“Look at me. Look at my saggy tits full of stretch marks and scars. Ohhhh yea! Do you see them? LOOK!” These were some of the first words I uttered in my introduction to Burlesque and Body Self-Confidence class. Staring into the eyes of a complete stranger I had to work my way up my body telling them to stare at all the parts I loved and all the parts I hated. My bony feet that have taken me everywhere I need to go in life, my mother’sknobby knees, my incredible thighs, my hips that had expanded to house children, my milk filled and overworked breasts, my slender neck and my face. A face I have admittedly stared into a mirror and spat how much I hated it. But here I was, commanding this stranger to look at me for all I am, flawed andimperfect and utterly ‘fabulous’.
Hold on, weren’t we supposed to be gyrating a chair in some slutty underwear whilst lip syncing some cliché Beyoncé song?Licking our lips and undoing all the hard work of our feminist sisters. Wasn’t I just here to spice up my sex life a little? As it had become about as interesting as a mommy and me group.According to our teacher, Cat, in her swirled British-American accent, “absolutely fucking not”. This workshop was not about pretending to be the epitome of what society thinks women should be, it was about creating a performance that brought out you or an aspect of you that had been locked away in societies little box of taboo.
And so the five week burlesque workshop journey began with my troupe. We were all there for different reasons but I think we all shared the same lust to embody our powerful and divinely beautiful feminine side. For me, I wanted to unlock my inner goddess who had been handcuffed by bad relationships, bosses who had berated me, women who had bullied me, people’s expectations which I’d failed to meet and a huge lack of self-worth. I also wanted to express a side of me that was lost when I became mother. My body is now shared, tugged and constantly sought after for comfort and protection. I wanted to feel like for a moment my body was my own again and I wanted to get back in touch with my sexuality.
It wasn’t easy coming up with poses and a whole routine. It turns out there is a lot more to commanding your presence on the stage than I had expected. And then I got my awkward little hands on a midnight black feather boa. It became an extension of myself and an integral part of my act as it was to be used to seek revenge on all those who had wronged me. I got to pour out all of my unforgiving thoughts and emotions into a sequence of sultry and powerful movements with that boa, that demanded therespect and presence of the space and energy in which I was creating. Sometimes it feels better than good to stop working at forgiving and to just do something that says fuck you, here I am and I’m taking my power back.
While I’m a long way off a dazzling polished performance or stripping down to nipple tassels, I catch myself now being able to look at people in the eye when they speak to me. My initial thoughts when I meet someone are no longer “they aren’t going to like me. I’m too weird, I’m too quiet, I’m too skinny and I’m not interesting enough. Save your dignity Astrid and walk away now!”. Unapologetic for who I am and what I have to offer to the world is the skin I now reside in. It has also been a gift to see the other woman in my class express and evolve a part of themselves that has been itching to get out. I went to this workshop as I was always intrigued by the Burlesque world but never did I think it would have such a profound impact on my self-confidence. So look at me. I am a fearless and beautiful goddess and I’M FABULOUS!