Belly Dances To 1970's Sex Liberation
I’d enjoyed soapy showers then sex with hubby but didn’t feel sexy while caring for babies. Sex was another domestic routine, a chore for his horny rush. I didn't care. It was duty booty. I accepted his need, was pleased he wanted me, was happy to give it but just didn’t feel sexy. If aroused I had to get mine on top first but usually was too tired and laid back and let him have it, pleased he wanted it.
As the kids grew out of diapers and choo-choo train baby talk ended, however, we began to emerge from our marriage shell and rejoin peers, at least on weekends. Most were still single, partying and sexually experimenting with the new Age of Aquarius. They avoided career, house and kid commitments and considered us bogged down. We were bogged down but happy ever after-ing in our little Camelot.
In the summer of 1974, six years after our wedding bells pealed, just before the kids entered preschool and kindergarten, we made a second trip to Disneyland for the kids, not us. We flew, not drove, rented a car at the airport, stayed and ate in the Disney Hotel and took the monorail to and from the park. The trip reflected our economic rise upward.
With freedom from breastfeeding, diaper changing, midnight baby cry awakening via "the pill", my seminal sexual yearnings re-emerged. First, it was a new dress or lingerie, then a special dinner with wine, then dancing, and best, with all these ending on our marriage bed.
Our sex, while vanilla, was again satisfying and sketches in the book, Joy of Sex, told us how to experiment for different flavors.
The changing sexual culture swirling around us, however, also shook our marital bed with ideas of greener grass on the other side of the marriage fence, not just doing different positions together.
We didn't talk about it. It was in our marriage closet. By the latter half of the 1970s, the sexual revolution of the sixties was over. Sex had won. Now everyone was "doing it". An eighteen-year-old virgin was a source of ridicule. Couples like us who missed the free love boat were urged to get aboard.
By 1975 middle America Tupperware parties became "Fuckerwear Parties" with a middle class married woman host selling lingerie, lovemaking oils, and sex toys. Pornography was on the big screen with, Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door. Woman’s magazines like Cosmopolitan and Redbook were full of articles titled, How to Experience Sex, Casual and Anonymous Sex, Your Orgasm and even, Should You Start Swinging?
The local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, delivered on the front porch, included classifieds filled with couples wanting to meet couples. The Berkeley Barb, a political protest paper, morphed into a thick, classified, sex ads messenger for every depravity, it’s yellow paper rack pervasive at commercial street corners and restaurant entries.
With the pill and before AIDS, there were few ramparts against the onslaught of sex on demand. The media pulled out the stops and advocated sex in the haze of marijuana smoke seeping across suburbia. Commitment meant doing something together, including swinging.
With two kids, we knew about sex. What we didn't know, we knew from magazines, books, newspapers and even television, all now vying to outdo one another in sex education. From them, we were informed we needed to expand our horizons despite what we knew.
I tested media tips for man-pleasing but like new food recipes, hubby wanted a basic fare of three meals a day and two to three sex romps a week. He did respond to, sexy nighties, lingerie and hula dancing.
The Mountain View city parks and recreation department offered hula dance lessons. I enrolled to firm up from childbearing. It required only a twenty-dollar fee, purchase of a grass skirt, weekly class attendance, a neighbor baby sitter during attendance and practice at home when hubby was absent because all it took was a little swaying in the grass skirt and he was on me fast and furious. It appeared a nylon nightie or hula skirt was more exciting than me.
From hula dancing, I graduated to much more difficult belly dancing. I chose the Turkish bedlay style known for its energetic shimmies, hip vibrations and clicking cymbals over the more sedate Egyptian. I made my costume with beads, sequins, and a fringe decorated bra, one stitch at a time.
The "V" shaped hip belt included four layers of coin chains for shimmy emphasis and a lavender chiffon skirt for a dreamlike allure.
Accessories included a chiffon hip/neck shawl, large hoop earrings, bracelets, and slave ankle coin charms.
Movements are accompanied by finger and thumb held brass cymbals, called zils in Turkish, clicked by the dancer to the music tempo.
As with the other students, my costume was not traditional. It was based more on the TV series, I Dream Of Jeannie than an authentic but expensive outfit encouraged by our instructor.
She was a plump, middle-aged, former professional belly dancer. The class of about a dozen women was her venue for teaching her art and educating Americans about Turkey, a hobby income supplement to her day job. I learned where Turkey is on the globe and that belly dancing is one of the few things which unite opposing Turkish, Arabic, Armenian and Greek cultures. Eventually, hubby and I visited the Middle East where we enjoyed different ethnic professional dances but of, course, appreciated it in different ways. He, arousal and me, aesthetics.
Belly dancing changed my self-image from a long-necked ugly duckling to temptress. My costume included a lavender nylon panty except when dancing before hubby due to his rapid response time. Gyrations with cymbals clicking in front of hubby resulted in being picked up carried to bed and nailed before I could go through the next dance movement.
There are seven core movements to master with many variations due to tribal ethnic and instructor nuances, mostly unnoticed by the untrained eye. We learned lifts and drops, slides, shimming, twists, circles, figure eights and finally undulations as we trained muscles to avoid contortion injuries. We also learned to practice when there was no male significant other to interrupt.
My flexible body made it easier for me than for other students to master a movement. My "long" neck was ideal for head slides, my bosom, and hips for shimming and my nimble sewing fingers for the cymbals.
My complexion and slanted eyes were assets. With the instructor’s guidance, I wore heavy eye makeup to emphasize “Cobra” eyes and used Liz Taylor in the movie Cleopatra for inspiration. In costume and makeup, I converted the stigma of youth associated with Cobra to an asset and adopted it as my stage name.
Tricks mastered are concentration on the movement of one body part, relaxation of other parts, breathing control, joint flexibility and music response. Once a month our instructor took the class out for a performance, typically before a sedate audience and often before women only. Beginners performed in a group but those advanced did a short solo exhibition of their most recent mastered movement.
As I advanced my dancing empowered me first with my husband and then with the audience as my movements captured attention. In belly dancing, one keeps a stoic face while performing but makes eye contact with the audience, especially a singled-out male. I began to enjoy selecting a man in the audience, mesmerize him through movements while keeping indifferent eye contact.
After a year, the instructor took me and another advanced student to an upscale Middle East style restaurant/night club with belly dancing in San Francisco. My costume by then had advanced to include a pearl jeweled headpiece and transparent silk veil which added to the allure of eye makeup and neck head slides. We were introduced as novices. No audience money offerings were permitted to keep us, innocents, among the professional dancers. Our instructor knew enough not to generate competition resentment.
The instructor had me perform second. Gyrating to the background music of the darbuka goblet-shaped drum and Turkish kanoun strings guitar, I swayed among the subdued lighted crowd, clicked my cymbals to shimmering hips from table to table until before one seating powerful-looking men. I first got their attention with neck head slides while peeking behind my shawl, made indifferent eye contact with a good looking, well-dressed man, roped him around the neck with my shawl and led him back to the stage behind my undulating hips.
I sat him on a little stage chair for my performance and began with hip lifts and drops to the music, advanced to neck and head slides, switched to shimmering shoulders, then breasts, then hips. I went through each progressive body part movement following the music’s increasing tempo with body twists, circles, figure eights, to twisting undulations.
Finally, spread before him, arched back, my hair sweeping the floor behind me, my torso supported by my buttocks on my heels, my knees spread apart and with indifferent eye contact I went through the finishing crescendo. I shimmied my shoulders and breasts as my torso and arms swayed to and fro, my cymbals clicked in rapid music rhythm, my head slid from side to side while I kept my eyes fixed stoically at his mesmerized attention and pants-swelled erection. The tempo increased with the music until a spasm of sexual exhilaration swept me.
With the music stopped my instructor-led him back, limping, to his table. I slowly rose up from the floor, exhausted both physically and sexually. Standing, catching my breath, profusely perspiring, I gave my veiled bow to an ebullient ovation. His fixation and the applause from those at tables caused a sense of sexual empowerment never possessed until then.
At home, still in costume, sans headpiece, with a dried sweat-stained bra, belt, and panty, hubby picked me up before I could shower, stripped me in a frenzy and dropped me on our bed for his fast and furious without words. I climaxed thinking of the man's transfixed gaze before my gyrations and his pants-stressed erection.
Afterward, the cabaret stage patron attempted to contact me through the instructor but she was an experienced mother hen and ensured he never did. I didn’t want to meet him. I wanted him to remain a San Francisco fantasy but his seeking me boosted my self-esteem.
Belly dancing is time-consuming. One needs to keep practicing to ensure flexibility and muscle conditioning to avoid injury. While sexually empowering, my class attendance tapered off after my night club cabaret performance until ceasing when I started work. Hubby was disappointed the costume moved to the back of the closet and eventually to a garage trunk.
Belly dancing, however, changed my self-image to someone sexually alluring, a fundamental change from being man shy to seeking their notice. I became a flirt, thrived for confirmation I was not a long-necked ugly duckling but a Liz Taylor Cleopatra. Flirting was a game of glances, smiles, banter, innuendos and crass suggestions seeking a man's overt move and then hiding behind the safety of marriage to decline. Each overt male move provided confidence while honing my flirting skill. I continued to wear dark eye makeup, kept the nickname Cobra and often darted my tongue out when flirting.
High school friends who visited envied me. Life was good. Yet with the kids away during the day I was bored and still carried some of the low self-esteem of my youth due to dependency on my husband's income. Only flirting assured my self-worth.
Despite having everything, something was missing, an inoculate yearning disrupting happily-ever-aftering.
Author Notes: Life changes from minor decisions which result in unexpected results.