I'm Not Cute, I'm Just Drawn That Way
If I had one wish, it would be to be sexy. I’d be Jessica Rabbit: steamy, sultry and seductive.
These are not, by the way, words that people use to describe me. Ever. Even when I was younger, I was never a hot girl. I was cute, sometimes to the point of adorable. I hated that. I always hoped I’d age into some kind of sexiness, or pick it up as I went along. A few years ago, I realized this was not happening, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I needed to learn burlesque. That was the answer to all my adorable problems! THOSE women are Jessica Rabbit sexy!!! Last year, I discovered that the women at Cin City Burlesque offered workshops. They would teach me how to be sexy!!! (Check them out on facebook. See a show. Sign up for a workshop. These are for real #WWGSD, and they are smoking hot!!) I showed up for my first burlesque workshop, armed with heels, a pair of red pasties and a mission. I was feeling very out of place, as a non-sexy person. But I was confident these women would transform me from adorable and vanilla Kelly to steamy and seductive Jessica Rabbit. I was finally going to be sexy!
This all sounds so wrong headed, doesn't it? I don’t have to venture too far down this road to lead you to the punchline. That did not happen. But let me explain what did.
The number for my first burlesque workshop was “Runaround Sue.” A cute little doo wop song about a good-girl-gone-bad. We wore cardigans. We did the Charleston. It was Glee meets Grease with less clothing. It was perky, cheeky, flirty, quirky, fun, and ADORABLE . . . a really good burlesque routine. But there was no Jessica Rabbit, and I was devastated. That night, I called a man friend to complain.
Man Friend: So how was it?
Me: Ugh. It's cute. I wanted it to be challenging! I wanted to learn how to be Jessica Rabbit. I want to figure out how to be sexy.
Man Friend: Maybe the challenges is to learn that being yourself is sexy.
I will spare you the rest of the conversation, because I did not respond well. This is not what I wanted to hear. But the idea stuck. And I looked around in my next class and thought about how the other women did look very sexy, in their pushup bras and cardigans. And my instructor, Tobi is super hot. Sexy. Seductive. Flirty. At times, she's a playful and silly and (dare I say it?) she's adorable. I couldn't reconcile this with my own self-image. Can I be cute AND sexy? I started to wonder if my Jessica Rabbit ideal might be a little bit unattainable. She is, after all, a cartoon.
This is a recurring theme for me. About 7 years ago, I got this idea to take some pinup photos. In my mind, they were going to be super steamy pictures. In reality, they turned out to be . . . well . . . they’re adorable.
(They are also remarkably sweet and vanilla, for something I felt was really scandalous at the time.)
I look at these pictures today, and I think “Dear lord! I looked fantastic. Why didn’t I take out an ad in the Enquirer and run these?! Or at least post them on facebook?” But I was not comfortable enough in my own skin to appreciate what I was. Instead, I put all my energy into being disappointed by what I wasn’t. I didn’t want to repeat that mistake, so I stuck with the workshop and Runaound Sue. And it turns out, it was a challenge. Tobi put together an incredibly technically challenging dance routine. (Who knew bra removal could be so complicated?!) But I was kind of good at it! I had so much fun, and I loved the sisterhood of women. So I did another workshop. Another routine. And I’ll be doing those workshops for as long as they’ll let me, because I love how burlesque makes me feel, and who it helps me be.
Does it makes me feel sexy, sultry, steamy and seductive? Well, no. It makes me feel fun, firey, sparkling, energetic, and a little mischievous. Which also feels very much me, and surprisingly comfortable for an activity involving pasties and a large crowd. Y'all, I am no Jessica Rabbit. It's really a shame. But if I can’t be a cartoon, I guess being the best and most real version of myself is a pretty good thing to be.
Burlesque taught me that women are sexy when they are being the amazing women they are supposed to be, not cartoon characters. And so I’m working on bumping around in the world just being myself. This means I need to be in places where I can be what I am, and around people who do not expect me to apologize for what I am not. That has required making some big changes in the way I spend my time, and who I spend it with. (We'll talk about that later.) But the biggest change I needed to make has been in my own head . . . deciding that being a real person is better than being a cartoon, that authenticity is really a very attractive thing, and that I really don't have to apologize for breathing the air in the room. I'll admit, I don’t totally buy this yet, but I’m working my way there, one burlesque number at a time.
(All this being said, if any of my burlesque and/or drag queen friends want to help turn me into Jessica Rabbit - even very briefly - I’d be the happiest woman alive.)