Today I was looking in the mirror and looking back at me was a disgruntled me. I was looking at my picture and what I did not like. All I saw was what I wanted to change. This is contradictory to what I tell my students. I usually let them look in the mirror and see what they like about themselves.
Verstehen wir es
But I need to admit today I just didn’t feel like doing this. I wondered about this and decided to take a close look at why I was feeling frustrated with myself and how this feeling fleeting as it may be can earn a princess sing the blues, in my case off key. Through out my dance career individuals have commented on my weight.
Why is it that people think that it’s OK to make a comment about someone else’s weight? Our society has become obsessed with weight and within our area of entertainment we’re suppose to maintain a certain standard. I remember dancing in a gorgeous restaurant in Dallas and has been told with a regular costumer that I had to lose 5 pounds and than I’d be perfect. I stood there shocked and all I could do was nod my head and walk away.
She told me in front of other clients and I remember feeling ashamed and pledged to lose 10 lbs! I know she had my best interest in mind but all I heard was “You will need to lose weight”. So my self image crumbled a little bit that night and what I did not understand was that those words would remain with me for so long. My next question is that decided what standard belly dancers need to uphold? Well, I know that there are lots of restaurants and nightclubs that want dancers which are a certain percentage.
There are a number of restaurants that won’t employ what they think about an overweight dancer. I know this because I’ve worked in a few restaurants that will not tell overweight dancers they won’t hire them, they will just tell them that they do not need dancers or that the position was filled. So does this undermine the present house dancers’ relationship with her dancing community? How can you tell another dancer she’s over weight? I can not or I should say won’t since it would be like the pot calling the kettle black.
It is a personal issue and should only be addressed if requested. But it is not totally the restaurant or home dancers fault because the clients also dictate what sort of dancers they would like to see. Most supervisors will hire belly dancers which are pleasing to the eye according to society’s standards rather than girls criteria. So how do we as girls alter these so called “criteria”? That’s a very hard question to answer because how a lot people photoshop our photographs? How many people will buy costumes that conceal our “problem areas”? How many people have gone on crash diets before we have a significant performance? I gage my weight based on how my outfits match me and I have friends who do the same.
When I go on a diet the first thing I do after a couple of times is put on one of my straps. So how do I feel good about my body image as it can only look great if I seem a certain way in my own outfits? My picture has become a blur because I’ve allowed these criteria to dictate how I look. So if I wish to go head to head with this standard compared to the first thing I must do is begin with my own problems and come up with a way to let them go.
An American study group in 2003 stated that 50 to 70 percent of normal weight girls think they are overweight. Are we trying to achieve a perfect picture that actually exists only in our minds? To be able to answer this question I went back into the mirror and introduced a magazine with me and flipped the pages until I came to what I thought was the ideal woman. I had breasts and she did not and I had hips and she did not. She had a tough look to her since she was so thin.
Than I realized that the picture looking back at me in the mirror was not so bad after all. What I thought was the ideal girl turned out to be biased. If we can not connect to the photographs in the magazines than why do we let these pictures to dictate how we should look? When I see dancers on stage all I know is that they are the most beautiful vision of womanhood I can possibly imagine. So I guess I’m in contradiction with myself since I’m up there on stage occasionally also.
My favorite times are in the dressing room just before a manufacturing or show, feeling and seeing all of the excited energy in the room. If this feeling could be set in a painting it would be a masterpiece. So why with these pictures in my mind is it so tough for me to look in the mirror and love what I see? I believe it’s because I decided at a young age to accumulate and collect all of the negative experiences and remarks that came my way. So I decided to give up memories which no longer served me or my picture. I threw them away to an imperceptible trash can. Guess what all of a sudden I began to feel better.
This led me to become inquisitive about our picture as women throughout history, and so I took a look at how we’ve shifted to become what we are now. In the 1890’s if you’re plump and had a light complexion, you’re hot (this meant you did not work). In the early 1900’s the corset and hour glass figure were all the rage (so what if you could not breath). In the 1920’s if you’re flat-chested and skinny, the world was your oyster. In the 50’s and 60’s Marilyn Monroe ruled but Twiggy was right beside her. The 70’s and 80’s were all about exercising and with no body fat (let’s not forget about the hair). In the 90’s big breasts and narrow hips became the standard (not really). And now, women are a blend of all the above. As a belly dancer I can handle being a tiny bit of every generation. And as a matter of fact if you take a look around our dance community you will see our history in each woman alive also. As women we must choose what suites our own vision of beauty. And after studying our history I realized I was in fantastic company. So I looked back in the mirror, laughed and saw something I’d enjoy, a grin.