Susan's Blog

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Valourous Bertinelli

My dancing last night spurred all kinds of thoughts, mostly about older women and their bodies. Older women being sexy. It is like a taboo or something. It is a joke. But I don’t think it’s funny at all.

Bellydancing taught me this. How could you not like bellydancing? Is there any other beautiful dance form that features bellies, rather than abs? Or that has websites like this? It is a given in bellydance that some of the dancers are meatier. It is not unusal, also, to see dancers well into their 50’s. Yes, yes, yes. Once you get used to the person in front of you and accept how different this is from what you see in everyday media, you realize that this is great: pretty, sexy, enviably lithe and athletic. You can move the way you want to, the crazy free way you did as a kid!

When I tell people I bellydance, I find it interesting that the way they internalize it and almost in a way they forgive me for doing it, by acknowledging how, “It’s such a great workout, especially for your abs!” As if that is what makes it legitimate. Let me tell you: I don’t do it for the workout. I do it for how it makes me feel like a Goddess.

But what is my explanation? Someone once said to me, “It is a celebration of the sensuality of the female body.” And I think that’s the truth. With Valerie Bertinelli in the news so much, for being 48 and beautifully wearing a bikini, it is difficult to figure out what is a celebration of the female body and what is desperation.

I do not mean that Valerie Bertinelli is desperate, that is not it at all. I think she must be so proud of herself for losing 50 pounds; I would be, too, if I needed to lose that much. Six years ago I lost 22 pounds and have more or less kept it off — give or take 10 pounds — and I am really psyched about that. But as Ned pointed out, “she’s only in the news because of her weight! Is she doing any new acting or anything?” And I guess that’s the thing that might bug me. It’s all about her newly-skinny body and not about anything else about her. It’s as if she had no value before she was skinny. The magazines make it that way, not Ms. Bertinelli. Except when she remarks on how fearful she is of exposing her “jiggly bits” that are still there even after the big weight loss.

The jiggly bits are female! That is what bellydancers know. Bellydancers emphasize jiggly bits while also controlling them at the same time. A shimmy is basically letting your ass shake, but doing it in such a way that everything else is still — to emphasize only what you choose to emphasize. Bellydance is a lot of “you may look at me, ” and then “Now you may not.” Coquettish and playful, under the control of the dancer. It feels wonderful. It is not everything in life. It is not the only way to feel wonderful. But it is one good way. When you can master that attitude, it feels amazing.

I’m sure Valerie B feels some of this, but the media won’t let her express it. I’ll bet she has renewed energy and is perhaps in a stage of her life where she is thinking of trying all kinds of new things. It’s great when weight loss is a symptom of a greater evolution of the spirit, a shift in your own self-image and potential. My weight losses, for example, seem to coincide with finishing projects, with huge bursts of creativity. And springtime.

The problem, of course, is that this seems to be all we will hear of Valerie B. I hope not. I’d love to see her featured in a movie now, where she has a great relationship with someone, and it is not on Lifetime.

I want Warner Brothers. I want Cinemax. I want bellydancers to be taken seriously, and not to have to look like Bellydancer Barbie. I want to see 60-year-olds in bikinis, like Helen Mirren — wow. Or 70-year-olds with beautiful smiles and Elizabeth Taylor eyes — like my mother. Well, I am doing my little bit in furthering this, being a 46-year-old mother-of-three bellydancer.

One day at a time.


I believe that Valerie Bertinelli is in the news b/c she is a paid spokesperson for a weight loss plan. It’s all commercial hype. — Cathy in CT

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 8:35 am

Great post Susan! The belly dancing being an excercise for abs to validate it made me laugh.It’s like someone saying to me that my guitar playing is good for excercising my fingers,lol.I too think Valerie looks great at any weight and hope she gets some new projects soon.

— added by Anonymous on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

“I don’t do it for the workout. I do it for how it makes me feel like a Goddess.”

Hear, hear Susan…that’s what it should be all about.

— added by Judi on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 10:10 am

great post…also I would like to say that when a celebrity does an endorsment for a weight loss company for huge bucks and all the food for free, can pay for personal chefs and trainers and the like…come on if I had that kinda motivation and cush-cush I’d look like friggin Madonna!

— added by eileen on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 10:29 am

My mom used to belly dance (back in the last 70s). I’m sure there are still some of her old records at my dad’s house. I wore one of her coin belts with my gypsy costume one Halloween. My mom was cool like that. She did yoga before it was “in” as well.

Great post!

— added by Jeannie on Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I think the most wonderful thing about bellydancing is that it makes me feel female in ways that many things cannot. Like a previous comment said–like a Goddess. And it size doesn’t seem to matter much.


— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 12:51 am