A Little Bleach and a Lot of Perspective

Hair transformation

After a decade as a redhead, I made the decision about, oh, a few hours before my scheduled hair appointment a few nights ago to go blond—very blond. And the way I’ve been explaining the change the past few days has been, “Uh, what’s the fun of being a girl if you can’t change your appearance drastically at the drop of a hat? Life’s too short to stick to one color. The blond is fun, right?”

But I’ve started to realize that my change in hair color goes a bit deeper than that. It’s indicative of an inward change, too.

I’ll put it right out there. 2013 was a rough year—medically, financially, emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, there were high points and I’m very aware that I live a charmed life, but on New Year’s Eve, I was far from nostalgic. I was ready for a new year, a fresh start, to move forward.

According to Chinese culture, this year is the Year of the Horse, and that seems pretty fitting for where I’m at personally. Horses are wild and have to be tamed or broken to play nice with humans (Do you see the metaphor with 2013 here? I do. I definitely felt a little tamed and broken last year.) But horses are also smart, emotional creatures who can still let go and run. I feel like that’s 2014 for me. I’m learning how to run again. And in order to do that, there’s a lot of change a-brewin’. Good change, change that I am stupidly happy is taking place.

I’ve accepted my breakup with dance. I will always love to move, but I’m finally respecting the constraints of my body. I had to stop abusing it, breaking it down, justifying something I knew was unhealthy.

I’m learning how to accept the changes in my body composition. I’ve lost muscle. I’ve gained some weight. It’s a challenge, but I’m learning to accept it. I’m still beautiful; I’m just not a professional athlete anymore. With retirement comes a new body—and it’s mine. And it’s glorious. Just in a different way.

I’m stupidly in love. And that doesn’t need any further explanation!

I’m relocating. I’m getting really serious about moving. My house is a shell at the moment—very little furniture, lots of packing tape, lots of boxes. It’s time for me to go where I feel at home—Central Phoenix.

I’m starting to pray regularly. And it’s been a real long time since I’ve done any of that. I’m still navigating my connection to faith, but there’s something there.

I’m investing my time and energies into new projects. I have to pinch myself sometimes, because I’m in a band, which is something I’ve always dreamed of. And not just any band, but a band that’s going places. I have so much more confidence in my voice and my craft. I’m surrounded by the most amazing people in this endeavor and it enriches my life in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. I’m also leading a women’s group for my church, which has been such a cool experience. I’m exercising my leadership skills. I’m creating connections. I’m building sisterhoods. And I’m making a difference. My feminist self is pretty satiated.

I’m kicking ass at my job—and it’s not that I didn’t before, but I more and more competent in my position each day. I’m starting to feel confident not only as a communicator but as a consultant, which I never pictured for myself. My writing has improved tenfold. My intra-personal skills are pretty polished. The end of this month marks six years at my current company and I will happily celebrate that date when it rolls around.

I have a personal goal to get published at least twice this year. I don’t need more than that, although it would be very welcome. But I know that I’m good enough. I’m ready to really put myself out there as a writer. Rejection letters? Bring it. Won’t stop me. My writing just needs to find a good home out there.

Change. Change. Change. New perspective. New goals. New me.

So, for me, the hair color change isn’t just aesthetic; it’s a reflection of me feeling like I’m going through a pretty life-altering transition. Blond just felt right. Maybe it’s blond ambition. Maybe it’s me seeing if blonds really do have more fun. Maybe it’s a tinge of a quarter life crisis (hey, at least it’s hair and not a Porsche!).

Regardless, I’m ready. Blond hair and all.

PS – Lydia at Salon D’Shayn Phoenix performed the miraculous hair transformation in the picture at the top of this post. She’s the shit. Call her today.

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Confessions of an “Adult” Dance Class Instructor

me

It was over iced coffee with a pastor that I came to the true realization of why I love teaching “adult” dance classes so much. Yes, that’s right, I had this epiphany while discussing my spiritual journey with a man of God. Let’s just say that I have an incredibly progressive pastor and go to an incredibly progressive church, which works out well since I have a rather progressive mind and outlook on things.

I explained to him during our conversation that one thing that always made me nervous about going to church or talking to truly devout people is the fact that I used to lead a double life – and sometimes, I still do. I was a burlesque entertainer for a few years with a local dance company called Scandalesque. There are pictures of me scantily clad on the good old interwebs covered in feathers and sequins and fishnet stockings and merkins and pasties. I’ve done some implied nude modeling for a friend’s line of couture scarves inspired by desert landscapes (and it was tasteful and gorgeous!). I’ve taught dance classes that have helped women tap into their innate sexuality. Currently, I teach pole dancing at Purple Rain Pole Fitness in booty shorts and hooker heels.

I love me some feather fans! Photo by Michael McNamara of the Arizona Republic.

I love me some feather fans! Photo by Michael McNamara of the Arizona Republic.

And I won’t apologize for any of it. I don’t think any of it is wrong or that anyone can chastise me for the work that I do. And I don’t think I’m any less holy or deserving of spirituality because of it.

And that’s because is goes so much deeper than a hip roll or a bustier. I don’t teach because I like sex. I don’t teach solely to be provocative – although it is a perk! What can I say? I do love the attention.

I teach “adult” dance classes because women need body consciousness and confidence. Women need a place where sexuality is okay and they can explore it without compromising their safety. Women need a place where they can be strong and beautiful and not have to answer to anyone but themselves. Women need a place where they can learn and be encouraged by other women.

I know this, because a few years ago, I was the woman who needed all of these things.

My last serious relationship was not a positive one. I won’t get into the details, but the breakup (which spanned over a six-month period) left me emotionally exhausted, completely insecure, and a little unhinged. It was bad. Really bad.

Enter Scandalesque and an opportunity that scared the shit out of me – the opportunity to become a burlesque entertainer. I went for it, because I needed something in my life that made me feel something other than insecurity. And so I tried on an alter ego and fell in love with her. I tapped back into my body and found a new way to move. I learned the art of the tease. I realized that with the roll of a shoulder, I could command the attention of a room. I found out I was a decent costume maker. I got back on the mic and started singing publicly.

Most importantly, I found a part of me I thought I’d lost. I found that vibrant, sexy, beautiful girl who could take over the world on a Saturday afternoon if she wanted to.

Gams! Photo by Joe Abbruscato of Mr. Anathema Photography. All rights reserved.

Gams! Photo by Joe Abbruscato of Mr. Anathema Photography. All rights reserved.

I healed, because I remembered my worth. And my worth wasn’t found in merkins or studded bras or corsets. It was found in the way I could take the stage, the way I could make eye contact with someone and smile genuinely during performance, the confidence that every single curve of my body was put there for a reason. (Seriously, if you ever really want to tackle body image issues, start performing in front of people virtually naked. Problem solved.)

I began to realize that my alter ego was simply an extension of myself. And thank God I did. Because I couldn’t be the girl I am today without her. And I think I’m pretty fabulous.

So, when I teach dance classes, I’m trying to pass the torch. I’m trying to create a sacred space for women in which they can recognize and celebrate how damn beautiful they are. In all actuality, it’s a public service. If a woman stands up a little straighter, smiles a little brighter, feels a little more confident in that new dress, I’ve done my job. Because that woman might apply for a better job because she has some newfound confidence – or her relationship with her husband might be enriched because she finally feels comfortable in her own skin – or she may find the artist within herself and feel more personally fulfilled.

And I’ve seen it happen. I’ve had women who’ve come up to me and thanked me for things that are so much bigger than a dance class. And I’m happy and proud that I helped them get there.

That’s why I teach “adult” dance classes. I want to empower women. I want to inspire others. I want to positively affect lives.

And my pastor and my church and God understand that.