I had my second bellydancing class last night. It wasn't nearly so mortifying this time around. I was forward-thinking and chose a spot somewhere near the middle of room, which not only gave me a better view of the instructor but also kept me from cavorting with the cupboards like I did last week. I also stood at the back, which gave me a good view of what everyone's butts looked like while they were doing the shimmy. It was quite comforting on a shallow, body-justifying level. I could look around and take note that one girl's bum did this wide swish-swishing and that another lady's only waggled a little at the bottom.

It's not that I am insecure about what I look like in bellydancing class. If you saw what the majority of the women in my class looked like when they were trying to do figure eights with their hips, you would boldly jump in, because there is a lot of room for personal interpretation of what constitutes a figure eight. I am definitely not saying that my interpretation is queen or anything, because mine is only a simple variation of the stripper dance I would practice as a child.

What's great about the class is that it is one of the few places where I am not insecure about myself physically. Some girls have the long torsos that make the upper isolations (rotating your body on top of stationary hips) look smooth, some girls have the more prominent hips that make the figure eights and hip rolls dramatic, some have that naturally graceful way of moving and others punctuate their movements, insinuating a piquant flair. It is fascinating to see what people feel more and less comfortable with which movement, who is more technical and who can't help but toss in creative flair, who can and cannot rotate their hips separately from the rest of their bodies.

Until recently, I have not spent a lot of time around other women, and for the most part, I haven't minded it so much, but the lack of female companionship does mean that I have not had a lot of time for extrospection, It helps me to gain a clearer personal perspective when I see all shapes and sizes of bodies engaged in the same exercise, moving with the uncoordinated clumsiness of babies learning their fine motor skills.

Until recently, I haven't had a lot of women in my life, and so I haven't had the proper female extrospection. That is part of the reason that I have never been able to see myself properly. I have not had much in the way of intimate friendships with women, and I have been unable to see myself as a part of the human gender subgrouping of females. It has probably been since grade ten phys. ed. classes that I have spent any physical body time around a diverse group of women. I think I like it.

At the risk of sounding corny and abusive of the much maligned simile, I felt a little like a puzzle piece fitting comfortably into place. Instead of being my usual self when it comes to my body and wishing it away, for a short moment it was as though we all shared parts. C's long legs, the tiny girl's thick dark hair, S's hips, the middle-aged lady's graceful arms, my pretty hands, K's nose that crinkles so perfectly when she grins. All in all, we were a pretty good unit of strangers, if I do say so myself. Although, how we managed to keep bellydancing with our amalgamated multitudinous limbs, thirty odd eyeballs, and hips enough for my high school girls dorm, I have no idea.

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"Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing" by Margaret Atwood

Less Talking, More Isolation