Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Quinn Within: How Carmen Electra taught me to smack my butt, and mean it.

THE VIDEO: "Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease," (Paramount, 2004)
STYLE: Dancey not-quite-aerobics
STRUCTURE: 10-minute, totally unnecessary instruction segment for the warm-up; actual warm-up run-through (about 6 min); Routine 1 instruction (about 12 min); Routine 1 run-through (about 3 min); Routine 2 instruction (12 min); Routine 2 run-through (3 min)
GIST: This workout is almost inexcusably mild, but it can be a nice, easy way to explore or rediscover your inner tease.

Ah, the quest for sexiness. Desirability. That thing.

There's a lot that could be said here about gender politics and the male gaze and heteronormative beauty standards and all that, but I'll start with this: 1) Doesn't matter who you are or how you feel about Carmen Electra, if you're a Quinn or a Daria; feeling sexy can be mighty fine -- empowering, even, if you've never felt sexy before in your life; and 2) The freedom to choose how you define "sexy" and how you incorporate it into your persona (if it all) is what's important, not what you "should" be doing according to a silly workout video.

Ok, half-assed feministy disclaimer out of the way, here's the deal with this video: It is barely a real workout. I bought it about 7 years ago when I was 20 lbs heavier, and it was pretty easy for me even then. Some of the individual moves are difficult to execute if you have limited flexibility or you're just unfamiliar with them, but I don't think I ever worked up a solid sweat doing this. I tried it last night, the first time in years, and it was so basic I got bored and went running instead.

So what is this video good for? Well, here's the thing about me 7 years ago: I was so young! So insecure! So anti-! So skeptical and afraid of those stereotypical feminine powers I was supposed to possess somewhere! Coquettish flirting, preening, seducing -- that stuff seemed so unnatural and contrary to my whole brainy-down-girl thang I felt embarrassed to consider even trying it.

But I was getting into belly dance and starting to be OK with the idea of sexiness -- of ::glances around furtively:: my sexiness. I was working through some body-image issues. I was starting to accept that a bit of "typical girl" strutting wouldn't suddenly turn me into some raging body snatcher bore.

So I finally bought this video, after almost buying it one more than one occasion. And while it wasn't a challenge aerobically, it did challenge me to forget about my body-image hangups and, like, stick my butt out. And smack it. And strut around slowly with my finger in my mouth, which Carmen assured me "makes it extra sexy." I laughed at myself a lot. I got frustrated sometimes, when I thought I looked stupid. I had fun. I started to trust my body to, you know, not be disgusting!

It wasn't until I was doing Routine 1 last night, having some fun with it but also feeling like "this is it?", that I realized how far I'd come in the past few years. Strutting around theatrically to music? That's basically part of my getting-ready-to-go-out routine now, or a playful warmup to a much longer, more intense dance practice. Hooray for progress!

Also, Routine 2 has some leg- and ab-toning moves with staying power -- both as exercises and sexy wiles. Consider:

I can't say I'm interested in re-entering Carmen Electra's world, (there are 4 other videos in her striptease series), but I'm grateful for the butt-smacking times we shared all those years ago. She helped this Daria to start accepting and embracing the Quinn within.

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