I bought myself a new bathing suit a couple of weeks ago. It’s been ages since I last had a new one. It may be the end of summer here, but I’m planning a trip to someplace warm so it will see some use before next year.
My usual style is basic and understated. I do legitimately tend to prefer simplicity and clean lines, but understatement also served to avoid drawing attention to my body.
When I was in my late teens, experimenting a little with clothing styles, the flattering clothes garnered waaay more attention than I felt comfortable with. There was simple appreciation, and attraction, and sometimes competitiveness or judgment from women. It was a kind of power, I suppose, but not one I’d ever sought, and I felt I had no control over it. I felt that attention to my body was always sexually charged in some way, and I can now see why, in the context of my sexual shame and its ultimate source, such attention felt dangerous. So I covered up.
I’m feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin now, and I’m starting to fully possess and inhabit my flesh and curves. Because I’ve defused that shame by understanding its sources, being perceived as attractive doesn’t feel threatening the way it used to. I now choose clothes to please myself, and avoiding attention is no longer a goal. I’m not hiding anymore.
And that’s why I bought this very frivolous bathing suit.
Once I had become interested in belly dance, it took me years to work up the guts to actually try it because I had absorbed the very common — but very mistaken — idea that belly dance is about sex. It only took a few classes for me to figure out that I was wrong, and that the governing principle (in my community, at least) was in fact body positivity.
After that, I drew a very clear line between belly dance and sex, which was reinforced by the ‘matriarch’ of my group. Shows were always family friendly. Because of the history of confusion between belly dance and sexuality (which I suspect is due to the superficial resemblance of belly dance to ‘erotic dance’), she asked that dancers who crossed over into burlesque, for example, do so independently, and not as representatives of the belly dance group.
Yet here I am, posting erotic photos of myself, wearing dance costume bits, on my sex blog. What gives? Having drawn the line between dance and sex for so long, it feels a bit problematic to blur it or ignore it now.
The purpose of dance costume is generally to enhance the dance by being attractive and highlighting or framing the dancer’s movements. Neither the costume nor the movements are designed to be sexual.
My fringe photos don’t represent belly dance in any way. They’re stills, studies of the body and its sensuality. The fringe is still designed to be attractive, but not sexual; it still highlights the body, but the sensuality of the photo comes from the pose and state of undress, not the fringe itself. The fringe remains a neutral frame.
So this isn’t an admission that belly dance is inherently sexual after all. It just means that most of the gear I have to play with is stuff I made or bought as dance costume.
This is the final photo of the series.
It was a pleasant Sunday when I took this series of photos. And that was the problem.
The best light in my little house is in front of a window that faces the street. So while I clicked off all these shots, there was a veritable parade going past the house: individuals walking; couples walking; people walking dogs, babies, or dogs and babies; joggers; bicyclists. And then there was a guy doing yard work across the street, and a stream of cars driving past, including a police car at one point.
No one showed any sign of having seen me, which is good, but I can’t be sure whether that was because I wasn’t visible or they just never glanced in my direction.
The whole scenario was slightly ridiculous.
I have good posture. I’ve gotten compliments on my posture, from a few observant dancers.
A few years ago, I got a compliment about my posture from a stranger on the street in London. That was odd. I was exploring some quiet back streets and happened to check my map in view of one other person: a guy who was young and tall and slim. He was very friendly, with a British accent, and started chatting me up. I was immediately suspicious: I’ve never had anyone talk to me on the street in London unless they were trying to sell me something or extract a donation.
He asked me if I was a dancer and (after failing to come up with any reason to deny it) I acknowledged that I was. After some chitchat, he suggested that I go to a pub nearby and he would take me there. That’s when I made my exit.
After a few steps, I found that I was right behind the bustling Charing Cross tube station, which is in a very touristy area, and I concluded that the friendly stranger was a tout for the aforementioned pub. So he was indeed trying to sell me something, albeit indirectly.
But he was right about my posture.
I went to a dance class today – the same style that I do at home, and it’s only a 15-minute walk from where I’m staying (which is quite a bit more convenient than at home).
When I put on my fringe at the beginning of class, I immediately thought of the photos I’ve posted here, but I soon forgot about that. Ironically, dance keeps me in the moment (i.e. not thinking about sex), but a church service fails to do so.
I wore rather more than this during class though.
A different fringe for your viewing pleasure.
The penultimate post in this series.
Again, one photo, three ways.
Am tempted to edit some photos while on the plane. I suppose that will depend entirely on who, if anyone, is sitting beside me.