Tag Archives: grace

terpsichorean


terpsichorean adj. of or relating to dance

tomer_dancer_06

I chose this particular word for two reasons, one being that I don’t believe that I have written about an adjective in all of my nearly 60 posts. The other reason being that when I was in high school at the venerable “castle on the hill” in Teaneck, NJ, there was a very talented troupe of dancers called the Terpsichoreans, or “Terpsies” and I really enjoyed watching them – and the outstanding choir my high school had –  on the cable access channel when I was a teen. I didn’t have much of a life back then and for some reason my mother and I would watch the various broadcasts of my local high school’s performances as a bonding ritual. So you already know I’m a little weird…moving on.

Dance has been ever present in my life and with the exception of a year or two of ballet dabbling because I begged, I have no formal training. I love ballet in particular. My theory is that I have a latent, girlie side of my personality that simply yearns to be set free. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t recognize it and I ended being a runner / soccer player for most of my life, never having the opportunity to explore the wonder and femininity of ballet.

…but it did not stop me from manifesting my admiration of all things terpsichorean in other ways…

I was thinking about this for awhile on my walk home from the train today and dance has followed me throughout my life in perverse ways. For example, when I was around 12 or 13, I remember quite distinctly choreographing a production of the Nutcracker at the after school program I was in. I was, of course, the principal dancer and had enlisted a bunch of Kindergarteners to dance with me. I specifically remember finding a Tsaichovsky record and playing it on the standard, Catholic school record player (the box kind with hinges that smelled like old books and buzzed with tubes) and making up all of the dances for each of the tracks. I chose myself to dance the principal role of the Sugar Plum Fairy because that  was my most favorite part of the music. I’ve come back to think about the fact that I did this when I was a pre teen a few times a year and it makes me cringe a little. I think I must have been suffering some sort of mental strife in my life at that point. Some teens turn to drugs or partying  in their awkward stage. I turned to a sort of buffoon choreography…I’m not sure what this says about me as a person. At least I grew out of it.

I was lucky enough in my early years to have friends who were Indian and learned all about Indian dance. I remember fondly the days of practicing the different steps and moves with one friend in her living room. We also watched a ton of Bollywood, which I still adore to this day. I remember showing it to my dad on yet another cable access channel on Sunday mornings and it quickly became a tradition for us to watch it each week.

Later, when I was a senior in high school, instead of going to the prom I went to a performance of Romeo and Juliet at ABT in Lincoln Center with a dear friend and genuinely trained and talented ballet dancer. I remember watching Julie Kent in the role and being mesmerized by the beauty of what she could do. I was damn proud of myself for getting some culture instead of slogging down nip bottles of Bacardi in the bathroom of some Marriott in a satin dress.

My college years are a menagerie of bad dance experiences at cheesy Rhode Island clubs that would make the Jersey Shore hide in shame. There is a reason why Pauly D., a native Johnston, Rhode Islander – was included on that program. One particular club I frequented quite often during my college days was known as Oxygen. It’s logo was a green tank with Oxygen written in neon. The club had three rooms – R&B, Top 40 and Techno. It was dark, dirty and as a white bread Providence College girl, you needed to beware of the sketchy Johnson and Wales boys. My roomates and I, in true college tradition, would put on our tightest fitting clothing, slather on a good layer of slutty makeup and head off to this place every weekend – or Wednesday – and dance. We’d start off in a circle with each other so we could warn other friend of impeding male sketchiness. We had a hand signal so we could tell if we needed to relocate or reorganize to protect each other from unwanted “grinding” attempts. Ahh, those college days.

My post college adult years have included forays into adult ballet classes once or twice, a few more memorable club visits in European countries, and many, many evenings of watching ballet and dance documentaries secretly while my husband is busy doing yard work or traveling for work. The latest manifestation of dance in my life is through my son, who will gladly bop away on command – with or without music. Maybe some day he and I will get my husband over his fear of lithe men in cod pieces and we will all go to a night of ballet together as a family…a girl can dream.

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ecdysiast


ecdysiast n. a striptease performer

demi_moore___striptease_by_lord_iluvatar-d50cjyg

Such a classy name for such an unclassy practice. I’d love to make a business card for myself with this listed as my profession just so people would go home and look up the word – then gasp in shock. When I first saw this word, I thought of Demi Moore and that movie she was famously topless in. I also thought of that chick from Saved By the Bell who starred in that movie Showgirls. Every now and then VH1 airs it with the addition of very obviously digital bandeau tops to cover the dancers breasts – which are prominently displayed, bare, in every scene. The digital tops are very entertaining as they don’t always move with the dancers correctly…thus taking on a comical life of their own.  I also think of Scores – that famous smutty strip club in Manhattan that you can see while walking down the High Line in the city. It’s such a clash of environs that it always makes me stop and giggle.

I actually think that the art of strip tease has taken a bad rap in our modern society. It has quite a rich history, as mentioned on Wikipedia:

The origins of striptease as a performance art are disputed and various dates and occasions have been given from ancient Babylonia to 20th century America. The term “striptease” was first recorded in 1932, though “stripping”, in the sense of women removing clothing to sexually excite men, seems to go back at least 400 years.

I suppose at some point, someone added the pole and G String, stripping away all of the enticement and attraction of the traditional art of stripping. As much as pole dancing takes quite a lot strength and agility, I don’t consider it an art at all – maybe a good workout, but that’s about it. In my new found learning of the word “ecdysiast”, I think that in order to call it performance art it should maintain some type of dignity and grace – and doesn’t have to show all of the skin to be entertaining. Take this performance by Gypsy Rose, which is perfect for this blog post I might add…

I believe pornography also has much to do with the modern day connection between smut and stripping. When women became more liberated sexually and seeing naked or near naked women became something that was common in the day to day, most of the mystique was lost. These days, you seemingly cannot avoid catching a glimpse of risqué appendage just waking down the street – even in my little suburban village. When you turn on the television, you are instantly accosted by sexual images. About the only channels where you don’t run into it are the Disney and Sprout channels – which is only because they are for children. Even PBS splashes some boob here and there usually on Art 21 or National Geographic.

We’ve also combined stripping – or staring at scantily clad females oddly…with eating…Hooters being the best example.

The genesis of food, drink and naked ladies can most likely be tracked back to the Playboy Club. A few years back I read Gloria Steinem’s “A Bunny’s Tale.” The infamous feminist went undercover and became a bunny at the famous club and wrote about all that the women had to go through to don the satin bodice and cotton tail of the Playboy Bunny. It was really fascinating. I didn’t walk away from it thinking about men being like pigs. The women wanted to do it. They voluntarily wanted to dress up like busty bunnies and serve drinks to men. It carried an elite status for them. What stands out to me is how Hooters is the antithesis of that older attitude. The bunnies had to stand a certain way, the costumes were painful. It was a strange art form, but admirable in a strange way. At Hooters, you only need the right…ahem…proportions to don the orange shorts and ogled owl tank top. Let’s hear it for women’s liberation?

We are simply no longer shocked by the visage of the nude female body and this is why, in my opinion, the erotic art of strip has become synonymous with lewd and classless in the opinion of many. Why buy the proverbial cow when the milk is free?

But perhaps the world has had it’s fill of Victoria’s Secret Angels, Hooters girls and celebrity sex tapes as burlesque and “pin up” are making a comeback. Instead of swinging around a pole to Motley Crue in see through 6 inch heels and g strings, these women are bringing back performance and confidence to the art of the strip tease – like our lovely friend Gypsy Rose’s apropos performance earlier in this post. Perhaps ecdysiast won’t be regarded as such a dirty word after all and feminists will have more time to deal with that pesky 50 Shades of Grey business…

 

 

 

 

 

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Rubenesque


Rubenesque adj. (of a woman’s figure) full and rounded

 

Rubens,_Peter_Paul_-_The_Three_Graces

I have been listening to a lot of Prince and Queen lately – mostly because my 16 month old son really gets into those particular artists. He loves Killer Queen and Raspberry Beret especially and bops around to Fat Bottomed Girls as well . I feel like I am schooling him in a new form of radical feminism when we listen to these songs. They embody a sense of admiration for the full figured female we seem to have lost in this day and age. Here’s what I mean…

In Raspberry Beret, Prince notes:

Built like she was
She had the nerve to ask me
If I planned to do her any harm.

Since Prince is a pretty small dude one would have to assume that the beret wearing girl could hold her own because she was larger – but it’s not a bad thing in the song. It makes her memorable and attractive. In fact, she seems quite proud as he describes her as not wearing much else than the beret.  In Get Off, he also mentions explicitly:

Honey, them hips is gone
That’s alright, I clock ’em that way
Remind me of something James used to say
“I like ’em fat”, “I like ’em proud”
“Ya gotta have a mother for me”
Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby

I would bet there are other references to his preference for larger women in his music, but what I find really interesting is that even a few decades ago, there was a certain appreciation for the voluptuous, womanly body. Whether it be Sir Mix A Lot or Prince, models still had asses and boobs and I am pretty sure no one was trying to lose all of their muscle mass to be attractive. What happened between then and now to so drastically change our preferences when it comes to the female form?

I think about body image a lot. The smallest I have ever been was a size 4 and that was when I was in college. It was a lot of fun. I could walk into any clothing store and fit into anything I wanted. I had no breasts so the shirts buttoned perfectly. Low rise denim sat on bone, not muffin top. Being able to wear whatever I chose made me forget that I was absolutely starving all of the time. Now as I write this in the bootylicious leggings of a size 10/12 (gasp!) shopping is more akin to getting a pap smear than having fun. The fashion world has banned me from being able to look attractive easily. At 5’2 , I am petite, but with an ass and boobs, I am full figured. Anyway you slice it up, I am fat by the standards of the fashion and clothing industry and deemed unattractive by the anorexic minions of Madison Avenue.

Every time I see the standards for womanly attractiveness shrink, I pray that this time they have gone too far and that next year the new “it” size will go up instead of down. I fear that when I am hitting 40 the new goal will be to fit into 2T pants. How I long for the days of Rubens and Botticelli whose lovely ladies flaunted flesh. I think there is a definite connection between Modern Art and the cultism of waifishness that is prevalent amongst women. In the same ways that traditional, beautiful, skillful art is rejected these days, so is the traditional female body. Much of a woman’s free time is spent plucking, waxing and toning so as not to be regarded as some barbaric, poorly groomed gorilla in public. It’s as if we’re supposed to stay 14 forever.

…and the music about Fat Bottomed Girls and Raspberry Berets has faded away as well. Prince has been replaced with Justin Beiber and One Direction singing about hair flipping insecure 12 year olds in between rapid successions of “ohs” and “ahs” instead of actual lyrics. Even Jennifer Hudson lost her booty and Anne Hathaway looks like she’s dying. Good god, even the Twinkie is a thing of the past.  Alas, I lament the loss of substance in all of it’s historical forms – art, music and womanly flesh…bye, bye Miss American Thigh…

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osculate


osculate verb kiss

My son just recently learned how to kiss on demand. He opens his mouth wide and suctions it to your cheek with a loud “mmm—ahhh” sound when you ask him for a kiss. It is my favorite thing in the world. When I was kid I used to dread family occasions or holidays when people were over and I was forced to kiss or hug people. I remember I would run and hide when I heard the doorbell ring just to avoid it. I come from an Italian family so the formality of kissing friends and family is important and one is considered rude if you do not do so. I suppose the main reason I clam up is due to being shy – an attribute I truly believe I was born with.

The world can be very cruel to people who are shy. It is not a trait that the majority of people find endearing. Shyness is often misunderstood and in our extroverted culture, not something that gets you very far. I have been shy since as far back as I can remember. You probably wouldn’t tag me for this trait these days as I most often disguise this aspect of my personality.  There are still clues to it but I fear that most people mistake it for weirdness, snobbery, or pretension – which is most unfair.

It seems most people stereotype shy people as being sweet and mouselike, hiding in corners, timid and shaking. But that is not the case at all. Shy people have opinions and passions just as strong as extroverts. Just ask someone who is shy and I am sure you will get an ear full – once they get to know you. I don’t know if all shy people are this way, but I just enjoy observing and not participating. I’d rather take in everything and make a story about it than participate. I don’t enjoy making the first move. I like to go slow and ease myself in when I think it’s safe and when I’m ready. There’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion. And shyness doesn’t mean that one has to be a wallflower either. Shy people are like little secret packages waiting to be opened.

I have always channeled my shyness through writing. The first time I did this was my senior year in high school where I wrote an article in the county paper about not going to the prom…and about how happy I was not to go. I received many cheers and jeers from it, but for once I had a voice and I didn’t have to speak to put it out there – and people listened. In college, I wrote for the newspaper for 4 years in the commentary section, no less. Unfortunately, upon graduating in a bad economy, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist as I had planned and gave up my voice for a long time…until most recently with this blog. My writing has become an extroversion where my everyday life is lacking.

My shyness makes me fear being the center of everyone’s attention, yet long for it with all of my being. I believe there are many people like me. Instead of overcoming or ridding our lives of this attribute, we find a different language – writing, dancing, singing – that releases our voice in a different way than just playing a role at a party and keeping up conversation.

Shyness is at the core of creativity, grace, humility…all of those traits that people find lacking in society and that most people strive for. Perhaps they are so rare because most people misunderstand them as negative attributes…the way the world mistakes shyness for so many other unsavory things.

 

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mansuetude


mansuetude n. meekness; gentleness

Mary, the mother of God, has always had a special, quiet existence in my life. She is a constant, graceful reminder to me of meekness and gentleness and has marked my life from childhood to this day.

I remember going to my grandmother’s house while my mother was ill and my father working. Being an Italian immigrant, she had several religious statues around the house, including a fully dressed infant of Prague who had it’s own wardrobe. Next to the prized infant was a stark painted statue of Mary as well as Saint Theresa. I remember having to sleep in my grandmother’s bed when I stayed over. She snored so loudly and I was up for most of the night imagining that her wheezing and snorting had a rhythmic beat. During those nights I would stare at Mary and she would stare back at me until I feel asleep.

In school, we would prepare for the crowning of Mary with flowers each May. All of the names of the little girls in class would go into a hat to see who would be chosen to walk up the aisle and crown the church statue during our First Friday mass. There was even a song we would sing – “Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today…” that I still remember fondly. I never was chosen to crown Mary, but it was always my favorite mass. Mary was my icon of quiet strength and mansuetude as she held up her hands, looked up to heaven and stepped on the snake with such beauty and gentleness.

As I grew older, Mary took on more profound meaning in my life. During one of my sleepless nights when caring for my dying father I remember seeing a water stain on the ceiling above his bed that had a shape like the silhouette of the Virgin Mary. I hadn’t noticed it before and it comforted me to think that she was watching over my father. As he progressed through the final stages of dying, he would speak to invisible people and one of them was named Mary. He could have been seeing his mother who was named Mary and had died when he was just a child. Nevertheless, in my memories it is was Mary who watched over and protected him; who held him in her arms as he died. It was her song – Ave Maria – that was played at his funeral that I cannot hear without crying and remembering the loss of my father.

Mary is who I pray to when I am most scared and alone. When the plane is taking off or I am in fear of losing someone I love. She is the saint that I imagine quietly standing in my corner through out my life. She watches over me without pomp or circumstance, never asking for anything but my faith in return. As Mother’s Day approaches and I watch my son grow and thrive each day, I pray to become an example of gentleness and meekness in his life…the eyes he can stare into as he drifts to sleep, the arms that will hold him in times of pain and sorrow. Always silently, gently in his corner as his mother.

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