Male Belly Dancers?

On Tuesday, when I went back to my Belly Dancing class, there was a man in there!  Who was he and what was he doing there?  I asked one of the ladies and she didn’t know either.  She thought that the class was going to be very interesting.  Someone told me  yesterday that he was the partner of one of the women in the class and a friend of the teacher and he wanted to know what the class was like.  HMMMMM!!!!!  If I was the partner, I would have told him, HELL NO! (then she could have shown him privately what she was up to! 😉 )

One of the reasons I LOVE my belly dancing class is because there are no men!  It is the only time I can be in a room full of people where the energy is totally feminine and where we can let our inner goddess out with no inhibitions.  Some of the women go to the class to be away from men, if only for an hour or two.  We dress up and expose our bodies in ways that we wouldn’t except in the privacy of our bedrooms, and some not even then!  We are all women of different ages and shapes.  There is no judgement because we are all beautiful.  We can also do stuff with our bodies that some people can’t, and that gives us just a little bit more confidence.

As I said, there is a man in the class.  He is dressed in shorts, t-shirt, socks and trainers, while all the women are dressed up in their outfits with coin belts around their waists.  He stays at the back of the room, three rows behind, where he can really see what is going on! Right!  He is behind me and I can see how he is doing in the mirror.  The teacher is calling us all ladies, habit I guess!  We are doing a back to basics class and working with the veil!  This is going to be tough and pretty much non-stop, a real workout!  I haven’t been to classes for a while and I am a little bit rusty, but I manage to keep up.  I know this is going to sound terrible, but I am watching the man moving very stiffly and having a difficult time of it.  I remind myself that I was once unsure and focus on what we are doing, but can’t help seeing what this man is up to as he is right behind me in the mirror!  We are doing hip thrusts, shimmies and jingling away.  We are walking, turning and moving our arms gracefully.  Everything, all at the same time!  It is not easy to do.  Sometimes I can’t even do it.  The man is really struggling.  Somehow, I manage to feel better about what I’m doing.  Sad, I know!

Then we start working with the veil.  I don’t have one yet and have to borrow one.  It is made of chiffon.  Chiffon is heavier than silk and I can really feel it in my arms and shoulders while we are working with it.  I find the veil to be a very feminine prop.  It is very floaty and makes me feel very girly.  I am watching the man with the veil.  I think he looks just a bit silly.  I am wondering (hoping) if he is regretting being in the class.

I ponder on all of this on my way home.  I consider myself open-minded, but something doesn’t sit quite right with me on this one.  I have watched the men dancing folklore in Egypt.  They are all covered up, even the women, in traditional clothes.  The women do the shimmies, and the men do other things.  They complement each other.  I look on YouTube for videos of male belly dancers.  The first one I watch is of a man called Diva.  Diva is very flexible and can do amazing things with his body.  The problem for me is that he is too effeminate.  His clothing is a bit camp and he is topless.  His physique doesn’t do anything for me.  There is no mystery or promise here.

I look a bit further down my list and find Tito Seif.  He is Egyptian.  He is fully clothed.  He has a hairy chest and facial hair.  He looks like a man.  He can belly dance on a Tabla!  As a woman, I can respond to this man, regardless of what his sexual orientation may be.  He looks cheeky.  I found him engaging.

My teacher has trained with men, one of whom is called Ozgen.  I could only find Ozgen listed on YouTube.  I looked at a few videos which seemed to feature the same routines and costumes, even though they were taken at different places.  There is no doubt he is talented and is slightly less camp than Diva, but he didn’t do anything for me either.  I guess I am not attracted to the skinny, hairless types.  The ones that look like boys.  I like men to look like men.  Anyway, here is Ozgen:

Then, I found Prinz Andrew!  Here we have a combo of belly dancing meets Bollywood!  Very oriental.  The man looks like a man, right down to the six-pack!  I really liked this.  It was subtle.  You should see him dancing with a sword!

Perhaps this man will come back to the class or not.  Maybe he should look at some male belly dancing videos to see if that is really what he wants to do.  I somehow can’t help wondering if he is doing it for another reason.  I may never know.  I do know that it changed the vibe in the room and I didn’t really like it.  We will see what happens next week.


On Being Grateful Every Day

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us once more.  I haven’t really celebrated it much since I have been in the UK these last 20+ years.  They don’t celebrate it here.  People don’t take the day off and I haven’t known that many Americans to celebrate it with.  No excuse, I know.  Just because I hadn’t always celebrated in the traditional manner,  it doesn’t mean that I didn’t take time out to reflect and offer gratitude.

I have tried to make more of an effort to celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense these last few years.  This year I am making a roast chicken dinner as I will be having turkey for Christmas.  I don’t like to get turkey’d out!  I am also making pumpkin pie.  My daughter and I bought all the tins of pumpkin in my local supermarket one afternoon.  When I got home, I found I already had two cans from last year that were still good!  I may be eating a lot of pumpkin soup over the next few months!

Because Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in the UK, my day will be fairly quiet.  There won’t be any distractions of parades and American football.  The people I will be celebrating with will be working during the day.  It will be an intimate dinner rather than a full-fledged family gathering.

When people think of Thanksgiving, huge amounts of food and football are usually in the picture.  Sometimes we forget the real meaning of the holiday.  When people experience problems or huge challenges in their daily lives, it can be difficult to find something to feel grateful for.  When things are going well, people often forget to give thanks for their good fortune.  We need to take a little time out every day to look around us and find something to feel grateful for.  When we do that, we feel happier.  When we feel gratitude for even the smallest things, we allow more of the good things to come into our lives.

This year I am particularly grateful that I am now living in a lovely warm house and have had the opportunity to make a fresh start.  I am also grateful to have reconnected with some more of my family.  There is a lot more to be grateful for and the list is very long.  I am always finding things to add to it.

So, instead of feeling grateful on one particular day of the year, perhaps we should try it every day, and see what happens!

By the way, thanks for reading this post! xx




Going back to my roots: Truth or Lies?

In my last post, I mentioned that I am learning things about my family’s past that I didn’t know before.  I am aware that there may be stories that might be uncomfortable or painful to re-tell.  Some might say that there is no point knowing as that is all in the past and most of the people are dead.  They may be right, or maybe not.  Anyway it has got me thinking –  I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment.

In the British film Secrets and Lies a web of secrets has been woven around one particular family.  People are misjudged and issues and dynamics are created based on hiding events from the past.  When the truth comes to light, instead of breaking up the family, it eventually brings them together.   In this case, the truth was shocking, but  it was nothing so sinister that would destroy these people.  In this case, the truth had set them free.

Online at Global Post, I came across an article entitled Torn Between Identities in Argentina. It is about the genetic testing being carried out on children that were removed from their families during the rule of the military junta.   Many children whose parents were killed ended up being raised by people who supported the dictatorship instead of being given back to remaining family.  The grandmothers never gave up looking for their grandchildren.  Now that DNA testing is available, many suspected adopted children are refusing to take the test as they have feelings for the families that raised them.  Some people feel that the law is unconstitutional because if one is suspected of being a kidnapped child, they can be forced to take the test.  If the parents are found guilty, they can go to jail.  In some ways this is a Catch 22 situation; where does one’s loyalty lie, to the one that raised you or to your biological family?  This was a terrible time in Argentina’s past and many people have gone unpunished for crimes that were committed.  But what about the children?  Most of them will be adults by now.  They will have lived a whole life under a lie.  How will the truth affect their mental state?  Will knowing the truth create more suffering?  Or will it create understanding and compassion?  As is usual in situations as this, politics have some bearing in this situation.  Politics aside, I believe that this is a moral issue based on atrocities of the past.  How can we allow atrocities to go unpunished when so many still suffer and when there is a way to learn the truth?  The truth can indeed hurt, but with time and care one can overcome these things.  The children that were given to families were innocent.  However, as adults, they know the difference between right and wrong.  If they learn who they really are, then punishing those involved might guarantee that this type of thing wouldn’t happen again because of the consequences, no matter how long it took.  As the saying goes, “you can run, but you can never hide” (especially from yourself).

This year, a book entitled The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather’s Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation by Martin Davidson was published.  I haven’t read it yet.  It is about a young man’s discovery about his family’s Nazi past.  It must have been very shocking for Mr. Davidson to find out the truth about his grandfather.  However, without having read the book, I am making the assumption that he now has a better understanding of the man.

The whole idea of this book resonates with me.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there are secrets in my own family.  Some more open than others.  I mentioned that no one liked my grandfathers.  There was good reason, which I really won’t go into here.  There are things that I know that are quite despicable and I used to ask myself ‘why?’  Delving into the past has answered some of those questions.  I have better understanding.  Understanding events of the past doesn’t make the things that I despise any less despicable.  Cycles of events and family dynamics are very difficult to break or change.  It can take generations.  There were things about my family that I didn’t know until I was in my 30’s.  It was distressing information.  It was distressing for the people telling me and I was distressed to hear it.  I eventually got over it and I was able to have empathy for all those involved.  I was able to move beyond the restrictions of my upbringing.  Better late than never.  Some people never know their parents or how they got to be the people they are.  I don’t think it is necessary to share everything, but I do think communication is essential.  It can make all the difference in having an ah-ha moment.  Ah, my mom is like this because of this thing that happened when she was little.  Ah, dad is like this because my grandfather used to do such and such.  If I talk to my children about my upbringing, then they can understand why I do the things I do.  Maybe they will make better decisions in their lives than I did.

If learning from History is so important, then why do so many people hide the past?  Why do we care so much about what other people think?  If someone does something so terrible, it is understandable why one would want to hide it.  But instead of hiding this terrible thing, why not accept responsibility?  Because of self-preservation.   We all want to live.  Lying can become easier than telling the truth.   When I was young, I would lie to avoid getting smacked.  Sometimes I got away with it.  The outcome was the same for telling the truth or found caught lying.  Living in  fear of the outcome meant that it was easier to risk lying.

I know what it is like to have lived with someone who hid the truth and who has lied about their past.  The sad thing is, the truth didn’t come out until it was too late.  I had been sucked into the web of lies by the time everything started to fall apart.  The really sad thing is, none of the lies were really necessary.  The truth was never really that bad, only in the liar’s mind.  Lies are manipulations to control outcomes and people.  We all do it on occasion.  The people who do it all the time are considered sociopathic.  I learned all about the lies and why someone would do it.  Having understanding didn’t make the situation right, but at least I had information that allowed me to move on with my life without bitterness.  The lies were destructive to my relationship, but not my life.  Although I went through a terrible situation, I came through it a better person because I had more information.

I don’t really know what life was like for my grandparents and my great-grandparents.  I don’t know anything about their upbringing.  I do know the effect it had on my parents and Aunts and Uncles and how it trickled down to me and my siblings and my cousins.  I would like to know more about what life was like for my grandfather’s generation.  What was it like to leave their country and what hardships had they suffered?  How did they feel about building a new life in America and was it really any better or worse than they thought it would be?  What frustrations and humiliations had they endured?  I may never know.