Reining It In

Friday night I went to a bellydance holiday party. Three troupes performed and then they opened up the floor for whoever wanted to get up and dance. I was feeling sort of underdressed but at least I had my gear on so I hopped up there and joined the choruses and had lots of fun.

It’s about as close to performing as I ever come. People had been sitting in chairs to watch the troupe performances and a lot stayed just to sort of watch the random people get up and do their things. It was pretty tight up there and hard to move but I guess that’s the beauty of open dance: it’s not class so you’re not furrowing your brows and muttering invective under your breath, and it’s not a real performance where you have to be, like, good. You just bust up there wherever you can fit in the chorus and if you don’t cue the structural roll correctly, you don’t, and you can kind of roll your eyes in apology and people will laugh and just get on with dancing. It’s pretty low pressure and as such good experience for me, but having even five or ten non-dancers watching made me hyper-aware of what I was doing (and what I was doing wrong).

When I took a break I went to sit with my friends Amy and Erik. Amy’s in class with me but of course Erik, like most of my friends, hasn’t seen me dance, and he told me that he thought I danced very emotionally, very passionately. I thought he was telling me that I’m not a very precise dancer, that after several years of tribal classes I still can’t place my arm correctly or drop my hip on time, can’t get the math right. (Although in my own defense I will say I do a hell of bicycle shimmy.) They both assured me that no, it was an actual compliment, and that the correct response to such a compliment is a gracious “thank you,” and not a derogatory meta-analysis.

I don’t think of myself as passionate. It’s true I am super emotional in the sense of being oversensitive and obsessive, but, to the surprise of people who know me, I spend a lot of time self-monitoring and trying to keep emotional stuff in check. I have been told, since I was a kid to the present day, that I am (more than) a little overwhelming to be around, that people can’t keep up with my demands for friendships and that I need to understand that not everything has a subtext, that sometimes people really do say what they mean and that not everything is about me. Every single one of my closest friends has, at one time or another, had to ask me to back off and to calm down, to give it a rest. If all you know of me is my happy and ridiculous party persona and my inability to shut up about strippers and hot tubs then it may come as a surprise to you that I am reining it in, keeping it in check. When I am telling you anything sad or weird or crazy I am clenching my fists not to let it all flood out and sweep you away, leaving me heaving and gutted out. I’ve been fortunate to find people who will let me vent to a certain welcome extent sometimes but there is always more I’m not telling.

The rest of the weekend was very fun and busy and social, with several parties (one of which involved my decorating Christmas cookies to look like octopuses and one of which involved my going upstairs with the hostess to check out her recently purchased sex toys) and a movie and a museum and great food and many many good conversations. I’m anticipating a very quiet time in Miami over Christmas so it was sort of nice to go out a lot over the weekend. This coming week, too, I have something delightfully planned for every evening before I go. I was very conscious of how lucky I am to be surrounded by good people and while I did think a little about how it’s going to be pretty rough to leave everyone for a year I was mostly just really glad that I have such good fun friends.

I’ve been listening to dance music all weekend though, seeing the moves in my head, thinking about the consequences of internal control and the inadvertent sublimation of passion.

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