Mama Silverside is trying. Very, very trying.

I love burlesque. I love being in the audience, love watching videos on social media, love seeing people create and grow in their own artistry. Mostly I adore being on stage and feeling a particular power in having the room in the palm of my hand. I wish all the time I could do it more. And yet, I’ve never evolved past feeling like a newbie, a fraud even. I’m stuck on not believing I am worth even paying because I’m just not good enough. I’ve relied on only doing friend’s shows when they ask, and never go out my way to apply for different shows after I was knocked back a few times in my early days of performing. I let it affect my confidence and just didn’t bother trying again. I know, rationally, that it’s normal and I can’t be what all producers need, but emotionally I let it fester and really I do know better than that.

There’s also certain shows I can’t perform at for reasons that are frankly boring if you’re not me – and I’m ok with it, but I think I’ve also used that as an excuse to not try to get on other cast lists. I worried that people would question my credibility if I wasn’t ever on on the local, regular burly nights. I didn’t want to get into why I wasn’t because it is wholly inappropriate and unprofessional to do that. I assumed people would want to know and I just didn’t want to add to the drama that sometimes infects this otherwise wonderful scene. Basically, I had no proof that it’d even be an issue but I used it as an excuse not to try. That’s on me, not the reasons I used.

Truthfully I’ve used the physical issues I have to not try too. That’s not to say these issues aren’t serious or worth worrying about – but I held on to the fear of further injury while celebrating my friends who push past their own obstacles with determination and strength. I will always cheerlead for those incredibly powerful people who make their complications their bitch. Then I go home, feel bad about not being strong enough and I spiral into feeling more like a fraud and less like someone who can navigate the road to actually being a regular performer. So I don’t. I wallow. Boss move, me.

I think the worst thing I do is complain about it all the damn time. Seriously, I know I’m boring my friends with the constant ‘woe is me’ complaints about wishing I could perform again – especially when I do literally nothing to change that, because I use the aforementioned excuses not to try anyway. I know I’m doing it when I’m doing it but it’s almost like I want people to know the desire is still there but I just can’t. But it’s not that I can’t. Not really. Confession – it’s won’t and I need to accept that I’m doing it to myself. Is the desire still really there when the one thing stopping me is my own self sabotage?

Well, yes. The first step is realising the problem, right? I recognise that I have underlying health issues that definitely affect this particular conundrum. Yes, I do have mental and physical complications that I need to work around. I just need to actually work around them – not use them as a stop sign. I literally just don’t know how to do that yet. How to get out of the mental block of giving up already. How to stop using the excuses that have been a crutch for so long. And learn – finally – how to actually push to get into shows. Not to take it so hard when it doesn’t happen.

Wish me.. not luck. Wish me a kick up the back side. And maybe point me in the direction of producers who would cast a hopelessly out of her depth, but tries really hard, comedy and character plus size stripper?

Autumn falls…

I don’t talk about my spirituality often but I’m feeling closer to my faith than I have all year. This time of year, with the changing of the seasons and the focus of both shedding old thoughts, feelings and physical items while celebrating hearth and home, preparing to get ever more comfortable and cosy for the months ahead, truly make it my favourite time of year.

I’ve always been a homebody, and my mental health is intrinsically linked to how my flat is. Right now, it’s in a state of flux – better than it has been, but still a bit messy and overwhelming at times. I’m making a real effort to go through my home, cutting out the unnecessary and letting go of the things I no longer need. Whether by giving things away, donating to charity or being a little more mercenary and selling – I’ve been finding a certain peace in the conscious decisions to not need so much.

But it’s not all letting things go. I’ve been rediscovering my personal style and I’ve been taking great care and even pride in curating a new wardrobe and home decor. It sounds a bit extra, but shopping with intention and not just necessity has made my heart and soul happy. I’ve mostly stuck to charity shopping for these and I’m happy with that – I may not get everything immediately but it’s almost more exciting to find something I’ve decided on, like I’ve manifested my desires in a way that enriches charities I support, as well as mostly being more unique and less mass manufactured. It’s not always possible, of course – but it’s my priority before I consider other options. It’s never not exciting to wish for something and discover it in a little shop, just waiting for me.

My physical health is going through changes too. Doing a form of lazy Keto with Gof has made me appreciate food again, and has astonished me with the noticeable and immediate difference in how my body reacts to certain foods. Without realising it, being sluggish and feeling heavy within myself had become so normal that when that started lifting I almost felt like a superhero. It’s a process though – I’m currently having a bit of a downswing physically, but mentally I’m ok. It’s weird to feel content even when I’m physically exhausted for no discernible reason. I know it’ll pass though. My focus is still on achieving my goals, I’m just allowing myself a small pause to let my energy build back up. It’s almost too easy to let my mental health be affected by this and I’m actively fighting against that submission to negativity. I’m hopeful that I’m winning that battle more than I lose it. Intention is sometime exhausting, but I won’t be giving myself a hard time for not getting it right all the time.

The changes in my life seem so mundane, so ‘of course’ that it’s easy to not attribute it to the time of year unless you connect those dots, and I do. Call it Mabon, Autumn, Equinox or just coincidence in timing, whatever. For me, it’s a reminder of the close link in the spiritual and physical realms I try to honour. Sitting down and really thinking about my life and my choices also allows me to give thanks for the life I have and to honour the inside and outside influences in that. I am happy in welcoming the changes I manifest as well as the changes coming my way from the wider world. It allows me to be thankful, mindful and accepting.

And on note, tonight I am indulging in some self care; lighting some candles, having some extra skincare steps and listening to meditative music (I adore Ivan Torrent for this!) and generally having a lovely night. I hope you too!

Wearing the damn crown.

It’s a hell of a process to finally admit when you’re in trouble. Since it felt like my life led up to that one big moment, it was almost anticlimactic when things remained much as they always did. The big reveal was not the end, nor the beginning. It was a clearing of the throat, before continuing to breathe as normally as I ever have.

I’ve spent a lot of time looking through old blog posts, private journals and like. I know now that the shame and embarrassment of a life led like mine isn’t unique. There’s a safety in admitting that you’re not a special snowflake with problems and issues no one else can understand. It’s a relief to recognise that mental illness is not a problem I face alone in the world. My drama queen tendencies are symptomatic of my imbalance, and can be corrected. They are not who I am any more than this illness is. Even through the simple act of ageing, I cut out a lot of the immaturity I once claimed as a vital part of my identity. The work in that department continues, but awareness is a happy byproduct of growing the fuck up.

Still, I often wonder, ‘now what?’ Moving forward, taking ownership – why does life still feel nothing has really changed? Since admitting I needed help, I’ve began really taking my health seriously. I’ve had a few slips but for the most part I’ve took my medication, really examined my past behaviour and current reactions. I am noting the way my physical health affects my mental health, and vis versa. I realise I’m being more introspective and less demonstrative – which is probably a relief to my loved ones! Yet with all that I still feel overwhelmed by life and sometimes that can go to dangerous places. I’m coming to terms with the fact that bringing that side of the darkness to light hasn’t made it go away. It was maybe naïve to think so. There’s still a ways to go and most likely, it’ll just be something I deal with for the rest of my life. Not an encouraging thought, but perhaps a realistic one.

So I’m taking a page out of my old book and writing again. I enjoy it, and it forces me to examine my thoughts. Why online? Why not? Part of this is recognising I’m not actually alone – and really, how alone can I be online? Plus, I’ve received so much support from friends, family, even strangers. I’m never going to turn that down. It helps. And maybe, just maybe – the words I write can help someone else too. The worst thing about being open about mental illness is accusations of attentionwhoretiatis. Even when faced with suicidal ideation, self harming, voices telling you what a horrible worthless person you are – the stigma of playing at it for attention is so terrifying that so many people do not seek real help at all. I sure didn’t. But I’m not playing by that rule book now. It’s not helpful. So if you must, stick that diagnosis in with the others. Frankly, it’s the least of my concerns.

I’m pulling the reins now, and I’m giving them a good snap. What now? Let’s see.

(Title inspired by my ‘hiding in plain sight‘ post)

Hiding in plain sight.

tw – this talks about suicide and ideation. It is pretty graphic in places, but I didn’t want to pussyfoot around or downplay the seriousness of this issue. If you feel like this may trigger your own illness, please do not read this and call a group or local medical authority for help. I’ve included 2 numbers for UK and US readers since that where stats tell me most of my readers are from.

Mind – 03001233393 (UK) 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -1-800-273-8255 (USA)

Continue reading

Burlesque & Stripping… two sides to the same coin?

Anyone that knows me knows I love burlesque. I was an audience member for 7 years, and last April, I made my debut as Mama Silverside. I’m strictly a hobby performer, and have no intention of turning it into a career, but my passion for all things burly is as strong as any career performer. I believe. I know. Yes.

mamafirst

Anyway, recently a few performers and enthusiasts had a great discussion based around a newspaper interview with a lap dancer, where she states there is very little difference between performing burlesque and working in a strip club. It raised opinions from each end of the spectrum, and loads from in between. I gave my opinion and read with interest everyone else’s, but I’ve found that days, even weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. So I thought I’d write about it! Please note this is about female-led burlesque, I’m not negating the other branches, they just aren’t what this discussion is about. Context yo’.

Burlesque is an art form, stripping is for male titillation.

This is a fairly popular opinion, so I thought I’d explore it first. These days, most people see burlesque as socially acceptable entertainment, geared towards the empowerment of women. It focuses on the beauty, the comedic and artistic merits of women, where the ‘strip’ is not more important than the ‘tease’. This can be seen when we talk about the famous performer Gypsy Rose Lee, who managed to whip men into a frenzy when all she removed was a glove! Of course, she revealed a lot more than her hand during her career, but the reason she is remembered as an icon was the artistry involved in her routines.

But this same story can be viewed from the other angle, where Gypsy performed (at least initially) solely for men. Back then, burlesque was for male titillation. She just managed to be memorable enough to break through the old music halls and vaudeville theatres and perform also for mixed crowds who regarded her performances as artistic, if a little crass. These days she is regarded as a pioneer, but then she was simply a stripper, a title she owned up to. Nowadays, burlesque seems to have little to do with stripping, but without burlesque, stripping wouldn’t exist. Strip clubs remain mostly the domain of men, and asking around most men I know would seldom even admit going to a strip club outside of a stag (bachelor) party. Strip clubs as a form of regular entertainment seems tacky, seedy and according to my male friends, embarrassing to admit to. Women I know have went to strip clubs on a lark, as a cool and different activity, but often end up chatting with the ladies dancing there instead of watching them perform!

And what of the performing? When you think of strip clubs, is it pole dancing, stripping, or lap dancing you think of first? If we leave out lap dancing as an obvious act of male titillation, most strippers have a routine they have worked on, with music, costume, make up. If they use a pole, they also need countless hours of practice and exercise. There is even pole dancing competitions and classes where the focus is not on titillation but artistry, form and poise. You must be very fit to look good on a pole!

There will always be strippers who wear a ‘sexy’ outfit or nothing at all and mindlessly grind and dance to a song with no thought other than making money, but I feel lumping all strippers together as that does a disservice to the women who make an effort to inject some personality and art into their routines. Like their spiritual predecessors, they perform primarily for men but insist on setting standards for themselves.

Stripping demeans and objectifies women, burlesque empowers them.

This one actually annoys me more than anything else we discussed. This opinion relies on treating strippers as poor lost souls who have been forced into the profession. I can’t deny that could be true of some strippers, but it certainly can not be the case for all. Some women do it simply for the money, some because it makes use of whatever qualities or talents they possess. Some enjoy being the centre of attention. I would place my last penny that some even do it because they enjoy performing the same way burlesque performers do!

Burlesque as a tool of female empowerment is a relatively new concept. Again, back in the early days of burlesque, the general consensus about burlesque was no different to how a lot of people view strippers today. It almost seems that when burlesque and stripping split, burlesque took the positive aspects and stripping took the negative! When I perform, I do feel fantastic, the audience is there to support you, cheer you on and make you feel like the centre of the universe for 4 minutes. I know that regardless of body shape or size, burlesque enthusiasts champion body confidence and enjoy the variety of performers on show. I know it’s a big part of why I love it so.

With stripping, it’s easy to assume it’s all teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs. Again, it’s easy assumption to make, but to judge that kind of appearance while championing variety seems counter productive. Teeny tiny tanned blondes with big boobs deserve respect too! The funniest thing to me is it’s been proven time and again men like all sorts of women. The choices strippers make about their appearance is their own, no one else’s. In the end, I don’t see why it has to be stripping = bad to mean burlesque = good. This doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. It’s not empowering to any women to put one down in order to raise another up, if that’s the only reason you think that.

So what about the lap dancers?

Stripping and lap dancing are as different as burlesque and stripping. They are related, held together by a common ground, but they are not one and the same. Not all lap dancers perform on stage as strippers, not all strippers are lap dancers. Again, it’s down to assumption. Even so, I don’t see lap dancing as ‘beneath’ anyone. You either enjoy it or you don’t. If you don’t, that doesn’t give you right to bash people who do it or enjoy it.

Opinions are like assholes…

…everyone has one. I respect that other people will have differing opinions on this, and I encourage discussion on it, because it’s the only way to learn. What I can’t abide is the frankly unnecessary hate and judgement that comes with the ’us versus them’ mentality. I’m not asking to like, enjoy or support anything you don’t want to. But when it comes to differing opinions, one doesn’t have to be wrong for the other to be right.

So what’s your take on this subject? Do you prefer burlesque to stripping? Do you think there’s much difference or do you hate when people think they are one and the same? I’ll be writing more on this subject but I’m taking pity on those who’ve made this far! Until then, feel free to sound off!

Sig

G2012 – The Gathering that nearly never was.

I usually do a list on facebook about what I liked and didn’t like about the Gathering, and I’m starting to see other people put their lists up. But for me, there was not one second I would want to change. Not one. I loved every single second because we nearly weren’t there at all.

You see, with Gof being sick and on leave from work, and me unable to find work after La Senza couldn’t keep me on after Christmas, we have been so low on funds we were incredibly lucky to be able to just make ends meet. So as much as we wanted to, the Gathering couldn’t be a priority of us this year. We tried to make it work, I even told Gof to go alone to save money as he’d never missed it and I’ve only been going 5 years (he refused to consider going without me, the big softie), but in the end the game was a boogey and we had to deal with not attending this year.

See, its not just about the role-playing for us. Although I love my character, I love seeing the people we see all too little of, at least once a year, and having a great time with them. Gof has had these people in his life for so long, and like the distance that separates me to the MMM (the Mad Mental Mob, aka mama, sis and kids), he mourns each mile that takes him far away from them. I’ve grown to, too.

In July, our friends (both here and elsewhere), these gorgeous, generous and frankly awesome (in the very truest sense of the world) people dropped a hell of a shock on us. We would be going to the ball, or at least the G, after all.

Tickets – paid for
Extra night camping –paid for
Travel – paid for
Food for both for 4 days – paid for

Extra spending money since so much was donated – here you go

Love – freely given, and lots of it

Gof has been through so much this year, they reasoned. He needed, after the dust has settled, a get away and to be surrounded by the loved ones he so rarely has a chance to see. Hell, we both did. To articulate how this overwhelming show of support affected us would be a task even Shakespeare himself would find difficult. We were in parts speechless, shocked, and warmed to the core. But it would be Thursday night, onsite, before I really broke down.

And then Friday. And Saturday. By Sunday I’d be emotional but too busy being Nessa to cry, thankfully. I was cried out. Almost.

I cried a bit on Monday again, bidding everyone farewell. I thought my heart would burst with so much love, both inside and out.

There is always a word that sums up each event perfectly, and in this year, both in character and out, that word was family. The family you create, the strength you find in the rag tag bunch of misfits you find make you a better version of you. Blood and bond, the lines blur until you see no difference in those you were born to and those your heart found. In loving Gof, I found family. In loving them, I find myself happier than I’ve ever been. My heart and world view have been widened by their presense. Nessa found family in the Crew, which is why she got dangerously upset by the bickering and potential fracture of that family. She will not suffer that to happen without a fight. Be warned!

I will never get over, in the best possible way, the Gathering and the events leading up to it. Neither will Gof, but that’s his story to tell. Over 30 people were involved in this scheme to surprise us – and more than the money (which was gratefully received!), it was the action of our loved ones… no, family, pulling together and making sure we knew exactly how loved we are that makes this so special. We have a card, signed with the names of all that took part, that contains the words that will now never fail to make me sob with pure joy.

Just because!!! From all your family

Just because, indeed.

Marry me, we said…

Have I ever told you the story of how Gof and I got engaged? I’m not talking about how after a few years (and several difficulties) we decided not hate marriage anymore and tie the knot, but the moments where the proposal actually happened?

I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t a proposal.

See, Gof had just officially moved in. We were officially, after 2 years of my constant moving around, cohabitees. My shoes and his trainers. His comics and my classics. My video games and his dolls. Sorry, figurines. No, I didn’t mix the last two up.

I hadn’t lived WITH A BOY since my last relationship ended in 2003. At least not with a boy I also shared a bed with. (*side note, he’s actually not a boy, but a manly man of some years senior to mine. Just so that’s clear!) It was oddly anti-climatic, having him move all his stuff in as I called around the various companies who quite rudely demand payment each month, like the electricity people, the cable, etc. and told them they could also chase HIM up for money. We signed the paperwork that allowed us to legally live together in the little local authority flat we both already called home. I kept expecting the OH MY LORDI WHAT HAVE WE DONE moment to happen, like we would run screaming from this relationship upgrade. I mean, on paper we would have never worked. Two years previously, he was a man just months out of a marriage, such a painful break up that he promised never to contemplate marriage again. I was a bit of mess (ah, the wander slut years… memories) who didn’t sleep with him straight away because I actually liked him. I was also weeks away from being evicted from my flat, jobless, and drunk 80% of the time. In what wacky romcom would that turn into true lurve? And yet, it did. He got over his previous relationship in his own time (thankfully, peacefully, and the pair remain good friends which is incredibly sweet), and in that time, I reached a place, mentally speaking, that was somewhere between completely bonkers and trying to improve my life. I stopped using alcohol as a crutch before it became a serious issue. Between us, we worked into each other, turning closer into the people we are by just being with another. I truly do believe that.

Anyway, it worked. We were working. It wasn’t always easy, life seemed to throw more than I thought we could handle in those days. No matter what the problem though, it was never with each other. We were a team against all the world threw at us. And as we settled into a routine that was natural as it was normal, I began to want to celebrate that. I finally had a roof over my head. We lived together. I could access his comics at any time! But how? I didn’t believe in marriage, and Gof was decidedly allergic.

One night in January 2010, we were getting ready to go to a friend’s birthday night out. We were in the kitchen, I was putting on my make up over the dining table and he was keeping us both topped up in cheap booze. We began to talk about how happy we both were. How life, quite happily, didn’t turn out so bad after all. Sure we didn’t know where things were going next, but it was exciting rather than scary. We knew, just knew, that we would be together.Step by step, we had already embarked on the trip of two lifetimes. We already have a marriage, in everything but paperwork, we said. No need for an expensive trip into more debt for one day. And yet, it’d be nice to celebrate the milestone. Look how far we’ve come, watch us go! Yeah, we agreed, it’d be cool to be surrounded with our loved ones and just be us.

Hang on, I said. Did we just get engaged? There was a laugh already in my throat, a joke of how cheesy and lovey dovey we were being. My make up was only half on, but something in me stopped, and I looked at Gof.

Yeah, he said. I think we did. His face was serious, almost in shock.

So we’re getting married? I asked, not quite sure what to make of this.

Yep.

Yep?

Yep.

Ok.

Seriously.

….

The wedding is next year.

I’m looking forward to it, of course – but I’m already his partner in crime. We already feel married. That may change, I’ve known people who say it really does feel different, but for now, to me, the wedding will be happening 6 years into our marriage. I’ll let you know if it’s any different on the other side.