Category Archives: body image

Sleep Dep, Two Shows, and Drunken Excess

…Or, well. If you can call getting tipsy enough on two beers that you feel that driving is perhaps unwise “drunken excess.”

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The cast of “Only Weeds Will Rise In Winter.” Photo credit forthcoming, because I’m not sure which of the various photogs took this one! You guys, I am really not sorry to be done wearing that unitard.

Weeds went pretty well. I felt very solid about the first show, even with a series of last-minute notes. During the second show, the fact that I’d only slept for four hours (for reasons having nothing to do with the show) caught up with me, and I felt mentally somewhat glitchy, though evidently I did a solid job not telegraphing my glitches, including the one very near the end during which I rolled over and completely blanked out not only on what the next move was, but which part of the dance in question we were even on o___o’

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If you look this tired WITH stage makeup, congratulations, you’re really tired.

I was onstage for basically a solid hour and a half[1] for both shows, with only brief breaks, and didn’t really rehydrate adequately after the second show. End result, when we headed down to the nearby gastrobrewpub for a post-show libation, I downed my first beer too fast (I failed to realize that this is one of the places where you have to ask for water), and subsequently found myself remarkably woobly after only two beers. Oops.

  1. The show ran about 1 hour, 10 minutes, but I was the opening act. Basically, from the time the doors opened until the start of the show, I was sorting cans and building a can tower (see photo above).
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An accidental, but nonetheless appropriate, representation of my approximate degree of non-sobriety after last night’s celebratory beers.

Needless to say, I asked Denis to drive me home, which was interesting since we’d arrived in separate vehicles and I had to drunkenly transfer all the things so my car could sit on a corner downtown overnight without looking like too tempting a target (I mean … if a Subaru that’s old enough to be a rising sophomore at university is ever all that tempting a target?).

Anyway, I did my penance in class this morning. I’ve really, really missed my usual ballet routine, so it was good to be back in the studio.

For the most part I felt reasonably good about class today. I was somewhat less coordinated than usual … Like, we did an exercise that was nothing but chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chassée-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-tombé-pas de bourrée-tendu, repeat left, repeat right, repeat left in which I could not for the life of me convince both legs to plié and chassée at the same time.

Likewise, my extensions were meh. Not bad, just passable by professional standards. Which, I guess, should tell me that I’ve made a heck of a lot of progress in the past couple of years, because honestly, “passable by professional standards” is still pretty good. But they lacked a certain je ne sais quois. My arabesque in particular was, erm, workmanlike, but nothing more … to be honest, I don’t think I would even have counted it as “passable” until we made it to centre.

On the other hand, there were some good moments in the petit/medium allegro (be still my heart) in which Killer B and I got into the spirit of things and executed these lovely bounding passes with assemblés battus. We jump well together … at least, we do when I’m not a shambling mess of legs, confusion, and despair.

The long and short of it is that I thought, overall, that I looked pretty good today. Some of this, of course, might have to do with the fact that I set the bar pretty low this morning (as opposed the barre—we were a small class in the big studio downtown, so we just used the one fixed to the wall). But I think even my standard for bad days has improved immensely over the past year: even when I’m a terrible dancer, I’m a much better terrible dancer than I used to be.

Likewise, I managed somehow to have a Good Body Image day. Or at least a Good Body Image morning … I mean, the day’s not over yet. My reflection looked like a strong, graceful, compact dancer, rather than a shetland pony with delusions of grandeur.

brown and black pony eating grasses

It NOT me … this time. (Photo by Megan Clark on Pexels.com)

I’m not entirely sure how or why this happened, but I’ll take it.

Anyway, tonight CL is opening for Kentucky Shakespeare. I’ll be doing a ball solo (NOT THAT KIND OF BALL SOLO GET YOUR MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER). Still haven’t decided what I’m wearing or which shoes I want (character shoes? ballet shoes? probably ballet shoes), but it should be fun, and will be a nice way to either close out this week or start next week, depending on how you look at it. I tend to regard Sunday as the first day of the week for scheduling purposes, but because I had a show last night and rehearsals all week, it just really feels like the end of a week that was about ten days long 😛

So that’s it for now. More soon, one hopes.

Pas De Probleme

Si vous parlez français, mes chers lecteurs, and/or if you speak Ballet, you know that “pas de problème” can mean either “no problem” or “problem step.” It’s one of of those puns that never gets old, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, class this morning began as an ongoing pas de problème in the latter sense, since I was still semi-disoriented (I probably should have skipped the sleeping pill last night) and oddly stiff.

Eventually, my body decided to bring itself online, although my brain lagged behind and kept asking stupid questions like, “Are you sure this Sissone travels right?!”

(Yes, Brain. It begins left foot back and travels sideways. Which way do you think it’s going to go? I mean, it could be a Sissone under … BUT IT’S NOT.)

Regardless, it wound up being a semi-acceptable class, which was good, because it was packed and a significant portion of the company came today. I wasn’t at my best—my body never quite finished organizing itself—but I wasn’t at my worst, either.

I’m debating whether HRT means I should actually devote some time to intentionally stretching on the daily. I’ve felt tighter the past week or so than I’m used to feeling, but I’ve also just returned to serious aerial training and done some serious sitting down in the car (we drove to Saint Louis again, this time for a fantastic dance festival).

I suppose it couldn’t hurt to be more intentional about mobility, anyway—especially going forward, with more partnering and so forth on the agenda.

After the Jessica Lang show, D mentioned to me that he thinks I should start strength training with an athletic or personal trainer who understands dance precisely for the purpose of partnering—especially lifting other guys. He rarely makes suggestions about how I should approach my life as a dancer, but when he does he’s usually right, so I’m contemplating how to move forward in that regard. Señor BeastMode is an obvious choice, if he has time in his completely crazy schedule to take on a client right now.

On a broader level, I’m experience the weird cognitive landscape specific to once again having to acclimate my mind to changes in my body. Obviously, I’m trying to work to avoid hypertrophy as much as possible, since I don’t need to be bigger, but at the same time the influence of hormone therapy is changing the overall shape of my body.

Sometimes I’m okay with that, sometimes I’m not. I’m trying to really internalize the idea that it’s okay to be someone who is a dancer, a bottom, and also rather athletically built.

Obviously, this is a refinement of my ongoing body-image weirdness … but it’s such an oddly-specific refinement, I guess. The dancers in Jessica Lang’s company (Jessica Lang Danceou JLD) made me feel a little less alien, since there are several guys in JLD who are small, rather pretty, and built like the proverbial brick …. houuussse (da-na-naaa-na … they’re mighty, mighty).


I felt that this occasion called for some Commodores. You’re welcome.

Given that JLD’s choreography skews strongly towards ballet (albeit contemporary ballet[1]), and that ballet is my preferred idiom, it was nice to see boys whose bodies resemble mine (only better trained, I am forced to admit) working in a major professional company.

  1. …Which is fine, because it turns out that I lurve contemporary ballet.

I realize that, as far as work is concerned, this continues to amount to First World Ballet Problems. Several people who know me have pointed out that my body is not out of line with the standard for male ballet dancers; I’m on the small end and rather powerfully built, but not to such a degree that you don’t see similar guys in ballet in general. Mine is, K suggests, a Bolshoi body rather than a Balanchine body. I’m down with that. I like the Bolshoi better anyway 😉

On a different level, though, the way my body has changed, is changing, is forcing me to redefine my understanding of myself in accordance with my sexuality. I’m not a waifish little twink anymore, but evidently the kind of guys I find interesting (including my husband) are not interested only in waifish little twinks.

I don’t write a great deal about my sexuality, in part because this blog is really more or less about dancing at this point, and in part because my difficulties with it are sort of, like, Queer 452 difficulties instead of Queer 101 difficulties. This may not be true for any of you who read this on the regular or who are reading it right at this very moment, but I suspect that a lot of people who are less familiar with queer issues might not quite grok the source of my internal conflict (well, a significant portion of men might not: female aerialists, who sometimes wrestle with essentially the same problem of the disconnect between their outer Aerial Beast and their inner Dainty Girl, are likely to get it in one, so to speak).

At the same time, I get that it’s aggressively First World Problems-y to be like, “O, woe is me, I have grown up to be this ripped little mesomorph instead of a dainty little ectomorph.” Like, yeah, I get that there are bigger, more problematic problems by far.

And yet, we live with what we live with.

I should note that this isn’t a question of consciously hanging on to some kind of ideal that I know isn’t going to work with me. It’s a question of some really outdated conditioning disrupting what might otherwise be a very natural process of being like, “Oh, okay, this is where my body is going, and this is the stuff I like to do with my body, here’s where I fit. Cool.”

I feel like ultimately it will take a while and a kind of re-conditioning … maybe even some very conscious de-conditioning. That’s going to be a challenge, since the source of the conditioning in question remains my life’s most significant trauma and one that I’m still working to address.

Either way, I should stipulate that I’m grateful for my body and what I can do with it.

I should also stipulate that I’m encountering some of the typical, boring adolescent problems: acne and, um, errr, ahh, wow, there are an awful lot of very freaking hot guys in the world, did you know that? (Actually, just, like, hot people in general.) Seriously. HOW DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY LEARN ANYTHING IN SCHOOL between the ages of 13 and 18, or what have you???? Thank goodness ballet requires so much focus it’s like wearing blinkers (except sometimes, between exercises, when you’re standing there watching and your brain drifts off and is like DAMN HE LOOK GOOD, WHERE YOU GET THOSE CUTE TIGHTS BOY, oh crap was that piqué-piqué-rond or what?).

I’m not sure how to address the latter problem, and today I was really disappointed when I went to the ONLY STORE IN TOWN that reliably stocks Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Mask, which is what I use to address the former problem (acne), and discovered that they were fresh out. I got some other mask that is reasonably acceptable, but it turns out that Amazon carries Queen Helene, and it comes in a tub. The tube version is fine, but a little hard to manage one-handed when you’re languishing in the bath with a good book, so since the price is right and so forth I think I’m just going to order it from Amazon from now on.

On the upside of the whole acne thing, my skin has decided to be way oilier than it used to be, and not to be as ridiculously dry as it has been for basically my entire life. That is a welcome change, to say the least.

Some Days, You Like What You See

Yesterday, I crammed in two acceptable ballet classes and a fantastic acro workshop with a guy who’s here with Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo.

We expected partner acro, but it turned out to be basically floor exercise. As it turns out, a lot of my floor exercise repertoire is still very much intact. I got as far as back handsprings before I had to jet off to ballet. Aleks seemed pleasantly surprised (even impressed) with my technique and power, so I left his workshop floating on a cloud of happy.

I was, in fact, as happy as my cat in an empty bathtub. Also rather better at floor exercise.

Perhaps that’s why I spent today feeling pretty decent about myself. I’m occasionally floored by the capability of my body—simultaneously like, “Wow, cool!” and like, terribly grateful at my body will apparently do almost anything I ask of it.

Either way, during modern class I found myself staring into the mirror and kinda liking what I saw. I was wearing a racerback tank that makes me look as much like a gymnast as I do a dancer (and leaves acres of skin exposed to stick to the floor in modern class). For a few minutes what I saw was a broad-shouldered, graceful boy; strong and lean and vital; gleaming with a light sheen of healthy sweat. I saw an athlete; a rather magnificent animal, close-coupled and powerful. I saw, I suppose, what men sometimes see and admire in me. I was reminded of the time that I asked Denis what he saw in my calves, which he all but fetishizes though I have almost always disliked them, and he said one word: “Power.”

Last night, when I was feeling uncertain about doing round-off front handspring on our rather short mat, Aleks said to me, “You can do this. You have power.” It was exactly what I needed to hear: I gave the sequence more vertical punch and less horizontal travel, and there it was, just like when I was ten or thirteen or sixteen.

G-d alone knows what I’ll see when I’m staring down the barrel of the barre tomorrow morning. But it was refreshing to see what I saw tonight.

In related news, I evidently failed to inform my cirque company that I tumble, and they teased me (pleasantly) about that throughout the whole workshop. They were also impressed with how clean, graceful, and powerful my tumbling skills are. Needless to say I’ll likely be using those in upcoming cirque shows 😛

I continue to be terribly grateful that I can still do all this stuff.

Sometimes my body, like all bodies, is a giant jerk—but more often of late it seems like an old friend who’s just been waiting for me to drop by; one who has kept all my favorite games and can remember all the places I like to run and bike and walk. When I dust off a physical skill that I haven’t tried in years, it’s always with a sense of homecoming mingled with a sweet relief.

But looking at myself tonight was something else: the experience of having seen, bit by bit, a thing I somehow missed for many years, and then suddenly seeing it whole for just a moment.

Also, I’d rather forgotten how good it feels to launch yourself into a dead sprint, punch down into the center of the earth, and soar. (I mean, I that in ballet, too, but it’s in a different way.)

It’s good to have that back.

Choreography

We got the first 30 or 40 seconds of our dance last night.

I like it—it’s completely different in feel from last year’s, very Tango-influenced, rather than neoclassical. Both TS and I are videoing everything from different vantage points, so I was able to see that I dumped my shoulders and core on this wee en dedans turn with the working foot just brushing the ground. It’ll be better next week!

On the whole, though, rehearsal was good. There are 13 of us thus far, and I’m still the Onliest Boy.

I also had a good night in class. Beginner 1 is right before rehearsal, so we arrive in masse and take B1, which means some of us might be a wee bit intimidating to some of the B1 regulars. Still, I enjoy B1, because I don’t have to think about any of the steps at all ever, so I can concentrate on dancing beautifully instead.

Today I hooked up with my friend CP, who is a photographer, to get some headshots and dance photos done. We shot outside, which was interesting: the temperature was okay, but the ground was damp, uneven in places, and (of course) hard, so adjusting was challenging at times.

I got to see the on-camera previews of a few shots (CP shoots on a DSLR), and some were really cool.

One of my favorites, though, is a mostly-beautiful pas de chat Italien with ridiculously effort face. It’s hilarious and honestly pretty cute. (In related news, TIL that executing pas de chats from a standstill often evokes effort face!)
I’m looking forward to seeing the finished pix. They should be pretty cool.

I also snagged a few pix to update my Topless Boys Live! series (even though I don’t go back to Modern ’til next week).

So, here:

This looks like something you’d see on Grindr … Hmm

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Please try not look at my kitchen, which lies in ruin.

As you can see, the scars are quite a bit paler now.

More grindr fodder, if I was on grindr, which I’m not.

So, there you have it.

I’m at that phase, fitness-wise, in which one says to non-dancers, “I’m still pretty out of shape right now,” and they give you this look:
-______-

But dancers will understand, probably.

Stupid Brain Chemistry

We’re back in class this week. I’m three classes in and hating, hating, hating everything about myself (except for the fact that I’m no longer dancing with moobs) in class and out.

I recognize that it’s deeply irrational, but that doesn’t seem to make me stop hating myself.

Maybe it’s time to break out the Stare-Into-The-Sun therapy lamp. Maybe it’s time to accept that it’s winter and this always happens to me in the winter.

I’ve found myself on a kind of unintentional and intermittent social media fast, and I think that’s okay. None of my social media streams are terribly stressful, I’m just running on zero alone time, since D is home recuperating from rotator cuff surgery.

Regardless, this is where the ritual of class means the most. I get up; I go to class; I put my hand to the barre and don’t look back (looking back at barre is a good way to fall over and need your own rotators cuffed).

On the upside, I finally installed the heated mattress pad, which probably wasn’t invented to coddle winter-weary dancers but does a reasonable job of it nonetheless.

Next month I’ve got an endocrinology appointment. I’m going to give hormone replacement therapy a try, since my tanking endogenous sex hormone levels are almost certainly not helping. Also going to get my thyroid levels checked, since hypothyroidism runs in both sides of my family and can contribute to depression (and feeling cold and tired all the time).

Even in the midst of this, I’m forced to admit that my petit allegro is improving. When I relax into it, it no longer feels (or looks) like a bunch of ham-fisted hopping.

I keep saying I need to get serious about conditioning, but thus far I haven’t. I’m as afraid of training the wrong things as I am of being unfit. It’s a legacy of childhood gymnastics training—the idea that we must never, never so much as glance at the gym unless a qualified trainer was present to help us not feck up our bodies has lingered long past its expiry date.

BG is a personal trainer in his spare time, so I might do a few sessions with him to get a sense of what I can do without overdeveloping my quads (among other things).

So that’s it. No advanced class today; it’s open house, though, so I’m taking 1:00 class, which is free (though we now have an unlimited tuition plan that has halved my monthly ballet expenses).

Edit: PS—Killer Class is back to being nominally intermediate. It’s still Killer Class.

Back In The Trap

Went back to Trap 3 last night.

I almost didn’t go, then realized that the real reason for not going is that I didn’t want to know how much ground I’d lost.

As long as I keep thinking about it that way, I’ll only keep losing more ground.

It was just me (Trap 3 is a tiny group even when we’re all there), so BK and I focused on conditioning. Evidently, single-whatever hangs are a forté of mine: I did single-arm hangs, both sides, and they looked hella solid. I didn’t even know I could do them at all. I’m forced to admit that I actually look pretty ridiculously sexy hanging from a trapeze by one arm. WTF even is that?

Later, we worked a shin slide-down. It’s hard to explain what this is, but I’ll try: you get yourself into a hip hang/forward fold, then take hold of the bar from below, engage the hell out of all the things, and then—without bending your arms—slide your legs over the bar and then down the forward surface of the bar and eventually under it. I’m assuming that, given sufficient strength and skill, you can eventually shin-slide all the way back around into a planche.

Anyway, the first time, I let my arms bend. BK asked me to do it again without allowing the bend or dropping out of it and said, “I think you’re strong enough.”

I realized in that moment that she was right: indirectly, she was saying I hadn’t really given it 100% effort. She was correct. I hadn’t done so because I was afraid. I had to ask myself what I was afraid of: falling?

No. (For one thing, I forget to be afraid of that.)

Failure?

Yes[1].

  1. I had this same experience as a kid, when I had to get back to training on high bar after a break and convinced myself, ridiculously, that I couldn’t kip up. Ditto learning layouts, which got me called out in front of the entire gym: “Come on, you’ve got to those long legs, you can do this!”

It felt weird and a little scary to admit that out loud, but I did. BK has that effect on me. She’s a dynamo and a stunning performer, but also a good listener.

I’ve realized that the best listeners help you hear the things you don’t know you’re saying (regarding which: had a long chat with a friend yesterday that had that same effect—if you’re reading this, you probably know who you are, so thanks <3).

Anyway, I redid my shin slide-down and it was better. I’m stronger than I think I am (as every trapeze instructor ever has told me).

So I guess I’ll be working on this fear-of-failure thing. It is, I realize, the same thing that prevents me from nailing down a reliable double tour; same thing that makes me fail to commit to my turns sometimes, which makes the difference between a single and a quad.

Curiously, fear of failure begets failure. So I should really get back to joyfully fumbling forward, dancing for the sake of the dance, like I was doing before the stakes felt so high.

~

One other thing. I keep thinking I’m getting used to my body, and then discovering that, no, I’m dead wrong.

I’m drifting back towards being what I think of as “stage fit”—the way my body is when I’m in regular training—which means,basically, that I’m losing fat pretty quickly. I looked at myself while I was preparing for long-arm beats yesterday and my brain did the thing where it automatically flips through its internal camera roll and slotted the body I was looking at in the amongst male gymnasts[2,3]. That felt weird. Not bad, just surprising—and surprising in part because it wasn’t bad.

  1. Specifically, the more-slender phenotype. Floor exercise boys, mostly, which should really be no surprise as I was a floor-exercise fiend.
  2. The mental camera roll, I have discovered, also plays a role in the pleasure of navigation, especially over long distances.

Also surprising was that it didn’t feel feel jarring: like maybe I’ve done enough looking at my body now that I no longer expect to see 120 pounds (or less) of anorexic twink, and instead the mental image is finally updating. Spending basically all my time around other male dancers who are, themselves, adults probably helps. My frame of reference is different than it was.

I’ve struggled with this in part because it’s so unconscious. I walk around in the world with a brain that’s constantly tossing up visual information along with all the other sensory data. I’m good at navigating in part because, in addition to a fair dead-reckoning ability, I’m constantly awash in sensory memories. If my visual and vestibular memories—experienced simultaneously with the present moment—match the sensory input of the present moment, there’s a damned good chance we’re on the correct path.

The same thing happens with people: I’m forever awash from within in images and sounds and scents and textures, though people change their clothes pretty frequently, so the matches are only partial a lot of the time.

Yet, with regard to myself, I ignored the existence of my body for a long time. I didn’t like thinking about it and expected it to return to a familiar configuration. It seems silly now: bodies don’t work that way. They’re more dynamic than roads and paths (which also change, but more slowly). So by not looking at my body, I retained an out-of-date mental map of said body. When I finally started to look again, it was as jarring as going to your old house and discovering that it’s been completely rebuilt in a very different design.

If I think of it in those terms, I’m forced to acknowledge that the current design is much better for the way I’m living in this house/body. So I seem to have developed a broad-shouldered and powerful architecture: so what? That architecture facilitates some of the central things I like to do in this body, and doesn’t prevent other things I like to do in this body.

There’s a percentage of men for whom this architecture is less attractive than my 120-pound twink architecture was. There is another percentage for whom the opposite is true. Rationally, I understand that it’s stupid to feel out of joint because you’re less attractive as one thing now and more attractive as another. Eventually, you have to get over that and start knowing it viscerally. I suppose I’m beginning to feel that, too.

In the long run, of course, it doesn’t matter. But it helps to understand what’s going on inside my brain that has made this so difficult for so long.

~

It will be more difficult, ultimately, to undo the conditioning that grants so much importance to my desirability as a sexual object (which is complicated and definitely its own post, but one I may never write because, well, it’s complicated).

But this feels like a kind of progress. It makes me less angry with myself for being unable to easily decouple the old body map from the present day. I was going about it all wrong, but I think I’m beginning to understand why. It was uncomfortable in a very confusing way, so I just avoided it for a while.

I don’t know where this will all lead. I feel like being less prescriptive about my own body is a possibility. The remnants of my eating disorder want to fight that tooth and nail, but it’s starting to feel like anorexia is no longer running the show.

I am not too delusional to admit that this might not be the case if my body, in its present configuration, was not aligned with certain conventionally—attractive standards: indeed, if it wasn’t aligned with standards that a lot of gay men regard as aspirational. I may not be a scrawny little twink at this juncture, but anorexia and I are willing to live with a kind of grudging truce as long as I’m basically hot: the implication being, I suppose, that I’m still controlling things (which is almost patently untrue: this body seems to respond almost magically to certain inputs, which happen to be what I was doing anyway).

The difficulty with fighting anorexia, for me, lies in part in its insidious assertion that if I don’t adhere to its dictates, I’m weak. Never mind that people who are professionally strong (hello again, trapeze world) keep telling me I’m strong; never mind that my entire way of life is pretty rigorous (I don’t say “disciplined” because, ultimately, I believe discipline is just motivation in a fancy hat: I live the way I live because I’m motivated, pure and simple).

Anorexia whispers that if I don’t ignore hunger and drive my body to exhaustion, I’m weak; that if I accept a body built on different architectural lines than it was during my adolescence, I’m weak. If I remind it that accepting weaknesses is a kind of strength, it says I’m making excuses.

I don’t know if that voice will ever be gone. If I’m entirely honest, I must admit that’s in part because a part of me doesn’t want it to go. A part of me that is not my anorexia is, nonetheless, complicit in my anorexia. That might be universally true of people who live with anorexia. It might not. Who knows?

Another part of me says, “Your body is a very fine instrument. You need to take care of it. It needs fuel. How else can you ask anything of it?”

So here I am, in the middle of this conflict, eating soup and taking a rest day because I’ve realized that I’m ramping up the training schedule and it’s necessary, because I haven’t re-adapted yet. My scars are itchy in some places and nearly invisible in others. My shoulders say I’m a gymnast and my hips loudly proclaim that I’m a dancer. I, such as I am, am living in this body, with this mind. And slowly I keep peeling back the petals of the lotus; the layers of the onion; unraveling the sweater.

For what it’s worth, I’m reminded that at the center of the onion, there is nothing.

Field Trip; But First: Phases of My Butt

A couple years back I noticed that my tuchas has developed an oddly triangular profile.

Recently, I noticed that it has once again returned to a triangular shape.

Today I realized that it’s a function of conditioning: as I progress from (relatively) out of shape to stage-fit, my butt progresses from “round” through “triangular” and finally to “square.”

Huh. You learn something new every day.

~

In other news, we left at the crack o’ dawn yesterday for Atlanta, checked into our hotel at 3 PM, established a CirqueLouis outpost, then proceeded to regroup with the crew before dinner and Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia. 

And speaking of Luzia—you guys, it knocked my socks off. 

Luzia is a beautiful show—funny and tender and full of love for a place and for the people k and cacti) who make that place shine, not to mention packed with the high-calibre circus performances that give Cirque du Soleil its stellar reputation.

B on the straps was, for me, the pinnacle—he’s beautiful and performs with ardor and pathos. I don’t really have language to describe his act. It was breathtaking.

We also got to roam around on the stage—which is fecking amazing, you guys; the technology!—and backstage, where the CduS cast trains and gets physical therapy and does everything else and where the giant amazing puppets live. 

After we chatted with the cast about circus stuff (and other stuff) over drinks, which was awesome. I tried to do a lot of listening. You learn a lot that way.

There’s much to be said for a life in which a business trip means watching a phenomenal performance and talking shop with phenomenal performers, then conducting a 5-hour long mobile meeting—part post-mortem on their show, part post-mortem on ours, and part spitball session for the next show—on the drive home the next day.

Little by little I feel like I’m starting to understand circus as an art form of its own, discrete from ballet and modern dance and so forth. I really owe that Jordan, our AD, who has been in love with circus all his life, who has built his life around circus, and who is teaching me (the company’s resident ballet boy) to really love circus in its own right.

~

Depression-wise, I’m making it back now, I think. The edges are still raw, and I need to respect that and not push myself off a ledge by diving back into too much at once. This is going to mean very consciously taking rest days, especially as I reset and shift back to a different rest-day schedule.

We’re halfway through November, somehow: I have roughly six weeks til it’s time to start hitting auditions. 

When I headed to Florida back in September, January seemed unimaginably far away. Now it’s right around the corner.

BG, Killer B, and BW are rebuilding me as a dancer. Jordan is refining me as a performer. I’m not yet back to the place in which I feel like, Yes, I should go audition for ballet things, but I’m at least in a place where auditioning for cirque things and ballet-adjacent things feels like it makes sense.

I want to say, “Let’s see where I am in six weeks,” but I kind of think that’s giving myself too much room to weasel out.

Anyway. That’s it for now. I’m exhausted and ready to turn my brain off for the night.

Cue Predictable Spasm Of Self-Doubt

Every time I’m forced to take a break of more than a couple of weeks from class, the re-entry period is an exercise in grinding self-doubt.

First, taking a break almost inevitably involves gaining a couple of pounds–generally a sum that the average person would barely notice, but which is all too visible when you return to the studio and are constantly surrounded once again by people with less than 10% body fat.

I may be all about body positivity, but I’m not very good at applying it to myself. I’m also entirely aware that I have somehow stumbled into working in a field in which the folks who decide who gets hired and who doesn’t tend to lean strongly towards lean bodies. Toss in the fact that, given my build, a little more size in the thighs interferes with my fifth position, and you’ve got a recipe for Dancer Meltdown in 3 … 2 … 1…

Worse, it always takes a few weeks to re-awaken and rebuild the muscles responsible for correct execution of classical technique–and even as people who don’t dance continue to harp on about my “natural” grace, I wind up feeling like a half-grown stirk in a dressage ring until things start working together again.

This week has been all about finding my core, not dancing like a swaybacked wildebeest, and remembering how the hell to do turns[1].

  1. Though, bizarrely, whilst I was not dancing, my chaînés improved dramatically–regarding which, WTactualF?

Predictably, the resultant emotional fallout has been a constant stream of thoughts like WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO AUDITION FOR THINGS?! and I’LL NEVER BE READY!

Me on Thursday, via Wikipedia, link to follow.

So that’s where I am right now. Off to my last week of sandbagging in Saturday beginner class, which I hope will leave me feeling like I can actually dance, and then Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,in which I’ll attempt not to dance like a swaybacked wildebeest before a captive audience of so freaking many.

Tapeless Boys Live!

Sadly, I failed to realize the potential hilarity in recording a video of A-ha’s classic, “Take On Me,” with a small change in the lyrics (read: “Taaaaaaaaaape onnnnnnn meeeeeee [Tape … on me!]” etc) until this morning, after I’d peeled myself free of The Tape.

I suppose I’m overestimating my overall level of organization in assuming I could complete any such project, though.

Anyway, I know, I know: I said I was going to let it come off on its own.

D had his concerns, though, about leaving it on too long, and also once the little end bits started peeling themselves off I got antsy about it. They weren’t making me itch except when they were—always when it was least convenient to be furiously scratching an armpit. I trimmed them, and then I trimmed them a little more, and finally this morning I said, “Ah, feck the lot of yous,” to the remaining bits and peeled them right the heck off.

Anyway, things are looking good under the tape. The incision lines have remained very narrow; in many spots, I suspect that they’ll disappear completely over time.

I’ve known for a long time that I generally heal very well, for the most part, and my surgical incisions appear to be no exception to that rule. This, by the way, is a really strong argument of remaining as fit as you can if you have even the mildest form of Ehlers-Danlos: the better your blood supply and oxygenation, the better it’s going to be for your healing process no matter what, but that’s extra important when you have a disorder that affects collagen formation.

I chose a surgeon who has a ton of experience doing surgeries like mine–one who specializes in them, in fact–and who is known for his fastidious approach to suturing at all the necessary layers. Given that “hypermobility-type” EDS is less rare than the other types, and that he has literally done thousands of these surgeries, it’s a safe bet that he’s worked on someone with the same condition before.

He said to expect things to look a little ripply and wrinkly at first, but there are very few ripply spots.

Overall, I continue to be surprised by how good everything looks.

Anyway, here are a couple of shots from this morning:

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The left side is particularly clean, even though the incision is a good 2 cm longer. I suspect that the portion towards my arm will be invisible within a few months. It’s actually less visible IRL; for whatever reason, cameras tend to enhance the redness of these things. Also, I have no idea why I’m making my “What did you say to me?!” face here. In other news, this is what my pecs look like when I’m not flexing like an overwrought high school kid.

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My chest looks better than my eyes, which are hella puffy this morning because allergies. In this shot, you can see the only ripply spot (right at the inner end of the right-hand incision), and you can also tell that the spot right under my arm is a little puffy, which is pretty typical when you’ve had drains in and will persist for a bit.

You can see a couple of pale hypotrophic scars in the second picture (if you look closely, you can just pick barely out the related ones in the first shot)—those are really old, leftover from Things That Happened 😦 I have some elsewhere, too. They’re not the result of neat surgical wounds, but of untreated cuts (not self-inflicted)[1].

  1. I’m not sure how much of this I’m ever going to discuss here. Honestly, this blog isn’t about that, and I don’t want it to become one long Content Warning.

Anyway, one of the things I hadn’t anticipated as a result of this surgery was that a bunch of those scars would be gone, since they were in areas that wound up in the Extra Skin Department. They were from before the m00bs, so I suppose it never occurred to me to think about it?[2]

    1. The funny thing is that I was well aware that I would finally be rid of at least some of the stretch marks that resulted from the rapid development and equally-rapid diminution of the Moobs[3]. I worried that the remaining ones would wind up looking weird and truncated, but actually there are barely any and they’re effectively unnoticeable.
    2. …Aaaand, now that phrase is racketing around in my head as a parody of Poe’s “The Bells,” because it scans: “The tintinnabulation of the bells, bells, bells…” all too easily becomes “the rapid diminution of the moobs, moobs, moobs…” Feh. Apologies if that’s as terrible an earworm for you as it is for me.

Interestingly, this is the one place where my feelings about all this get a little complicated (or, as they say in The Book of Mormon (the musical): “Now’s the part of our story … that gets a little bit sa-a-aad…”).

It doesn’t in any way diminish my delight at the outcome of my procedure—not the least fraction of an iota, in fact. If I could go back and do it again, I would in a heartbeat.

What is weird is that I’m not sure how I feel about those scars being gone.

I’ve evolved the philosophical position that scars, in a way, represent history written into our skin. For me, looking at my scars doesn’t trigger bad memories or make me feel victimized or whatever; it reminds me that I survived; that I came through and sort of fought my way back to, like, life. (I say “sort of” because I’m not 100% sure “fought” is the right word; it implies an angry struggle, and not one of endurance. There have been angry moments, sure, but mostly it’s been a question of determination.)

There’s also the fact that I associate my scars very positively with one of the very first people who responded to my history with kindness and understanding instead of shock and attempts to evade discomfort by minimizing the flat-out badness of the stuff that happened. The first time my first boyfriend saw me shirtless, he touched the scars really gently and said, “Oh my G-d … who did this to you?”

For me, that moment was incredibly important: it was the moment that I first realized, really, that dealing with what happened to me in any really helpful way was even possible. (For what it’s worth, though, the scars he touched, that time, were the ones on my belly, which are still there and, barring anything really weird, always will be.)

That said, losing my scars isn’t the same as losing my history … and our bodies change all the time. There were many more cuts that never scarred in the first place, for one thing. Only the deepest ones left any trace, and even those have faded tremendously.

Anyway, I suppose there are a lot of people who would expect me to feel, like, “Yay! Fewer scars, especially ones associated with horrible things!”

But, in fact, that’s not how I feel, and I’m okay with not feeling that way. I guess having Feels about it took me by surprise: it hadn’t occurred to me to think about it before. In fact, I didn’t even think about it until I took the tape off and noticed the remnants of those scars. Chalk that up to trying really hard to just not look at myself in the mirror ever since the beginning of the Great Risperal Caper.

For what it’s worth, I’m also the kind of person who wouldn’t go back and change what happened to me (probably, anyway: it’s easy to say that, isn’t it, when we don’t actually have time travel yet). I wouldn’t go in for therapy that would erase the memories, either. Yes, it was bad. Really fucking bad, to be entirely honest. I am still dealing with the fallout and will probably never be done dealing with it.

BUT. It also made me a more humane, more compassionate person. It might, in fact, be one of the major reasons that I am not a much worse human being than I am. And it taught me, over the course of many years, to tap into a profound and quiet strength that I think probably belongs to us all as humans; to endure, to survive, and finally to shake off my shackles and begin to thrive.

So that’s that.

At any rate, I’m rather glad I took the tape off, because it seems that the adhesive has irritated my skin in a few spots. So chalk one point up to D, who has been gently hinting that maybe I should go ahead and peeeeeeeeeel it off (“Like a lliiiiiight switch! There—it’s gone!” ACK SOMEBODY PLEASE STOP THE SHOWTUNES).

Topless Boys Live*!

*For values of “live” meaning I was alive when I posted this 😛
No actual live footage implied or guaranteed 😉

…I mean, not that I’m back in Modern class yet. Modern is probably going to have to wait ’til the 6-week mark, since it usually involves getting into and out of the floor and using your arms and so forth.

It’s not like ballet, in which you can say, “I’m just gonna do the gentle stuff today, and I’m going to keep my arms in 2nd.”

But, anyway, I realized that I haven’t posted updated pix in a couple of days, so here:

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Super Hipster Filtered Edition[1]

  1. Honestly, forget my chest, check out dat shoulder
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Uncropped Smoldering Ocular Seduction Edition[2]

  1. D keeps giggling at me about acting like a 14-year-old. He may be on to something, but I maintain that I’m acting like a 16-year-old. 14-year-olds have nothing to flex. Like OMG EVRYBODY KNOWS THAT.

So, as you can see, things are healing up quite nicely.

As you can also see, I’m standing on top of the toilet, and I didn’t really bother to put anything away before I shot these. Which, in fact, maybe does imply that I’m acting like I’m 14, because NO IMPULSE CONTROL.

As you can also, also see, I have indeed been mostly sitting on my butt and eating for the past couple of weeks. And I was too lazy to take my shirt all the way off, but I kind of like it?

Anyway, peeled the tape off a bit today and noticed that my suture lines look quite good. The left one is really, really nice; there are spots where there’s no scar at all right now. I put the tape back after because I’m not taking it off ’til Wednesday, because that’s when my surgeon said it would be okay.

The right incision is a little redder, probably because I sleep on the right side of the bed so I wind up using my right hand to reach for stuff on the nightstand, which is problematic because the nightstand is roughly 6″ lower than the bed and beyond the range I can reach without extending my arm just above shoulder level while lying down (the first five nights I didn’t have that problem because we weren’t home yet; then for a couple I was really careful … now I’m kind of over that, since it doesn’t feel like I’m tugging or injuring anything).

Anyway, the lines on both sides are very crisp and clean; totally acceptable in terms of my long-term goals.

The little red spot inferior/lateral to my nipple (which is actually the left one, because I still haven’t remembered to un-mirror my phone’s camera and didn’t think to flip these before I uploaded them, feh) is a bug bite. Turns out that’s why I’m so itchy, at least on that side. On the other side it’s because I keep forgetting to snip off the loose end of the tape, so maybe I should do that now?

There, done.

Also turns out that when you wander around in a nice, airy tank top, the mosquitoes take advantage of those arm holes :/

I had really pretty much forgotten about that.

Also, in the Uncropped Smoldering Ocular Seduction Edition, my feet look like chimpanzee feet. From time to time, I’ll notice that happening, and occasionally it leads to a brief episode of cognitive dissonance in which a part of my brain goes, “MY FEET ARE HANDS: REPEAT MY FEET ARE HANDS OMG =:O”

OTOH, in part of my line of work (aerials, specifically) good toe separation is an asset. Of course, I make up for that by having weirdly tapered duck feet with a whole lot of sweep from second toe to least toe.

Guess you can’t have it all (my hands are sweepy, too).

In other news, today I took the Subaru to the tire shop to get its leaky tire fixed. It turns out that the tire was screwed—literally: as in, it had picked up a screw.

Anyway, they were able to fix it, so now the car is happy again and D is happy again and I was already happy, so…um. Everybody’s basically pretty happy.

Except the cat, probably, because his food bowl and my lap are too far apart, but he’ll just have to tug on his big-boy trousers and cope.

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