Sunday, July 27, 2014

Warning: May contain nudity (and swearing)

Last night Peter and I saw Maude Davey's show 'My Life in the Nude'.  We've had the pleasure of seeing Maude perform for a number of years as part of Finucane & Smiths 'Glory Box' burlesque show.  It's not burlesque as you might imagine, though.  For the uninitiated, it's artistic, artful, playful and mesmerising, confronting and challenging.  It's smart nudity that tells a story and I adore it.

Maude's show highlighted her long career of getting starkers in front of an audience.  It was a joy to see her most memorable moments from F&S, and find out about her entrance into the world of cabaret and burlesque.  This included a routine called 'I'm not going to show you my cunt'.  Having turned 50 last year, she is considering if it's time to hang up her pasties and feathers.  She discussed her relationship with her body, and for the first time gave the audience permission to take photos.  As she said, every year things get saggier and softer so it's best to have photos now, as it's only going to get worse!

I know very few women who don't have issues with their body, or the lines on their faces or their increasing grey hairs.  We focus so much on the faults we never celebrate the positives.  Maude poetically stated that being young and nude is about beauty, sex, possibility and potential.  Being older and nude is about something else entirely.  Can your body show wisdom, experience, perseverance, longevity, survival?  Does youth make us focus on the body, while age allows us see the person under the skin?

It's a powerful question.  Nudity in this context always seems the curious juxtapose of strength and vulnerability.  Maude often gets told how brave she is - her reply: 'am I so hideous that I shouldn't show myself?'  She thinks that her performances are a statement: she is worthy of our gaze.  And indeed she is, whether it's stripping out of a gorilla suit to Christina Aguilera's Beautiful, being an ageing fur-coat-clad star, fragile and requiring help from the audience to stand before, being transported to the bright lights via a trapeze.  Nude, reborn and free in death, to the soundtrack of Antony & the Johnsons 'Hope there's someone' makes your hairs stand on end. Maude transforms into a horned creature with a bleeding heart, desperate to love and be loved (to Portisehead's beautiful 'Glory Box').  She is a sparkling feathered showgirl and rock god as she slams out the Angels 'Am I ever gonna see your face again' and finally a suited and bearded man with a surprise package for the audience - singing Patti Smith's 'Gloria'.

Each character is engaging, each vignette touching, heartfelt, raucous and inspiring.  We all have complex relationships with our bodies, but how difficult it must be to make a living out of baring it to other human beings.  But unlike porn, modelling, stripping or even traditional burlesque what Maude does is art, and I don't think there's an age limit on that.  Perhaps it's fitting that she finished with a Patti Smith song - another ageing woman with a 'fuck you' attitude.

Maude asks the audience if she was to still do this at 60, 70 or 80 would we still want to watch.  My answer: even if her tits hang past her belly button, and her pubic hair is grey, if she wanted to get her gash out - I'd pay to see her.  Because her body is a vehicle for her performance, her wit and intelligence shine through any sags or wrinkle.  She is captivating, and deserves our gaze.  We love your work Maude - and may you continue to be nude for years to come.

Beautiful (photo by Peter)

Glory Box (photo by Peter)

G.L.O.R.I.A. (photo by Peter)

To celebrate, here's a Maude inspired playlist

Antony & the Johnsons 'Hope there's someone'

Portishead 'Glory Box'

Patti Smith 'GLORIA'

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Shyness is nice...

There has been a lot happening in the last few weeks.  We found out that redundancies we thought we were safe from at work are actually going to affect us.  Everyone was thrown into panic for a few days until little bits of information are starting to get to us.  It still doesn't help and we will have months of not knowing.  So I've decided to chill.  Life has thrown everything at me over the last five years so I've learnt to not panic until there is actually something to panic about.  Who knew there would be a silver lining to all that hardship!

It's likely that it will be 'spill and fill' (making everyone apply for their jobs) and so I've been assessing myself.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm actually employable.  I've worked really hard and there are many things I love about what I do.  Maybe this shows, as I've been getting pep talks from a number of people at work.  But we all know that nothing is guaranteed and about 10% of people will be leaving.  I just have to have faith for a few more months.

To weirdly coincide with this, I applied to be part of a mentoring scheme.  I'm a mentee.  Next week I'll meet my mentor.  It feels like some weird professional speed dating program.  But if I'm honest, now is probably a good time to go meet other librarians at different Universities.  I was chatting to a colleague (another mentee) and she mentioned how she wasn't great at networking.  I laughed thinking how wrong this seemed to me.  I think she's amazing!  But maybe that's it.  Maybe I've found myself in a profession that suits me perfectly.  I think there are many of us who are high functioning introverts.  We can give tours, present classes, give conference papers and reach out through social networks.  But at our core are we all bricking it?

My idea of myself is the shy kid I was growing up.  However, work has forced me to confront the things that scare me shitless.  Perhaps we are all ducks - coasting calmly across the water while underneath paddling hard to make it look effortless.  Shy isn't bad, and I've learnt to take deep breathes and push myself forward into the terrifying stuff.  And I've survived.  When looking at the traits of introverts, I see we listen as much as talk.  That's not a bad thing to aspire to.  Sometimes I need a bit more time to think and ruminate on a problem.  But maybe that stops me making rash decisions.

A friend online put this quote up regarding her daughter.  "She believed she could so she did".  She was worried that her daughter was holding herself back and missing out.  I wish I had have seen this when I was young.  I was so scared of humiliating myself so there are things I've never tried.  The sting of failure or rejection stopped me from putting myself out there.  Judgement was too terrifying to contemplate.

But getting older I've learnt a new quote.  'What other people think of me is none of my business'.  It's a good one and I'm really lucky to have a fan club president in the form of my husband, and some incredibly supportive and wonderful friends.  They have all helped push me forward, and told me I can do anything.  Although the shy kid is just below the surface, I sit comfortably with her.  She holds my hand as I face challenges.  We take a breath together and step forward...because we believe that we can.