Monday, February 28, 2005

Lack-of-substance abuse

I don't chit-chat. Perhaps that has become obvious to you, my dear readers, through my long absences, punctuated by proportionately long essays. I'm a ponderer and a writer, not a chit-chatter.

It's not that I don't like to chitter, but my time for recreational thinking is scarce these days - and the only chitter I have is that from too much coffee, too late at night to be productive.

Wish me luck. I'll be back later this week to chatter. Promise.

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.

Friday, February 04, 2005

And all was well with the world...

As I know I have mentioned before, games play major bonding and educational roles in my family. And, as I have also already mentioned, so does gambling. These activities are equally important to my family’s culture - and so intertwined, so symbiotic, so complementary, that it’s hard to convince my family to do one that doesn’t involve the other.

In fact, currently all the rage in my parents’ homestead is: Horse Race. A homemade game that not only involves horses, but cards, dice and a money pot, as well. Combine that with the opportunity to lose the contents of your change purse in 30 minutes flat, and you’ve got a winner!


It took nearly a week of subtle hinting, and finally guilt-tripping to get these people to play my newest non-betting board game. It covers all the bases: charades, celebrity impersonations, drawing, sculpting, trivia and puzzles - oh, and sufficient opportunity for heckling between teams. We gathered around the table - my sisters, their two children, my mother and I. Players ranged in age from 10 to 58, one child per team.

We decided which tasks were “kid-worthy” and which weren’t, and assigned turns accordingly. For example, my mother, the eldest player, was required to hum Rod Stewart’s song “Do ya think I’m sexy?” While this game task was clearly inappropriate for the younger members of the team, after watching my mother act it out (even though that’s against the rules), well, it was clearly inappropriate for her as well.

The children got tired of us filtering their turns, though, and lobbied for us to allow them to read their own clue for the next set of charades. We told them that as long as they understood the word, they would have to act it out. If they had any trouble, however, they could consult our older uncle for help, since he saw no point in playing a non-betting game and opted to sit this one out.

Surely enough, the kids read the card and said they didn’t know what to do.

“Well”, said my niece, “I know what the word is, but, ummmmmm…”

And, since the golden rule of games in is “no mercy for persons over the age of five” - we all yelled in unison: “If you know the word, you have to act it out!”

“But…but…but,” stalled the children, their eyes widening in embarrassment already.

Our elderly uncle took the children to the adjacent room to confer. When they emerged, it was revealed that he didn’t know how to do it either.

“Just give it a try”, my sister told the children encouragingly, “It’s just a game.” And so, we turned the timer over and waited.

The children stood, their arms straight by their sides, staring ahead blankly - frozen.

“A statue?” I guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A Mountie?” my mother guessed. No, that wasn’t it.
“A tree?” my sister guessed. No, not it either.

“Why aren’t either of you moving?” we asked. “We can’t guess if you don’t act it out! Come on guys. Move around or something! Give us a hint!”

The children shifted nervously. Arms hanging straight, looking slightly terrified and very confused. Time was running out.

“Come on guys!”

At this point, the children were getting frustrated. My nephew’s eyes began rolling into the back of his head. His jaw was slack and I was certain my first guess - zombie - must have been right. He probably just didn’t hear me. I yelled it again.


The kids shook their heads “no”.

My mother and my sisters and I looked at each other, squinting, thoroughly confused as to what the kids were “acting out”. They were so unusually awkward. Standing more still than we even thought was possible at their age.

Much to the relief of the ten-year-olds, the last grain of sand dropped to the bottom of the timer - their eyes fixed on it - knowing that this would let them off the hook.

“What the heck was it?” we all yelled.

The kids - both of them - looked at us, the adults, as if we were stupid, and yelled:

“We were FLIRTING!!”


We - all the adults - laughed until we cried. We laughed because children are exposed to so much questionable media content - so much sex and violence and American Idol; because of the things they are exposed to at school - like sex and violence and underfunded education systems and junk food - and because of our fear that our children are just growing up too fast for anyone’s good. We laughed because we were relieved.

My niece and nephew are right at the stage ten-going-on-eleven-year-olds should be: Absolutely freakin’ clueless about dating.