This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to perform at a charity event that a dear friend hosted. We were raising money for the Sin Sity Sisters of Las Vegas, who promote HIV and AIDS awareness/assistance, and safe sex education.
Since I’ve only started dancing again recently, I’m dealing with some issues as far as body confidence, especially when it comes to my belly.
I’m usually the first to jump in and promote the amazing benefits of belly dance, one of them being increased body confidence. Its amazing thing, to suddenly find something that makes you feel comfortable in your own skin.
The last time I had performed without a body stocking was about 6 years ago. I had just finished 6 months of P90X. I was ripped. I was thin. I didn’t have back fat. I had also been performing monthly, or bi monthly for about 8 years. I was comfortable as a dancer, performer, and student.
As I started having issues with my kidneys, I started dancing less. Having constant chronic pain tends to take away a person’s desire to do anything other than lay in bed on the heating pad. I also started putting on weight, which made me feel uncomfortable again.
For this performance, I had a friend loan me a really beautiful bedlah (bra and belt set). I tried it on without a body stocking, and found myself looking at my reflection thinking “I’m almost there. If I can drop 15 pounds, and wait until my scars lighten up a little, I can dance without a body stocking. ” As if she was reading my mind, my friend said to me that I should dance without one.
Initially, my big issue was that my scars would be visible. I’ve had 3 laproscopic procedures done: 2 robotic pyloplasties on my right kidney, and one tubal ligation/salpingectomy. I have a total of 13 scars on my stomach. Some of them have already faded quite a bit, but some of them are red and angry, due to post surgical weight gain. They are truly very ugly scars. And now, I am about to do something I never thought that I would do. I’m going to share pictures of my scars on the internet.
Its really difficult for me to look at these scars, especially the big, misshapen ones, and think of them as anything but ugly. They’re all over. They’re big. They’re even visible THROUGH my body stockings! For the longest time, I’ve been super ashamed of them.
After this friend and I spoke, and after my husband continued to reassure me that I looked beautiful, and thin (even though I know I’m not, he complimented me on how much the costume and bare belly accentuated that I do have a small waist), I started thinking more and more about my scars.
Who would really see them? The performance was going to be in a dark nightclub/bar setting.
Shouldn’t I be proud to show them off? After all, 10 of them are from fixing my kidney. Its because of the biggest and angriest scars that I’m able to dance at all right now. If I hadn’t had the last pyloplasty, I’d probably still be having bouts of horrific pain every couple of weeks. I’d be in the hospital, or taking pain killers just to function instead of taking classes and workshops.
As much as I wanted to accept myself, scars and all, as a plus sized dancer, its intimidating to dance without a belly cover, even without scars. There are so many critics out there. People who will look only at the physical appearance, and ignore the technique, passion, or musicality. There was a video floating around a couple of months ago of a really beautiful and talented dancer performing a drum solo in her living room. She had a beautiful shape: not super skinny, but smaller than I am. She was curvy and toned. She had great technique, and really wonderful musicality. People commented on the video about how fat she was, and that she wasn’t “a real belly dancer” because she was “fat.” “Real belly dancers are thin” they said.
Imagine my worries about people saying similar things about me, with my much bigger waist line, and 13 ugly scars. Similar or worse.
Of course, I know all of that is a load of bollocks. Belly Dance is for all shapes and sizes. I’ve seen amazing performances from dancers who are thin and muscular to thick and curvy, and everywhere in between.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. I wanted to free my belly again. I wanted to proudly show off my battle scars from the victory I won over hydronephrosis, and papillary necrosis. I wanted to show that good technique and musicality doesn’t depend on what size your costume is. I wanted to challenge myself to feel good about who I am RIGHT NOW, not who I will be in a few months.
I’ll readily admit: I packed the body stocking, just in case I chickened out. I also happened to be on my cycle at the time, and my emotions were a little out of whack…I wanted that security to be there and available in case I arrived at the venue and decided that a bare belly wasn’t going to happen.
It didn’t come out of my suitcase.
I’m extremely proud to say that I performed for the first time in 6 years with a bare belly. No one commented about my scars. No one commented about my weight. I had people throwing money at the tip chest, and at me as I danced, which has never happened before. (all of the tips went to the charity, by the way.) People enjoyed my dancing.
More importantly, I enjoyed myself. While I was up there, I had no second thoughts. I had no thoughts of “Can they see my scars?” “Do I look bad?” No, the only thing on my mind was how much fun I was having…and trying to remember Ashtelea’s choreography.
(Forgive the blurry images, sometimes dancing and snapping photos don’t mix.)
I feel liberated. I feel free. Who would have thought that leaving behind one extremely uncomfortable accessory would be this big of a deal…but if you look at the photos, the scars aren’t visible from the stage. I don’t look that big. I actually feel like I look fairly beautiful. (A big deal for me to say that…those of you who read regularly know that I struggle with self image and confidence)
This dance style is one that should be empowering for all who perform it. I’m proud to say that I’ve finally taken a step toward empowering myself as a woman who has been through a lot, and as a dancer.
I’m grateful for the support of my friend, and of my husband. Without the two of them, I’d have donned that body stocking, and continued to feel bad about myself.
That’s not to say that I won’t struggle. I’m also not saying I’ll never wear a body stocking again. Sometimes, they are appropriate. But at least now, I feel as though I have the freedom and confidence to choose.
**Side note: The benefit raised $600 for the charity that night, with all of the different performers and raffles. I’m proud to have been a part of it!!