Why I Became Hotter When I Stopped Stripping

12 Apr

“You have an amazing body.  You’re in such good shape.”

“Thank you,” I replied graciously, even though it wasn’t true.  I’d always had a love/hate relationship with exercise, and at that moment I was situated firmly on the “hate” side.  I was able to summon the motivation to hit the gym two or three times a week, and I’d breeze through the motions – twenty-five minutes on the elliptical machine, fifteen on the stationary bike, some cursory ab work – until, having barely broken a sweat, I decided I had been there long enough to head home.  Climbing a couple flights of stairs left me winded.  I barely even walked anywhere – living in Brooklyn, I abused my monthly unlimited Metrocard, taking the subway at every opportunity.

“So, uh, what do you do to stay in shape?”

“As little as possible,” I deadpanned, and he laughed.  But it was true.

Customers asked me this all the time, and I always found it odd.  Were these portly, middle-aged men angling for workout tips from a naturally slender 22-year-old girl?  Or did it simply turn them on to imagine the hours of exertion in the gym it must have taken to maintain my physique, which I was in turn purveying for their enjoyment?

I never worried about my weight while I was dancing, even though I was actually at my heaviest.  Instead of grueling workouts and ascetic eating habits, I relied on genetics, youth, flattering (read: dimmed) lighting, my pretty face, and my awesome personality.  Honestly, having been raised by parents who put quite a bit of emphasis on the way I looked, it was liberating, almost as much an act of rebellion as stripping itself: like, “yeah, I have a normal-sized ass, and it’s earning me $800 a night.”

Shortly after I quit dancing, I finally surrendered my virginity to my boyfriend, and we started enjoying a healthy, normal sex life.  And something strange happened: the extra weight – most of which had deposited itself on my thighs and ass – dropped off.  My stomach, which had always been flat, became tighter, and the muscles in my arms were suddenly more defined.  I started craving more time in the gym, and I wanted to have heart-pumping, sweat-drenched, Rocky-esque workouts.  I started attending spinning classes at my gym, and it thrilled me to have drill sergeant instructors push me to my absolute limit.  Working out didn’t feel like work anymore – for the first time in my life, exercise wasn’t an obligation, it was actually fun.

I really think that the ways in which my body has changed over the past few months – effortlessly, it seems – can be attributed to my revamping the way I think about it.  Instead of viewing my body as a vehicle for strangers’ pleasure, I began considering it a vehicle for my pleasure, and for my boyfriend’s pleasure.  Taking my clothes off was no longer a pedestrian act, something I did countless times a night at the bestowment of a $20 bill; now, it was only something I did as an act of intimacy with the person I love.  My naked body became a private luxury, not public commodity.

The unintentional, accidental transformation of my body has convinced me that one’s mind and one’s body are inherently and intimately linked.  My body changed first in a metaphysical, conceptual way; then its appearance changed, in a physical, concrete way.  I find that endlessly fascinating.  It makes me wonder: how much of ourselves – our minds, our bodies, our health, our personalities, etc. – are predetermined or otherwise beyond our control, and how much could be altered if we simply were to reshape our perceptions of ourselves?

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