So, basically I’m pretty damned judgmental.
That being said I have learned over the years to be less judgmental, more kind and extend more patience with other humans. Some of that comes from personal experience of others judgment and opinions on who I should be according to their code.
Now, I haven’t stopped being highly opinionated and frustrated by other humans on this planet (no power in the ‘verse can do that), but I have learned to keep it to myself a little more. To take time to try to understand the other person. To not let it drive me quite as mad. Today I’m more of a Cheshire brand of mad rather than a March Hare.
Still, I do hold some pretty strong personal principles and one of them is this: I am unapologetically proud of being a burlesque performer, yet I can respect others discomfort with my chosen art form under one condition: that respect must be reciprocated.
Burlesque holds a specific place in my life. It helped me find my inner strength. It took away the fear holding me back from becoming the person I am today. It gave me permission to be my whole self. It still positively affects all other aspects of my life. I have no shame in displaying my feminine form (with all its “flaws”) on stage. Burlesque is my empowerment.
But it isn’t for everyone. I understand and respect that. It is for this reason I am somewhat private about my performance life outside of the community. I don’t hide it. I have no shame in what I do. I will say I am a burlesque performer if it comes up in conversation. I’ll answer anyone without apology when they inquire about this side of my life. I just don’t feel the need to broadcast it. I let my work and my life speak for itself.
I have patience, understanding and respect for those who are uncomfortable with the idea of burlesque. It’s not for everyone. What I don’t have patience for is people who push their judgements onto me. I have zero tolerance for those who outwardly attack burlesque performers, physically or emotionally.
I have chosen to respect your discomfort by not throwing my art form in your face, I expect you not to throw your discomfort into mine.
What do I mean by that?
Well, every time someone asks me about burlesque only to sneer or roll their eyes, it jabs at my heart a little. Every time someone tries to pose their judgement in the form of a question (“Yeah, but you’re, like, a real dancer. Not a stripper, right?”), my disappointment flares. Every time I hear about a burlesque performer who loses their job because of the art that empowers them, my blood boils.
Even the awkward silence that sometimes comes after telling someone that, yes, I do go all the way down to pasties and a g-string, is disheartening. These silences, though, are different. These reactions I am willing to do the emotional work for.
Because of my personal principle. (Again for the people in the back: I am unapologetically proud of being a burlesque performer, yet I can respect others discomfort with my chosen art form under one condition: that respect must be reciprocated.)
I realize some people need time to process that a woman would find empowerment and joy in showing her body and all its flaws on stage. People sometimes need a moment to remember who I was before this piece of information was added to their catalog of “Nina”. That I am still that person. It is my genuine hope that they are taking time to understand and this is a reciprocation of that respect.
I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a difference between the people who think me being a burlesque performer is awesome and those who are uncomfortable with it. I am less guarded and filtered with those who embrace it. Yet I can have healthy relationships with both. Some people I adore in my life do things that make my eyebrow raise, I can only expect I am the same for them.
I “came out” to my mother about burlesque by writing a long letter just after I was accepted to perform at the 2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. This show was a really big deal. It felt false to not talk about it with her, but I was afraid of how she would react. Would she be disappointed in her daughter? Would she yell at me? Would she (worst of all) just pretend like she never got the letter? I was a ball of nerves about it. But knowing my mother, I shouldn’t have been. Truth is I learned most of my patience and understanding from her. Her response came in a long letter where her final words were, “I don’t understand it, but I support you in whatever makes you happy.”
Other people have a different set of personal ideas on how the world should work. That’s okay. I only ask that we not hurt others with our own code. So this is one principle I expect everyone in my life to follow: Be like my mother. You don’t have to understand what makes us fulfilled, empowered, and happy, but you do have to respect it.