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So I finally finished going through the confessional post this year; there went my week. ;) I'm still not entirely sure why I let myself get caught up in it every year. It has this incredibly compelling quality I can't define, even if I skip the parts that contain ugly drama.

The thing that struck me, though, was this. I'm usually mentioned in the confessional, if only once or twice, and so far, always favorably. But I notice that what people usually have to say is that I'm sexy (about which I cannot complain), and further, that I have some kind of untouchable/mysterious/sensual/powerful quality that makes them afraid to talk to me.

And all I can think is, really? Still? I know I don't spend as much time as I could in the company of the core group that tends to most participate in the confessional. But I feel like I am out there to a certain degree, I'm very public about who I am, and I try to be friendly when I'm not feeling too introverted or crazed. I guess it keeps surprising me that there are people who think I'm scary. The encouraging thing, I guess, is that I figure the people whom I find intimidating probably feel the same way about themselves: i.e., I shouldn't really be afraid to approach them. :)

But I guess I wish that if I were going to get mentioned, someone would say, "I love her writing," or "Her show was really good," or "She really helped me this one time." I mean, I know it's ultimately a crush meme, but somebody started this "fan letters" trend of suggesting people to say nice things about, and it was neat to see the kinds of nice things that people noticed about each other. It took such a long time in my life for me to feel as though I were seen at all; it's a very special gift to be seen accurately, and it's one of my favorite things when it happens.


Mar. 5th, 2004 10:21 am
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Last night, I went with the denizens of Menage to see the lovely Anna Callahan sing jazz tunes at Ryles. A versatile, mobile soprano with airy lightness in the right places and belty sultritude in others, she worked her way up and down the scale with romantic melodies, scat flights, and soaring ending-notes that would make Ella proud. And she plays trumpet and horn, too.

I sat and enjoyed, moving unconsciously as I always do with live jazz, closing my eyes and seeing colors. A few numbers tugged at my emotions in almost uncomfortable ways. It was quite the electric performance.

But this wasn't where my envy came in. Except in her total lack of nervousness and grace, I knew the feeling of being on stage, creating music with my entire body, spellbinding an audience. For such things, I've begun to open up opportunities again, and I hope I can train my voice back into shape.

Where the envy came in was where it always does: the dancing. For three numbers, Anna invited a guest horn-player up and they did a few swing tunes. I initiated the dance by poking [ profile] ert and [ profile] fanw, encouraging them to dance. Soon other couples joined them, some of them amazing: light, fleet, their hips almost independent from their torsos, their feet flying, their faces glowing with grace and the athletic joy of dancing well.

From as far back as I can remember, nothing has filled me with such simultaneous joy and melancholy as watching good dancers dance. Whether it's Alvin Ailey in a large theatre where I'm in no way expected to participate, or that punk rock girl on the floor at Manray, tearing it up ten feet from me, I have always been denied that grace and agility. I have been clumsy and slow-moving my entire life, and have tried wherever I could to emphasize my strength, size, and carriage; I can make my good posture and the way I hold my head and hands come off as grace; I add deliberateness to my slowness, and thus avoid clumsiness and come off as unhurried, perhaps even catlike. But in my truest, oldest self, I am the girl picked last for kickball, the girl whom my cousin could always beat in a footrace, even if he gave me a ten-second head start, the girl who, eventually, didn't even try to be good at things in gym anymore, but adopted instead a kind of ironic smirk toward my own ineptitude - it made the teasing of my classmates hurt slightly less.

Here are the sports I will watch if they are on: women's gymnastics, figure skating. Both closer to dance than sport, yet both involving the grace, agility and balance that I have always lacked. I watch them in awe, with that pure kind of envy that borders on admiration, and vice versa. I enjoy it immensely, and at the same time in makes me suffer in a deep part of myself that I cannot change. I know. I've tried.

I do yoga now with some regularity, and since my early teen years, I've gotten less shy about getting on the dance floor, unpartnered, and just moving whatever way the music takes me. In yoga, I check my form in the mirror, partly because I want to be doing it properly, of course. But in no small part because I want to see if in my slow, controlled stretches (I have always had excellent flexibility), I am achieving any part of grace. I want to know if my arched back, my arms stretched overhead, my legs in warrior stance, inspire poetry in me the way those same movements do in the instructor.

I keep wanting to take swing dancing lessons with [ profile] ert. I want to go weekly; I want to learn one dance, and learn it well, and intricately, and be able to do it with little effort. Any lessons I take that involve grace always result in my becoming frustrated, asking the same questions over and over, apologizing constantly in the way I learned to when a pre-emptive apology, then giving up, was less painful than trying again and again and continuing to fail and be laughed at.

I know that among my friends now, there is no one who would laugh at my bad dancing, or mock me in any way intended to be cruel. But when I dance with someone who dances well, I can see their gentle patience waning as they try to shape my movements to their own, as they try to fling my ungainly body about and make it respond in the way they have been taught it should. And after a dance, those partners always smile, thank me, and move on to a partner who can match them. There is, deeply ingrained in me, a feeling that it's better to give up, to sit at the table in the jazz club and watch, to smile and admire and feel the ache, not of loss, but of something never gained.
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It is a miracle of a first day of spring in Boston, and I'm wearing a short skirt. The world is stretching and coming awake; on my lunchtime walk the ground in the Public Garden gives beneath my boots, and willow bark sings under my hand.

And of course, everyone's looking up and feeling frisky.

On a ten minute walk, I must have received three honked horns, four direct and mildly offensive addresses, and who-knows how many stares. "Nice legs," said one. "I like your skirt," put in another. Does this ever actually work for people, I wonder? I mean, do they pick people up this way? I wonder to myself, also, why I find a stare (not a bold or lecherous stare, just a kind of "stopped" one) flattering, but a remark degrading.

Just when my light mood was about to change, a man came up beside me at the intersection of Boylston and Arlington Streets, waiting to cross. He's clearly homeless, with a ratty jacket and cap, long white hair and unkempt beard. He carries an empty, dirty coffee cup. He looks at me and says, somehow completely non-sexually, "If nobody's told you today, I will: you're beautiful." He smiles, without threat or malice.

I actually said, "Thank you."

"Happy spring!" he exclaimed, turning and seeming to indicate all that meant "spring" that he could find in the span of his arms. "FINally!"

"Damn right," I said, and the light changed.

"How about that," he said with some wonder. "That taxi actually didn't run the red light."

I started to cross, smiling. He wandered into traffic holding his cup, saying, to nobody I could see, "It happens that I've just run out of excuses..."


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