First, I’d like to thank you for coming out on Friday night. The Evening of Burlesque that I hosted supports an internationally renowned week of contemporary dance and dance theatre hosted here in our fair city. I have taken part as a performer in the past, and the festival will feature my original choreography and performance this year. I do appreciate your support.
I also appreciate my work being viewed with a critical eye, so I was willing to lend an ear when you suggested to me that only about sixty percent of the show was worth watching, and that the rest was ‘crap’. I respectfully voiced my disagreement, and explained that this event is a fundraiser put off by unpaid performers who are given very little time to rehearse in the theatre and virtually no compensation, other than the chance to practice their art and that glowy feeling that comes from helping other artists make THEIR art.
Your suggestion, which you pitched both to me and the three bartenders standing patiently in the corner, was that we work together to create a professional burlesque cabaret. You expressed the firm belief that it could run several nights of the week, and invited me to lunch to discuss the possibilities. I told you I would think it over, and perhaps give you a call. The bartenders were intrigued as well, though I sensed that they were put off by your suggestion that they should be wearing French maids’ uniforms.
It was obvious that you were having a good time, Mr. Remi. When your arm encircled my waist and dropped perilously close to my sumptuous, red-glitter-encased behind… well, I chalked that up to you having a good time as well. Often, a burlesque performer finds herself being pawed after she leaves the stage to mingle with the crowd, particularly if she remains in costume. It’s as though the tease has been too much for the audience… as though, after having watched you caress yourself and deny them for so long, the members of the audience feel inclined to give that sought-after bum a squeeze or caress your leg in an altogether too-friendly fashion. This is something a woman in my position grows accustomed to, and, depending on the source of the squeeze, chooses to accept as part and parcel of maintaining the fantasy character of the unflappable burlesque broad.
Suffice it to say that I was under the impression that you found me quite attractive. You can imagine my surprise, then, when you repeated for the sixth or seventh time your entreaty for me to call you and then leaned in to me and said “Look, sweetheart. You’re very talented. But if you want to do this professionally, spend a little more time at the gym.”
While you are most certainly entitled to your opinion of my body and me Mr. Remi, I am decidedly entitled to an opinion of you as well. I must admit, the waft of alcohol from your breath had suggested to me that your business propositions were perhaps not entirely well-thought-through, but your suggestion that I form a more intimate relationship with my elliptical trainer left me a bit concerned on your behalf. You see, I am afraid, Mr. Remi, that for all your bluster as a would-be burlesque producer, you’ve missed the point entirely.
Let me be clear with you. Burlesque is not about toned, trim bodies. Some burlesque performers have tight, traditionally sexy bodies, while others embody a shape that falls outside of the current North American beauty ideal. Please google “Michelle L’Amour” and “Dirty Martini” if you’d like an example of each. It may be of interest to note that both of these women have held the title of Miss Exotic World, which is burlesque’s highest honour. The spirit of burlesque is accepting of female sexuality and confidence, in whatever form that may take. Burlesque is not about perfection, it’s about creativity and fantasy and glamour. I am a woman who occasionally fantasizes that her thighs were a few inches smaller. In burlesque, I engage that fantasy by exposing my highly imperfect thighs to an audience of hundreds and exulting in hearing them cheer wildly, despite (or perhaps because of) the jiggles.
So, Mr. Remi, in short… I believe that we have a problem here. I do not believe that my thighs are that problem. You, and others like you, are the problem. Men who grab my ass and tell me to lose a few pounds in the same breath are the problem. And Cosmo is the problem. And our mothers are the problem. But mostly men like you, Mr. Remi. You constitute the vast majority of the problem. And for you and those like you, I am deeply, deeply sorry.
In short, Mr. Remi, I will never work with you on a burlesque show because you haven’t an idea what burlesque really is. And I will never respect the opinions or criticisms of a man who judges without thinking. The failure to construct one’s own beauty ideal is perhaps the most abhorrent kind of cowardice, and the impulse to impress upon others the suggestion that existing outside the mainstream beauty ideal constitutes some sort of failure is undoubtedly the most disgraceful form of bullying. We will not be working together, Mr. Remi, as much as you fancied the idea on Friday night.
I may, however, still let you buy me lunch, if you can afford it. You’ve no idea how much a “fat” stripper must eat to stay in this sort of condition.