I am learning to actively cultivate my inner beauty and share it with the world.

I want to present my true self to the world. And my true self is someone who has alot of issues about food and about weight. I want to show who I am regardless of what I weigh that morning. It’s a daily struggle, and it takes a lot of courage and self-awareness, and I have to be my own cheerleader, but it is a battle I think I’m winning.

When People’s Outsides Don’t Match Their Insides

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/3/14)

shallow

 

I can’t believe I haven’t learned this lesson already. You see, I still get confused when what people say and do don’t match how they look. I know, I know – don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all, but I find it particularly confusing when someone cultivates their look. You know – you wouldn’t wear a shirt that says “Marriage is only for straight people” if you are pro- gay marriage, right? Right?

Yesterday I got a haircut. I’ve been really wanting to chop it off, and I figured I shouldn’t trust that to the bozos down at Floyd’s Barbershop who normally cut my hair. While it looks rock and roll, they really are just a step above SuperCuts (no offense, SuperCuts, but I think you know where you stand in the hair salon line-up). I decided I would go to my friend’s stylist, pony up a little extra cash to go to a real artist. My friend has rockstar hair and it always looks good, so the stylist had that in his favor.

I knew what to expect before I met him, I went to his website, saw his photo, saw the types of cuts and styles he normally does. He’s a rock and roll guy, does styling for models and photo shoots and whatnot. His studio is a work/live loft space, it looks like an art gallery. Everything is all white, there are mannequins wearing weird art pieces/clothes, there’s lots of rock and roll type art on the walls (think Jim Morrison collages, that kind of thing). He himself had the look to go with it.

We got to chatting so he could get to know me a little more before he gave me a new style. I told him that my husband was apprehensive about me cutting off my hair, he prefers it long, but that he was cool with me getting a new style. If he didn’t like it we could have sex with the lights off. The stylist asked me what my husband does, and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: My husband is forming a charity organization to help build earthquake safe housing in developing countries.

Him: I don’t understand why those people just don’t move somewhere that doesn’t have earthquakes. And what do they really have to worry about? They don’t have anything anyway! What does it matter if their house falls down? They should just get a tent and move it someplace that doesn’t have earthquakes. (laughs)

Me: (silence)

Him: And I don’t understand why people have to go outside our country to help. Why can’t we just help the people that are here? You know, the homeless guy under the overpass? Go down to South Central and help those people. I don’t think we should be helping people outside the US.

Me: (silence)

It went on like this for a few more minutes. He was really impassioned about it, and I did not know how to respond.  He did just hear me say that my husband was devoting his life to helping poor people outside the US, right? I decided, after a prolonged silence to change the subject, since he was the one holding the scissors. But that really stuck with me. I guess, due to his very artsy appearance, I thought that he would be more open-minded. But he had a really narrow worldview, from what I could tell.

For the record, my hair looks almost exactly the same today as it did before I went in. I think perhaps this is not the guy for me. Maybe next time I should go to some really frumpy looking old woman. And she’ll be like super-open-minded and give me a really cool rock and roll haircut. I don’t know.

I just get so confused when people’s outsides don’t match their insides….

It’s Vag-tastic!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 4/28/12)

For the second year, I participated in the V-Day Downtown LA 2012 production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.  What an amazing event!  V-Day is a global movement inspired by the play that works to help women and girls who are victims of violence.  Over 6000 productions a year are produced around the world with all proceeds benefiting V-Day and the local charity of your choice.  Our production helped A Window Between Worlds, a wonderful non-profit in Venice, CA, that uses art to help women and children in abusive relationships.

With this being an evening designed to raise money and awareness, we decided to hop on the cupcake trend and sell vagina cupcakes (or “pussycakes”)….

vagcup

The cupcakes were a huge hit, and elicited all kinds of interesting responses.  Some people couldn’t wait to get their mouths on one.  Others were a bit more hesitant.  Some were mildly grossed out.  Nonetheless, it certainly shines a spotlight on the vagina, which is of course the whole point of the show, so I’d say overall they were a success!

I baked both vanilla and chocolate cupcakes.  The vaginas are made out of homemade fondant .  And did you know that if you Google “how to make vagina cupcakes” you are led directly to this amazing video from Chaos Bakery?  Oh, the wonders of the internet.  Thank you, Chef Bev!

vagcup3

vagcup2

In Vag We Trust!

The Rat Race

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/27/10)

Last Sunday I ran my second half marathon.

DSCF3365

If you’ve never run in an organized race before, I can tell you that you learn a helluvalot about yourself during those precisely measured miles – and the hundreds of miles of training leading up to the event.  I’ve learned that I am the following:  tenacious, disciplined, determined – and also irritable, complaining, bitchy, competitive and that in the “tortoise and the hare” scenario I’m definitely the slow-ass turtle.  Let’s examine, shall we?

Tenacious, disciplined, determined:  there is something about distance running – and perhaps any sort of endurance event – that magnifies aspects of your personality.  I think I can confidently assert that I have drive and stamina.  Well, at least if I have a specific goal.  Let me make this absolutely clear:  I hate running.  I always have.  I joined the track team in 7th grade so that my BFF wouldn’t have to go it alone.  The 100 meter was my event, and if memory serves I never even came close to winning a race.  The only thing I hated more than breaking a sweat at practice was actually running in front of people at the meets, showing the world that I look moronic, perhaps even slightly “challenged”, when I run.  Not good for this nerd’s already precarious social standing in those cruelly awkward adolescent years.  Needless to say the team (my BFF included) breathed a collective sigh of relief when I didn’t  go out of the team the following year.

But I digress.

It’s not running that I like so much as achieving something that is both physically and mentally difficult, in my case that is running 13.1 miles.  I like the challenge.  I don’t don my running shoes at 6am and head out into the dark and smoggy LA morning because I’m an eager, thrill-seeking masochist. It’s because if I don’t I’m gonna regret it on race day, when at mile 6, huffing and snarling and sweating in sheets, the race chews me up and spits me out and I lay in the filthy LA streets next to the dog poo and used hypodermic needles until someone decides to come by and scrape me up.    So maybe it’s the fear, or the latent Catholic guilt (I heard somewhere that God doesn’t like quitters), that propels me out of bed at that dreary hour.  Whatever it is, it works.  And keeps me hurtling towards the finish line, arms and legs akimbo, come race day.

Irritable, complaining, bitchy,competitive:  is it telling that I can come up with more negative words than positive to describe how I am when I run?  It brings out the best – and the absolute worst – in me.  Just ask my boyfriend.  If he innocently decides to question whether or not I’ll be heading out for a run that morning, he gets a three-minute expletive-peppered tirade about the minutiae of my schedule that usually ends with something like “and I don’t see you out running today, old man!”.  I get pretty touchy.  He’s a saint.

And have I mentioned that running is perhaps the most boring exercise on the face of the planet?  On those dreaded days when I have to put in serious miles, I find myself compiling a laundry list of things to think about while I’m out running, such as “what outfit am I going to wear to dinner on Saturday?”.  “What can I make for dinner this week?”.  “What are some most-excellent comebacks I can craft to win any argument?”.  “What will I be doing when I’m 40?  Do you suppose I’ll still be in deferment on my student loans?” and so on and so forth.

The funny thing about race day is that all of sudden this solitary endeavor becomes a huge social event.  Instead of passing another runner here and there, you are surrounded by 15,000. And I have to tell you, some of those people don’t have the same ideas about personal space as I do.  Take, for example, the “speed walker” next to me whose arms, bent at right-angles,  furiously pumped at his sides, as though he’d still be able to cross the finish line if he found his legs suddenly stopped working.  Just try to pass this guy, you’ll get clocked in the face.  And pass him I tried, but the fucker kept pace with me the entire race.  He could walk as fast as I could run!  It did not do wonders for my self-esteem.

But I did manage to make it to the finish line with a time of 2:42:36.  Not as good as I had hoped, but I finished and without much injury (unlike the woman who took a face-dive while crossing the finish line moments before me, I hope she decides to buy one of her commemorative finish-line photos).

I think I’ll be doing yoga for the rest of year.

Not a Significant Source of Cholesterol

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/23/10)

I don’t know if I told you, but I’m in the middle of training for a half-marathon.  It’s my second, and I can tell you, I never thought I’d be the type of person to willingly run in races.  But…I’ve found running to be an easy kind of workout (you can do it anywhere, for free, without spending too much on equipment).  Plus it’s been an interesting challenge.  I joined the track team in 7th grade (only because my best friend, Kim, wanted to join the track team and we did everything together), and the only thing I can really take away from that experience is the fact that my mother told me I look funny when I run.  So there you have it.

Nonetheless, I am currently running 5 times a week, with a day of cross-training (bike-riding) thrown in there.  One of the things I enjoy about this daily run is the opporutnity it gives me to really check out my neighborhood.  I’ve run essentially the same path over and over for the last year and a half, but inevitably something new surprises me every time.  Today, instead of my usual morning run, I opted to go out at about 2pm (one of the luxuries of unemployment is the ability to workout at whatever time I want to, not necessarily the crack of dawn).   And it was definitely a different kind of experience.  Early in my run, I was joined by a pack of high-school kids, in the midst of their afternoon P.E. run.  I am proud to say I was able to keep up with them, although thankfully our paths did not converge for long (nothing like watching a teenager run effortlessly to make you feel old).  But the most amusing part happened when I rounded the corner to my street and was half a block from my apartment.  I live on a residential street, all apartment buildings, and it’s pretty quiet for the most part.  Not alot of pedestrian traffic, mostly just neighbors walking their dogs (and the occassional crazy homeless person, but that’s another blog).  As I rounded the corner, I was approached by an older man dressed nicely in a suit carrying an empty 2-liter Coca-Cola bottle.  He started to say something, and I had to remove my headphones in order to hear him.  He dramatically indicated the empty Coke bottle to me, and proceeded to ask me, in severly broken English, “Please tell, have cholesterol?”.  I thought, what the hell is he asking me?  Is this some sort of ambush?  Is some guy gonna pop out of the bushes while I try to decipher what this guy is saying to me?  But no, he simply wanted to know if Coke contained cholesterol.  As he went on to explain “Me no cholesterol.  Say doctor”, I understood that he wanted to know if this 2 liter he just sucked down was going to kill him or not, based on the recommendations from his doctor.  He and I both studied the label, which I tried to tell him said “not a significant source of cholesterol” but it took alot of hand gestures and figuring out different ways to say “no” (like nada, nothing, zip, zero) to get my point across.  I finally saw the light bulb go off, he smiled, seemed excited by my answer, and went on his merry way.  Why the fuck he was walking down the street asking strangers this question is beyond me, but hey, this is Los Angeles after all.