Week 26: Dancing on a Pole

This was, hands down, one of the best challenges of my year. So. Much. Fun.

I had planned on doing this challenge with a bunch of ladies from work, but planning an outing for six busy women proved a bigger challenge than I was up for. I ended up going with my friend Dominique, who was enthusiastic about the outing from the beginning.

We registered for a beginner pole dancing class at Brass Vixens in Toronto. Heels were optional, but we did not opt. I was a little nervous going into this – anything new and requiring a fair degree of confidence and booty makes me nervous. And it turned out that “beginner” doesn’t mean “first time ever”, so many of the other students had done classes before and seemed like pros to me.

The real pro, however, was the teacher. She had a real name, but I couldn’t remember it after she told us her stage name – Crystal Chandelier. I liked her. She walked in six inch heels better than I walk. Period. And she had fishnet stockings. And a lot of upper body strength. I really liked her.

Dominique and I picked poles in the back of the room, for obvious reasons. We wiped the poles down (DIY) and started the warm up. I immediately felt like I was all elbows and knees – my body just wouldn’t move the same way as Crystal’s. Her butt and hips seemed to move independently from the rest of her body. How does she do that? But it was a very positive environment. Everyone was trying something new and trying to be ultra sexy and confident, so it didn’t feel weird at all. It’s just like improv – it only looks awkward if you feel awkward about it.

We learned moves such as the body roll, the crawl (so much harder than what babies do), how to get up from the ground without falling over, two types of twirls around the pole, and how to pull yourself up the pole (pre-requisite for moves like sitting on the pole). It wasn’t the hardest I’ve worked in a class, but it was challenging.

I also understood why we had cleaned the poles at the beginning of class – my hands are really sweaty! We did one move where we would hold ourselves up on the pole (just hands, no feet on the floor), and I kept sliding down. Much like a sexy fireman.

The moves themselves were lots of fun, but what I enjoyed most was the atmosphere. It was a very sexy-positive vibe, and we were encouraged to try moving our bodies in ways we don’t usually (or I don’t usually, at least). Dominique and I spent most of the class giggling and attempting to emulate Miss Chandelier.

I am seriously considering a career change.

 

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Week 8: Red Lipstick!

I have done it! I have purchased, and worn, red lipstick. And it has looked good.

This was a bit of a weird one for me (although really no weirder than a bikini wax), but also very exciting. I don’t know where I got the idea of adding red lipstick to my challenges list, but I’ve always admired women who could confidently wear red lipstick. They always look so polished and classy and put together. I, on the other hand, usually look dishevelled and like I haven’t showered in a few days… which is sometimes true.

I felt that buying and being able to pull off a devilishly red lipstick would make me feel grown up and fancy – much like a child wearing their mom’s clothes. And it worked.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t often wear makeup, and as a result don’t really know how to apply or buy it. Whenever I do buy makeup (once every three years) I go to Mac, because they know what they’re doing. The employees there are always very well coiffed and have probably been experimenting with makeup well before any formal beauty education. Whereas I made mud pies and wrote snarky blog posts.

And so I ventured to the mall to get the help of a Mac employee… on a Friday evening. This was a mistake. With only six Mondays left until Christmas, the mall was pretty busy on a Friday at 4pm. This blog post should really be titled “Katharine visited a mall and DIDN’T leave.” Because if I hadn’t had a timeline to adhere to, I would have been out of there.

But I stuck to it and battled the crowds until I met Gabriela, a makeup artist and my new BFF. Gabriela had a perfect cat eye, on both eyes, so I knew I could trust her. She asked me a few questions and helped me select a good colour. And then, bless her, she showed me how to apply lip liner and lipstick.

Apparently there’s a technique to this, and I had no idea. I listened carefully, watched her in the mirror, and absorbed all of the information she was dishing out.

I have since applied and worn my favourite new lipstick (Brave Red) and lip liner (He Said She Said) out of the house. Admittedly I did not do as good of a job as Gabriela, but she’s had a lot more practice than I have. I felt real pretty in this shade, and I am happy that I’ve finally grown up into a real lady.

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Me and my awesome new lipstick!

Finding My Voice… Again

I first started finding my voice in university. I went far away from my home in Oakville, Ontario, to the beautiful little Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec. It was tough being away from my family and high school friends, but it was also one of the best decisions of my life.

During my first year at university, Bishop’s full-time students numbered about 1800, which was only a little larger than my high school. The small size, in addition to the rampant partying at the school, allowed me to make some life long friends, and a huge amount of acquaintances. I would walk 15 minutes to campus in second year, and be able to say hi or wave to about half of the people I saw.

It was here that I realized that my voice was valuable. In class, at parties, and in extra-curricular activities, I started speaking up and voicing my opinions. I had done this a little in high school, but I didn’t think anyone was listening to me. Now, at university, I was not just saying words, but making my statements heard.

Between my third and fourth year at school, I decided to take some time off and do some travelling. I travelled for 10 months throughout Europe and Australia, and most of my travel was done solo. I had to speak to complete strangers at a new hostel every few days, in addition to meeting locals (many of whom did not speak English) on a daily basis. I gained a sense of independence and self-confidence that had eluded me before: if I could navigate my way around a foreign city, I could do anything.

After completing my university degree, I found a couple of jobs and moved to Toronto. I was working as an executive assistant at a retail design firm, and also giving tours on the big red sightseeing buses. As the youngest person in the retail design firm (by several years), I focused on being clear and well-spoken, and through a lot of trial and error (as well as some very supportive bosses), I learned to state my thoughts confidently.

A few months into these employments, I also started doing improv comedy. Once I got over my stage fright (six months and countless silent performances later), I felt pretty confident going up on stage and being ridiculous in front of a crowd. I was finding my voice, and learning to use it.

I left those jobs to cycle my way across Canada, and when I returned I started working at a fitness facility, which included a pool and gym. I was working as a lifeguard in the pool, and a sort-of consultant in the gym – basically, I was enforcing rules, while also getting to know members.

This meant that a lot of people didn’t like what I had to say. A lot of people were either defensive and rude to me, or angry and aggressive. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of great people there, but on bad days they were often overshadowed by a horrible member’s behaviour. I had a guy yell at me for several minutes because I asked him to put his bag in a locker. I got called more names than I care to recount.

Even when I had pleasant conversations with members, I was still guarding my tongue. I stopped stating my opinions because no one wanted to hear them; people were happier talking at me than to me.

There were also a lot of sexist undertones to the conversations I started having. When I was carrying a 45 lbs. weight up a flight of stairs, someone told me it was good practice for motherhood. While I was cleaning a machine, a guy told me I would make a great housewife. I had to explain to a member why it wasn’t ok for him to say to his male buddies that he loved Lululemon while I was walking away from him.

I also started watching the way I spoke to members: I found that asking politely and succinctly worked better when enforcing rules, because it meant I wasn’t embarrassing anyone. Apparently men don’t like having behaviour corrected by a female, especially in a gym setting.

I started realizing that new people I was meeting (outside of the gym and pool environments) weren’t getting to know the real me, because I was getting lost under layers of fear, self-doubt, and apathy. My stage fright came back, and I stopped pushing myself to try new things. I was at a complete stand still and started getting frustrated with myself for my lack of drive and passion. I was losing the things I loved about myself.

And then I quit my job.

I quit because this wasn’t the career path I wanted to be on, and also because I had identified the source of my stalemate. My job was making me doubt myself and my abilities, and stopped me from being myself, finding a vocation I was passionate about, and pursuing hobbies that I loved.

I’m two and a half weeks out of work, and I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I’ve been doing my challenges, writing, reading, doing good improv again, podcasting (more to come), cycling, leading tours, making friends with strangers, reaching out to old friends, and applying to amazing jobs. I feel more confident; I’m starting to recognize again that my opinions are valid, and that by not speaking up and out I am denying people the privilege of getting to know me and hear my voice. Because I’m worth knowing.

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Week 4: Head Shots

I know it seems like a long time since I posted a weekly challenge – it’s just because I did my tattoo last Monday, and then head shots the next Friday. So while it seems like I cheated, I didn’t!

Last year, my friend’s boyfriend, Sam, wanted to learn to swim. So we came up with an exchange: I taught him how to not drown in 3 feet of water, and he would do head shots for me (he’s an amazing photographer). We met a couple of times and he made a lot of progress in the water, but I never took him up on the head shots. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t a priority.

When I mentioned my challenges challenge on Facebook, Sam and Liz (his girlfriend) suggested I actually get the head shots done. So we arranged a time.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous for this. OK, a lot nervous. I don’t like being the visual centre of attention; while I don’t mind being on stage or speaking in front of a large audience, the idea of walking down a catwalk with all eyes on me makes me nervous. And don’t think that I don’t realize how ridiculous this sounds. No one has ever asked me to be in a fashion show (obviously), and these head shots would be me in a room with a friend whom I feel comfortable with. But I still felt a lot of pressure.

People would be looking at these photos. Really looking at my face, and all my features, and my ability to pose for a picture, and my ability to look pretty. Yep, there it is. Would I look pretty enough in these pictures? I wasn’t so worried about what other people would think, but about what I would think of myself.

I think we all probably feel this way at some time. “I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like the way I dress. I don’t like myself.” Pictures have a way of forcing us to look at ourselves in what can be a harsh light, and we don’t always like what we see.

Whoa. OK, I realize how deep that just got, so I promise the rest of the blog post will be a lot lighter.

Because it was a great experience! I showed up to Sam’s apartment/studio on Friday afternoon, and mentioned my nervousness to him. I was also feeling a little under the weather, at the very beginning stages of a cold, so I wasn’t feeling particularly beautiful. He said not to worry, and so I didn’t.

He sat me down and asked me what I would be using these head shots for. Ummm… to have? That’s probably not a great answer. In retrospect this may have been another influencer for why I waited so long to get the head shots. I don’t know what I want to use them for. Do I want to act? Do I want them for a business profile? Or do I want to have them just to have a nice photo of myself? Deep thoughts, my friends.

Sam helped me pick out the right shirt to wear (I had spent the morning frantically selecting and ironing a few shirts), and we began.

Sam had me sit on a stool in front of a white back drop, and started chatting with me. We talked about my unemployment, my challenges challenge, his new employment, and other things. He was snapping photos the whole time. Occasionally he would ask me to move a little this way, or tilt my head a little that way, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. We laughed quite a bit and it was a very relaxed atmosphere.

An hour and several poses later, we were done. That was it. Completely pain free.

I am now very excited to see the end results.

A "sneak peak" of my head shots! Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala

A “sneak peak” of my head shots!
Photo credit: Saajid Sam Motala