Category Archives: body image

Back In The Trap

Went back to Trap 3 last night.

I almost didn’t go, then realized that the real reason for not going is that I didn’t want to know how much ground I’d lost.

As long as I keep thinking about it that way, I’ll only keep losing more ground.

It was just me (Trap 3 is a tiny group even when we’re all there), so BK and I focused on conditioning. Evidently, single-whatever hangs are a forté of mine: I did single-arm hangs, both sides, and they looked hella solid. I didn’t even know I could do them at all. I’m forced to admit that I actually look pretty ridiculously sexy hanging from a trapeze by one arm. WTF even is that?

Later, we worked a shin slide-down. It’s hard to explain what this is, but I’ll try: you get yourself into a hip hang/forward fold, then take hold of the bar from below, engage the hell out of all the things, and then—without bending your arms—slide your legs over the bar and then down the forward surface of the bar and eventually under it. I’m assuming that, given sufficient strength and skill, you can eventually shin-slide all the way back around into a planche.

Anyway, the first time, I let my arms bend. BK asked me to do it again without allowing the bend or dropping out of it and said, “I think you’re strong enough.”

I realized in that moment that she was right: indirectly, she was saying I hadn’t really given it 100% effort. She was correct. I hadn’t done so because I was afraid. I had to ask myself what I was afraid of: falling?

No. (For one thing, I forget to be afraid of that.)

Failure?

Yes[1].

  1. I had this same experience as a kid, when I had to get back to training on high bar after a break and convinced myself, ridiculously, that I couldn’t kip up. Ditto learning layouts, which got me called out in front of the entire gym: “Come on, you’ve got to those long legs, you can do this!”

It felt weird and a little scary to admit that out loud, but I did. BK has that effect on me. She’s a dynamo and a stunning performer, but also a good listener.

I’ve realized that the best listeners help you hear the things you don’t know you’re saying (regarding which: had a long chat with a friend yesterday that had that same effect—if you’re reading this, you probably know who you are, so thanks <3).

Anyway, I redid my shin slide-down and it was better. I’m stronger than I think I am (as every trapeze instructor ever has told me).

So I guess I’ll be working on this fear-of-failure thing. It is, I realize, the same thing that prevents me from nailing down a reliable double tour; same thing that makes me fail to commit to my turns sometimes, which makes the difference between a single and a quad.

Curiously, fear of failure begets failure. So I should really get back to joyfully fumbling forward, dancing for the sake of the dance, like I was doing before the stakes felt so high.

~

One other thing. I keep thinking I’m getting used to my body, and then discovering that, no, I’m dead wrong.

I’m drifting back towards being what I think of as “stage fit”—the way my body is when I’m in regular training—which means,basically, that I’m losing fat pretty quickly. I looked at myself while I was preparing for long-arm beats yesterday and my brain did the thing where it automatically flips through its internal camera roll and slotted the body I was looking at in the amongst male gymnasts[2,3]. That felt weird. Not bad, just surprising—and surprising in part because it wasn’t bad.

  1. Specifically, the more-slender phenotype. Floor exercise boys, mostly, which should really be no surprise as I was a floor-exercise fiend.
  2. The mental camera roll, I have discovered, also plays a role in the pleasure of navigation, especially over long distances.

Also surprising was that it didn’t feel feel jarring: like maybe I’ve done enough looking at my body now that I no longer expect to see 120 pounds (or less) of anorexic twink, and instead the mental image is finally updating. Spending basically all my time around other male dancers who are, themselves, adults probably helps. My frame of reference is different than it was.

I’ve struggled with this in part because it’s so unconscious. I walk around in the world with a brain that’s constantly tossing up visual information along with all the other sensory data. I’m good at navigating in part because, in addition to a fair dead-reckoning ability, I’m constantly awash in sensory memories. If my visual and vestibular memories—experienced simultaneously with the present moment—match the sensory input of the present moment, there’s a damned good chance we’re on the correct path.

The same thing happens with people: I’m forever awash from within in images and sounds and scents and textures, though people change their clothes pretty frequently, so the matches are only partial a lot of the time.

Yet, with regard to myself, I ignored the existence of my body for a long time. I didn’t like thinking about it and expected it to return to a familiar configuration. It seems silly now: bodies don’t work that way. They’re more dynamic than roads and paths (which also change, but more slowly). So by not looking at my body, I retained an out-of-date mental map of said body. When I finally started to look again, it was as jarring as going to your old house and discovering that it’s been completely rebuilt in a very different design.

If I think of it in those terms, I’m forced to acknowledge that the current design is much better for the way I’m living in this house/body. So I seem to have developed a broad-shouldered and powerful architecture: so what? That architecture facilitates some of the central things I like to do in this body, and doesn’t prevent other things I like to do in this body.

There’s a percentage of men for whom this architecture is less attractive than my 120-pound twink architecture was. There is another percentage for whom the opposite is true. Rationally, I understand that it’s stupid to feel out of joint because you’re less attractive as one thing now and more attractive as another. Eventually, you have to get over that and start knowing it viscerally. I suppose I’m beginning to feel that, too.

In the long run, of course, it doesn’t matter. But it helps to understand what’s going on inside my brain that has made this so difficult for so long.

~

It will be more difficult, ultimately, to undo the conditioning that grants so much importance to my desirability as a sexual object (which is complicated and definitely its own post, but one I may never write because, well, it’s complicated).

But this feels like a kind of progress. It makes me less angry with myself for being unable to easily decouple the old body map from the present day. I was going about it all wrong, but I think I’m beginning to understand why. It was uncomfortable in a very confusing way, so I just avoided it for a while.

I don’t know where this will all lead. I feel like being less prescriptive about my own body is a possibility. The remnants of my eating disorder want to fight that tooth and nail, but it’s starting to feel like anorexia is no longer running the show.

I am not too delusional to admit that this might not be the case if my body, in its present configuration, was not aligned with certain conventionally—attractive standards: indeed, if it wasn’t aligned with standards that a lot of gay men regard as aspirational. I may not be a scrawny little twink at this juncture, but anorexia and I are willing to live with a kind of grudging truce as long as I’m basically hot: the implication being, I suppose, that I’m still controlling things (which is almost patently untrue: this body seems to respond almost magically to certain inputs, which happen to be what I was doing anyway).

The difficulty with fighting anorexia, for me, lies in part in its insidious assertion that if I don’t adhere to its dictates, I’m weak. Never mind that people who are professionally strong (hello again, trapeze world) keep telling me I’m strong; never mind that my entire way of life is pretty rigorous (I don’t say “disciplined” because, ultimately, I believe discipline is just motivation in a fancy hat: I live the way I live because I’m motivated, pure and simple).

Anorexia whispers that if I don’t ignore hunger and drive my body to exhaustion, I’m weak; that if I accept a body built on different architectural lines than it was during my adolescence, I’m weak. If I remind it that accepting weaknesses is a kind of strength, it says I’m making excuses.

I don’t know if that voice will ever be gone. If I’m entirely honest, I must admit that’s in part because a part of me doesn’t want it to go. A part of me that is not my anorexia is, nonetheless, complicit in my anorexia. That might be universally true of people who live with anorexia. It might not. Who knows?

Another part of me says, “Your body is a very fine instrument. You need to take care of it. It needs fuel. How else can you ask anything of it?”

So here I am, in the middle of this conflict, eating soup and taking a rest day because I’ve realized that I’m ramping up the training schedule and it’s necessary, because I haven’t re-adapted yet. My scars are itchy in some places and nearly invisible in others. My shoulders say I’m a gymnast and my hips loudly proclaim that I’m a dancer. I, such as I am, am living in this body, with this mind. And slowly I keep peeling back the petals of the lotus; the layers of the onion; unraveling the sweater.

For what it’s worth, I’m reminded that at the center of the onion, there is nothing.

Advertisements

Field Trip; But First: Phases of My Butt

A couple years back I noticed that my tuchas has developed an oddly triangular profile.

Recently, I noticed that it has once again returned to a triangular shape.

Today I realized that it’s a function of conditioning: as I progress from (relatively) out of shape to stage-fit, my butt progresses from “round” through “triangular” and finally to “square.”

Huh. You learn something new every day.

~

In other news, we left at the crack o’ dawn yesterday for Atlanta, checked into our hotel at 3 PM, established a CirqueLouis outpost, then proceeded to regroup with the crew before dinner and Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia. 

And speaking of Luzia—you guys, it knocked my socks off. 

Luzia is a beautiful show—funny and tender and full of love for a place and for the people k and cacti) who make that place shine, not to mention packed with the high-calibre circus performances that give Cirque du Soleil its stellar reputation.

B on the straps was, for me, the pinnacle—he’s beautiful and performs with ardor and pathos. I don’t really have language to describe his act. It was breathtaking.

We also got to roam around on the stage—which is fecking amazing, you guys; the technology!—and backstage, where the CduS cast trains and gets physical therapy and does everything else and where the giant amazing puppets live. 

After we chatted with the cast about circus stuff (and other stuff) over drinks, which was awesome. I tried to do a lot of listening. You learn a lot that way.

There’s much to be said for a life in which a business trip means watching a phenomenal performance and talking shop with phenomenal performers, then conducting a 5-hour long mobile meeting—part post-mortem on their show, part post-mortem on ours, and part spitball session for the next show—on the drive home the next day.

Little by little I feel like I’m starting to understand circus as an art form of its own, discrete from ballet and modern dance and so forth. I really owe that Jordan, our AD, who has been in love with circus all his life, who has built his life around circus, and who is teaching me (the company’s resident ballet boy) to really love circus in its own right.

~

Depression-wise, I’m making it back now, I think. The edges are still raw, and I need to respect that and not push myself off a ledge by diving back into too much at once. This is going to mean very consciously taking rest days, especially as I reset and shift back to a different rest-day schedule.

We’re halfway through November, somehow: I have roughly six weeks til it’s time to start hitting auditions. 

When I headed to Florida back in September, January seemed unimaginably far away. Now it’s right around the corner.

BG, Killer B, and BW are rebuilding me as a dancer. Jordan is refining me as a performer. I’m not yet back to the place in which I feel like, Yes, I should go audition for ballet things, but I’m at least in a place where auditioning for cirque things and ballet-adjacent things feels like it makes sense.

I want to say, “Let’s see where I am in six weeks,” but I kind of think that’s giving myself too much room to weasel out.

Anyway. That’s it for now. I’m exhausted and ready to turn my brain off for the night.

Cue Predictable Spasm Of Self-Doubt

Every time I’m forced to take a break of more than a couple of weeks from class, the re-entry period is an exercise in grinding self-doubt.

First, taking a break almost inevitably involves gaining a couple of pounds–generally a sum that the average person would barely notice, but which is all too visible when you return to the studio and are constantly surrounded once again by people with less than 10% body fat.

I may be all about body positivity, but I’m not very good at applying it to myself. I’m also entirely aware that I have somehow stumbled into working in a field in which the folks who decide who gets hired and who doesn’t tend to lean strongly towards lean bodies. Toss in the fact that, given my build, a little more size in the thighs interferes with my fifth position, and you’ve got a recipe for Dancer Meltdown in 3 … 2 … 1…

Worse, it always takes a few weeks to re-awaken and rebuild the muscles responsible for correct execution of classical technique–and even as people who don’t dance continue to harp on about my “natural” grace, I wind up feeling like a half-grown stirk in a dressage ring until things start working together again.

This week has been all about finding my core, not dancing like a swaybacked wildebeest, and remembering how the hell to do turns[1].

  1. Though, bizarrely, whilst I was not dancing, my chaînés improved dramatically–regarding which, WTactualF?

Predictably, the resultant emotional fallout has been a constant stream of thoughts like WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO AUDITION FOR THINGS?! and I’LL NEVER BE READY!

Me on Thursday, via Wikipedia, link to follow.

So that’s where I am right now. Off to my last week of sandbagging in Saturday beginner class, which I hope will leave me feeling like I can actually dance, and then Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,in which I’ll attempt not to dance like a swaybacked wildebeest before a captive audience of so freaking many.

Tapeless Boys Live!

Sadly, I failed to realize the potential hilarity in recording a video of A-ha’s classic, “Take On Me,” with a small change in the lyrics (read: “Taaaaaaaaaape onnnnnnn meeeeeee [Tape … on me!]” etc) until this morning, after I’d peeled myself free of The Tape.

I suppose I’m overestimating my overall level of organization in assuming I could complete any such project, though.

Anyway, I know, I know: I said I was going to let it come off on its own.

D had his concerns, though, about leaving it on too long, and also once the little end bits started peeling themselves off I got antsy about it. They weren’t making me itch except when they were—always when it was least convenient to be furiously scratching an armpit. I trimmed them, and then I trimmed them a little more, and finally this morning I said, “Ah, feck the lot of yous,” to the remaining bits and peeled them right the heck off.

Anyway, things are looking good under the tape. The incision lines have remained very narrow; in many spots, I suspect that they’ll disappear completely over time.

I’ve known for a long time that I generally heal very well, for the most part, and my surgical incisions appear to be no exception to that rule. This, by the way, is a really strong argument of remaining as fit as you can if you have even the mildest form of Ehlers-Danlos: the better your blood supply and oxygenation, the better it’s going to be for your healing process no matter what, but that’s extra important when you have a disorder that affects collagen formation.

I chose a surgeon who has a ton of experience doing surgeries like mine–one who specializes in them, in fact–and who is known for his fastidious approach to suturing at all the necessary layers. Given that “hypermobility-type” EDS is less rare than the other types, and that he has literally done thousands of these surgeries, it’s a safe bet that he’s worked on someone with the same condition before.

He said to expect things to look a little ripply and wrinkly at first, but there are very few ripply spots.

Overall, I continue to be surprised by how good everything looks.

Anyway, here are a couple of shots from this morning:

wp-image-1324505031

The left side is particularly clean, even though the incision is a good 2 cm longer. I suspect that the portion towards my arm will be invisible within a few months. It’s actually less visible IRL; for whatever reason, cameras tend to enhance the redness of these things. Also, I have no idea why I’m making my “What did you say to me?!” face here. In other news, this is what my pecs look like when I’m not flexing like an overwrought high school kid.

wp-image--1024298182

My chest looks better than my eyes, which are hella puffy this morning because allergies. In this shot, you can see the only ripply spot (right at the inner end of the right-hand incision), and you can also tell that the spot right under my arm is a little puffy, which is pretty typical when you’ve had drains in and will persist for a bit.

You can see a couple of pale hypotrophic scars in the second picture (if you look closely, you can just pick barely out the related ones in the first shot)—those are really old, leftover from Things That Happened 😦 I have some elsewhere, too. They’re not the result of neat surgical wounds, but of untreated cuts (not self-inflicted)[1].

  1. I’m not sure how much of this I’m ever going to discuss here. Honestly, this blog isn’t about that, and I don’t want it to become one long Content Warning.

Anyway, one of the things I hadn’t anticipated as a result of this surgery was that a bunch of those scars would be gone, since they were in areas that wound up in the Extra Skin Department. They were from before the m00bs, so I suppose it never occurred to me to think about it?[2]

    1. The funny thing is that I was well aware that I would finally be rid of at least some of the stretch marks that resulted from the rapid development and equally-rapid diminution of the Moobs[3]. I worried that the remaining ones would wind up looking weird and truncated, but actually there are barely any and they’re effectively unnoticeable.
    2. …Aaaand, now that phrase is racketing around in my head as a parody of Poe’s “The Bells,” because it scans: “The tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells…” all too easily becomes “the rapid diminution of the moobs, moobs, moobs…” Feh. Apologies if that’s as terrible an earworm for you as it is for me.

Interestingly, this is the one place where my feelings about all this get a little complicated (or, as they say in The Book of Mormon (the musical): “Now’s the part of our story … that gets a little bit sa-a-aad…”).

It doesn’t in any way diminish my delight at the outcome of my procedure—not the least fraction of an iota, in fact. If I could go back and do it again, I would in a heartbeat.

What is weird is that I’m not sure how I feel about those scars being gone.

I’ve evolved the philosophical position that scars, in a way, represent history written into our skin. For me, looking at my scars doesn’t trigger bad memories or make me feel victimized or whatever; it reminds me that I survived; that I came through and sort of fought my way back to, like, life. (I say “sort of” because I’m not 100% sure “fought” is the right word; it implies an angry struggle, and not one of endurance. There have been angry moments, sure, but mostly it’s been a question of determination.)

There’s also the fact that I associate my scars very positively with one of the very first people who responded to my history with kindness and understanding instead of shock and attempts to evade discomfort by minimizing the flat-out badness of the stuff that happened. The first time my first boyfriend saw me shirtless, he touched the scars really gently and said, “Oh my G-d … who did this to you?”

For me, that moment was incredibly important: it was the moment that I first realized, really, that dealing with what happened to me in any really helpful way was even possible. (For what it’s worth, though, the scars he touched, that time, were the ones on my belly, which are still there and, barring anything really weird, always will be.)

That said, losing my scars isn’t the same as losing my history … and our bodies change all the time. There were many more cuts that never scarred in the first place, for one thing. Only the deepest ones left any trace, and even those have faded tremendously.

Anyway, I suppose there are a lot of people who would expect me to feel, like, “Yay! Fewer scars, especially ones associated with horrible things!”

But, in fact, that’s not how I feel, and I’m okay with not feeling that way. I guess having Feels about it took me by surprise: it hadn’t occurred to me to think about it before. In fact, I didn’t even think about it until I took the tape off and noticed the remnants of those scars. Chalk that up to trying really hard to just not look at myself in the mirror ever since the beginning of the Great Risperal Caper.

For what it’s worth, I’m also the kind of person who wouldn’t go back and change what happened to me (probably, anyway: it’s easy to say that, isn’t it, when we don’t actually have time travel yet). I wouldn’t go in for therapy that would erase the memories, either. Yes, it was bad. Really fucking bad, to be entirely honest. I am still dealing with the fallout and will probably never be done dealing with it.

BUT. It also made me a more humane, more compassionate person. It might, in fact, be one of the major reasons that I am not a much worse human being than I am. And it taught me, over the course of many years, to tap into a profound and quiet strength that I think probably belongs to us all as humans; to endure, to survive, and finally to shake off my shackles and begin to thrive.

So that’s that.

At any rate, I’m rather glad I took the tape off, because it seems that the adhesive has irritated my skin in a few spots. So chalk one point up to D, who has been gently hinting that maybe I should go ahead and peeeeeeeeeel it off (“Like a lliiiiiight switch! There—it’s gone!” ACK SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP THE SHOWTUNES).

Topless Boys Live*!

*For values of “live” meaning I was alive when I posted this 😛
No actual live footage implied or guaranteed 😉

…I mean, not that I’m back in Modern class yet. Modern is probably going to have to wait ’til the 6-week mark, since it usually involves getting into and out of the floor and using your arms and so forth.

It’s not like ballet, in which you can say, “I’m just gonna do the gentle stuff today, and I’m going to keep my arms in 2nd.”

But, anyway, I realized that I haven’t posted updated pix in a couple of days, so here:

wp-image--1080185012

Super Hipster Filtered Edition[1]

  1. Honestly, forget my chest, check out dat shoulder
wp-image-1548271711

Uncropped Smoldering Ocular Seduction Edition[2]

  1. D keeps giggling at me about acting like a 14-year-old. He may be on to something, but I maintain that I’m acting like a 16-year-old. 14-year-olds have nothing to flex. Like OMG EVRYBODY KNOWS THAT.

So, as you can see, things are healing up quite nicely.

As you can also see, I’m standing on top of the toilet, and I didn’t really bother to put anything away before I shot these. Which, in fact, maybe does imply that I’m acting like I’m 14, because NO IMPULSE CONTROL.

As you can also, also see, I have indeed been mostly sitting on my butt and eating for the past couple of weeks. And I was too lazy to take my shirt all the way off, but I kind of like it?

Anyway, peeled the tape off a bit today and noticed that my suture lines look quite good. The left one is really, really nice; there are spots where there’s no scar at all right now. I put the tape back after because I’m not taking it off ’til Wednesday, because that’s when my surgeon said it would be okay.

The right incision is a little redder, probably because I sleep on the right side of the bed so I wind up using my right hand to reach for stuff on the nightstand, which is problematic because the nightstand is roughly 6″ lower than the bed and beyond the range I can reach without extending my arm just above shoulder level while lying down (the first five nights I didn’t have that problem because we weren’t home yet; then for a couple I was really careful … now I’m kind of over that, since it doesn’t feel like I’m tugging or injuring anything).

Anyway, the lines on both sides are very crisp and clean; totally acceptable in terms of my long-term goals.

The little red spot inferior/lateral to my nipple (which is actually the left one, because I still haven’t remembered to un-mirror my phone’s camera and didn’t think to flip these before I uploaded them, feh) is a bug bite. Turns out that’s why I’m so itchy, at least on that side. On the other side it’s because I keep forgetting to snip off the loose end of the tape, so maybe I should do that now?

There, done.

Also turns out that when you wander around in a nice, airy tank top, the mosquitoes take advantage of those arm holes :/

I had really pretty much forgotten about that.

Also, in the Uncropped Smoldering Ocular Seduction Edition, my feet look like chimpanzee feet. From time to time, I’ll notice that happening, and occasionally it leads to a brief episode of cognitive dissonance in which a part of my brain goes, “MY FEET ARE HANDS: REPEAT MY FEET ARE HANDS OMG =:O”

OTOH, in part of my line of work (aerials, specifically) good toe separation is an asset. Of course, I make up for that by having weirdly tapered duck feet with a whole lot of sweep from second toe to least toe.

Guess you can’t have it all (my hands are sweepy, too).

In other news, today I took the Subaru to the tire shop to get its leaky tire fixed. It turns out that the tire was screwed—literally: as in, it had picked up a screw.

Anyway, they were able to fix it, so now the car is happy again and D is happy again and I was already happy, so…um. Everybody’s basically pretty happy.

Except the cat, probably, because his food bowl and my lap are too far apart, but he’ll just have to tug on his big-boy trousers and cope.

Things I Didn’t Expect

Starting with this: I didn’t think I’d wind up writing a series of posts about my surgery and what it means to me.

I.
Long ago, in another lifetime—which is to say, “This past spring,” actually—I wrote a piece for an academic anthology[1] about the experiences of queer athletes, dancers included.

  1. Perhaps ironically, given my fondness for ebooks, it’s not yet available as an ebook. Blargh.

It’s called, “Cut Both Ways: On Being Out and Not Out In Ballet” or something along those lines, and it’s about how I live in this curious intermediate place in my working life.

As a dancer and a gay man, I’m the kind of Out that’s such a foregone conclusion that it’s essentially unnecessary to even mention it.

But as a dancer and an intersex person, I’m really not out at all. (The rest is behind the cut simply because this is going to be looooooooong.)

Read the rest of this entry

The Weirdness of Actually Liking This Body

We dancers are notoriously critical of our bodies—sometimes in unhealthy ways, but also sometimes in realistic ways.

I, for example, am way scrawny compared to the vast majority of Pilobolus guys, but a Clydesdale—really, more a Welsh cob —if you toss me in with the guys from ABT. In short (or tall), different companies require different bodies. ABT favors a lean, clean aesthetic. Pilobolus needs strength. The Bolshoi wants powerful, flexible jumpers.

I wrestle with those things, as one does—with the question, when I’m auditioning, of “Does this body fit this company or gig?” I’ll continue to face that on a regular basis as long as I’m working in dance and circus. I’m okay with that.

That, however, isn’t what this post is about.

Rather, it’s about finally looking at myself in a full-length mirror and thinking,”Yeah, okay. is my body.”

I didn’t grasp how very much my moobs got in the way of that, nor to what degree there would be this sharp before/after scenario. Before, I looked and I saw moobs. After, I look and I see this compact, well-knit boy with really nice shoulders (thanks, ballet!).

To an extent, it’s still startling because I expected things to just look a bit weird for a while after surgery. I was prepared for that and okay with it. I mean, I guess the surgical tape and Post-Op Pasties™ look a little weird, but they look like they’re applied to a body that’s, like, just there. No big bruises or anything.

In that same vein, I’ve begun to forget it that it once felt awkward—mentally, that is—to rest a hand on my chest in bed. The skinflaps were always there, waiting to remind me. Now they’re not.

At the Burn this year, I found myself feeling—well, not quite envious, but wistful I guess, over M’s smooth, tight chest and his lovely little pink nipples. It didn’t occur to me that I’d wind up similarly equipped after the skinflaps went, though maybe it should have? I mean, did I my nipples were going to turn purple or what? Yet, still, I feel like I got so much more than I had expected.

Even the scars, where the tape has begun to peel, are mostly ultra-thin. I’m not sure if my surgeonwas extra careful because I’m a dancer and the appearance of my body is a career asset, whether I was just really to work on, or if he’s just always this good. Regardless, I’m immensely grateful.

And tonight I looked at all of myself, stark naked, in the mirrored shower door and I thought, really for the first time in my life, “Yeah, okay. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty nice.”

I’m not going say I’ve lost the voice that says, “You have more than 4 percent fat. You suck.” Maybe it’ll leave, maybe it won’t, but it’s still there now.

But another part of me, on the other hand, finally feels it can speak up with confidence.

Like I don’t have to secretly dread petit allegro because things might shift around and get awkward.

Like when I walk down street the in that flimsy orange tank top and a guy looks at me, I don’t have to look away or shut him down because I think he wouldn’t like me with my clothes off.

Like whenever I get to dance with a smart, hot guy like M again, I won’t do it half afraid he’s going to run his hands down my chest and think, “WTF?”
Like I won’t have to take my contacts out, maybe, to stop me catching sight of myself in the giant closet door mirrors when D and I are playing around in bed because it might make me think, “WTF?”

Eventually, of course, I’ll get used to this actually being my body. Right now, though, it’s rather a marvelous little mystery all my own; a prayer answered slowly but beautifully.

I know it’s not like this for everyone, and I’m grateful, too, for the sheer simplicity of my feelings about all of this. It’s pretty much an unalloyed good in my life.

So me for tonight. Time to sleep.

So It Was National Dance Day

Rather ironically, I celebrated by mostly not dancing.
Well, there was some dancing, in the morning, before I headed for Mom’s. And my friends carried me down the hall to the door when I left.

Pilobolus Summer Workshop was beyond words—or, well, beyond words that I can find when I’m happily exhausted because I spent the week dancing and creating feeling and spent Friday night singing and drinking and dancing and talking and talking and talking…

Went to bed at 7 AM on Saturday. Woke up at 10:50 AM. My body didn’t feel tired, but I could tell my brain was tired.

Anyway, I’m rolling all this stuff around in my head. You leave Pilobolus’ workshop ready to work, but in need of some time to think.

Anyway, instead of writing, today I’ve been taking pictures. Here’s a few from today and a couple from the week for your enjoyment or what have you.

Me, standing in front of a closed windier in my childhood bedroom.

I realized tonight that this room no longer really belongs me, and I no longer really belong to it. ATM though it’s hard to explain what that means. Also, I kind of can’t believe this is my body. That is not hard to explain.

A late ray of sun slanting down through the variegated leaves of a small tree, with a house in soft focus behind.

“Glory be to G-d for dappled things…” —Gerard Manley Hopkins

Students from Pilobolus' Summer Workshop Week 2, 2017.

This is us: the surprisingly-cohesive little commune that was Week 2 in 2017.

Asher sitting down with garden plants in the background.

There was a lovely cool breeze this evening. I sat on the bench near the house and drank it in and was glad to be alive and to be tired.

Asher lying on the floor of the dorms at the workshop with other students in the background.

This was a rough moment: knowing we were all about to part ways. Hard to describe how much you can come to love a group of people when you’ve just spent a week learning to trust them to hold you, guide you, and lift you high into the air.

A woven basket hangs on the outside wall of a garage flanked by mature plantings.

This basket has been hanging on the garage for a long time. I’ve photographed it before, in fact. The light was so beautiful that i couldn’t resist.

Stiff

So I realized a few exercises into barre tonight that I had eaten lunch way, way too early. 

Oops. 

By end of class I was both bonking hard and sweating like an unfit racehorse. I couldn’t get enough air moving through my nose to do that nifty breathing exercise I use to slow my heart rate, so I sweated far more than was actually necessary.

I was also stiff in a way that I initially interpreted as ordinary fatigue, but later realized was the result of my muscles flipping me the bird every time I asked them to do anything. That’s what I get for not feeding them enough.   

Still, excepting the repeat of one of our later pirouette exercises, during which I glanced at the mirror and immediately forgot which leg I was supposed to be on and semi-froze (seriously, WAT), things went reasonably well, with some really nice moments into the bargain. 

I don’t think I danced as beautifully, overall, as I did yesterday, but it was still a nice improvement in terms of freedom and musicality compared with what I’ve been doing lately (read: ever). 

I also kept having that weird experience of being flummoxed by frank masculinity of my body. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get used to that. I’m slowly becoming okay with it, though: I am not a delicate little waif-twink, but I am graceful and occasionally even elegant. 

I don’t think I ever really did the math on that. As horses go, maybe I’m basically like a Friesian: strong-boned and muscular and powerful, but also graceful and elegant. I suspect on some level I’ve codified a dancer’s grace and elegance as those of an Akhal-Teke or a young Thoroughbred, but that’s not the only possibility. Trakheners and Friesians and Dutch warmbloods are also graceful and elegant. So are the baroque Spanish breeds.

I’m built for classical dressage: the restrained power of the passage and the piaffe; the explosive brilliance of the airs above the ground. 

I used to believe that the sheer mass of my body undermined the effect of adagio and so forth. Now I’m beginning to see that a powerful build lends its own magic to balances and développés and penchés. 

So there’s that.

Anyway, I’m exhausted. Tomorrow should be good, though.  

Body of Work

I should be mowing the lawn, really, but I want to try to sketch out some thoughts first.

Yesterday was a good day for me, body-image wise. Today hasn’t started out as one.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it, as far as I can tell. Sometimes it changes, for better or worse, in the middle of things. It shifts on the fly.

I should note that this is progress. It used to be all bad, all the time, no matter what.

Then, for a while, it got weird: like, sometimes I could look at my body and think, “Yes, this is a good and functional and rather nice-looking purpose-specific kind of body, but it doesn’t look like my body.[1]”

  1. I don’t mean I think this on a rational level. I mean, really, on the level of instinctive identity perception, in the sense most disconnected from questions of philosophy, there’s just no there there. There’s no conscious analysis involved, just an unconscious, “Nope.”

How do I explain that concept? For me, I think part of it stems from some fundamental disconnect in the neural circuitry that drives identity-related connections. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel any sense that I’m looking at myself, really.

I mean, rationally, I know that I am. But the circuit that says, “Ohai! That’s me!” doesn’t really seem to fire. (Sometimes this results in me staring into the mirror for a really long time, trying to figure things out.) I don’t know if this is anything at all like what many people experience, but a few conversations and a fair bit of reading have indicated to me that it’s kind of weird[2].

  1. Please note that “weird” is a word I use without any value judgment. I actually rather like it. To me, it just means “strange” or “unusual,” sometimes “uncanny,” but without the additional sense of “…and offensive or repugnant.”

If you’ve ever seen a recent picture of yourself in which you don’t actually recognize yourself until someone points out to you, “Hey, that’s you!”, that might be a similar phenomenon (though, really, I’m not sure).

Curiously, the effect is diminished in class when I observe myself in the mirror and correct myself accordingly.

Yup, it’s long, so here’s a more tag:
Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: