Warning: The following is an account of my developing relationship with my own body. I’m not sure if the content could be considered triggering, but I’d rather be too cautious than not cautious enough!
Putting aside the fact that I’m a PhD student, I have a very analytical approach to things as a general rule. As such, it might just work out that a lot of my posts end up reflecting my ‘academic’ approach to things – albeit most likely with a large side dish of snark, because snark is just so tasty. I do want to make sure that I introduce myself on a personal level, though. After all, I’m here for a reason!
It seems fitting that on making the decision to write this post I happened across Lesley Kinzel‘s ‘Scientifically* Proven: Dancing In Your Underwear Is Good For You‘ article, discussing the ever-so-awesome Beth Ditto and her penchant for performing in her underwear. Quoth Lesley:
Regular underwear dancing is a sure route to making yourself awesome. I’m going to go out on a limb here and prescribe the same practice to all of you. Oh, I know it sounds silly and juvenile and embarassing, but trust me — it’s good for you. Like broccoli.
I have a confession to make…
I AM AN UNDERWEAR DANCER.
I like to listen to music as I get ready to leave my apartment (or just all the damn time, really) and this will inevitably involve me standing in front of the bathroom mirror for an extended period of time miming along – quite often to Gossip‘s ‘Music For Men’ – and dancing in my underwear. Not only does it give me the chance to act out my fantasies about being a professional singer or Idina Menzel-esque star of the stage (a dream that I’ve unfortunately never tried to follow through with due to at least two bouts of glandular fever and the constant problems that I’ve since had with my throat since, as well as my rather extreme anxiety about being in front of crowds), but it’s also one of the few situations where I can look at my body without any kind of concern whatsoever. I’m just having too much bloody fun, y’know?
I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m new to the idea of trying to accept my body for what it is, since this is something that has been bubbling away in the back of my head for at least a year now. I used to have a lot of anxiety about my size and think that no one could find me attractive, perhaps in particular because I’m a gay male (although I also often identify myself as ‘queer’) living in Sydney, where I at least would argue that even the supposed ‘bear community’ runs more toward ‘hairy with a beer gut (at the extreme)’ than ‘outright fat.’ Sure, I thought that I had a cute face and some pretty awesome (heterochromatic!) eyes, but these were the cherries atop a damn big cake. Yet, somehow, I managed to hook some really gorgeous guys (if I do say so myself) and, with time and a bit of self-reflection, my attitude began to change from, ‘wow, I’m so lucky these guys are into me!’ to ‘wow, these guys are lucky that I’m into them!’ I started to develop a sense of self-worth that went beyond just thinking that (at least) I had a brain and began to also view my body with a less critical eye.
A real turning point for me was seeing a conference presentation of Samantha Murray‘s at Macquarie University. As she discussed her horrible experiences with lap band surgery and the way that people had responded positively to her weight loss, despite the fact that this was the result of some serious health problems, I found myself sitting at the back of the lecture theatre thinking, “Yes! YES! YOU’RE SO RIGHT!” to so many of the points that she raised. I’d been going to the gym for around two months at this point (reluctantly at first, as a supportive friend rather than someone interested in weight loss) and could relate. I was so inspired that I ended up scrapping my original presentation idea and instead talking about my experience as a fat researcher interviewing photographers of male nudes. For the first time ever, in front of a room full of people who (let’s face it) I was trying to impress, I not only acknowledged that I was fat, but made my own body a subject of discussion. It was such a freeing experience that this was the first time I didn’t feel the rush of anxiety that presenting a conference paper usually brought.
The thing that I love about dancing in my underwear in front of the bathroom mirror is that I can look at my body – at its scars, stretch marks, lumps, bumps, curves – and not care about its imperfections, because I’m having too much fun. Those ‘imperfections’ show that my body has a history all of its own – and that history reflects my own experiences, not some ‘ideal’ cookie-cutter fantasy of how life’s supposed to be. And it’s those experiences – as well as this body – that have made me the type of person that can dance around and head-bang myself to the point of dizziness, holding an imaginary microphone up to my mouth as I mouth along to whatever song is playing at the time with the exaggeration that a star of the stage would need for those in the nose-bleeders right up the back to really be able to see what’s going on. That can’t really be a bad body then, can it?
I might not always be able to transfer that sense of confidence out into the ‘real world’ all the time, but I can try.
And maybe this blog can be another type of mirror for me to dance in front of…