In Which I Take My Clothes Off For Money
Now before you get your panties all in a bunch, simmer down and listen, it’s not what you think. I don’t take my clothes off for men. I take them off for women. And not just women, mostly, I take them off for myself.
Get over it.
That is the motto that runs rampant in the “Sexy Survivors” dance class that I teach. You don’t like your butt? Get over it. You don’t like your post baby belly? Get over it. Your boobs are too small? Too big? GET OVER IT.
You need to love yourself, your true authentic self, every part that makes you who you are, every piece of you that tells the story of your journey. They are all you. My belly shows that I have mothered two children, and I am damn proud of it. My thigh bears the cigarette burns from my abusive ex. There is a healed knife wound on my shoulder, so faint that you can only see it when I am tan and in the right light, but I am well aware that it is there. My ankles bear the scars from the time that this happened.
“So,” you ask, “what’s with the shedding of your clothes?” Well, let me tell you. When I started working with the abused women in my support group, there was a recurring theme that kept popping up. Shame. Shame of their bodies, the scars that they bear, and the years of degradation that they had suffered at the hands of their abusers. Sure, the scars were healing, fading away, but they run deep. So deep. How do you heal them internally, where no amount of Mederma and vitamin E can reach? How do you reclaim what you have lost, your self esteem, your self worth, your pride? You learn to love yourself again.
Easier said then done. Most of us survivors, we are masters of disguise. Hiding our scars, hiding our perceived “failures,” burying them down where no one can see them, all the while dressing up in our long sleeved sweaters and make-up, putting on our “I’m ok” face to the world. After a while, we aren’t just hiding them away from the world, we are hiding them away from ourselves. I know what it’s like to avoid the mirror. Not wanting to see your scars, literally recoiling in shame when you catch the accidental glimpse in the mirror.
Then one day, in one of those “heat of the moment” moments with a…eh hem….friend, I apologized for a scar I caught him looking at. He looked at me and said “Its a scar. Its your battle wound. You survived it, I’m proud of you, now get over it.” At first I was offended. “Get over it!? GET OVER IT!? What the hell do you mean just GET OVER IT. Do you have any idea what I have been through?” Once I was calm enough to actually listen to him and release him from my murderous death grip (ok, just kidding about that last part), he explained to me his reasoning and I have to say, it made sense. I have been through a lot, there is no denying that, but these scars, they are a part of me. They are a part of who I am. I need to get over the shame of them, get over the embarrassment, and get over the stigma that I had fabricated in my mind. I needed to let go of the negative association that I was attaching to them, and love myself.
So flash forward a few months and I am sitting with a friend who’s story rivals mine in terms of un-believability and lessons in just how horrible humans can be to each other. She is telling me that she just wants to feel sexy again. That she is struggling to love her body enough to be comfortable to do the things with her husband that couples do. That makes me so sad 🙁 She tells me that she is thinking of taking a pole dancing class in order to gain some of her self confidence back, but she is too ashamed to be the only scarred up one there, and will I go with her? I say sure, we look at classes, and realize they are all in the city. Now here is a random fact about me, I don’t drive on the highway. Some crazy phobia I have developed over time. Almost as crazy as my phobia of fish. They don’t blink. That is just not natural. Anyways, the highway makes it off limits for me and the price makes it off limits for both of us, but it gets me thinking. I’ve danced my whole life. There is something about getting my body to do exactly what I want it to do that is just so freeing. When the music is on and I get to be in control of every muscle in my body, it is a form of freedom that has not always been a constant in my life, and it is so empowering. Thanks to a job I worked for a few years in physical therapy clinic and my “near completed but never quite got there” almost certification in personal training, I have a fairly good understanding of the human body. Are you thinking what I am thinking?
I can teach this class. I can make this a place where women come to “get over it.” All of us together, gaining that freedom back, becoming empowered. Standing in front of the mirror, shedding our clothes, facing our scars, together. Gaining back our confidence, becoming proud of the armor that we wear, allowing for once, our bodies to move in the way that we want them too. To do the things that feel natural to us, that SHOULD feel natural to us. Sexuality is a natural thing. Hello, it is the driving force as to why we are all here. To lose your sexual identity and sexual confidence, its sad, because you are missing out on an entire level of who you are.
Thus “Bedroom Bodies,” was born. I don’t advertise it, none of my friends know about it, but twice a week, after the organic dinner is fed, stories are read, tiny people are cuddled, and I tuck my children into bed, I sneak out the door (yes, I have a babysitter, calm down), and I meet with a group of survivors. They all come by word of mouth, new one’s appear every week, solidifying the knowledge that we are all craving to get back what we have lost, what was stolen from us, ripped right off of the fabric that makes us who we are, and what is so seldom talked about in current recovery groups. It starts out chatty, talking like best friends, often wiping away the tears of those still struggling to recover their lives, and surrounded in the feeling of knowing that we are among some of the only people in the world that understand exactly what we have been through. Then….the music starts. Last night it was Ke$ha and Pitbulls “Timber.” The lights go down, paper goes up to cover the little window on the door, and the clothes start to come off. Not all at once, but throughout the session down to our bra and underwear. I teach them how to move their bodies in a way that makes them proud to show their significant other and mostly, to be proud of themselves. In return, they continue to teach me to accept myself. When class is over, we all quietly slip home. For some, the skills that they have learned in class will make for a very hot night (or morning, or lunch break, hey, no judgment)! For others, it is simply about tearing away the shame and building up their confidence. But for all of us, we are getting over it. Together.
I love the class. I wouldn’t trade teaching it for anything in the world. And it is pretty awesome to be able to go to work dressed like this:
This is my true authentic self. This is the fabric that is me, the armor that I wear. These are my battle wounds. They are my gold star, my purple heart, my “job well done.” This is the living proof that I am a survivor. This is me, all of me, and if you don’t like it, get over it. I have.