Recently I passed a sign at a nearby recreation center that read: “BALLET BELLY DANCING CLASS!” A tiny remembering part of me lit up inside, whispering, “Maybe you should sign up.” Simultaneously, every other part of me screamed, “Absolutely not! You’d be miserable with embarrassment!” That wee whispering part of me was born the first and only time I attended a Renaissance fair.
I was in my early twenties when my sister, Amy, my cousin, Sara, and I decided to take a trip to Scarborough Fair. Clad in long skirts and peasant blouses, we excitedly drove my husband’s meticulously clean white Camaro to Waxahachie, Texas.
The May sun was hot by the time we arrived in the dirt parking lot.
“Oh, those sandals!” my sister Amy teased, eyeing my beige clogs.
I looked down at my comfortable shoes. They were a bit like wearing oatmeal. “What?” I said. “They’re perfect for this place!”
We walked through the gates into a strange, dusty world. The most fascinating sight was a woman wearing a live chipmunk on her dress, like a broach.
Sara, catching the spirit of the place, bought a turkey leg. Normally so feminine, in this barbaric wonderland, she ate it with gusto!
A welcome thunderstorm blew in just as we made our way to the bleachers to watch the belly dancers. We sat down, wondering what exactly a belly dance was (and, a medieval one at that)!
Large raindrops started to splash while three women in long skirts and beaded midriff tops began swaying on the bare ground in front of us. They were straight out of a fairytale – beautiful mothers with substantial bellies that had previously housed new life. The thunder drummed, their bellies rolled, and the rain made magic.
Mud squished between their toes. They tossed up their feet in the dance, spattering mud on their clothes, their bellies, their faces. Tummies and water rippled . . . . Dangling beads shook. Feet stomped and kicked. Amy, Sara, and I were entranced. Smiles from deep within us rose to our faces. What rare form of freedom and confidence had imbued these women?!! Giggles spilled out of us at the sheer joy of it all! Our laughter mingled with the bells the dancers rang in their hands as their bellies breathed in and out, on and on, like waves.
Finally, when we were drenched, mud flecked, and completely refreshed, the enchanting, mud-caked dancers finished. The three of us, like the younger versions of the dancers, sloshed back through unpaved lanes and puddles and through a field of deep mud to my husband’s car. My sandals were cocooned. I made noise about wanting to salvage them as I removed them from my feet. Amy seized them from me, and one by one, slung them far out into the slough. I felt the loss for only a second. Shoes? Who needed them! My practicality had been rinsed away (temporarily) by the rain and the whimsy of the dance. I hopped into the driver’s seat, barefoot and free!
It hardly mattered that we were stuck. The tires of the Camaro spun in the mud until a kind young man helped push us out. Amy thought he was cute. (A fairytale day! The maidens in distress were rescued!)
Upon arriving home, I had a lot of explaining to do about why the Camaro was covered, inside and out, in mud. But, my hubby was so gracious. He washed it while we girls took turns showering. Clean and dreamily relaxed, we lay on the bed and relived the day, searing it in our memories.
All too soon, I slipped back into my old ways. Actually, I slid back into the oatmeal sandals! I was out shopping when I happened to see a brand new pair of them. Of course I bought them!
I felt so comfortable wearing those bland shoes again. I’ve always appreciated clothing that quietly states, “No second glance needed.” 🙂 Amy couldn’t believe it when she saw me wearing the sandals she had so zestfully done away with.
“But how? I threw them!!!!” She laughed and laughed.
Amy knew, as I did, that though I could admire the delicious freedom and confidence of those dancers, I didn’t yet possess it.
A decade and half later, I’m the age those brave belly-baring women were back then. Alas, that kind of bodily confidence still eludes me. Perhaps being perfectly at home in one’s skin is a gift bestowed on a few . . . like perfect pitch or extraordinary athletic ability. I hope those blessed dancers are still at it – splattering mud on the blind world’s eyes, opening us up to what could be.