|After my first burlesque performance|
“Doesn’t it bother you that people are watching your wife take her clothes off?”
I slowly stir my Jack and coke, a wry grin creeping across my face. I’ve been married to the same wonderful, talented woman for almost 19 years -- over half my life. No answer could possibly encapsulate all the pride I take in her accomplishments, all the happiness she brings me, and the depth of my devotion to her. She is my best friend, my lover, and my muse.
I say, “You ever see a gear head pop his hood at a car show or the parking lot of a burger joint? Showing off a cherry, rebuilt V-8 engine, all that chrome?” I know he has. He’s a rockabilly guy. “It’s kind of like that. Other guys can look all they want; I’m driving my baby home.”
It’s an objectifying answer to be sure. But it’s rather an objectifying question, don’t you think?
Every now and then I hear about some burlesque gal who hooks up with some guy who turns around and makes her “tone it down” or worse, quit burlesque altogether. I have a name for these guys: fucking idiots. They are attempting to reign in the joie de vivre that attracted them in the first place.
|Photo by Markus Alias 2011|
Not to get too metaphysical, but I think it’s joie that drives attraction. I spend a considerable amount of time observing, thinking, and writing about live theatre and what it is that makes some performances worthy of all the praise an audience can muster versus what makes a dud. I’m convinced it’s the joie.
All live entertainment is some form of storytelling, no matter how abstract. We evolved storytelling as a way of conveying experiential knowledge to others, to save each other the hassle of getting stepped on by a wooly mammoth when out on the hunt (or whatever). Storytelling is an intensely social act. We’re social animals, and we care about each other. When we encounter another human being who has joie, we experience a deep, evolutionary drive to assimilate that feeling. That’s why you cried at the end of Marley and Me.
In entertainment as in life, it is joie that attracts us to other human beings. Understand then why it is you may feel threatened or jealous when you see -- or even think about -- a group of strangers watching your wife or girlfriend strip. You know how much joie is there to love.
|Photo by Azul 2009|
There is a certain “safety” in live performance afforded by that fourth wall and what we call the “willing suspension of disbelief.” You know how you laugh when the Three Stooges wail on each other? It’s because you know, deep down in your heart of hearts that it’s not real. A (good) live performance creates an artificial transference of joie for the audience; a place where if they squint their eyes they can almost believe it’s all real. The contact high they get from a performer can last hours, days -- an entire lifetime. But it’s just a contact high.
Your lady is performing a public service. Next time she performs, really look at the audience. Appreciate the happiness she’s bringing them. Take pride in the fact that you support this artist! You know better than anyone else in the room how much time and effort went into approximately three minutes of stage time. Enjoy it!
The only way you would ever be in any danger of losing the relationship you have is if she reciprocated with her audience. If she broke the “fourth wall” and allowed the artificial transference of joie in a theatrical setting become true transference of joie in an intimate setting. Friend, if your lady is inclined to break intimacy with you, she’s going to do it, audience or no.
There is another, perhaps more justifiable cause for dumb fuckery: A fear for your mate’s safety and well-being. This, too I understand. My wife has been hit on by overbearing drunks without me around to chase them off. Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit if it sounds sexist: I consider it part of my job to protect her. I know for a fact she feels likewise, as she has on more than one occasion stepped between me and a fight.
|Photo by Chris Beyond 2008|
Take all reasonable precautions. Talk it over with her. Tell her about your concerns for her safety, but above all trust your mate. Trust her to act in her own best interests, to keep herself safe. Trust is really what it comes down to. A trust that grows out of openness, communication, and understanding. Don’t allow your concern to become an obsessive need to insulate her. Let her breathe. She’s not your child, not your pet; she’s your equal.
I down the last of the Jack and coke just in time to help my lady out to the car, doing what I do, grabbing her bag and opening the doors for her. We pause a few times on our way to the car so she can gladhand the audience. She’s beaming, and I’m warmed by it. I helped make this moment happen. Resisting it or trying to squash it would only make us both unhappy, and we’re not together out of a mutual need for unhappiness. We’re together because our individual strengths outweigh our individual weaknesses. We’re a unit.
|Photo by Jason Kamimura 2012|