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On Burlesque as Therapy

It was today, on January 10, 2019, that I realized I was full of shit.

You see, I’ve had multiple conversations with other performers in private where we’ve expressed our extreme distaste with burlesquers using stage time to work out their inner problems and issues, often to the detriment of the audience’s enjoyment and comfort. I’ve scoffed, I’ve huffed and puffed, I’ve giggled, I’ve rolled my eyes and threatened not to go to shows where people just get onstage and cry or yell their eyes out with no real form or function. I’ve placed myself in a different category than others who actively use burlesque as “therapy”. I’ve said, “Those are types of performance artists… those are NOT burlesque striptease artists!”

As I was walking to work this morning, it hit me how wrong I really was.

I realized that I, too, do burlesque as therapy. Sure, I make sure that my routines are choreographed and costumed and I take time to do my make-up and hair and plan out my act accordingly. But to be honest:

The bottom line, the essence of my being onstage, lies within my desire to escape the confines of my day-to-day life.

Even though I may not be sitting centerstage crying my eyes out in my Spongebob undies and a sweatshirt, doesn’t mean I’m not using burlesque to work out some deep-rooted issues that I may not be fully aware of at this moment.

The truth is that my daily life is quite boring. I work in a quiet library and I spend 90% of my workday reading legal documents. I take care of my son and I’m an incredibly hands-on mom: I change every diaper (10+ a day, at one point), make every bottle, cook every meal, and run after my toddler until well after the sun goes down. I know all the words to every Sesame Street song ever made. I end most of my days softly singing nursery rhymes and staring into my baby son’s sweet little face.

Yeah… I love being a mom. I also love escaping motherhood and strip-teasing. Just being honest!

I can’t sit here and pretend that performing burlesque is not a way to escape the conundrum of my daily life. While I love my life, I understand my need to do something out-of-the-ordinary in order to be my happiest. Before burlesque, there was roller derby and cheerleading and pageants and calligraphy and comic book writing and God-knows-what-else. All of these things help me escape!

So from here on out, when I see someone performing at a show and they spend their 5 minutes screaming into the abyss, I won’t roll my eyes. I’ll understand. We’re all working things out, and everyone, in my opinion, deserves respect for surviving in their own way.

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