Just beneath the surface of normal

There’s a Tribe For Everyone

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Last Friday night, for the fourth week in a row, Corinne and I went to belly dance class. It’s not for performance, and it’s definitely not pretty; it’s just a group of women who wanted to learn to dance and enjoy fitness when it’s getting together and trying to make their bodies follow directions for 90 minutes a week. Mostly it’s fine, because there are no mirrors so we don’t have to look at ourselves, thus never knowing whether we actually manage to look graceful or like robots trying to move around on a single wheel. It’s probably for the best.

Me belly dancing. Only with a lot more belly and a whole lot less balance.

But sometimes you just know that you look absurd. There’s no question, because your body knows the movements from elsewhere.

Take, for example, doing hip circles while walking. Hip circles by themselves are fine; I know how to hula hoop and it’s a pretty comfortable motion. Walking I’ve been doing for the better part of forty years, though admittedly there are days when I forget how, or else some days the floor becomes particularly aggressive. Together? I recognized the move immediately:

Me bellydancing

Hip circles + walking + arms up = zombie. Look, he even has those graceful belly dance arms down better than I do.
(credit: Shambling Zombie by Jim Pavelec)

Like most things that cross my mind randomly, I said it out loud, and within minutes we were planning a troupe dance with full undead costume. Nobody else in the room is particularly enamored with the zombie craze either (personally I agree with Chomsky), but you have to admit: dressing like zombies in coin belts makes all the newbie woodenness look totally intentional.

You know you’re with the right group when instead of rolling their eyes and wishing you’d shut the hell up, your classmates up the ante and suggest a public display of this absurdity. Is it any wonder I look forward to Fridays so much?

[I swear this is not a non-sequitur] So there’s this thing I’ve noticed with middle-school aged kids: when they do something unexpected and funny and you laugh, they will proceed to try to do it again and again, looking for the same response they got the first (and maybe the second) time. After awhile it just gets annoying and you sort of wrestle with whether or not to shatter their fragile self-esteem by explaining that once is funny, but ninety times is seriously fucking annoying. This is me. I never entirely grew out of it. If I can get one laugh, I can certainly get more. I don’t usually grasp the concept of quitting while I’m ahead — at least not in time.

Which is how I found myself talking about vibrators in belly dance class.

I swear, it was totally germane to the conversation. See, one of the women has a boyfriend who is a massage therapist, which of course inspired envy in everyone else in the room, especially the one whose husband can’t figure out where to rub even if she’s pointing directly at it.

Which led ME to say, “which makes you the only person on the planet who uses the Hitachi Magic Wand for its intended purpose.”

See? Totally relevant.

But then I imagined being the teacher and dealing with someone who has to say something silly every two minutes, and giggles whenever she makes a mistake (by which I mean both me and our teacher) and I think that I would drive me up a fucking wall. Which, in truth, I often do. And the rest of the class was spent with me wondering why I ever open my big mouth at all, and whether Corinne was embarrassed (hard to tell standing behind her), and focusing on trying not to be intrusive for the rest of class.

After class, I approached our teacher and just straight up told her: “Look, if I talk too much or joke too much or am in any way obnoxious? Please just say so. I don’t want to disrupt the class. Sometimes these things just pop into my head and slip out before I can think about it. But my self-censor does take requests.”

Luckily she’s got a good sense of humor and insisted that she appreciates my little remarks because they make class fun. Corinne likewise swears she wasn’t embarrassed, which pretty much makes her the only almost-seventeen-year-old in the universe who isn’t embarrassed by her mother.

Uncensored weirdness AND complete acceptance. Am I lucky or what?

My tribe

There are no photos of my own not-really-a-troupe, but I found this online because evidently zombie belly dance isn’t an original idea. Which actually says a lot about how awesome the world is and probably gets me off the hook for actually having to create a costume or something. Point is: as alone as you may feel, there is always someone out there as awesomely odd as you in exactly the same way. Usually more than one. (photo credit:


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