Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Party Monsters

I firmly believe that at the root of many of the more complex interpersonal issues that I have experienced (and many of our personality quirks) with both men and women, is insecurity. Insecurity manifests itself in so many ways: coldly ignoring someone for a minor perceived slight, dependence on someone for reassurance all the time, constantly criticizing everyone else, fighting with a significant other because of jealousy.

I started thinking about this the other day. On Saturdays, at my dance studio, I typically teach anywhere from 3-4 bachelorette and birthday parties for women. It’s an interesting little cross section of women in general; put a bunch of women in a strange situation, with “stripper poles” (I prefer the term “dance poles” myself), and try to get them to act sexy and it’s like some kind of instant insecurity amplifier. I believe that your truest self comes out under duress and there is nothing like a possibly very uncomfortable situation to show your real colors.

Now keep in mind that in a typical group of friends, there is a wide range of physical ability, and this is no exception; there are always some women who are much more fit and able than others. Other archetypes that seem to pop up in every group are: the shy one who just wants to stand in the corner and watch, the one who’s idea it was in the first place (and this is usually the person who is most excited to be there and wearing the smallest shorts), and the one who was dragged in and doesn’t really think this is such a good idea.

And then there is the woman who is beautiful, thin, and has no idea how to use her raw female power. I see so many women who have no idea how to move their hips in a circle, let alone run their hand through their hair or down their body sensually. It’s as though their beauty has been placed in a crystal box, and they’ve never opened it, content to just look and how pretty it is through the glass. They are always supremely aware of their awkwardness, and the expression on their face is that of a deer in headlights. You want me to do what?

I love, love, love the joyous woman. The one who is a consumer of all things delicious in her life: usually she has hips, and curves, and after just a little coaxing she is pushing them out and walking with her hand sassily perched on her hip. She laughs, pokes fun at herself, has come to peace with herself and knows that her body is just the dressing, the sauce, to the beauty, however flawed, that is inside of her. I look forward to having these women in class. They are the most enjoyable, the most gracious.

There is the type A overachiever. Usually she does yoga, or has dance experience. Often her friends joke with her, subtly putting her under pressure to be the "best". She is competitive with herself, and the disappointment and frustration rolls off her in waves if she can't get things quite right. Usually she set up the party, and will sign up for additional classes after.  My heart aches for this woman. I want to tell her to relax and have fun, that there is plenty of time to get everything perfect. But I don't.

And then. I don’t know why this is, but in every group of white women-- and only white women-- there is always one woman who does the moves alongside me obligingly, but at some point, when she starts realizing how uncomfortable she is, she starts making a joke of it. Mocking movements, over exaggerating a hip thrust, distracting the rest of the group into laughing. She changes the tone of the class at some point. When this woman is present, she takes all the sexuality out of it, takes her own discomfort and expresses it negatively, turns it on the activity and makes fun of the dancing, reminding everyone else in the room that they should be uncomfortable as well. Making them feel foolish for trying any harder than she is. I have come to dread the appearance of this woman, who usually body-snatches someone about halfway through the warmup and transforms the group into a party that I honestly would rather not teach.

I’m pretty sure that if you take that woman, that Chelsea Handler-esque woman, and get her at a coffee shop on any typical day, and talk to her about her life, she is a funny, sharp, engaging, and interesting person. I realize that it's really negative to say that a person can be summarized by their faults, or the worst aspects of their personality. And I have been working harder at seeing the good in everyone. But when you take someone outside of their comfort zone, you see so much of the dark underbelly of their personality. You see the person that they are when they are at their worst. And unfortunately, sometimes that is all that you see. It reminds me, no matter how stressed or uneasy I may be in a situation or on a particular day, to try a little bit harder to be genuine. To not put up walls around myself. To try not to let my own insecurity manifest in a way that might affect someone else.


  1. I LOVE this post. The observations and insight, the gentleness and sharpness of these moments...amazingly brought to life. your presence in these women's life (despite initial resistance) no doubt sinks deeper than you get to see once they've left the room!

  2. ditto lauren!! and look at how you are always always learning about others, about yourself. all you need to do it keep your eyes open.

  3. OOHHHHH the woman who jokes around and is uncomfortable... had a party like that.. Almost all of them were like that. I tried hard to play it off laugh and just teach. One by one they sat down and I was left with 2/10 girls who were happy to be there but sad that their friends had ditched them. I left feeling so drained!

  4. i find that even if ive done or been taught a 'trick' a gazillion times... i ALWAYS attentively listen and actively observe how its done each and every time like its the first time ive heard it or my first attempt at trying it.

    i can never get enough of 'how to's' even though i know it like the back of my hand... i guess im always thinking that i mightve missed a minute detail... and this also applies everywhere else now that i think about it :)

    sorry.... so random, but this popped up in my head when i reread your post.

  5. I've just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.