Yesterday, I wrote about retrieving my self confidence from a striptease lesson. In reflection, it wasn’t necessarily learning to strip that restored my self confidence, but Jo herself. The way she was, the way she moved: i’ve never seen anyone so relaxed, or playful in herself before, or since.
Self Confidence - A most elusive art
And so here I am, in a studio in Camden, changing into my underwear as Jo changes into hers. Or rather less underwear, more a sartorial sense of humour which includes a pair of suspenders, some stockings, and a very, very small bra. And I’m just a little bit pregnant.
“Watch me first okay?” Jo says as she turns on the music and starts the routine.
Jo is an abundance of flesh; the generous side of curvy. Watching her, I’m as captivated as I was the first time, except this time, being a decade older, (although not necessarily wiser), I felt just a little bit more relaxed in the okayness of finding another woman sexy. So that whilst Jo danced, I’m able to sit and enjoy watching this woman who’s the opposite of everything I grew up believing women should be: i.e. discreet.
Instead, Jo’s a finger-licking, pouting, fluorescent silk goddess who doesn’t so much as move, as prowl. She moves with a confidence that says yes, I know you find me sexy, because well, I find myself pretty irresistible too.
I know that I have breasts because my mammary glands are of the larger variety, for which I have to wear scaffolding to keep them leveraged at a decent level. I know I have breasts because people comment on them, or at least they did when I was in my twenties, and I know I have breasts because I fed both my children with them. Other then all that, I’m generally detached from them, or at least the sexuality of them. I come from a boarding school culture where one girl for whom puberty came earlier then the rest of us, and gave her a beautiful pair of breasts, was relentlessly teased for the way she walked. “She sticks them out deliberately.” Some of the girls would whisper, looking down at our own flat chests. I took note, and when my own arrived, ignored them as best as I could.
Jo however, is all hands over hers, lifting one here, licking one there. I’m kind of fascinated and appalled.
Fascinated because here is a woman who knows her body so within her own right that it’s hard to take my eyes off her. Whereas last time I was awkward and self-conscious, maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones, but I’m sitting here and watching Jo strip, and Christ, my mirror neurons are jigging a dance in appreciation, because how often do they get to observe a woman who’s so at ease in her sexuality, and whose every movement is so somatically assured? Because here is Jo, the generous side of curvy, with eyes that watch and direct my gaze to where she wants it to be: on her, her body and her movements. She’s teaching me, by showing me.
And appalled, because somewhere out there, shaking in the horizon is my turn and oh please don’t make me do that...
When it comes to my turn, I move as wooden and awkward as a woman trying to be sexy, but still desperately stuck in her own head. And although Jo’s sticking with me, (kind of), I can see that after a while, she’s beginning to lose faith, which is just a little bit humiliating.
I want to tell her that I’m trying, but trying doesn’t equate to relaxation, and I think that relaxation and sexiness like to hang out. In some places, I sense it: that place where my ego’s grip on my body slips away and instead of this ridiculously impinged situation where my mind contorts my body awkwardly into what it says is acceptable behaviour, my body takes over and instead of a running commentary, I’m enjoyment bubbling over.
Unfortunately, most of the time I’m still this British woman in her head, who was taught not to expose her breasts, and that our bodies are things we clothe - and then ignore dear teacher, not wear fluorescent panties and stare lasciviously at mirrors who we’re pretending to be our boyfriend -, and I’m trying to move in a confident way, and to access that part of me who can do this; but oh Dita, yours is an art most elusive.
And yet, I have two hours here after all, so I’m not giving up. I strut provocatively towards my boyfriend, a fifteen-foot mirror towering in front of me, pausing before following my teachers command to make soft gentle eye contact with him.
“Not like that Laura!” Jo booms as I stare at the mirror in what I hope to be a suitably demure expression, “you’ll scare him!”
And then I turn my gaze to look longingly at the left strap of my dress, which I slowly begin to remove, whilst again peeking a glance at my boyfriend, who’s looking just as awkward as I feel. Keen to get away, with a swivel of my hips I turn and walk to the other side of the room, appealing to my inner Jessica Rabbit to help me out here, as I pause and look over my shoulder, and back at my mirror boyfriend feeling as unsure of my femininity as Jo is assured in hers.