An Homage To Dance Class

My body is many things, but sexy is simply not one of them. Or at least that’s the truth as I’ve known it for as long as I’ve known anything at all.

I’m all right as an athlete. I’m okay as a student. I’m okay as a comedian, as a friend, as an employee and as a daughter, but at the barest glimmer of envisioning myself as a sexy woman–a potentially desirable sexy woman–I blanch, my mind goes blank, and I begin to (very unsexily) perspire.  As you might imagine, all of this swirls into a rather violent shitstorm of denial of sensuality and womanhood, to say nothing of my confusing balance of competence, confidence, and complete, strident failure to honor (or even acknowledge) my body as a physical, womanly entity.

No, but seriously people. I live in fear of being asked to shake my ass.

Because my body is not sexy, for twenty-three years now I’ve diligently kept it far, far away from potentially sexy situations. I’ve arranged these TSSs (Terrifyingly Sexy Situations) into  echelons of horror, but for now I’ll just offer a few illustrative examples. TSSs include but are certainly not limited to: hot tubs and saunas, rooms lined with mirrors, the gaze of men (most especially men I find attractive); night clubs, bars, gym class and some kinds of clingy fabric; large groups of women, large groups of men, and very short shorts (also, for most of my adolescent life, I shunned sleeveless tops). Most significant to this particular post, unless very, very drunk I kept my unsexy body the hell away from any situation that might involve dancing. Recently, at least that last one has changed.

For the past two months or so I’ve skipped to my gym at 10:30 every Sunday morning, warming up with a light run or a few minutes of sprints on the bike. At 11:00 a.m. I do something I never imagined that I–with my towering bulk, push-up given muscles, short hair and athletic wear leftover from college–would do, much less do happily. I go to dance class.

The first time was my mother’s doing. Seated at the dining room table late one Thursday night, I glugging a manly protein shake and leafing through the issue of Men’s Health that is somehow mysteriously delivered to our house each month, my mother made her pitch.

“Come with me to class on Sunday,” she wheedled. “Please. Just to try.”
I don’t believe I so much as bothered to look up from reading about how to make an erection last longer.
“Oh, c’mon, Cait! Try it with me!” she cried, reaching across the table and shutting the magazine with a glossy-covered “slap.” She met my offended gaze–I’d just gotten to the good part.
“Come on, you’ll love it–really. It’s fun!”
“Mom,” I said without emotion, as if reciting bad lines from an even worse play. “I don’t dance. No.” But like most things my mother gets set on, the issue was not at a close.

An hour or so later, I regretted for the first time in three weeks that as a means of instilling healthy habits in my alternately workaholic and sedentary mother I’d bought her a month at my gym. After roughly thirty-six hours of pointed begging, guilting and cajoling, I finally caved.
“Fine! Fine. I’ll go. But I’m standing in the back!” I fumed.
“Great!” she cooed, visibly delighted. “You’re going to love it.”

As much as I hate to admit this, my mother was right.

I would love to say that in that first class I uncovered some magical latent talent for dancing, or that I have phenomenally graceful, limber arms that I  use in artistic and expressive ways–but alas! I do not. From the waist up, I imagine I looked like something straight out of the petrified forest and brought to life by Tim Burton and Rachel Zoe. For the first half an hour I was so horrified of the way I felt my boobs moving, my ass shifting and my hips swaying, that I was barely able to get any of the moves right. I was comically, phenomenally bad, and it only added to my stress and resentment of being there at all.

But then, after my mother (who, by the way, is a really phenomenal dancer) and I had been dancing for about forty minutes, I began to notice something remarkable. Barbiesticks–those tiny, emaciated, tanned little women in Victoria’s Secret workout outfits whose body fat and muscle mass combined probably clock in at only 4 percent–don’t exactly look sexy when asked to shimmy, and are rather uninteresting to watch when they cumbia: there is too much space between their thighs and not enough hip to swing from side to side. With no little degree of satisfaction, I also noted that 5’11” women with C cups dutifully packed into sports bras…well… kind of…do. This small moment of acceptance, of approval, was enough to help me let go, stop stressing, listen to the music and move, regardless of some bits wobbling a bit more than I’d like them to. For twenty minutes, I felt blissful dancing.

I am a regular at dance class now, and it’s become a Sunday morning ritual for my mother and me. Two weeks ago, I even allowed the teacher, Karin (who is so lovely, and once she discovered I can indeed move my hips–and well–never permitted me to go back to dancing like a wine-coolered yuppie recently anally ravaged by a croquet mallet) to drag me up to the front row and help lead the rest of the dancers. Now I’m waiting anxiously for Sunday and a 4.5 hour event in which I’ll fulfill a childhood dream of learning how to belly dance (FUCK YEAH! That belly dancer I saw at Disney when I was five COULD STILL BE ME!). Outside of class, I think I move a bit more gracefully now, and in the full length mirror at work today, I spontaneously cha-chaed (shh! nobody tell!). Shockingly enough, I’m also at least 55% more likely to look at myself in the mirror in the morning and think, “Hey. You look good.”

It took rowing to make me realize that my body is far more than aesthetics. It took my hips falling entirely apart 3 years ago to teach me that my body is more than just a tool. It’s taken shaking my ass, moving my hips, learning salsa, cumbia, cha-cha and merengue to demonstrate to me that my body, for all of its flaws, can be sexy. I am so grateful and so pleased. And you know what? Shaking my ass is kind of fun. {:

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2 thoughts on “An Homage To Dance Class

  1. There IS too much space between their thighs! Sorry, I yelled that at my computer screen upon reading it and am still amused.

    Do I love you more since the image of you drinking a protein shake and reading Men’s Health? If only ’twere possible, Maria.

  2. Bwahaha! It’s true! Too much space!

    And hey–we vegetarians need our proteinz (plus, they’re especially tasty with instant coffee and lots of cinnamon. nom nom nom). Also… I really like Men’s Health. Their cooking tips are pure alchemy-good gold. (:

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