Before I had my son three years ago, I never had the confidence to striptease onstage or off. I was an avid and proud burlesque fan, but I just couldn't "see" myself as one of those gorgeous and glamorous creatures shimmying across the stage.
After I had my son, I felt like I was losing grip on who I was as a woman. I had very bad postpartum depression. Those first three months holed up in my bedroom with a newborn were spent breastfeeding around the clock, cleaning, and limping around the house trying to recover from an extremely traumatic childbirth that almost took my life away. I would look in the mirror and just stare at myself. I didn't recognize my body anymore. There were dips, dents, rolls, and a softness to my body that I had never seen or felt before. It was a little like being inside of a stranger, a new woman that I had never met.
I didn't feel sexy or desired. I felt like a machine, a food source, a workhorse. Oddly enough, becoming a mother had detached me from everything I used to perceive as feminine. Becoming a mother was about hardening myself and working around the clock, never showing fear or sadness or else I'd be a "bad mom". Becoming a mother was about locking away everything youthful and playful and soft and gentle... I felt I had to be serious and stern, because there was a little one to look after.
"I thought doing burlesque would remind me of the girl I used to be, but I quickly discovered that burlesque was a doorway leading me to the woman I would become."
My son was born during a huge snowstorm that locked the city down for weeks. In those late nights, with snow billowing outside my window, I - a true Texan - felt like I was trapped on an alien planet having an out-of-body experience. Who was I? Why did I feel so joyless and flat? It would take me looking into my son's cute baby face to ground me back to Earth and remind me of my new purpose... but what about who I *used to* be? What about that girl's purpose?
Burlesque called out to me during that snowstorm, with my son tucked in my arms. Unlike many others, I didn't get bit by the burly bug while watching someone else perform. I was bitten while shackled to a bed, unable to dance or move for weeks (doctor's orders). I would watch old videos of legends performing and watch the way they caressed themselves, as if they loved every inch. And then I got up, looked in the mirror, and touched myself that same way. I was faking it of course... I had not fallen in love with my new body (yet). But it was a start...
I say all this to emphasize that, for me, motherhood and burlesque are intrinsically wrapped into one another. I could not have one without the other, no matter how challenging it may be to balance both. I thought doing burlesque would remind me of the girl I used to be, but I quickly discovered that burlesque was a doorway leading me to the woman I would become. Once I had a kid and started doing burlesque, I began to value my body not for its aesthetics, but for its motherfucking power and prowess. The things I could do -- I could birth a whole fucking human! The spins I could take! The boobs -- oh, look, they f twirl! I began to feel strong. I developed a take-no-prisoners attitude that permeated from the stage and trickled down into my real-life. While I had "lost" the girl I used to be, I had become someone stronger and wiser.
And while I thought I would be alone as a stripteasing mom, it is quite the opposite. There's a long legacy of stripping moms, and I'm proud to join that league of bad-ass, unstoppable women. I loved watching this clip of Hot Mama Burlesque on the WPIX Morning Show back in 2011 (also featuring burly fave and Black Sex Worker Collective head Akynos):
I also loved reading this article about Miss Viva Las Vegas 2007 La Cholita. She details how she got pregnant four years after her win, and people expected her to just stop performing forever. To the contrary, she thrived even more and went on a tour with Dita von Teese!!
There's also a ton of interviews with burly moms on Tanya Cheex's site Rhinestones and Whiskey. I like to read articles like this when I feel like I'm doing the impossible, or when I feel too much judgment for being a mother who is also a striptease artist.
If you're a burlesque mom too and you're looking for support, feel free to reach out me! And if you're in D.C., you can catch me and a whole crew of burlesque moms performing at "GOT MILF? A Hot Mama Burlesque Brunch" at Bier Baron this upcoming Sunday, Oct. 13th. I'll be performing a comedic routine with my take on the perils of motherhood. A portion of the proceeds go to Kids in Need of Defense, and you'll be supporting a bunch of bad-ass moms who refuse to stifle ourselves based on society's demands. We can take care of our families and be free to be ourselves!
Until next time,