Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shoulder Shimmy is the Bomb

Here's how it went down: serious game faces, concentration as we tried to remember how to do first and second transitions with our leeeetle dancing feet and our shake-shake-shake hips while moving our arms in new ways and doing, gulp, head slides. Yeah. I may love dancing, but I'm more your free form girl. Go figure, me preferring to shake my booty in my own damned way. :)

But. I wanna be able to master the prescribed steps first, then raise my nose a trifle and dance my own steps. Which brings us to the move of all moves - grapevine and reverse grapevine with shoulder shimmy. It has a real name. Something mideastern-y and old. But's all about the shoulder shimmy, with extreme attitude.

I still love the way the hip scarves accentuate parts of our bodies that we'd normally hide. I love the way the teeny-tiny-hipped woman in the front row truly cannot roll her hips in a figure-8, and giggles the whole time in utter glee anyway. The small and almost secret smiles of women when our instructor says "hip circle, find your own..." and then "that's your natural movement - own it." I love touching fingers in a circle and dancing, giggling your other right to the girl next to me, the sweet but clumsy one who keeps stepping on my toes.

Yup. Sigh. Grapevine and reverse grapevine with shoulder shimmy. My hair smiles, it's that kinda happy. Enough about belly dance for a moment.

I am trying to figure out if I can hurry up a cutover at work so that I can climb in a car Friday afternoon with my go-anywhere-do-anything friend and drive a few hundred miles, spend the night at a haunted hotel, drink wine and see geysers, talk about books until we want to pass out. Road trip!!! She is giving a workshop and reading - I would be the roadie. :) It is fun to think about, even if it doesn't work out.

In two weeks I'll be flying to Michigan! Yay! I can't wait to see everyone, and meet the new baby. Here's hoping for some pleasant weather. It's March in Michigan...but hope springs eternal, you know.

Enough for today...I'll try to be back more often now that this project is winding down.

peace and good thoughts!

~ patti

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Heart Day

The bellydancing was fabulous! The instructor, Sidonia, showed up with a rolling travel suitcase filled with part of her personal collection of be-coined and sequined hip scarves, and each of the 20'ish women in the class chose one to wear. It transformed us all from yoga-pant-wearing workout participants to wimmmmin, all of us with colorfully-wrapped hips ranging from squared and tiny to full and very rounded. Most of us in the middle of that range. We learned a few basic steps, we learned a few basic arm movements, then we strung them together in short dances. What was fabulous? Women not judging one another. Laughter. The beat of the music, some of it like a heartbeat, familiar as a heartbeat, filling us. The three or four moments where the steps felt so natural that I forgot it was a class, forgot I was "stepping" and just moved. And, of course, 20 butt-shaking women's dancing coins makes a sound that is, simply, fabulous.

Women are hard on other women, in my experience. I've been working at losing weight for about 22 months. It's slow going, and I no longer think those who bemoan the difficulty of losing weight once you pass 40 are slugs and laze-asses. For months, as the weight scraped itself off a pound at a time, in fits and jerks, there seemed no outward change in my appearance. Only I seemed to notice that I was fitting into, then shrinking out of, a series of sizes. But lately everyone is noticing, as though the last few pounds I've lost were the magic ones. I'm not done losing and I'm sure there will be more on this topic in future posts, but I have been musing about the questions of weight, body image, vanity.

The women in my family have generally had healthy doses of vanity in their characters. They were of that "type" that put on lipstick to make breakfast. They wore high heels with shorts. They didn't leave the house without checking their hair, lipstick, powder. I grew up thinking all women naturally smelled of AquaNet, lipstick and face powder with a light-to-liberal spray of some specific perfume. These women poked and prodded at their bellies and the thin pads of fat on their hips. They did not work out, they did not know about the muscle loss that attends aging without efforts to fight it. They merely drank more coffee, ate smaller pieces of pie and wished for their old bodies to return.

But - they were not, generally, heavy as women of my generation can become heavy. Most of them were not. The epidemic of obesity that is sweeping our country would have apalled these women. Not because of the health risks. I can't tell you how many times I heard "we're all going to die of something..." - the mantra of my smoking, cocktail-drinking, butter-eating predecessors. No - they'd be motivated not by health, but out of the risk to their wardrobes. I fought my weight as a girl - and I never remember my mother worrying about my health. I was the smart one, not the athlete. No sports. I sang, and acted in plays, and read books. I wrote stories and did math, memorized the periodic table and made people laugh. My mother worried about my looks, my ability to wear hip huggers or short skirts. I later realized that she worried about the world not seeing ME beyond the imperfection of my body. She marveled that, though I truly did WANT to wear the short skirts and tight Calvin Klein jeans that were "the" thing when I was in high school, it wasn't the kind of desire that moved me. I didn't discover that desire until my 20's, when I realized I liked the way being fit, and exercising, felt. Stubborn, I know.

My point? Most people are not motivated by fear. They are only made fearful, and frantic. Vanity seems to me to be born of fear, a fear that you don't measure up or that you will lose the measure of beauty you have. Pleasure and joy motivate. So what works for me is the simple thought that I will feel better and it will show in every line of my (imperfect but pretty awesome anyway) face and body if I simply move my body often and eat well. Great shoes do not hurt. I'm not immune to vanity's tug! :)

Still, there have been moments that I wished to possess a bit more of that vanity. It would maybe stop me from losing track of my physical self when my life gets crazy, or upsetting. Note to self: Life gets crazy, it always will. Must not react to that by abandoning the pleasures of movement.

Happy Heart Day. I'm thinking of rounded and gorgeously imperfect hips wrapped in fuschia and red and purple and black hip scarves, all stepping through a grapevine step, in a circle, while our hands and arms move in Pretty Lady sweeps, to music as familiar as a heartbeat, punctuated by laughter and the cheerful jingle of tiny coins.

Peace and great good thoughts!

~ patti

Monday, February 11, 2008

Me, a Bellydancer? Really?

Sorry I've been away.

Here is the thing: I hate my belly. I've always hated my belly. At one time I hated being my height, having all these damned curves...but by the time I hit my late 20's, I had narrowed and focused my hatred: I merely hated my belly.

So. Tonight I'm taking a bellydance class. Because I love to dance, and I think it looks like fun, and I'm thinking maybe, MAYBE I'll like my belly more if it is useful, or if I can see it in a new way, maybe as not-horrible...even (gasp) - pretty? Nah, too much. Baby steps.

Also: today, February 11, was my mom's birthday. I woke up happy and have been smiling for her all day today. I wore red for her (she liked me in red). And between conference calls and munching my tupperware-packed salad (healthy!), I am remembering all the funny things about her. I thought of her smartass humor and her giggle. And I remembered the way she thought her kids were pretty much perfect. Especially my brother, Michael. :) (He is pretty awesome, I must agree...but the girls aren't bad, either.) I remember her temper, the way her chin rose when she would say, in disgust, about someone or some agency that "they can just kiss my ass." Seems that MIGHT be where I got this idea that being ladylike does not require quiet acceptance. :)

I'm remembering her snappy blue eyes and her fiery temper, and the way she drank half-beers (they add up, I'm here to tell you), and tapped her feet to music, and picked out songs by ear on a piano. That piano thing still to this DAY amazes me. I'll sing her a song on my way home, and maybe tell her about this bellydance thing. And maybe, though she never learned it, she'll understand when I tell her that I'm all done hating parts of me. It's just silliness.

Peace and shimmmmy-essence to you!

~ patti