Ok, now before you think I’ve gone off the deep end into the realm of narcissistic self love or excessive vanity, I seriously wasn’t imagining things. My tatas had definitely changed from how they appeared a month ago when I left Phoenix and headed across country, to this instance right now.
Suddenly the anorexic nervosa voice that still lives somewhere in my soul - who I try to love despite her self harm tendencies - spoke up: “I must have gained weight.” Yet her snarky little comment simply wasn’t grounded in truth.
I was walking more in the past month than I had in the past year, due to the weather being more moderate in New York than Arizona. Thus my clothes fit better than ever, even without my intense workouts I used to do. If I had access to a scale, I would be willing to bet I had in fact shed a pound or two recently.
So what was this change? Could a body part suddenly perk up as though it had a mind of it’s own?
Actually yes. Modern science has generally accepted that traumatic experiences do have physiological consequences on our bodies. And while in the past, accepted treatment plans focused on the psychological aspects of a difficult event, now medical practitioners are finding that the body has a memory too. And this storage of experiences can result in very real physiological effects - which don’t simply go away. Unless the event is somehow processed and dealt with by the person. (*1)
So this idea that my mammary glands were finally feeling merry may have had some merit to it. However what could have caused them to look and feel less than their best before? I stared puzzled at my still naked form, casually running my hands on my own skin. And then I froze. It hit me.
For the first time, in a long time, my body wasn’t being touched without my consent. And that was why my previously pining away pair, had suddenly reverted to their peppy playful selves.
Now if this is already too TMI for you to digest, please stop reading now. Because the topic isn’t going to get easier, and its only going to get more intimately graphic from here on out.
Many of you know that up until recently, I was an exotic performer. And although I had danced in this industry prior to the pandemic, it had been a hot second between my last time on stage, and when I started up again in Phoenix. A lot had changed.
When I was first dancing, I was a goddess. My audience came into the clubs, tipped hugely for my stages, spent money to talk to me about my travels. And yes, I did private dances in champagne rooms and lap dances, but there were strict rules about what the patrons could and could not do. Ninety nine percent of the time, my people behaved. And the one percent were immediately removed from my presence, no questions asked.
Flash forward to the past year and it’s a whole new ballgame.
Important disclaimer: I was in a clean club, well run, and never pressured to do anything. My boundaries were respected and adhered to. I never felt in danger or unsupported.
Yet I cannot ignore the truth that the general community of patrons - not necessarily the ones I cultivated and enjoyed as my particular regular clientele - but the industry general patrons had changed. Suddenly I was no longer a goddess. Men would hug me hello and cop a feel. Touching - whether permitted by law or not - was accepted as norm. Unexpectedly I was faced with decisions as to what I could tolerate in order to continue in a profession I otherwise had no issues with.
So naturally my body was coming alive again, I realized. Because no one was making me feel like I had to endure touch that was not welcome in order to do my job as a performer.
However it’s not really the industry’s fault. Social graces between men and women have deteriorated recently as well. As a woman I went from feeling respected and revered by the men who tried to woo me, to suddenly being treated like an object, or worse, like I existed for their pleasure only with no rights of my own to say “no, I don’t want this”.
Granted it could have been regional attitudes as I did not experience this until living in first Miami Beach (where incidentally I was not dancing), and then in Phoenix. But even a night out on the town by myself, something I have always enjoyed in multiple cities and countries, became a minefield of unwelcome advances that I would have to navigate - an exhausting experience.
For example, when watching live music while enjoying a mocktail at local well-known establishments in Phoenix, I was often approached by men of all ages. When I kindly turned down their advances with a polite “no thank you”, the matter didn’t end there as one would think. Several times my leg or arm was roughly grabbed. Once a man got in my face and asked me if I was an “uppity bitch”. Another time out in a group of casual acquaintances that I had met at my pool, one of the men literally decided he was staying the night with me.
Yep you heard me right. A total stranger decided this was an option without consulting my opinion on the matter. This was despite the fact that we were not dating, not flirting, and had just met that evening. When the group of men and women left my place after we all walked back, as several of us lived in the same building, he wouldn’t leave. I finally had to physically push him out the door.
And lest any trolls want to insinuate I brought this on myself as a dancer, none of these public experiences occurred with people who even knew what I did for a living. Not a single one. Not that it would matter if they had. Bad behavior is inexcusable and unacceptable. And being an exotic performer is not a permission slip for anyone to force themselves on you.
No wonder my body wasn’t feeling it’s best until now.
By the way, this is not my typical experience with men. Over the years I’ve had wonderful platonic friendships and romantic relationships. I’ve felt cherished, respected, valued, and loved.
But I’m not alone in thinking the dynamic - at least in some areas of the country perhaps - has changed. And considering we elected a past President who talks about grabbing women’s pussys, and makes remarks about how he would date his own daughter, is it any wonder that some men think it’s okay to force themselves on a woman? I mean if a man can do it, admit to it, and still become leader of the one of the most powerful countries on the planet, how do I stand a chance telling the average male in public to remove his hands from my body?
As a strong and independent woman, I never thought I felt inferior or frightened. But looking at my body’s visceral reaction to not having to fend anyone off, makes me wonder if a part of me has been running scared for a while.
In fact it makes sense my body felt unsafe, considering that when I was receiving threatening messages from a platonic former friend a little over a year ago, and I approached law enforcement for help, I was told that I should be “flattered” considering I am a “petite pretty girl”.
And this wasn’t the first time I have had this response to a request for help. During one of the scariest moments of my life a few years ago, I was informed that I had probably brought the abuse on myself for my practice of yoga. After all, the Miami Beach officer went on “that’s devil worship meant to attract men to your body. You should really consider going to church and dressing more demurely.” (*2)
Sigh. Not only are these comments ludicrous, but they perpetuate the problem by absolving the perpetrator of any responsibility. After all, if I am attacked, the theory seems to be, I must have brought it upon myself. We, as a society, have got to stop allowing such rationale to be accepted as norm.
Back to today and the reflection in the mirror. So I get why my body was having a traumatic response - I’ll call it “deflated boob syndrome”, but what has changed to suddenly make them chipper again other than not dancing? (*3)
I took another deep breath. And then I realized…
I feel safe. I feel safe again. And even more so, I feel respected and cared about - ironically in a city of strangers, where I am literally meeting people for the first time. As I go on my daily walks, I’ve had wonderful interactions with local officers who noticed I was new to the area, welcomed me, and asked how I was settling in.
I’ve met people of all backgrounds and none have treated me with any type of disregard. I’ve openly, rather casually, talked about having been a dancer, but no one got smarmy on me or tried any skanky moves. It was “ok great” and “what else have you done/what do you find interesting/where have you lived/what do you think about” conversations.
There were moments of random kindness too in the past couple of weeks. I’ve been told I was beautiful on the streets. By complete strangers who paid me a compliment, and went on with their day. I’ve been hugged without being grabbed. Smiled at without being leered at. And when I’ve politely turned down a few dates from men I met while out and about, simply because I wasn’t feeling a romantic vibe towards the person asking, the answer was accepted without a fight. In short, I have been treated like a human again - the way I treat others.
No wonder my body is happy. Because I am joyful again.
As I got dressed, I realized our bodies have a wisdom that is often ignored. The history of our journeys are written in ways that are seen, and unseen. It’s about time we started listening to them.
A few minutes later, I walked out the door, ready for the day, and feeling lighter in spirit than I have in a long time. If my body is any indicator, I think it’s going to be a great year here in New York.
*2 Now lest anyone also get the impression that this is a rant against police officers. I have also met very polite, respectful, intelligent, and helpful officers of all genders who have come to my aid before in random times of crisis. I appreciate very much the difficult job they do.
*3 Please note: I actually loved being a dancer for many reasons. At least until I saw the changes that were happening in the industry, and recognized that they were not things I wished to deal with. However I do plan on eventually writing more about my experiences - including the positive ones. For any former patrons reading this, please know that I appreciate how so many of you DID in fact treat me with respect, and valued the entertainment I provided.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.