Last night, I went out with two lovely ladies for Halloween and we happened upon a burlesque show.
I had seen photos from this particular troupe of girls and their show before. From the snapshots, I thought the shows were silly fun, and everyone was meant to laugh and revel in feelings of freedom and self-expression.
What I didn't realize was that the shows were a powerful experience in self-love. So powerful that I'm still thinking about it today, feeling the impact of what I saw seeping deeper into me.
It wasn't until I saw it in person that I understood what was actually happening in those photos. In the photos, it seems as if the women perform and everyone is apart from them, watching, maybe gaping, maybe laughing uncomfortably. In person, none of that was happening. There was laughter, but we weren't laughing at anyone - we were laughing with them and with each other because it was so damn fun.
Being there, I came to understand how dynamic the whole thing is. Nobody is just "watching". The audience is as much a part of the show as the girls are. The energy of the audience, and their willingness to let go and cheer and scream, is a vital part of the experience.
This sense of togetherness, of sharing in this as a group, is one part of what made it feel alive and electric. The other part is how empowered the women are.
In my life, I have always associated empowered women with perfect bodies. It's the message we're forcefed over and over. We're told that until you look perfect, you can't claim your perfection.
But last night, I saw something totally different.
I saw back fat and cellulite. I saw wide hips and big booties. I saw small boobs and small booties.
I saw it all, and it all felt so damn perfect I can't even describe how powerful it was. Not one woman was ashamed of any part of her body. Each woman was sexual and confident. Free and feisty. Nobody was asking for permission to exude ownership of their bodies and their beauty. They owned it, and we all bowed down in awe.
And on top of that, they owned that room.
As they undressed, there was never a sense their sexuality was for us. It was always for them. It was theirs to do with as they pleased. Even as they walked through the room, throwing gloves on people, touching people's shoulders, swinging their breasts around, there was never a feeling things were about to get out of hand. There was no question who was in control.
I feel cheesy admitting this, but thinking about it today makes me a little emotional. I feel as if someone has given me permission to love myself. To really love myself. I can no longer look in the mirror after last night's show and start picking apart my perceived flaws. It feels so wrong now. It feels like a disservice to the goddesses I witnessed. It feels like a lie, like a crazy lie that needs to be cast out of my mind.
I had no idea seeing a burlesque show would have such an impact on me. I wish I had better pictures to share with you - I was so in the moment I didn't want to stop and get out my phone.
I am eternally grateful to the bold and amazing women who performed last night. You are my new standard for perfection. You are my goal for empowerment and femininity. Thank you.