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feb.1 {my brush with burlesque}

{art by carissa paige ~ The Surrealist in Me}

Sometimes there’s an absolute certainty that you’ve crossed someone’s path purely because you were meant to, and that the universe and whatever else conspired to help you bump into this one specific moment in time.  It kind of started like that.

I was at a bar in the city on a Monday night, an unlikely place for me to be even on a weekend, as a friend had asked me to come to his show and help out with collecting tickets and keeping his bourbon glass full.  It was a fun night even though my husband couldn’t come along, completely out of the ordinary and full of new and interesting people to chat with.  Even the MC himself, who totally had this sexy Eddie Izzard thing going on, was a fairly new acquaintance and I was happy to hang out with him and get to see him in his unabashed on-stage glory, compelling for sure. 

About one and a half dirty martinis in, when the night was in full swing, someone I was laughing and chatting with popped the question.  He asked me if I wanted to work as an usher at an upcoming burlesque show he was managing here in town over the holidays.  It wasn’t the vodka that made me say yes, it was the undeniable realization that I would never have this offer thrown at me again, and really, how could I say no?  I wrote my email address on a cocktail napkin as these things go in bars and random connections, and went home feeling pretty flattered and excited about the adventure.  Alex was all for it.  Coincidentally, the two of us had actually already been to this show a couple of years ago, a memorable night of good food and several hours of sexy, uninhibited entertainment, so we both knew what it was all about. 

I signed up to do 3 shows.  It was different, in a thrilling kind of way, being on the other side of things.  My instructions were to dress “slutty, but within your comfort zone and street legal”.  Since I had no idea what ‘street legal’ meant to any specificity and pretty sure I wouldn’t even come close to that boundary, I went to figuring out what the heck I was going to wear.  It actually was pretty darn fun.

It is so interesting having the notion, and permission, to wear your sex appeal on the outside.  Some call Halloween the Pride Parade for heterosexuals, when the girls let loose and bare more skin and the hidden desire to feel sexy for one night out of the year of accepted public sluttiness, a disparaging notion to many.  But I didn’t really want to over think this too much.  I just wanted to embrace the personal experience and have fun.  It was, after all, a widely attended event and as mainstream and nonthreatening as you could probably get as far as open displays of accepted sexuality above ground, and it was all meant to be lighthearted and enjoyable for all.  There were subtle (and not so subtle) hints toward dispelling many sexual stereotypes and I'm sure it was an education for many, but the show was mostly for entertainment's sake and to shake loose the death grip many people have on their own pent up sexuality.

For me, there were two layers to this whole experience.  First, was just being a part of this subculture of sex and open sexuality where no gender, orientation, or even physical attributes were a discriminating factor for being fully accepted into the fold of this bawdy love-fest.  How could that not be positive?  Liberating doesn’t really even begin to describe it.  The second was finding my own comfortable, and public (!), embodiment of my own sexuality and then daring to exist in that space amidst hundreds of people, any of which could have easily been someone I knew – a neighbor, my son’s teacher, a colleague, etc.  I think it was that understanding that had me fully committed to being there and helped me to figure out that I didn't want to just be scantily clad and a part of the revelry, I wanted to stand with the others and push against a sex-negative, heteronormative, smut-shaming point of view, even if it was just by handing out programs.  I felt really empowered.   

The whole thing was a huge, experimental learning experience (the best kind, really).  I stood squarely at the intersection of inhibition, acceptance, desire, and the common denominator that unites us all, for good or for bad – sex.  Every night I was there the show was sold out.  We even caught two elderly women trying to sneak in during intermission!  I kind of secretly admired them.  The crowd was full of men and women of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes, a veritable cross section of humanity, the same as you would find in Target or at the grocery store.  Everyone was happy, excited, buoyant even, and unashamed to be there united in the pursuit of the same exact things:  Pleasure. Acceptance. Solidarity. Fun. One guy even said as he was walking through the doors “This is going to change my life!”  I hope it did.  He probably really needed to get laid.

All in all it wasn’t about the flattering ovations that came my way (unexpected and blush inducing, even those coming from women), or the feeling I got when I knew other girls were thinking, that seems really fun, which was the same sentiment I had felt when I attended the show two years ago and was staring at the confident girls adorned in flesh and lace.  In my own little world it was about realizing that this is a part of who I am because sexuality is simply a vital part of living.  I can either consciously control where I fit in to the picture and be a part of the joy and adventure of it all, or I can let it burden me with negative feelings and stereotypes that keep me shamed, shut down, and ultimately unsatisfied.

So I choose to live.  I's way more interesting and fun (and I had a total blast)!

{special thanks to Carissa Paige for meeting me here in this little adventure.  it was so nice to hear your shared sentiment on these things, and i hope you keep getting naked and dreaming up these gorgeous girls! xo, mindy}