For an hour each week, I learned burlesque and forgot my troubles entirely, financial and otherwise. I practiced unlacing a corset and applying fake eyelashes. I played Sonny Lester's "Blues to Strip By" and unhooked the straps of my garter belt. I learned how to make pasties out of faux leather and bedazzle them with sequins and tassels. I bought a boa.
In time, my sense of humor returned. I felt sexier and lighter and more at ease with my diminished financial life and my place as a woman in an uncertain world. I befriended the other burlesque girls, who were also trying to iron out the wrinkles of their lives vis-à-vis learning to shimmy.
Burlesque performance in America emerged in the nineteenth century as a risqué satire of social norms. It was a comedic and sexy slap in the face of high-brow morality. In the midst of today's global economic meltdown, the art form has reemerged as a glamorous refuge from the agonies and boredom of daily life.
While I've enjoyed learning to striptease, I'm not sure I'll ever do it publicly. I'm equally doubtful that undressing is a workable solution for economic troubles, or any troubles, for that matter. But striptease did indeed provide me with a much-needed space to laugh again, and to celebrate being a woman. It diminished my worries and turned up the volume of my inner Gypsy Rose Lee, one bra strap at a time. For that—and for my feathered boa—I am extremely grateful.
Written by Jennifer Murphy for The Frisky
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