"They will think I'm a dork. I have no rhythm." I can hear my former self chanting these words. "You don't like to dance," the voice would say. To dance would be to stick out, to put myself on a platter ripe for ridicule. Instead I would smile coyly and be the sexy shy girl.
Validation was crucial for my sustainment. I adopted what anyone thought of me into me. I especially loved judgment. I soaked in judgment, dwelled there, held it as personal and I liberally sent it back out to others. So what did I become? Well, actually, I did great. I became thin, fit, pretty, successful and adjustable to my surroundings. Outside looking in, I had it together. That was my goal: look good to feel good.
When I was in college, my roommate Sam and I would put on guilty-pleasure music and have pajama dance parties. She'd be in her matching fleece sun, moon and stars pants and button up vest with big stuffed animal slippers and I'd be sporting baggy polka-dotted pants and a Rose Bowl 1982 hand-me-down-three-times-over t-shirt. We'd blast the goodies: Like A Prayer and enough Bon Jovi to make my Jersey hometown proud. As we danced it out, we got sillier and sillier and I began to feel fun kick in. But, by this time, I was being so silly, so off from a "norm," that Sam would look at me with the "you're kidding, right?" expression.
I would reel-in my silly self, the self that just wanted to jump around and laugh freely, who didn’t care what she looked like, just letting go into the freedom of fun. I would make sure Sam knew that I knew I was purposefully being dumb for a laugh. I'd do this by making a fake face: mouth open, eyes rolling back in my head and over-exaggerating whatever dance move I was into.
You see, Sam had rhythm and her hips could find a beat. She might’ve been self-conscious, but when she danced, you couldn’t tell. Meanwhile I was stuck in my head thinking about what I looked like and found myself missing the beat. When I did get out of my mind, I couldn't fully embrace the feeling, I'd look unnatural or I’d get “too” silly, be laughed at, and that was it. I wouldn’t dance. I told myself, “I don't like it. Dancing isn't fun.”
I wanted to be seen as smart, sexy, independent, successful. If I could be these things, I'd be perfect. Perfection meant that I would be loved. I filled gaps with what furthered this message of me: I got all As in school, even became a teaching assistant, in college I was known for my campus TV show, I got a great job in NYC, attended movie screenings and I leapt up the corporate ladder while my Colgate white-strips smile glistened. I don't regret the hard work or jobs I took nor do I have any disdain for white-strips, makeup or hair dye for that matter. I did these things in a time where my mindset was "need to." I needed to look good to have fun.
Last week I followed the music for four city blocks. When the wind blew, the music grew louder and I could fine-tune my direction. Within a few minutes, I was led to a graduation party. I said hello at the door, and with ease I made my way up the maze of stairs. By the last flight, the music was clear and I knew every word of the song. I sang it out loud and shimmied my way up the final steps. I didn’t think of myself as a party crasher. I just wanted to play. As I came to the rooftop, the lead singer reached for my hand, bringing me on stage. It was from this vantage point I noticed 150 stiff bodies, holding solo cups, watching me. For a moment, I thought about those dance parties with Sam. I smiled at the memories. I danced.
Magic giant at general assembly rooftop party, venice, ca