Saturday, February 05, 2005

One girl’s shimmy to the left

It’s just not fair when one girl (or one group of girls) gets all the attention. It’s especially unfair when there is a stockpile of attention to be had, and none is slated specifically for me. That’s par for the course, being close friends with burlesque performers. Such associations have their perks, though, and instead of nurturing jealousy I'm pleased to play cheerleader.

I have a straight job. I conduct myself in a respectable manner, usually. I buy fair trade goods and free-range chickens. They are still dead animals, I know, but for chickens, being dead just means slightly less cerebral activity than they're used to. Try to make me feel guilty. You can't. I recycle and reuse. I ride a bicycle. I do things by the book---I won't specify which. I am very open-minded and there is little you could say that would shock me. If you do shock me, I’ll ask you for more.

I’ve sown wild oats. I know what the birds and the bees are doing. I've spanked monkeys. But, I won’t jostle my A-cups or make my behind jiggle for a crowd of hundreds. If anything of the sort is to happen, it’s to happen in the privacy of my own home for a significantly smaller audience. (You know who you are.)

When talking “-vert”, I’m a healthy average mix of intro-, extro- and per-. My intro- side reigns when it comes to topless dancing, even if it is “arty” and legal, "political" and in support of the "burlesque movement"---even if it is “feminist” *. You won’t see me on stage, but I will be mingling in the dressing room before the show, complimenting women on homemade pasties, tacking fringe to underpants, and ultimately, at the front of the crowd cheering and bursting with pride for the performers, my friends. I am a burlesquer by association, in the same way that a window shopper is still a shopper---just not a consumer per se. I am a verifiable burlesque poseur.

In recent months, as a much anticipated burlesque event loomed near, I still hadn’t seen my friends practice their act. I did know that the chorus of their chosen song was: “Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it!” And, in recent weeks, I've witnessed more shimmies than you can shake your stick at.

Shimmy to the left..."

With all this shimmying, I knew I’d be hard pressed to eke out attention of my own at the event. I did my best, while trying not to seem too desperate. I was determined to beat the "pretty girl's friend" stigma. I refused to be the bookish companion.

I donned a long, sleek black skirt with subtle bows and Cuban stockings. I modified a halter top and stacked my hair atop my head. With one last glance in the mirror, I confirmed that I was wearing way too much eye makeup and my companion, a fellow poseur, looked like a harlot. Perfect!

We unleashed ourselves onto the city and hailed a taxi to the club. The venue was large and the line up was long. My poseur status enacted fully as I was whisked past the ticket booth, declaring, “I’m with the performers.” Inside, we mingled and waited and pranced.

Once inside, a gentleman acquaintance caught my eye and abruptly beelined to my side to make nervous conversation. I'd first met him a week earlier, during the season’s inaugural snowfall. Having just swallowed three pints of beer, I thought he was very handsome---tall, broad and brown. We chatted. I pretended to be interested in his analysis of electronica. That's apparently when I'd invited him to the burlesque show. When the bar closed, and following a playful, yet savage snow-battle among strangers in the street, Eastside vs. Westside, I left. I didn’t expect him to actually come to the show, and I certainly didn’t think he’d arrive alone.

Mr. Dull-dark-and-handsome chortled through the opening act. He didn’t even acknowledge the topless opera singer on the twelve-foot stage. I made an escape to the front of the crowd with my harlot by my side, and enjoyed the show, minus asinine chatter. During intermission, and at several other points, he engaged me in more witless wordage, all the while gazing at me with big, brown puppy-dog eyes. It was then that I recalled why I don’t like dogs.

As the night passed, the acts became more outrageous, ranging from raucous to raunchy. The shimmying was smooth and deliberate. Wonder Woman chugged beer she'd snatched from strangers' hands. Crinolines clogged the dressing room. Men revealed themselves to be women. Cancan! Tango! Milkshakes! Trampolines! Frilly underpants! Seventeen sets of pasties!

The show was a mad success. The performers and poseurs were having such a grand time together that we nearly forgot men were present at all. The night was memorable and fulfilling, and I'd succeeded in getting all the attention I never really wanted anyway.

*Don't ask me to define "feminist". I won't go there.

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