Monday, January 19, 2009

So, You Think You Can Belly Dance?

As the new year begins, I am more determined than ever to attend my weekly belly dance classes. I’m not delusional. I know I’m not getting any better. The thing is, I am way more competitive and stubborn than I am devoted, and one of my fellow mamas is preparing to shake her hips for all the world to see. Well, all of the 206 area code, anyway.

Christy Cuellar-Wentz ( is not only a talented author and counselor, but also a fearless belly dancer. When Christy, Corbin Lewars (, Monica LeMoine ( and I founded the literary performance group Motherhood: From Egg to Zine (and everything in between), Christy offered to belly dance at our January 24th premiere in Seattle, “to keep the energy up.” When she found out I’d been taking classes, she invited me to perform a dance, as well.

I planned to keep my own energy up through the afternoon and evening performances with a series of triple-shot soy lattes from Starbucks, but Christy’s offer left me feeling a little wimpy. I routinely whine and complain my way through my beginners’ belly dance class, and I’m nowhere near ready to go public.

I’ve heard belly dance is a great way for mothers to reclaim their bodies after new motherhood; that it helps women see themselves as sensual, creative creatures; and that it can help improve body image. Sadly, none of those benefits apply to me.

I have no interest in reclaiming this body, with its Mississippi Delta stretch marks and loose skin that will never, ever shrink back to its proper place. It’s a pathetic sight, watching my four-count shimmy last exactly twelve counts by the time everything stops jiggling. As for the Chest Lifts… let’s just say that, absent an extended vacation from gravity, my chest is not going to lift in any meaningful way anytime soon.

Anyone who has actually seen my attempts at belly dance would ever, ever describe the activity as sensual. Admittedly, there is a great deal of creative movement involved on my part the day after class, when basic activities like sitting and walking are elevated to new heights of pain as every muscle in my body throbs.

My husband imagines that my belly dancing looks something like the graceful, fluid art that takes place on the instructional videos I’ve been collecting. He is disappointed that I won’t perform my new “talent” for him. Obviously, this is a man who did not witness my high school cheerleading career. It will be a very sad day for him when he comes home early and sees me trying to emulate Snake Arms while teetering in Egyptian Basic pose, looking like a stroke victim. There is absolutely no grace in the left half of my body.

I’m resolving to continue, though. Even though I have yet to gain an elementary level of coordination, I’m gleaning positive results. For an hour each week, I get to be a woman, alongside other women. In that hour, there is no family to tend to, nothing on the stove, and no crying babies. I can focus on something that is exclusively, indulgently, just for me. The bonus is that I’ve dropped a pants size since starting a few months ago.

As added incentive, I’ve purchased a silver-white gown for an upcoming event. Although at the time of ordering I was unfamiliar with the color “silver-white,” I now understand it to be the color of masochism, as it reflects light off every bump and lump on my tummy and thighs, grotesquely magnifying them to science fiction proportions.

So look out, Christy! Come this time next year, I’ll be ready to take you up on your offer to belly dance in public. As a preventative measure, I’d like to bar any neurologists from attending my performance, lest my art be medically mistaken for seizure.


  1. As a mother of three, with a body that proves it, I can sympathize. With the changes a mother's body goes through in the process of not only pregnancy and childbirth but also the fast food diet and personal sacrifice, I commend you for the attitude you have. Not only do you accept your body for what it is, you have an amazing amount of confidence to show it off. You have motivated me to also try belly dancing. I'll let you know how it goes. :)


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