Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Last month, I was at Borders, making a beeline for the lone unoccupied table in the café. I had a chai latte and an enormous stack of intellectually unchallenging magazines, which is pretty much my definition of a perfect evening’s entertainment.

Well, without involving a lot of money and/or nudity, that is.

Anyway, the table was sticky and someone had been kind enough to leave straw wrappers and lapflaps* all over the place, but as previously mentioned, every other table was taken. Fuming, I picked up the detritus to dispose of it, and as I was about to dump it in the trash can, I noticed a fluorescent green brochure sticking out of the lapflaps. Curious, I took it back to the table with me, and it turned out to be a brochure for a local dance studio that offered yoga, tai chi, and belly dancing lessons.

Belly dancing!

The words conjured up thoughts of odalisques in filmy blue pants and bras, their kohl-rimmed eyes smoldering above their veils…sipping mint tea…the smell of sandalwood incense in the air.

I read the description. In addition to advanced classes, they had a drop-in class. “This class is suitable for beginners, or for more advanced students who wish to refine their basic techniques.”

Okay, sounded good, and it wasn’t too pricey. I put the card in my purse and vowed to look into it once I got back from my Jersey vacation.

So last night, when I got home from work, I shucked off the trappings of my professional life and stood in front of my closet, trying to figure out what to wear to a belly dancing class. Lacking finger cymbals or harem pants, I settled on a loose black Levi’s shirt embellished with a rhinestone skull and black sweatpants.

When I got to the studio, I was greeted by a tiny, impossibly cute woman who looked like a miniature version of Maggie Gyllenhaal. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before,” she said.

“No, this is my first time.”

“Well, welcome! We’ll be starting soon. Do you have any dance experience?”

“When I was younger, I took jazz and ballet classes, but nothing in the last two decades, I’m afraid.”

“That’s no problem!” Maggie chirped. “This is aimed at beginning students, so it’s not too challenging. You’ll still probably work up a sweat, though. And it’s so much fun!”

“It sounds like it,” I said. “By the way, what’s the dress code?”

“Oh, you know, whatever you feel comfortable in.” Then she frowned at my chest and said, “Although, to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend wearing that particular shirt again.”

“Uh, why’s that?”

“The skull. Bad energy.”

Jesus, now there’s a proverbial California moment for you.

We walked into the studio, and she suggested that I do some stretches to warm up. Eventually, a few other women showed up, and then it was time for the lesson.

“Okay!” Maggie said. “I see a few new faces in here, which is great! Let’s begin!”

It started off easily enough…a few hand gestures here, a hip shake there. I watched myself in the mirror, and I felt, even!

This is so much fun! I thought, wiggling my ass happily.

And then it got ugly.

The music picked up, the steps got more complicated, and I stared in shock at the other women. These weren’t no fucking beginners; they were raised in souks! I stumbled around like Frankenstein on benzedrine and tried desperately not to bang into anyone else. I don’t know if anyone else is watching Dancing with the Stars (and yes, dammit, I admit that I’ve been watching it because I have a thing for Apolo Ono), but imagine Clyde Drexler with much paler skin and much bigger tits, and you’ve got an idea of what I looked like. I got complimented by Maggie on my “seaweed arms”, but I think she was just being nice.

I’m afraid that part-time gig at the local curry joint may have to wait.

*I’m going to seriously date myself with this reference, but whatever. Back in the 80’s, HBO had a show called “Not Necessarily the News”. One of the segments was called Sniglets, and it was dedicated to coming up with words for things that needed them. “Lapflaps” was what they called magazine subscription cards, and that’s what I’ve called them ever since.