Any time I mention the fact that I’ve never told my parents that I’m a burlesque performer they are usually incredulous and say something along the lines of, “how is that possible? It’s such a big part of who you are!”
I was incredibly shy and introverted as a child, like enough to where having to talk to a stranger would bring on complete panic. I had issues telling my mom what kind of music I liked, let alone tell her the other things I enjoyed/thought were cool that I already knew she didn’t like or had negative associations with….like tattoos, horror movies, sex work…you get it, some regular parent stuff.
My parents are older than most of my friends parents, I’m about to be 29 and my parents are 67 and 71. They just don’t have context for a lot of these things, and I get that. My mother has literally told me that only trashy girls and gangsters have tattoos. She’s thinking in terms of 1955, but that point is beyond her.
We had lunch on Monday. Tuesday she sent me an email saying she’s worried about me and she’s sad that we only have a “surface” relationship and I don’t share with her. Then she sent an email an hour later saying to ignore her previous message and that she was just whining and feeling sorry for herself.
In my response…it just felt like time, so I told her. I came out of the glittery closet and told her that her daughter is a sparkly naked lady. I’m scared because I know this has the potential to change our relationship forever. I’m scared because I know she may not be able to accept this about me, let alone celebrate it. But, I guess I just had to, at least she would know if not understand. I mean, she’s a dance teacher and I feel like she could be hurt by realizing her shy daughter has become a performer and is dancing and singing….and didn’t include her. Below is the letter I sent to her. She still hasn’t responded.
What? Don’t be sorry, being real isn’t whining. I’m just seeing these now, covering 5 projects on top of my own stuff has kept me pretty busy today.
I feel like I’ve been so run down for so long that that’s just what I have to talk about. And that’s what’s real for me, I’m unhappy with this job that has taken over my life and trying really hard to keep it together, so I can’t help but share it. For a long time I wasn’t taking any action to fix this, kind of like I did in past bad relationships. In the last few weeks I’ve been trying to take the steps to get myself back on track and to be happy.
I’ve never thought we had just a “surface” relationship, I tell you ALL the emotional stuff. But part of me has always felt like there are things about me you might never like or accept. Like, I have tattoos and I know how you feel about that. I know you’ll always love me no matter what, but I wonder if you would always accept me and celebrate me.
And maybe that’s me projecting, maybe it’s not like that at all, but that’s how I’ve felt for a very very long time. I’m not saying this to hurt you of course, I just want you to understand me.
It’s not like I do drugs or steal or hurt people or anything like that.
Ok Momma, I’m going to come out of the closet. In case you don’t already know, which I kinda thought you might, I AM a burlesque performer. So that’s a thing. I have been for 6 years. I actually run a monthly show and have co-produced/created 2 theatrical Productions that fuse theater and burlesque. I’m working on one now actually.
Totally sobbing as I write this. As this has progressed I’ve felt more guilty for not tellin you about it, because I’m performing and dancing and you would probably want to know. I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t think you would understand. I thought you would be disappointed and judge me, and I couldn’t carry that on my shoulders because this is something I truly love.
I’m not sure if you can get this, but burlesque honestly gave me permission to like myself. To feel beautiful and talented and not feel shy and terrified of people. Can I feel that way with anything else? I dunno, maybe, but this is what opened the door for me. I have made more friends and had more fun because I joined this community. It has taught me so much.
Yes, it is sexual, just like many things in the world. But that is secondary to the humor, camp, politics….so many things. And it’s where I can own it. Where it’s mine. And not some guy harassing me on the sidewalk, it’s not being done TO me. And it’s body positive and female-centric, radical self acceptance. And glitter. So much sparkles. You know how I feel about sparkles.
I think I was pushing away because there was too much I was keeping from you. And keeping such a big piece of myself from you is hard. And not fair. I hope you can forgive me for not telling you sooner. I’m genuinely terrified that you will not accept this and you will judge me and not be proud of who I am. But I can’t live in terror of my parents, my biggest fear is living a life that I regret because I was scared of what others would think.
I’m sorry to do this over email, but not at the same time. I’m crap over the phone and it’s hard for me to gather my thoughts an speak clearly. I’ve always liked letters more, then I can really think about what I want to say. So if you call after reading this and I don’t pick up, don’t worry I’m just having a panic attack.
I’m the same person I always was, but now you know exactly who that is. I hope you can love her and feel proud of her and not just tolerate the parts you may not understand.
I love you so much Momma. And now you know everything, I don’t need to hold it back anymore