Tomorrow I will turn 35.
Tomorrow I will also dance in public and show my belly.
That this has potential to be deeply embarrassing has not gone unnoticed by me. In fact, I’m shaking in my flip-flops.
Which is okay, as it turns out, because belly dancing is chock-full of the shimmy-shakes. So even if I just stand there and tremble, I’ll still be getting it partway right.
At least that's what I tell myself.
To gear up for the event, I painted my belly with henna.
Well, I didn’t paint it myself. I just laid on my back and tried not to breathe, let alone laugh or talk or do anything that would make my tummy jiggle, while my friend Anna Maria free-handed the henna. It took her about two minutes and fourteen seconds because she’s a total whiz.
Then I had to lay flat on my back for an hour while it dried. To get my newly-painted and still-slightly-tacky tummy safely home, I had to hike up my shirt and tuck it into my bra, sit ramrod straight with my tummy sucked in to keep it as flat as possible, position the seat belt most carefully, and drive as gently as possible.
Thank goodness it was dark outside.
Even with all my extreme precautions, my belly still rolled and pooched. (It’s what bellies do after they’ve been blown up with babies. Well, except for Rose, our snaky instructor who has four babies and a six-pack. What woman has a six-pack after birthing four boys, I'd like to know? It’s unnerving.)
So because I had four babies, the henna smeared. As soon as I got home I woke up Mr. Handsome and ordered him to come down and minister to my belly with a toothpick, q-tip, and napkin. He was groggy and confused, but after about fifteen minutes and lots of explaining, he finally caught on.
Then, to help the henna set, I was supposed to apply a mixture of lemon juice and sugar with a cotton ball. We, however, didn't have any cotton balls, so Mr. Handsome used a panty liner to daintily dip and pat.
I slept on my back that night and by the next morning the henna was dry and crusty. I softened it with some olive oil before pulling it off in bits and pieces, yipping every time one of my tender little belly hairs got stuck.
Bath time is quite the adventure. The stain isn't supposed to get wet since water can lighten it, so I have to drape my body over the edge of the tub and bathe my body in stages—first the top half and then the bottom half, with the back-washing being outsourced.
Oh, the suffering I go through just to have fun! I should probably get my head examined.
I'd like to pretend that my tummy looks so smooth all the time, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that these pictures were taken first thing in the morning before I ate breakfast or even drank my coffee. (And I may have sucked my tummy in just a little, too.) Because as soon as I chew and swallow that first bite of food, my belly falls to pieces. It swells and slouches, rolls and puckers, pooches and puffs. It goes hog-wild in its unbridled excitement over being fed.
Therefore, I will not be ingesting anything until after the dance tomorrow.
Yeah right. Like I could go for eight hours without eating. Now that's funny. I'll just have to settle for sucking my stomach in extra hard.
So if you come to the dance tomorrow and see a henna-ed bellied woman in a black coin belt with a pained expression, that'll be me.
Just tap me gently on the shoulder and remind me to breathe, okay? Thanks.
The One Who Is Baring All
This same time, years previous: Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, cross-dressing, and one hot chica