Got it? No, really. Don’t move on if you cannot read my confession and not make it about how I feel about anyone else.
Okay. Here it is. I lied to you when I said my body size no longer keeps me up at night. It isn’t all consuming, but I have been struggling for quite some time about the weight I have gained in the past five years.
If you are wondering why I am so paranoid to share this confession, then let me give you this fine example. I was once backstage at a show getting dressed for my next act. I was performing an act I hadn’t done in a few years and the dress was not terribly forgiving. I asked another performer to help me zip up the dress and said to them “Don’t worry about zipping it up all the way. She doesn’t fit around me like she used to. Just do the best you can and I’ll keep my wrap over it.” As the performer went to pull up the zipper another performer shouted at me from across the room, “Hey! I will not tolerate negative body talk back stage! This is a body positive environment!” I immediately felt like a scolded school kid and it ruined the rest of my night. Thanks for that “positive” environment, friend. I had said nothing about how I felt about my body or my weight. In fact, at the time I was feeling really good about my body, I just wished the dress grow to fit around it. I was stating a fact that the dress didn’t fit around my body. I made no comments on anyone else’s body. Yet here I was, accused of body shaming. Thanks.
So, yes, it makes me nervous to share that I miss being thinner. I miss my old clothes. I really miss my old costumes. I hate my belly and the way my torso is now shaped like a bean (I HATE beans. If I have to be shaped like food couldn’t it at least be something I like?). I hate that I have spent the last three years exasperated as a performer because I am both too fat to compete with the “skinny bodies” and too skinny to compete with the “curvy bodies”. I’ve told myself a number of times I either need to lose weight to get back to something close to what I was or gain weight to at least have some juicy curves to go with a larger dress size. (Kudos to my hubby for not responding when I lamented this out loud!)
There you have it. I struggle with my body. A LOT. And you know what? It still isn’t about you or what I see as beautiful.
If I haven’t lost you yet, let’s move on to an adjacent story.
Years ago I performed with an amazing show called Rosehip Revue. At the time this show was going on there were a lot less burlesque performers in Portland. It was a time when I actually knew every performer and had shared a stage with them. We were a pretty close-knit family and I felt on top of the world. We were going places and we were all going to support one another getting there. Since then many of those people have gone places. Many of them still are and I couldn’t be prouder of these amazing humans.
Recently, we had a reunion show that included a majority of the key players from that era. This time I was both excited to be there and intimidated. I haven’t accomplished what some of these fantastic performers have due in part to their sheer talent that outweighs my own and due in part to their ability to hustle more than I have. I felt insignificant next to these success stories, but I also felt part of this was my body and how it no longer measured up. I felt like the audience who knew the show before would only see how far I had fallen from what I once was. I could hear in my head the comments “Wow, she really let herself go…”.
I let these thoughts poison my head all night. Because of this my performance didn’t go as well as it could have. Because of this I felt it was even worse that it truly was. Because of this I cried on a night that was meant to be a joyous occasion in which I had performed my most joyous act.
Weeks later and I had come to the next difficult phase of a performer. The show photos. The part where the photographer sends the photos and I get to look at the action caught on stage. One of my favorite things to do when sifting through show photos is to find all the weird faces and contorted body shapes caught on camera. I am a dancer. This means I am constantly moving and catching that perfect moment is nearly impossible for most photographers. I have a collection of photos where the photographer has caught that delicate moment in moving from low to high where I look as if I am checking to make sure I’m wearing deodorant. Cute.
I got the link for the reunion show photos about a week ago, but I haven’t had the courage to look at them until today. I wasn’t ready to look at my larger body (especially the ones where I’m standing next to the magical creatures in the rest of the cast). But I finally did.
Know what I found? I didn’t hate every single one. Sure, I started by comparing my body to the body I want to be in, but then I found one that really struck me. And then another. I saw for the first time a woman who had those juicy curves. I saw a woman who isn’t thin, but is looking pretty damned good for being in her 40s. I saw hope.
I will probably always struggle with my body weight, especially as a performer. I will continue to hate photos of myself. But I will also have photos like these that remind me I can be okay with that. I am still beautiful even if some days I have a hard time believing it.
You can internalize that last statement.