For as long as I can remember I’ve had what a friend once referred to as “White Woman’s Syndrome”. It’s that inability to step outside our heads and see ourselves in the senuous and sexy way others do. Because of that we are not comfortable in our bodies, so we don’t swing our hips or flaunt our gorgeous selves in the way of the women we idolize as beautiful.
Part of the reason is our culture and “learning” early on in life that sex is bad, therefore being sexy is bad. “Good girls don’t act like that and the more heinous and insidious, even if unspoken, “she was asking for it”. Part of it comes from not being taught how to handle the attention that arises from being confident, owning our bodies and our sexuality. Additionally, we build up insecurities over the years through repeating to ourselves perceived slights from others or unfair and biased self-criticisms.
When I got divorced 2.5 years ago I was like a caged animal unleashed. I had felt captive for so long I didn’t know who I was (sexually speaking), what I liked, and what I was or wasn’t willing to do. I knew that many people, men and women alike had referred to me as beautiful or sexy, but since I didn’t really see myself that way, I had to figure out what sexy was.
One of the first things I did was make a friend take me to a real live strip club. Now, without a doubt there are highend places that feature the amazing creatures television teaches us is the norm. However, this was not one of those. The women there each had their own form of beauty with or without perfect bodies. But what they all had in spades was the ability to make the most of their assets and be unapologetic about flaunting them. The freedom with which they moved their bodies to the music was otherworldly. While they were certainly cognizant of the men at the edge of the stage looking to hand them money, most of them seemed lost in the music and enjoyment of their movement. It was mesmerizing. The closest I’d ever come to that was mentally tapping into a great workout (which for me meant very heavy weight and total limb trembling exhaustion). But what I was seeing was foreign to me and I wanted to know more.
But as usual, I didn’t take a direct route to my knowledge. Instead I first dipped a timid toe into the shallow end of some of the tamer dating sites. However, I soon found myself over my head in the deep end of a site with much more casual, liberal and full frontal assault tactics.
Although some of what I encountered surprised if not shocked me, it did begin me questioning what it was that I might want and in what ways I was similar or different from the people I encountered there. So in the balls to the wall, no holds barred fashion I take with most everything I do, I launched myself into discovery mode.
It is really amazing what Google will tell you if you only ask. I suppose in the back of my mind I knew the women at that club had to learn their skills somewhere, but it never occurred to me you could actually take a class. More importantly what I discovered upon showng up for the first day of instruction is there is no restriction to who can sign up and the value they can gain from it. There were 8-10 women in my class and they included a 20 something barbie doll who I imagine was mentally calculating her tips, a woman every bit of 3-4 times barbie’s size, me at age 48 and a woman a full decade older.
Make no mistake, pole dancing is a very difficult and labor intensive workout. Imagine trying to be sexy, pointing your toes and flicking your hair during your toughest class at the gym. Now do it with very few clothes and a spotlight. But while I found the class eye opening and fun it didn’t really translate for me into everyday living. However, the studio offered something that seemed considerably more useful known as “Hot in Heels”. It was taught by a delightful, entertaining and sexy (even if I wasn’t his type, the man had a butt to kill for) homosexual named Marshall (pictured with me here ).
What was most telling to me with both the pole and heels classes was I could do anything the instructors asked and I could look at the other girls as beautiful, but the moment I was asked to “freestyle” or caught sight of myself in the mirror, I immediately froze. The Dawn I knew and faced everyday would never do anything like that. How far had I come then?
Luckily a couple other events transpired in the same time period and the experiences helped to answer that question as well as provide additional insight. The first was that in my usual zealous and overkill fashion I had purchased a dance pole of my own. The other was that while fighting for air in the deep end of that second brand of dating site I got blind sided by a creature of the male persuasion I was totally unprepared for.
Although I’m not sure how much I would have used the pole for myself (because of the above stated reason of not being able to perform in a mirror), this new and very powerful man in my life inspired me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have done. Therefore, I pulled out my video camera and proceeded to record several classy, but sensual dance sessions. Now these didn’t involve any special acrobatic moves (not sure I ever had both feet off the ground at the same time) and there very well may have been a little alcohol involved before and after the recording. However, what I discovered as the real value in those images was that in my viewing of them I was seeing myself in a way I’d never done before.
I’ve long said that pornography was created for men and romance novels for women. We tend to be more cerebral about what turns us on and while we may come to a place where XXX pictures might illicit a sexual response, there ususally has to be more context and emotional meat (pun intended) behind it for it to have the desired effect. But suddenly seeing yourself unencumbered and unleashed so to speak is an incredibly freeing and empowering experience.
In other words, sometimes it takes steps toward seeing ourselves as others see us in order to start owning and loving the beautiful, sexual and gloriously powerful creatures we are. Despite what we were taught or at least “understood”, owning your beauty is exactly that. It’s understanding that your body, beauty, and confidence is yours to do with as you choose. Don’t be afraid of it, because you get to decide whether the outcome of your actions is sexual or simply art. Dance, take pictures, view them in private and discover your comfort zone. Then share them or delete them, but whatever you do, love them and don’t be ashamed of them.