Nothing makes a girl feel as unsexy as divorce.
As my marriage was slowly dissolving into silent meals and awkward nights of avoiding conversation, I started pondering an unmarried future, and wondered if I'd ever be able to hack being single again. I'd gone up and down in attractiveness through the years, sure, but I'd always kept a sassy flirty quality that guys seemed to enjoy. I could banter with a possible date for hours, but after a few years in a quickly cooling marriage, I didn't feel up to bantering with anyone, and especially not my husband. Our talks were mainly about how broken our relationship felt, and what we could try next to fix things.
We made the heavy decision, we planned things out, we cried, we divided our things, and I moved in with a Craigslist roommate and into a new and single world. My emotions were all over the place. I was sad for the life I thought I would have forever, terrified of being alone for the first time in years, excited at the prospect of having a new and better life, and completely confused of how I was supposed to act.
Almost immediately I found myself wanting to date, but I recognized that as a terrible idea, and one that would only be temporarily filling a hole I needed to be filling myself. I met men and would try to flirt with them, but I felt off, damaged, desperate and too old all at the same time. I might have made out with a guy or two in an effort to prove to everyone that I was single again, but things felt too raw, too exposed.
I decided I needed to meet new girlfriends, so I started looking up classes that I might want to sign myself up for. I saw an ad for a belly dance studio, and when I looked around their site to see what they had to offer, I noticed that they also had burlesque dance classes. Bingo. I'd always been a bit intrigued by burlesque dancing, so I signed up and went two days later.
There were about 12 of us, some of us just starting, and some of us who'd been at it for a while. As our gorgeous instructor had us stare at ourselves in the mirror and run our hands all over our own bodies, most of us new girls giggled at how weird it felt to be so unapologetically... sexy. Over the next hour, we went through sultry walks, giving sly looks to the mirror, and removing gloves so slowly and teasingly that they might as well have been lingerie. Once I stopped giggling, I saw a glimpse of myself as this va-va-voom dynamo who knew what she was giving out and knew what she was keeping a secret. I liked her.
I was hooked.
Over the next few months I not only learned how to dance, but I learned how to be extremely sexual without having sex--two different concepts that women often throw together. Rather than going out and trying to find my newly-single worth in some random guy's arms, I found it instead in the mirror, with every exaggerated movement and every coy look over my shoulder. I felt sexy, I felt powerful, with none of the complicated feelings that come from random post-breakup hookups. I also made wonderful girlfriends without the cattiness that often plagues female friendships, because we were objectifying ourselves so much on our own terms that it didn't feel weird to size up the competition. "You have a marvelous ass" I'd say to a fellow dancer. "Thanks", she'd reply, "and your fan dancing really shows off your hot legs!" When I walked into parties, I was able to do so swinging my hips and with a smile on my face, hearing the bump n' grind music in my own head.
Burlesque dancing didn't solve all my post-divorce problems, but what it did do was force me to court myself for a little while. I was able to rebuild my sexuality from the ground up while getting a good workout once a week, so that when it came time for me to try dating again, I was a confident, sexy creature, finally ready to banter all night again without worrying if I had the chutzpah to flirt.
Plus I always had a few secret dance moves to show off in case I needed them on a date.