A few years back I took burlesque classes and performed, twice. In an a purely amateur capacity but nonetheless with all the sequins, corsets, hair spray, red lipstick and coquettish routine.
Before I continue with my story, I would like to clarify any misconception. Burlesque is not strip tease nor is it a movie starring Christina Aguilera. I consult my friend Wikipedia for an apt description:
“Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works”.
It usually involves a character, a parody, a dance routine, a costume and, yes, taking clothes off. But, on this note of clarification, I practiced vintage burlesque whereby the amount of skin exposed was equal to the beach circa 1950. However, I do admire woman who take the art form further with pasties, aerial silks and truly badass routines.
I do giggle whenever people accuse me of being a prude. I’m reserved, there’s a difference. But that is beside the point. There is a reason I’m revealing my risqué ex-hobby.
There are a few blogs around at the moment about blondes being unchallenging and sexist generalisations. I blogged myself about the assumptions that people slap on me because I’m young, blonde and quiet. You may also now call me a hypocrite for playing up to the stereotype. But if you did, that may be another generalisation.
When my burlesque teacher retired her sequins this year the comment I made to her was “you haven’t just taught woman how to dance, you’ve taught them to love themselves for just the way they are”. How many woman think they are truly beautiful, worthy, confident? If you’re a bloke reading this, think of your wives, girlfriends, sisters. How many woman project this confidence?
As I was reading through the comments on David D’Souza’s blog a particular comment Kate GL made referencing Roald Dahl’s “The Twits” stood out to me:
“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
If you think confidence and beauty, therefore you are.
Woman, we don’t have to butch up and be men to be taken seriously, I don’t believe we have to forgo the lipstick, heals, clothes and makeup to be confident contributors. I don’t believe that this objectifies woman either.
When do we stop being ashamed of who we are and start rejoicing in it, being confident in it and being taken seriously for it, not in spite of it?
Ironically, when I told my grandmother what I was doing for a hobby she wasn’t so much surprised by my choice of pursuit but that her ‘shy’ granddaughter was able to do that. Which brings me to the second point I want to make in this blog.
I recently finished reading Susan Cain’s book “Quiet, The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”. I’m not a shy person, I’m just introverted. There’s a difference.
Shy implies a fear of being around people or speaking up. I am neither. I do however value quiet space and am not prone to speaking unless I’ve got something to say. I enjoy the company of others but can find it draining. I can present, and whatever else, in front of large groups but struggle with informal conversations.
Being introverted doesn’t mean I don’t challenge or cannot perform in an extroverted way when necessary. As Susan states, “Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly”.
This doesn’t mean that an introvert is not true to themselves. Pursuing extrovert traits due to passion is just as valid as being comfortable in ones introvert skin.
But, it is tiring. I’ve spent the majority of my short little life thus far beating myself up for being what I’m not – a social, gregarious, outspoken, stand up for oneself, charming person.
When actually, I’d rather be comfortable in my own skin. As a burlesque performer I got the most satisfaction from the constant rehearsals, hours of quietly sewing on sequins and deliberate and planned execution.
The irony is that these practices make me feel confident, strong and empowered. Really comfortable in my own skin.