I identify as a woman because it is an identity that I grew into. Woman is an identity that I chose to take pride in and nurture and heal myself with. It’s both something I had to fight for, and ease into. There is a lot of culture and history associated with being a black woman, and it’s something that I found a lot of community and sense of belonging within during my journey. Woman resonates with me.
However, I also understand that for me, woman is not an all-encompassing label or description of my gender identity.
Over the course of my life, I have come to embrace myself as being more gender-fluid by nature. I have a male energy, female energy. Masculine, feminine, and androgynous energies. I naturally shape-shift depending on how I feel.
I like to envision that there is a blank canvas available, which I gratuitously fill up with my presence.
There have been quite a few times when people casually mistook me for a man, or they genuinely asked whether I’m a boy or girl–and I never really “corrected” them or gave them a clear answer, because I just felt that there was nothing much to say. I quietly enjoyed their compliments on my handsomeness and moved along my way.
They were just picking up on the energy I was giving off that day…and they were not wrong.
I do not even truly have a preferred pronoun-nor do I feel the need to choose or announce one. I just prefer that people see and engage me with a genuine heart, and use whatever feels most natural to them.
In a holistic sense, I would say that I teeter along a spectrum of gender that falls more toward the androgynous and feminine sides. And I’ve grown to embrace that.
There’s a lot of trauma that women collectively experience in this world, and I’ve seen many young people in the LGBTQ community choosing to push away their former identities as women, in favor of other options that have presented themselves.
I am not disregarding people’s authentic experiences or identities…
I am speaking to a general trend. The availability of new pronouns and labels makes it as easy to don a new gender identity as wearing a new hat, and I feel a lot of people have taken advantage of that in an effort to appear “non-normative” or occupy marginalized spaces. Some have found it to be a convenient step away from any negative associations with womanhood. In many circles, it is now passé to identify as a woman or lesbian, particularly if you were born female.
Everybody wants to be a they/them.
I think this new freedom can be beautiful and liberating–but I also know that it hasn’t erased the fact that many of us are still hurting from what it has meant for many of us to be female, and a girl or woman in this society. Departing from that identity without working through the trauma associated with it–doesn’t provide space for recognition and healing.
I do not feel the need to depart from my identity as a woman in order to feel whole or true to myself. I do feel that my identity, in all of my variation and difference, can expand the definition of what it means to be a woman.
I know that I could easily identify as non-binary, as many others have done, but that label (and using they/them pronouns) feels foreign to me. Actually, most LGBT labels, including the term “queer” feel somewhat foreign.
Aside from the fact that they’re not culturally or historically relevant to me and people who look like me, I just don’t feel that I’ve developed a deeply personal relationship with those words. They never quite sunk in-I never quite made myself at home.
If there were any phrase that could adequately describe my relationship with gender, it would be Two Spirit. I really like the essence of this word. But as a Native American term with its own cultural context and meaning, “two-spirit” doesn’t feel like it truly belongs to me. So, I don’t openly identify that way, either.
I am simply–a woman.
What I don’t very much like, is how some people, upon hearing that I identify as just a woman–like to expand upon it and add the word “cis-gender”.
It has often been used as a patronizing way of naming, placing, and correcting me. This especially happens when people want to be quick to categorize me in an “us” against “them” manner in the name of transgender politics. Of course, such behavior is not about me-so it is nothing personal.
But, I do not like or feel resonance with the word “cis-gender”–especially not to describe myself. It is generally not a part of my vocabulary, unless someone explicitly asks me to refer to them in that way.
And, I have always wondered if such people who choose to call me “cis-gender” for their own purposes have considered that, in forcing an identity upon women who have not chosen this term for themselves, and shaming them into accepting it, they are doing to others what they do not want done unto them?
To me, most of these terms just feel like they were created by white academics in an Ivory Tower, and they slowly trickled down to the rest of us.
Despite how stuffy and inaccessible much of this language is, there’s still a lot of policing in LGBT communities to use them to describe one’s self and others. English is already a colonial language. In my lineage, we are encouraged to have English names and learn to wield the language so that we can have a seat at the table.
But sexuality is my intimate space. It’s not necessary for me to internally force this new language upon myself and then advertise my political correctness to the world, to keep up with the joneses and make my presence more easily digestible.
I did not wake up and decide to write this piece. For the past few years, I have been a quiet observer, finding great comfort and freedom in my relative silence on these topics. This writing came from a private discussion I was having with myself about gender inclusivity on Haus of Isis. That, I’m sure-will be another discussion for another day.
Ultimately, I decided that, the most important thing is not that I try to appease or accommodate everyone else–but that I first make my platform feel more authentic and welcoming to me in all of my expression and variance.
Then, outpoured this.
My heart and hands moved in spite of my mind’s burgeoning resistance, to bring these words in front of your eyes. I was simply called here–to use my vessel for its intended purpose.
I heeded the call.
Over the years, I have grown content with just being. I have not found the English language to be sufficient in terms of describing something about me that is so intimate and beautiful and fluid.
I am still growing and discovering who I am everyday, and I have required some level of privacy from the noise of society in order to flourish.
My gender and sexuality is something I radiate through my choice to be who I am and cultivate my spiritual and sexual energy. I’d rather it be what it is, and speak for itself.
I’d rather be who I be, and let that speak for itself.
It has been a long time coming for me to write and share the rich history behind my Hair.
I was particularly inspired to write this story because—after a long, intensely personal and transformative journey, I have come to receive a lot of attention for my Dreadlocks on a daily basis. Over the years, many people have come to identify me—and my beauty—through my hair.
Some people think my Free-Form Locs are a hairstyle that I intentionally created and spend a lot of time maintaining.
Some people just think it looks “cool”.
Bless their hearts.
Walking on Earth with this masterpiece of nature —a godly force—is an experience unto itself that deserves to be given voice and heard. I could not allow time to pass—for this body to expire—and have my Crown be reduced to Ornamental Folly.
In other words…
We aint goin’ out like datt.
I understand that I was incarnated on Earth into this black female body as an expression of Spirit. To experience certain rites of passage-to grow into myself from a particular perspective-in a way that is most purposeful to my own Spiritual Expansion. To Our Collective Intelligence.
This body that I am housed in—with my brown skin, kinky hair, pussy, piercings…my worldly perspectives, sexual tastes and preferences—is just as real as it is a costume.
This delicately malleable set of adornments do not define me—but they are tools of authentic physical expression that provide meaning for greater Understanding. At the end of this Era, I must shed it all and move onto another frequency.
My intention through these words—is to pay homage to my Dreadlocks in this 10-year time capsule that we have experienced together. To the inner-growth and expansion I’ve experienced through growing, carrying and nurturing my Sacred Antennae.
To immortalize this expression.
This is my story.
⎮ ≒ Part I ≓ ⎮
May 11th 2009
Just one day after my 19th birthday, I discovered my reflection through the fluorescently-lit mirror of my college dorm room, furiously ripping out my weave.
I was angry.
My fingers clenched into the intricately woven tracks that encircled my head, as I violently unraveled the stitches from my cornrowed braids. My arms thrashed about in a manic rage, as each piece of nearly-bone-straight human hair delicately floated to the ground.
“Never Again!” I screamed over and over in my mind, affirming each internal mantra with another cathartic rip.
Each painless tug and pull made way for the burgeoning open-air landscape of my scalp — my pores breathing long-awaited oxygen into my Crown Chakra, lightening the weight upon my head. Absorbing my Liberation.
It had been a very transformative year.
That prior Autumn, I had entered my first year of Boston University off the tails of a Long Lost Summer. For those few months before my first initiation into “Adulthood”, I had spent most of my time and energy partying. Drinking. Smoking. Shopping for fancy clothes. Shopping for suitors.
My hair aesthetic at the time was—let’s just say—inspired by White Girlhood. I rocked super thin micro-braids that were plaited only a few inches down to the length of my natural hair–leaving a full mane of human-hair-weave cascading down my back like an Auburn waterfall.
I dolled myself up every day and effortlessly attracted a steady rotation of men who could buy me nice dinners and take me interesting places in their cars and motorcycles. Anything to stave off the ennui and turn my attention away from myself. I got a rush out of petty rebellion, and made a habit of disregarding laws that hadn’t earned my respect—whether it was the rules set by my parents, or those of society.
I had no sense of purpose and nothing to give f*cks about.
I was the Black Paris Hilton.
I got my hands on anything and everything that could distract me from the well of pain that had been growing inside of me. I was so involved in the whirlwind I had created, that I was not even aware of my pain—much less the source of it.
Until I had an experience that amplified it.
Thank you for reading an excerpt of my story. Wisdom Tree is one of the most vulnerable and richly heartfelt stories I have ever written. At 50 pages, it is also my longest finished piece to date. I am very proud to have climbed this mountain and reached a place where I can share with you.
Wisdom Tree is in currently the process of publication via E-Book Format. The finished version will include the entire story, photographs which were specifically captured for this Memoir, and selections from my archive of photos and youtube videos over the past 11 years.
I would like to learn Indesign so that I can personally design and self-publish my stories, and freely share my voice with the world without bounds.
If you would like to support this work, please consider making a donation to my Writer’s Fund.If you donate €10 or more, you will receive a free copy of this ebook upon its release in 2020. Please feel free to donate here.
I have other writings available in my Shoppe, which will also be released via ebook format, including another memoir I wrote this year, Divining Willow. Please include a note if you would like to order any of these stories.
Thank you for your support.
Credits : Photos captured by Alexandria Pierre Etienne
March 4, 2018 – ¿Infinity->…
I clearly remember the day I met Willow. It was a melancholy Sunday in Los Angeles. I had an emotionally challenging week, and was in need of rejuvination.
That day, I slept deeply into the early afternoon. Upon my awakening, I felt called to travel far outside of my normal routine.
My best friend had invited me to skate with her that day at Venice Beach, but I had been training Pole all week, and Sunday was dedicated to rest. I didn’t feel like working my body on skates.
After spending fifteen minutes pacing the width of my closet, contemplating if I was prepared to mute my feelings and lug those heavy boots on my shoulders…my heart weighed in.
I finally released the skates from my grip and reached for a folded square of beautiful African print fabric.
Gazing at myself in my full-length mirror, I slowly tied my abundant mane of freeform dredlocks into an updo, and strategically began to wrap the fabric around my head, Nefertiti style.
For the first time in years, I was wrapping my hair.
Head-wrapping has become a very Spiritual process for me. Along the 9-year journey of carrying my free-forms, I realized how much God-energy they emitted into the world.
My hair being integrated with my body, I understood that my physical presence in its rawness made people feel something deep inside their hearts…and I was not always Emotionally or Spiritually prepared to handle the sheer volume of attention, questions or energy that came with being so visible.
My hair-wrapping was a Way of attuning myself to my own energy, and pulling my Crown Chakra inwards. It was my practice of conserving this part of me for my own observation.
I dabbed golds and fuschias onto my eyes and lips, adjusting to my subtle beauty without my Thick n’ Wilds framing my face. Affirming my own presence, I slipped on my chuck taylors and chose to spend the day in revival. Where would I Like to Go?
Somewhere lush and cozy and luxurious.
I instantaneously entered the name of my favourite vegan cafe into my Uber app, filled the Stained Glass Goblet on my altar with Water (I like to leave an offering for myself upon my home arrival), and walked out the door.
I was heading to Venice.
.4.I slept inside her bosom like a sweet newborn.4.
The ride to Destiny from the San Fernando Valley was its own special experience.
The post-rain clouds softly diffused the reliably boisterous Los Angeles Sunshine–creating a subtle grey that reflected my inner-space. As we cruised through the peculiarly free highway, I took in the bold presence of the Mountains standing protectively beside our tiny rolling machine as we floated on thin air to nowhere in particular — and dozed off into a light sleep, re-awakening twenty minutes later to the bright, colourful stuccos that are characteristic of Venice.
We were almost there.
I was looking forward to settling down to a warm Ayurvedic Latte and a far reaching daydream.
The cafe was mellow and lightly populated. I checked in with the waitstaff, pleased to see some familiar faces, and chose to seat myself in a cozy little corner booth, with a wide open view of the restaurant and outdoors.
As soon as I nestled my sweet little buns down into my seat, I gazed up from the menu and looked straight ahead. There she was.
Willow Smith was sitting just a few tables away, directly across from me–chatting with a friend. I sat in a clear moment of stillness, as my gaze widened from the inside out.
It was true.
I have been celibate for two years now.
My lips have not brushed against another’s…
My body has only been kissed, cuddled and caressed by my own hands, fingers and lips.
I make love to myself.
Some years ago, I came to a stark realization of my subconscious patterns. I was calling in sexual experiences which offered limited pleasure, freedom of expression, and expansion.
They were basic.
It was like eating a basic meal. One which took very little time or thought to prepare. It contained some simple nutrients and—sometimes satisfied my momentary hunger, but always left me wondering what it would be like…
To sit down to a candlelit dinner and be served a gourmet feast with the finest ingredients.
A gratifyingly sensual and soulful experience—catered specifically to my tender delights.
I was always left yearning for more. More Pleasure. More Connection. More Intimacy.
Heightened Orgasmic Experiences.
My sexual wounds from the past were haunting me and blocking my capacity for pleasure.
It was difficult for me to fully let go and surrender with a sexual partner.
Although my sexual experiences were increasingly selective, few, and far between—the rare encounters I did have, I still attracted people who were not ready to receive me on a deeper level.
My partners in some manner–just used sex as a means to get themselves off. Where my pleasure was included, they approached it as a means to their end.
They were unaware. I sensed every bit of it.
They were often kind and loving humans in other ways—but this is how we both– had been conditioned to relate to our sexuality. And conversely, with each other.
We needed to learn a new way.
I needed to Call myself back Home.
So I fell back into what has always been–my natural state of Celibacy.
Only this time—I am using this space and time more Consciously.
I am not sitting on my haunches waiting for someone to show up with the magic key to my pussy.
I am Delving into my own Element.
Exploring my own Authentic Sexuality.
And learning to to be my own Lover. First.
My Lover(s) are in Creation too.
We are creating ourselves to be attuned towards one another.
Slowly vibrating towards each other.
I am a highly sexual being.
I experience deep desires. Yearnings. Callings.
I still feel sexually attracted to others.
Attraction for me is rare, but when it happens it is powerful.
What celibacy has given me is space to observe that hot, wild, and seemingly uncontrollable energy inside of me.
That delicious fire of excitement that runs upward from my pussy through my womb and belly and heart…
The tensions inside.
When I feel attraction with another person, I am able to ground myself in my body.
I practice acknowledging and honoring those strong feelings of attraction rather than pushing them away.
And then I just observe.
Attraction is a very enjoyable feeling. I love the vulnerability that comes when I feel a mutual attraction with someone.
Our body language, speech, and intonations are soft and subtle code for
“I really want to fuck you.”
As a highly intuitive and sensitive being, I can always tell…When someone deeply yearns to fuck me.
It is something that cannot be hidden.
The gift of celibacy has allowed me to ground myself in these attractions and provide myself space to meditate on my inner tides and waves, and gain clarity on what they mean.
What is it about this person that I am drawn to?
I envision myself sharing my life with them. Making love. Sharing my whole being. When inspired, I fantasize about them while I pleasure myself…
And I also ask– Is this person in a space to cultivate the type of partnership or sexual relationship that I truly want?
I have walked a very long way on this journey. Is this the first person I want to share my body with after all of the time and energy I’ve invested into cultivating and loving myself?
If not—where am I standing within my emotional body in this moment that is attracting me to this person, and how can I use this energy to further cultivate myself?
I am always guided back home to me.
I’ve learned to enjoy, observe, and appreciate sexual desire as a natural part of the human experience.
I no longer feel that sexual attraction—even if it is strong—means that it is appropriate to fuck.
There are other foundations which must be in place within our own selves—in order to build and expand on that raw primal desire. To cultivate true richness and expansion in our intimacy.
…I just want it to feel as Special and Raw and Godly as I.
I have been taking the last several months off Pole Dance Training to focus on healing my body.
Over the past few years, I’ve acquired several acute injuries that have haunted me over the course of my dance training. In retrospect, I realize I came to Pole Dance with a mis-aligned body from an entire adulthood of poor posture. I was showing up for my training on a weak foundation.
I never noticed any of my musculo-skeletal imbalances until Pole Training brought them out. Not to mention–Pole Dancing itself is not a muscularly balanced activity–and requires a lot of intelligent–and diligent–cross-training and self-care.
As I advanced in my training, I began to place high demands on a rocky foundation. I also pushed really hard in the first couple of years of my Flexibility training. This led to Joint Impingements, Scar Tissue, and Muscle Tightnesses galore.
It was very challenging for me to let go of Dance training in favor of my healing process.
I have so many dreams for what I want to create as a Dancer, who I want to be. What I want to be able to do and express with my body. I just wanted to go onward and upward! Stronger, Better, Faster. Comparing myself to other Dancers, and not wanting to feel as though was lagging behind.
But the truth is–I was in a vicious cycle of training to the limitations of my injuries, hurting myself at those limits, and having to stop and start all over again. I know that if I want to reach the high level of Athleticism and Artistry I’m dreaming of–I have to allow my body to heal. And Integrate my healing arts into my practice upon my return.
I’m grateful for these injuries–because through them I’ve learned a lot about anatomy, exercise science, how to train with proper form…and I’ve introduced to new forms of self-care–including Myofascial Release Therapy, hence the ball I’m holding in this photo.
These injuries have made me a much better Dancer.
The slowing-down process required me to go back and assess the quality of my most basic Movements both on and off the Pole. It’s made me appreciate and savor what it means to do something really well. What it means to have true refinement in one’s quality of movement–and to take the necessary steps to get there, no matter how long it takes.
Healing for Dance has freed up a lot of Time and Space in my life to focus on other my Creative gifts such as Writing and Visual Arts, as well as my Creative-prenurial pursuits–including this website!
I’ve also matured a great deal in the sense of seeing the big picture, and being willing to take a step back from the more glamorous and showy aspects of Pole Dancing that I normally post on Social Media– to stay quiet and build the foundation for something much greater.
I know very well that I could get away with being half of the Dancer I want to be and still gain popularity. After all, I’m very beautiful and unique. Many people are wowed by the simplest tricks. I also know that I could probably “work hard” and eventually attain some “amazing” opportunities–and still be in a lot of pain. But I want something much more.
I want to create Soulful Masterpieces that require well-honed refinements and complete devotion to my Artistry.
My version of success also includes my whole self. When I get to the top of my mountain–I want to be empowered, healthy and whole.
Healing my body is a very conscious process and it’s not the least bit passive. Even the moments of rest and seeming passivity are very intentional. Time alone does not heal–it’s what you do with the time.
I’ve been re-training my postural habits quite extensively over the past couple of months. I purchased a new desk so that I can work on the Floor in Lotus position, and I stopped using electronics in bed so that I wouldn’t relax into a position where my spine was curved for hours. I also began sleeping on my back to protect my shoulder joints.
The extra money that I would have invested into Pole Dance Stilletos, Costumes, and Studio Space–I’ve invested into Physiotherapy and Acupuncture appointments across Europe, Therapeutic Self-Care Tools, and Ergonomic Work-Space Equipment.
My Healing Practice incorporates a combination of Myofascial Release Therapy, Corrective Exercises, Strength, Flexibility, and Dance/MVMNT that I feel is safe for my body.
I spend almost the same amount of time and care on my Healing practice as I do on my Training. That includes all the research I do to educate myself and be my own doctor.
Sometimes I get really frustrated with my process–especially when I feel like I don’t have the answers and things are moving slowly. I feel lost, and blame it on the fact that I don’t have consistent access to the medical (or alternative medical) care that I want and need.
In those moments, I just have to take a deep breath and understand that everything is just a tool for my own Healing practice. Ultimately, I’m the one who knows my body best and who is in the best position to heal my body.
One day, I will have a team of Physiotherapists, Acupuncturists, Personal Trainers, and Bodyworkers who can help me as I train at a high level. Now I know that whatever business I build with Dance–whatever value I command for my service as an Artist– needs to financially support that.
The dreams I carry exist for a reason. If I believe in my body being able to heal–it will.
I revel in the knowing that when I reach the top of my mountain–when I achieve my dreams–it will be resting on a strong foundation of my own Healing and all the Wisdom I’ve gleaned from my journey.
When You Finally Embrace It…Let It Be The Real Thing.
This evening, I found myself sinking very deeply into an unexpected feeling of sadness and emotional doom. I appeared to be so chipper and friendly to everyone–my roommate, the clerks at the grocery store. And beneath it all, I was rapidly sinking into my emotions like quicksand.
“When I received that email, something stirred deeply inside of me. It was that feeling when I encounter someone who doesn’t see me as the beautiful, gifted being that I am—and in fact, they let it be known that they certainly do not love or believe in me. With all the work I’ve done to love myself, it’s rare that I encounter such people—but when I do, it is literally a slap in the face.”
I recently screened my film, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights at Millersville University. I clearly remember the months and weeks leading up to this event. The elderly black woman who proposed the screening event was so short with me from the beginning that I actually wrote the entire thing off, due to bad vibes. I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle and went about my business.
Then a couple of months later, I received a surprise call from her assistant. They were indeed still planning the screening event, and they were offering me the funding which I requested, which was a lot of money. I knew then more than ever how important it was for me to take that opportunity so that I could move onto the next chapter in my life…so I obliged.
Over the next few weeks, communication between myself, my host, and her assistant was so disorganized, that I felt like the entire event was resting on a flimsy foundation. Most of the time, it was me reaching out to straighten out basic fundamentals.
The tables were turned. I was invited as the honorary Guest, yet I was doggedly pursuing these people as if my life depended on it.
It didn’t feel good.
The scattered communication continued throughout the very day of the event, with plenty of (literal) last-minute demands placed on me to provide information for tax forms, addresses, schedules, and general things that should have been dealt with months before on their end.
I stayed consistent, feeling annoyed but never complaining. I had given up on the glamour of being treated as an Honorary Guest. This was purely Biz-Ne$$. I needed to get mines.
When I finally made it to Millersville, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. It was finally happening, and I was getting paid to do something I actually enjoyed—share my story as an Artist with new faces. Everything fell into place.
I sensed from the beginning what kind of crowd I might encounter at this event, and gauged how I should dress, accordingly. Having lived as a free woman in Los Angeles for the past year, I was accustomed to dressing sensually. I thought of wearing my favorite booty shorts and high socks with a frilled English blouse.
Nope. It was the NAACP—that definitely wouldn’t fly. So, I decided to wear something that was still stylish, yet a little more conservative. The last thing I needed was extra hassle over my wardrobe. As it worked out, the weather was chilly enough to justify my extra layers. Still, I questioned the reasoning behind my initial motives.
Am I wearing a mask to please others?
It was just a few nights ago when I had encountered a reflection which both deeply disturbed–and magnetically shifted me to step into the woman I am becoming in a more conscious way. This is my re-telling.
It had been a long, glorious Saturday. That day–marked the first day in several months when I had truly taken the time to truly invest in my self-care, my wellness, and luxury. It was the first time in a long time–that I felt abundant enough in all manner of ways–to do so.
I began my day with a clear decision to allow myself to do whatever felt good to me. At 6:30 a.m., I awakened and treated myself to my Sensual Dance & Yoga, and a slow walk of Gratitude through my neighborhood with plenty of Kitty-Worship amidst a glorious mountain view. I prepared Kale Salad for breakfast, and adorned my body with a Sensual Shower.
The day slowly crescendoed into a luxuriously-curated trip to Santa Monica, filled with deep tissue massages, aromatherapy, pedicures, thrift shopping, magical gardens, yummy vegetarian lunches, pleasant conversations, and unabashed kisses blown to my mirror reflection.
I was full and fulfilled.
It was a celebrate-myself-for-being-me day. It was a Boss-Lady-off day. It was a This One’s On Me day. It was a do-nothing and have anything-I-want day. It was my ME day. I had lived it out fully…and I deserved every last bit of it.
The sun’s deep yawn reminded me that it was finally time for me to re-visit the very reason why I came all the way to Santa Monica from my tucked away retreat of a home in the arid deserts of the San Fernando Valley, where I had hobbitted myself indoors for whole week due to the intense heat and my disciplined, yet graceful saunter between my Werk schedule and Pole Dance Training…
To be softened by the gentle winds and waters. To be one with the ocean. To feel my own starlit presence beneath a sea of stars.
The eve was setting in its course by the time I had arrived at the beach. I sat just above the edge of the waters, taking in the space. Unlike the last couple of times I had visited Santa Monica Beach on weeknights, I was now in the company of families, surfers, and babies running about, creating fun and games from the purest sands of their imaginations and the ground beneath them.
I gazed ahead and above, wondering why the sky was so vast, so clear, and so blue. It seemed as if the sky in Los Angeles was more tangibly vast than where I was before. “It must be because I am that much closer to my dreams,” I thought.
The words skimpered across my mind’s landscape, entering just as quickly as they left–as I re-established presence in my surroundings, taking in the mountains, the vague sunset barely peeking behind the clouds, casting a diffused colour of cool blue and pink onto the beach sand. The Ocean was just as vast as the sky.
After some moments had passed, I decided that I wanted to observe more from my own little nook of a space.
I bundled myself in my light sweater and walked over to the boardwalk to take in the rapture of fellow beach-goers more consciously. The continuous stream of Skateboarders, Roller-Skaters, and people with colourful, lit-up bikes, booming old-school hip-hop engaged me in an instant. I watched couples, families, and groups of friends walk by from my little side bench. I wondered about their stories. I made up stories. I felt their stories.
I made eye contact with a few people whose eye I had caught. They looked at me, and I looked back at them, watching them drift off into the abyss of the never-ending stream of passersby. In the back of my mind, I wondered if there would be a man who would approach me, as I sat alone on the boardwalk, looking single.
And so it was.
A trio of young black folks casually rolled by on their bicycles, and the young man in the back fixated his eyes on me. True to form, I gazed back at him, boldly–more intrigued in the curiousness of the gaze itself than in creating a physical connection. As I saw his bike turn towards me, I instantly looked away.
“Please don’t come over here,” I groaned inside. I did not intend to invite him over. Yet still, within minutes, he appeared, feet planted on the ground in front of me, straddling the wheels of his bike.
“Hi”, a voice spoke into the night, ever so softly.
I looked him over, silently, without speaking.
I read his presence, carefully. I wish I could describe him in detail, but I am uninspired. The truth is that everything about his physical presence was average. He gazed at me with softened brown eyes and a quiet smile on his face. He was intelligent. It was as if he read my energy and packaged himself accordingly to match my momentary vibe.
The one thing which glaringly stood out to me were the oversized slides he wore on his sock-covered feet. The exposed rubber backing looked tacky, as if his feet were pushed forward. He looked slack. It was as if he didn’t care. It was a bad sign.
Yet still, I took in his presence further, intrigued as to who had fallen at my doorstep. He had a quiet, subdued presence about him. Eyes delicately squinted, I smiled at him with curiosity. Nonetheless, I was deeply guarded. Somewhere inside, I knew that the silence exchanged between us was just a cute performance.
A Dance of Shadows and Mirrors.
“Are you just going to abandon your friends?” I said, referencing how he just wheeled off the path to meet me.
“I didn’t abandon them,” he said, still straddling his bike. “I just kinda went off on my own way”.
He pointed at my right wrist, asking what my tattoo meant. I was a bit surprised that he even noticed in the darkness of the eve.
I remained silent, staring at the being in front of me with curiosity, maintaining the air of mystery. A few moments later, I uncovered the inside of my left wrist, which was embellished with a similar tattoo–covering the faint, decade-old scars from knife marks and slashes.
“This is the feminine,” I said, factually referencing the inside of the left wrist. “And this is the masculine”, gently holding up the outside of my right. “They are actually symbols of royalty from Nigeria…”
I am used to sharing my stories with both myself and others–it was nothing particularly revealing. Yet at the onset, It had taken a little extra effort on his part to get me to open up. I was sharing with a deep sense of reserve and safety inside of myself. Nonetheless, I sensed something inside of him that I was curious about. I was curious about what inside of him was curious about me.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“I’m originally from New York,” he said.
“Hm. That’s good”
“Why? Because of our awareness?” he asked, knowingly.
Ahhh…awareness. I whispered inside myself. Interesting.
I said nothing. He continued:
“Everywhere I go, I’m alone. And so everywhere I go, it’s the same thing. Just alone. I mean… I’m not a regular dude. That’s how it is when you reach a certain level of awareness. You just don’t relate to most people. I mean people are attracted to you, and you can connect and give them advice. But nobody to really like–be friends with on a continuous basis, you know?”
My heart warmed. I knew. I knew exactly what he meant. He was speaking to an experience that I was currently struggling with. An experience I had struggled with off and on for years.
Like him, I was a Loner. I had been a Loner my entire life. I had often found myself ahead of my peers, quickly out-growing friendships, or sometimes going long periods of time without friends at all. I always had people around me to connect with in some fashion–but most of the time, those connections were distant.
I recently began my Pole Dance practice at the local Pole Studio. Last month, I had received an newsletter email informing studio members about The Studio’s Student Showcase that was happening in a few weeks. I was absolutely stoked. And true to form, I was the first person to sign up.
I set aside the several Dance injuries I had been nursing, and decided to invest my next chunk of savings towards two Unlimited Class and Open Studio Practice packages. (I didn’t really need to take class–I just wanted to be counted as a “student” so I could purr-form). Within minutes, I was researching and designing Pole Dance outfits, ordering fabrics, and listening to potential songs to Dance my heart out.
I had moved to Los Angeles to train and perform as a Pole Dancer, and this felt like the first opportunity that truly felt accessible at just the right time. This Studio in particular was the closest studio to me–and one of the main reasons why I moved so deep into The San Fernando Valley.
Ever since I witnessed all of the beautiful Aerialists, Pole Dancers, and supportive audience members at The Studio’s Spring Showcase, I knew I wanted to perform in the next one. I knew I wanted to be a part of that community.
After all of the challenges and miracles I had experienced this year, the Performance would surely be a beautiful way to end 2017.
I began my Studio Practice exactly one month ago, on November 15th. It was such a beautiful day when I walked in, knowing that I would have endless hours worth of ample space to practice my craft. I immediately began free-styling, experimenting, and strength-training for what would be the next 4 weeks.
Studio Space is not something I’ve ever taken for granted. It had always been a great privilege for me to have access to lots of space to train. Pole Dancing is something that requires a very particular set-up, especially if you want to train professionally.
Due to distance, funding, or in some cases–just not feeling the vibe–I’ve often had to forgo traditional Dance Studio spaces, and make the most of what I had, Pole Dancing in my living room or bedroom. On the jungle gym or training contemporary movement/acrobatics in park fields.
With a combination of raw talent, creativity, determination and endless resourcefulness– I’ve trained myself to reach a Professional level. However, I moved to L.A. knowing that The Studio would provide me with the proper space to take my skills and talent to the next level. I was so grateful and happy to finally be able to practice in a larger space.
I was winding down and wrapping up after my second day of practice–the last one to leave the studio after a 3-hour training session. That is when the Studio Owner approached me.
“I feel really uncomfortable saying this, but your body odour is really strong, and it’s overpowering the studio.”
I gasped. “Ohh!!”, I exclaimed, a bit surprised.
The Studio Owner tried to explain further, about how she understands that some people prefer not to use chemicals in their deodorant. However, this is a shared space, and…”
“It’s OK,” I said, assuredly. “You don’t have to explain. I totally understand. You’re not the first person to tell me this. I’ll be mindful of this, and you let me know if it gets better, OK?”
I explained that I shower, and use natural deodorant. But I understand that some natural deodorants are just not aligned with my body chemistry.
We ended on a positive note, and I was completely fine. I was sure that I could remedy the situation. Even though it was mildly embarrassing (way to make a first impression!) I was glad it happened. After all, I didn’t want to be traveling the world as a famous Performer and have a reputation:
That N3VLYNNN! She’s such a beautiful Dancer, but she stinks!
On a more personal level though, I admit that it was a little bit confusing. When I returned home, I sniffed my armpits profusely, and didn’t smell any bad odour. Sure, after a 3-hour sweaty practice, I didn’t exactly smell like roses–but I also didn’t smell foul the way that one would smell after skipping a few showers.
I kinda just smelled like–me.
My mind flashed back to the handful of people who had approached me about my body odor over the past several years. And actually–2 years prior, a Pole Studio Owner in New York had informed me that another student had complained about my “stench”. I left that studio shortly after and began training at home.
Most of those people (3 out of 5 to be exact)–had made it clear that they just don’t vibe with me as a person, and I’ve had to make my way out of those relationships and communities. However, I definitely didn’t want to take any of this personally, or latch onto old stories.
Somewhere deep down, I wondered if it was just another case of you know–society trying to condition us into thinking that our bodies have to be hairless, otherwise odourless–and smelling like daisies at all times to be socially acceptable?
I know that some people are more used to “natural scent” than others. My most recent lovers have definitely adored my scent, and even found it intoxicating. I wondered if it were just a primal thing.
The next day, I told my friend what happened. When I asked for her honest opinion, she too, was confused.
“I don’t think I’ve ever smelled an odour from you,” she said.
My friend graciously drove me to Erewhon Natural Food Market, where I excitedly purchased $40 worth of well-researched natural deodorant, a Strong formula “Primal Pit Paste” (which has been tested and approved by cross-fit athletes), as well as their “Po-Po Powder”, and a glorious smelling luxury soap.
As I stood in line for check-out, I was split in-half. On the one hand, I was satisfied with my purchase, and excited to try a new product. Regardless if the people around me had been brainwashed by Secret Deodorant, I felt I was making the right decision by trying to meet them half-way. After all, Pole Dancing is really important to me, and I really wanted to train at that studio. If I needed to make some adjustments to be exceptionally odour-free, I would at least try.
The other part of me felt strange and insecure about the whole thing. It felt as though I were desperately trying to fix something that I–in my heart–never truly saw as being broken…Just because other people were not used to it or felt it was unacceptable.
If I didn’t feel like I smelled bad, and I know I have proper hygiene–how would I feel about myself for going the “extra mile” based on someone else’s standards of how my body should smell?
Self-Love is so important to me and it always comes first. These questions lingered throughout my journey…