CHAPTER 9-BELLY DANCING
Let the jingling commence! Jasmeen put on the music and started showing the class the choreographed number she wanted us to learn. I absolutely loved the Middle Eastern music. I’d heard it before in movies and the like, but now, listening to it play and watching Jasmeen dance, I truly felt like I was in a different world.
I began to panic yet again. I had no idea how I would ever be able to move like that, so fluid and graceful. Jasmeen made doing all those undulations and movements of the hands, tummy and arms looks so easy, and the more I watched her, the more I wanted to learn.
“Damn!” I thought to myself. “That means I actually have to TRY to make those moves and will have to attempt to do of all this in the front of the class! I will look like a total idiot!” Taking deep breaths in and out, I tried to calm down and psych myself up. “Okay, I will not let my anxiety take over. I don’t care if people are watching me. I CAN do this!”
Jasmeen started to break down the dance moves step by step for everyone to follow. Taking a look at myself in the mirror, I tried to follow along. Feeling self-conscious, I tried not to focus on the other people in the class, and even though I felt a little stiff and awkward, I realized that I was actually dancing! In front of other people? And enjoying it too? Without letting anything get to me? This was progress, People. I took a giant leap outside of my comfort zone and danced my ass off!
I saw that no one was paying any attention to what I was doing just like Ariana had said. Everyone was too busy trying to get the dance moves down for themselves to take notice of anyone else. They also looked like they were absolutely enjoying themselves and didn’t care what they looked like doing it either! That surprised me more than anything else...that people could let go and be so free to express themselves like that.
Jasmeen was a great dance instructor. If she saw someone struggling with one of the moves, she would break it down just for them until they got it. She was so encouraging and inspiring and made everyone feel at ease. I was grateful for that, and I think everyone else was too.
Looking at all these women of all shapes, sizes and ages totally letting go of all their inhibitions, motivated me even more to just enjoy myself...to just enjoy being me...to just enjoy BEING. I was actually starting to feel more comfortable within my own body! What? Was that even possible? Uh yah, People, it was! Miss Jennifer Maria Gabriela Gonzalez was well on her way to becoming a self-confident young woman!
Whenever Jasmeen saw someone slacking off or talking at any point during the class, she would say something that went sort of like this: “Ladies, I want you to feel the music, to feel the movements, to become one with the dance. Belly dance is more than just an art form. It is a celebration of being strong, of being confident, of being radiant! For you are WOMAN, the essence of beauty and all that is loving, nurturing, and kind! This is a celebration of the beauty within you!”
Sounds a little kooky right? And as a reader, you’re like, “Yeah right!” But I really took those words to heart, and for a few seconds, be it only a few, forgetting about everything else, I closed my eyes and started to feel like...a beautiful woman!
And then, just like that, the feeling was gone. Well not entirely, but repressed deep down inside. I opened my eyes, and blushing once again, transformed into...da da dahhhh...Super Self Conscious Girl to The Extreme! Er...not coming to a theater near you since I didn’t like being in the spotlight at all. Sound Effects Guy was totally disappointed.
Little did Super Self Conscious Girl know that at the end of each class, the ladies formed a circle, and taking turns one by one, entered the middle to do a freestyle dance of their own! I’ll get back to that in a second.
Once again, I took a quick look around and realized that no one had any clue that I had gotten so into the “belly dance experience,” except for Jasmeen, who gave me a quick wink as she continued with her instruction. Of course, not to disappoint you, The Reader, I turned red with embarrassment.
I glanced over at Ariana and Mel, who seemed to be enjoying it too. Even though Mel didn’t have much rhythm and was struggling to do the moves, she still had a smile on her face. She looked absolutely beautiful too! Ariana, on the other hand, danced like a pro, almost as well as her aunt, and boy did she look...what’s the word I’m looking for...LUMINOUS! “I guess those dancing genes must run in the family. God, I wish I could dance like that!” I thought to myself.
Okay time to fast forward to the end of class...Super Self Conscious Girl to The Extreme meets her arch-nemesis (cue evil music Sound Effects Guy...dan dan DAHHHHH!!): The Dance Circle!
THE DANCE CIRCLE: This is the part of the class that everyone looks forward to...except for the newbies. Being forced to dance in the circle of women who are belly dance veterans is not the most appealing thing to do if you are the new girl. So that being said, could you imagine my anxiety about having to do just that? Jasmeen called everyone together to form the circle. And, one by one, each person entered into the middle to do their free style as the rest of the group applauded and cheered them on.
As soon as I realized that I was supposed to do the same with all eyes on me, I forgot my Self-Esteem Mission and started to freak out: “OMG! Seriously? I REFUSE to do it! I’ll make a fool of myself! I’ll-I’ll look like an idiot! Why is this happening to ME?!”
Slowly, but surely, my turn was coming up as women and girls took their chance to express their “inner beauty,” as Jasmeen put it. Panicking beyond belief, the closer it got to my turn, the faster my heart beat. My legs began to shake and my palms got sweaty. I felt flushed as if I was about to pass out...Oh god...Up next was Ariana, and then Mel, and then...ME!!!
Hardly able to keep it together, I looked at Ariana as she entered into the center of the circle. She was in her element! Almost as good as her Aunt, Ari was actually doing the choreography that Jasmeen had just taught us! And she remembered every single step, turn, undulation, and foot movement too. Belly dance came so naturally to her.
I glanced over at Mel, who was all smiles, clapping and cheering Ariana on just like everyone else. It didn’t seem to bother her that she had to go next! “How come she’s not scared out of her mind like I am?” I thought in amazement.
High fiving Ariana as she went into the middle, Mel, with a huge smile on her face, tried her best to recreate the belly dance moves we learned in class. Although she wasn’t able to get the dance steps quite right, Mel looked as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She was having a ball!
“God, I wish I was more like Mel sometimes!” I thought to myself. “Oh no! It’s my turn! I am so going to suck! I don’t want to do this!” But somewhere from deep within, I heard a voice say, “Stop the negative talk! If Mel and Ari can do it, so can you! Get your butt out there and dance baby!”
So I did. I felt shy and awkward but did try to do some of belly dance moves too. I didn’t, however, stay out there with all eyes on me for long and smiled timidly as I headed back to my space. On the inside though, I was all lit up! I was so happy that I did it. And progress was made yet again, People!
After the last person entered the circle and did her “thang,” the ladies, catching Mel, Ariana and me off guard and making us jump once again, did one last, loud ULULATION! Concluding class, Jasmeen said, “Thank you so much, ladies for such a wonderful class! Have a good night everybody! See you all on Monday!”
Feeling elated, the three of us excitedly chatted about class. “This was so much fun! Thanks, Ari, for suggesting it!” exclaimed Mel.
“Yeah Ari,” I said. “I have to admit, I had a really good time.”
“Aw, you’re welcome guys. I knew you would have fun! Oh and Jen, you should be proud of yourself!”
“For going in the middle and dancing. You were pretty good actually. I didn’t know you had it in you to move like that!” Mel said giggling while spinning around, trying her best to do an undulation.
“Me-el!! Shut up!” I said all embarrassed. I rolled my eyes at her. “Ariana, you surprised me! You’re amazing to watch! It’s like you’ve been dancing like that for years!”
“Thanks. You really think so?”
“Yeah Ari,” said Mel. “I didn’t know you were such a great dancer!”
“Yeah, you were flawless!” I declared. “Gosh, I wish I could dance like you!”
“And your Aunt, she’s so pretty and such an amazing dancer!” said Mel. “And her hair...my god...it’s so beautiful! I wish I had hair like hers!”
Overhearing our conversation, Jasmeen said, “Ladies, don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. Everyone is different, and it’s our differences that make us all unique and beautiful!”
An older woman, who was standing close by said, “You got that right! The only person you should ever compare yourself to is you! Trust me on that one, girls.”
Walking away before we could reply, I nodded my head and said, “You know, that’s so true. It seems like we’re always comparing ourselves to other girls...or models...or movie stars. Jasmeen, you ARE right. It makes no sense for us to do that.”
“Yup, cuz there’s no one like me out there, and come to think of it, I don’t want to be like anyone else either!” responded Mel.
“God! Every time I compare myself to someone else I just torture myself! But...but how can I expect to look or act like anyone else other than me?” said Ariana.
Jasmeen replied, “I could not have said that any better, my dear.”
The studio was beginning to clear out, and Jasmeen excused herself because she needed to talk to one of her students. “I’m happy you enjoyed the class, girls! See you on Monday?”
“Definitely!”...“Yeah!”...“Oh for sure!” were our responses.
We headed back to the table to return the belly dance clothing we had borrowed. Even though I was totally reluctant at first to wear the items, I asked Ariana if her Aunt sold any of the pieces she had lent us. I couldn’t see myself dancing without wearing my belly dance ensemble. My, how quickly things can change!
“Oh yeah, every Monday she brings the gypsy skirts and scarves to sell during class. Good prices too and I know she’ll give you a huge discount because of...moi!” She placed her scarf on the table and said, “You know, for years my Mom has been trying to get me to take the class but, I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it and Jen, to be honest, I was kind of embarrassed too. I mean, I didn’t want to dance in front of other people either.”
“Uh...Hello! Weren’t you the one who told me not to worry about it?”
“I know, but I didn’t want to do it alone so I had to convince you guys somehow! Besides, it’s only when Diana said at the meeting to step out of your comfort zone and try something new did I think about taking the class.”
“Along with your two best friends!” Mel said. “What would you have done if we said no, huh? Hmm? Huh?”
Ariana giggled. “I don’t know...I would have done it alone I guess...only after I tried blackmailing you! I have way too much juicy information on you two!” she said jokingly.
That weekend I had a ton of homework to complete before Monday, so most of Saturday and part of Sunday were devoted to my school work. I only took time off on Saturday evening to go the movies with Mel. Ariana backed out at the last minute. By the end of the weekend, I had finished all of my homework and was almost halfway through writing my term paper.
On Monday, Psychology class was devoted entirely to doing research on our papers. Off to the library we went. As you all know, as Miss I Am Way Too Nervous To Present My Paper, aka Miss I Am Dying To Go To Hawaii In The Summer So I Have To Make Sure I Get a Good Grade On My Paper, I decided to dedicate my time to looking up information on how to make a slideshow presentation with my tablet pc. Entering the computer room, I sat down next to the closest computer, too focused to notice Mr. Man of My Dreams, aka Justin the Hottie, sitting at the front of the room.
After doing research for what seemed like forever, and being absolutely and completely confused, I took a little break to stretch my muscles. Just as I let out a huge yawn, I looked up and saw Justin staring at me. Being the confident woman that I was...er...NOT...I quickly looked down pretending to be too busy to notice. Did I mention I was red in the face with total embarrassment?
“God! I can’t believe I just did that! I am such a coward! Pretending that I didn’t see him? Great move, Jennifer! What do I do now? Dammit, what do I do? I HATE this!”
Attempting to calm myself down, I thought, “Okay wait! I am not going to be that girl anymore! What am I assertions again? Shoot, Jen, think!”
Out of the deepest, darkest corners of my memory, they all came back to me in a single instant:
-I am beautiful inside and outside.
-I can do anything I set my mind to doing.
-I love being me.
-I am confident in myself and my abilities.
-I am sociable, outgoing and friendly even with people I don’t know personally.
I repeated them to myself a couple of times, and feeling confident enough to look up and see Justin still looking at me, I took a deep breath in, and with the most courage I’ve ever had, conjured up enough energy to give him the teeniest, tiniest smile and the teeniest, tiniest wave.
Feeling oh so good about myself, I said under my breath, “There, I did it!” Baby steps, People. It takes baby steps! Even the littlest step can help you make that giant leap forward! :)
Not expecting a big reaction or, let’s face it, any reaction at all (Miss Jennifer Maria Gabriela Gonzalez still had a ways to go with that confidence in herself thing), I was totally surprised to see Justin get out of his seat and walk my way. “Remain, calm, Jen. Remain calm. Remember, you are all that your assertions say that you are!” I was a nervous wreck! “Oh god, here he comes.”
“Aloha Self-Esteem?” Table of Contents:
Chapter 1-The Boy Crush
Chapter 2-The Term Paper
Chapter 3-Self-Esteem Research
Chapter 6-The Second Official Encounter
Chapter 7-The Ins and Outs of Self-Esteem
Chapter 8-Ways to Improve S-Girl’s Self-Esteem
Chapter 9-Belly Dancing
Chapter 10-The Third Encounter
Chapter 11-The Non-Date “Meeting”
Chapter 12-Ariana & the No Makeup Group
Chapter 13-The Big Date
Chapter 14-The Kiss
Chapter 15-Reuniting With My Self-Esteem Regime
Chapter 16-Stepping Outside of My Comfort Zone Twice in One Day
Chapter 17-The Two Talks
Chapter 18-The Presentation of the Presentation, Shopping & the Party
Chapter 19-Saving Jessie from Herself
Chapter 20-The Epiphany
Chapter 21-The Revelation
Chapter 22-The Report Card Which Will Decide My Fate
Chapter 23-Comfort Zone Disappears in Hawaii
Chapter 24-Three Glorious Words & Life on the Big Island
Chapter 25-The Dilemma and My Sweet Sixteen
Chapter 26-The Party