So I recently scored one of my favorite and most-missed discontinued styles, the “Antoinette” basque by Masquerade, on eBay. I love this thing. I love it hard. I don’t regret purchasing it one bit, because it makes me feel glamorous and gorgeous, but I confess that, as a single cat lady, it was probably destined to sit in my drawer, waiting for a special occasion. The cups are padded and would show under some of my work clothes, and half-cup styles make me feel wobbly and perilous. I have long legs and I’m a fast walker; I like a little more support on a daily basis. As soon as I purchased it, it became fantasy lingerie, for some lovely, mythical day in the future.
Hmm. This sounds not unlike the planning for the future as a substitute for living in the moment that I have been working to fix. Good to know that’s going well.
Seraphine gave us an assignment for class this week designed to nudge us out of our comfort zones: for our free dance at the end of class, we should wear something we wouldn’t ordinarily feel confident or comfortable in, or we should dance to music that was unlike the music we’d typically choose or feel attracted to. I thought about this assignment all week. I thought about music, about going through teachers’ playlists to find something new and challenging, about asking friends for suggestions. I didn’t really consider clothing: I wasn’t going to spend more money on stupid pole dancing clothes (Haaaaa, jk, see below), and of course unbeknownst to me my Crazy was going “yikes, I really, really don’t want to do that assignment.” And then I forgot about it and overslept the day of class and wound up flinging a handful of random things into my bag and dashing out the door. One of those things was my basque.
On to the FEELINGS: I see my therapist before I go pole dancing, so Tuesdays are just a great big feelings-fest.
I told her about the assignment, and said I wasn’t really sure what I was going to wear. I showed her the basque, and launched into all the reasons why I didn’t want to wear it: sheer panels, boning, too much boob on display, skin rolls, etc. She told me to stop messing around and to dance in the damned thing. At the least I could test it for suitability as pole-dancing attire in my capacity as Lingerie Blogger Extraordinaire, and there was a chance I’d also, you know, learn something by oh, I don’t know, stepping outside my comfort zone. Y’all, I talk a lot of talk here about your body being fantastic just as it is. It’s a BODY. It’s lovely! I’ve talked about how the need to banish jiggling flesh is totally arbitrary and silly and illogical. Bodies come in so many shades of gorgeous: long, petite, slim, curvacious, hard, soft, smooth, speckled, firm, wrinkled. I KNOW this, and I’ve SAID this, but it seems I still have trouble walking the walk.
So I went to S Factor, bought myself a pair of black briefs with attached suspenders (oh, look who wasn’t gonna buy new pole dancing nonsense (but also they’re really great)), and hooked up my basque. I looked in the mirror. I decided to see that my hair was kind of flattened from being in a ponytail and my face was pale and shiny and my elbows have these weird dry patches and my hips were fleshier than normal, and, well, you get the gist. I chose to see those things, instead of to see an otherwise happy and healthy body that was ready to go work her ass off. SIGH. I pulled on a t-shirt over the basque and went to class.
So, first of all, some review-type things: The bra part is outstanding: great rounded shape, dramatic lift, and very supportive, especially since the cups are cut quite low. I’m not even crazy about padded or molded cups, and I think this thing is just dandy, which makes me all the sadder that the style has been discontinued. Bring it back, extend the size range, make it a touch longer in the torso, add suspenders, and I would be in heaven. That being said, y’all, don’t take a dance class in a basque. Seriously. I should have done the first part of class in a sports bra and changed just for my dance.
For starters, um, sweat. Also, my back is pretty flexible, and a lot of our warm-up, work-out, and pole tricks encourage embracing said flexibility. The soft bones in the bodice are lovely and provide gentle shaping, but they bend with you, and then when you straighten up, the bones stay bent and dig into you. I felt a little weird doing push-ups, plows, and ab work in a piece of serious lingerie, and I felt a little limited in my dance and in what pole tricks I could do. I knew the basque would bend and dig into me if I got too footloose or it would shift a bit so that my belly popped out, so I wasn’t as free in my dancing as I have been in the past. I didn’t want to curl up or fold myself in half because the bones were pressing into my torso (related: am now deeply curious about how professional ballet tutus are constructed, because them ladies are bendy, so how does that work?). Also, the obvious: you can’t go upside down. I thought maybe I’d be able to, because the bra part is so great and supportive, and when I was dancing in a corner during someone else’s song I gave it a try, and . . . let’s just say, Gravity! It Works! I like inverting; it’s one of the reasons pole dancing can be really freeing and fun, because you feel like a kid playing on a playground, so it’s sort of a bummer to miss out on that aspect of it.
I chose to dance to a song I’ve danced to a few times before that makes me feel fantastic: “Sail” by AWOLNATION. I took my t-shirt off and immediately felt self-conscious—Hello, bosom. I also kind of felt . . . sexy. Reminder: there are no mirrors in the S Factor studios, and the lights are down super, super low. I kind of felt, well, like the model in the product shot above. My dance was less gymnastic than usual, and once I chickened out on something because I was pretty sure one boob was gonna make a run for it, but I felt . . . not dumb. It felt kind of nice, the air and the floor and the pole against my bare skin. When I finished, Seraphine asked me how I thought it went, and I began to natter on LIKE I’M ALWAYS SAYING YOU SHOULDN’T about how My Belly and My Boobs and I Felt Weird–
She, wisely, interrupted me. “You should not be wearing baggy t-shirts in this class any more. My god, this was the first time you really owned your sensational boobs. It’s very sexy, it’s very vulnerable, and we’re finding a very deep, sensual, darker version of you. It’s mature and it’s real and it’s you. Stop covering that up.”
I have ALWAYS covered up. I reject certain styles of bras, certain clothes, certain design elements because it’s been so firmly ingrained in me to deflect attention away from my chest, LO, MY TERRIBLE CHEST, whether out of concern for modesty, “proportion and balance”, protecting myself from street comments, whatever. The fact of the matter is I fall pretty smack in the middle of the full-bust size range, in terms of both band and cup, so I know that A) I’m not alone and B) there are women on either side of the size range around me who look lovely, so why can’t I allow the same for myself? Habits, yo. They’re hard to break.
As Amy Poehler so wisely reminds us this week, we need to talk to ourselves like we’d talk to our daughters, our nieces, our friends, our little sisters. We need to see the beauty in ourselves just like we’d see it in them, and to love and honor that beauty. Ordinarily after a class like Tuesday’s I’d be all bent out of shape and beating myself up for Letting Down the Side with My Negative Feelings, but I actually feel pretty good. I took a risk. I shed some layers. I made a list of things my body can do, after all, and I chose to believe Seraphine when she gave me feedback, rather than assume she was “just being nice” to me. Her job isn’t to be nice. It’s to teach. If I go through my life constantly thinking about how to hide an aspect of my body, be it my size, shape, skin color, scars, or age, I’ll go through life hiding a part of me. Hiding a part of my spirit. And I’ll also be wasting brain space on worrying about hiding it, when I could be wasting brain space on Arrested Development re-runs. I mean, deep thoughts. Yep.