223. Watch a professional belly dance
Completed September 2008
I grew up in a sort of ambiguously religious household. We were pretty devout Catholics when I was born up until my parents divorced when I was six. I remember going to Mass every Sunday, and spending time in Sunday school, and even looking at the uniforms and nearly attending Catholic school – I was sent to public school instead, probably because of the turmoil going on in my family at the time. Because the Catholic church didn’t (and maybe still doesn’t, I don’t know) recognize divorce, they made life a little difficult and humiliating for my now single mom, and we stopped going to church. My mom held on to a belief in God, but talked about church being a place where everyone was a hypocrite and believed they were better than everyone else. That went on for years, until sometime when I was a teenager, she started attending a Protestant church, and now she’s once again in the habit of reading the Bible and attending church regularly – she’s just no longer a Catholic.
For my part, I tried, but Christianity never felt right to me. It didn’t make any sense, and attending church just felt uncomfortable, like wearing the wrong size shoes. I tried several times, but it just never clicked or made sense. If you find peace or joy in Christianity, then I am happy that you’ve found it and that it makes your heart sing – but for me, it’s just not the right fit.
A few years ago, I took a class in world religions specifically looking for something that spoke to me, because, like so many of my fellow human beings, I felt sort of haunted by the idea that there was definitely something more to life than I was experiencing, so I went looking among the divine for something spiritual that felt like it fit. I was biased heading into that class – I expected Buddhism to be the answer. I do so admire that religion, but the more I learned about it, the more I was sure it wasn’t right for me. It was something I’d never considered or learned much about – Judaism. I toyed with the idea of converting, but I left it at that. When the time feels right for me, it’s definitely something I’ll explore because that religion feels more true to my heart than any other I know of.
How ironic, then, that I find myself engaged to a Jewish man, whose family is fiercely proud of their heritage. Through them, I’ve celebrated now three years of Jewish holidays. My favorite is the new year, Rosh Hashanah. Mostly because it’s the most festive and joyful. I like the ceremony of alternating prayers with eating symbolic foods, and the large, rowdy gatherings with everyone talking over the prayers being read.
I’m sure by this point you’re wondering what all this has do do with a professional belly dance, but it was last year, during Rosh Hashanah that the family hosting the second night’s party had hired a belly dancer to perform for the crowd. She was definitely a hit, in an elaborate costume consisting of a bra and long skirt. I was pleased that she had a round chubby tummy rather than a flat washboard and that she shook it with abandon as though she had nothing to be ashamed of, and indeed she didn’t.