Not an Odalisque

Transgressive Desire, or Why I’ll Never be Cool

with 4 comments

Last night, during the interval in a play about queerness, a friend admitted that he’d popped his head around the door of one of the modern jive venues I go to. He didn’t spot me twirling gracefully across the dance floor and spend the rest of the evening staring and entranced. He retreated, he told me, because the place had all the awfulness of a school disco. His school discos clearly differed from mine, which involved metal, grunge and a lot of painful moshing.

I was filled with shame. I don’t know what his discos were like, but his tone left no doubt as to what he thought of them. Modern jive isn’t cool. I attended my first class because I’d moved back to my father’s house in the centre of middle-class, middle-age, dormitory-village nowhere, and when he asked me if I wanted to come, I thought it may be marginally better than sitting at home alone for another night. I discovered I liked it, and realised, as an ex-boyfriend had pointed out months before, that there’s no one following me around with video cameras judging my behaviour.

At dancing, it’s the activity I enjoy. I know that many of the people there are hopeless, the music is often dismal even from my tasteless perspective, I halve the average age* and proper dancers look down on easy modern jive. None of that changes the fact that I leave sweaty and slightly high, reliving the best moments of the best dances. It also provides a good excuse to buy pretty dresses, a high priority for me.

Reflecting on this last night (read: lying awake mentally justifying my uncool choices) it struck me that I have the same feelings of shame and embarrassment about my sexual and play partners as I do about my choice of dance venues. I know what sort of thing I’m meant to like: lithe young men with long eyelashes and big muscles, or slim young women with good cheekbones and shiny hair. But I don’t. Well, sometimes I do, but not usually for those qualities. I don’t feel good about that.

Some criticisms stick with you. The time my best friend said she knew I thought my girlfriend was beautiful, but she didn’t. The disgust when people find out just how much older than me a new lover is. I shrug and say, “does age matter?” or, “it’s not serious,” trying to play down the issue. It does matter to me, though: I like older men. If I’ll admit my kink for being hit with a rattan cane, why is it so much more difficult to say, “middle aged men turn me on,” or even (and this was difficult to type, I admit) “slightly grotesque men do it for me”?

I’m perfectly able to describe the kink scene without alluding to its lack of glamour. My vanilla friends don’t need to know about the tacky PVC or public sex**. They’re unlikely to turn up at a fetish club, leave in disgust and later berate me for giving the impression that kink was all about reading interesting Victorian journals and wearing pretty shoes. They’re much more likely to make judgements about people. So I don’t mention that a play partner is twice my age, although I find the fact delicious, or bring up my intermittent frissons of attraction to an overweight man with a tendency to sweat.

Clearly, I ought to embrace my lack of cool, as I have been doing in any number of areas (fashion, say, or poetry) for years, and proudly go to my dorky dance venues and seek play from people with whom I’ll enjoy it most. There’s a part of me which will mourn the fantasy of myself as the alluring, transgressive kinkster, expressive of others’ secret, dark desires, but I hope for other rewards. Now, and with those in mind, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see how my new white cotton panties look with my gingham dress. It’s an outfit I hope to have a lot of very uncool fun while wearing.

*This is an exaggeration. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m twenty-six.
**I’ve only ever seen this in one club, but it was the day of my first toe-dip into the fetish scene, and it stuck in my mind.

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Written by Not an Odalisque

February 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Why shame? Seems like the friend didn’t have the guts to have a go. Men can be very dismissive of dance (from homophobic remarks, to saying it’s a waste of time) – it can be a challenge to their capabilities as a guy. It’s easier to diss it than for example acknowledge they don’t know how to.

    MJ is a bit dorky. But then it’s also predominantly dancing away to chart music. 25-35 is an underrepresented age-group in Jive (and lots of other partner dances). Might see some uni folk in this bracket, but potentially not so many at regular non-uni based dance classes.

    It’s quite a spectacle whether you’ve danced or not – can see why he’d watch. It can seem dorkish, weird, and yet – when actually doing it it’s pretty fun. It doesn’t need alcohol or other stimulants to enjoy the dancing.
    There are plenty of other cool dances (Argentine Tango, samba, and such) – many of them are cool by the level of capability and style/musicality. Not having a god-awful track on helps too.

    Why not challenge him to take a class? Could he provide a better dance? Something that might not be cool for a certain age bracket can suddenly become cool later on. The ability to dance gets a more useful social skill as time goes on, and had a lot going for it including reasons for attractive clothing. And if middle aged men and dancing is your thing, then I guess you’ve got a decent selection from the various dance venues and events (or do the two not cross paths?).

    Maybe it’s just that there aren’t more your age group there. But there are some damn good dancers at freestyles/ local (MJ) dance events (including teachers, assistants, taxi dancers on their nights off etc) and a few of the 25-35 bracket- so don’t write all dancers off! They might seem a clique, but they’re probably actually pretty friendly, they’ve just grown up in dancing together for a while. There are inspirations and role models if you want to further your dancing. Putting jive or other dances in a modern club setting, with friends having a laugh – and you become a great dancer. Just seems it’s context. Depends if you want to really improve as a focus for dance, or whether it’s just a past-time you’re happy to plateau at pretty quickly.

    T

    February 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

  2. Do you really care what over people think of you and what you do? It’s your own business. People think I’m very uncool for knitting, playing World of Warcraft, watching Glee and liking maths and science a lot more than the average person. Do I really care? Not one iota. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t understand what anyone sees in me but considering I have two people sharing my life, there must be something.

    Alyss

    February 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

  3. ace post. I don’t have anything cool to say but I think embracing the uncool is very cool indeed.

    and the thing about shame is it is always a part of us, in some shape or form. the ‘cool kids’ who would not admit to doing thinking wearing listening to anything or anyone shameful, are lying.

    Quiet Riot Girl

    February 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm

  4. Thank you all for your comments. In general I don’t care what people think. @alyss has seen me with my funny clothes and unshaven legs, knitting in public. That’s why I was so surprised when it washed over me yesterday evening, it was a strange experience.

    I should make it clear that my friend wasn’t making any overarching criticisms of modern jive, I’ve related the full extent of his comments. Embarrassment doesn’t occur in proportion to criticism, in my experience. I don’t pretend to be sensible.

    Not an Odalisque

    February 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm


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