So this one time, my Gynecologist crashed the Tomb

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Setting the Scene: Some of you locals may remember when Oberon’s Middle Eastern Dance Party was taking place at the Egyptian Room in Portland. The show was downstairs in “The Tomb” which was kind of cool based on, well, you know Egypt, tombs, belly dance, and the like. I really liked the venue because there was a nice large stage area and intimate environment.

Stepping back: My then OB/GYN is probably the coolest Doc on the planet and sadly she is no longer in practice. Most of you are aware, ladies are not thrilled about going to their annual “ladies meeting”, and I am no different, except, as I said, my Doc is super cool. This yearly meeting was always fraught with sidesplitting laughter, which often caused some trouble for the both of us. We would laugh so loud her nurse would rap on the door and tell us to quiet down, that we were scaring the staff and patients. She is funny, kind, generous with her time and I simply adore her.

So to further set the scene, every year at my appointment the Doc would ask if I was still “dancing about Portland” (visual: as she would wiggle around while balancing on one of those little exam room stools, arms in the air in various snake arm positions). And every year, same answer; “yes – love it – won’t ever stop”. Then one year when I gave my usual answer adding it just so happened I was dancing the following week at the Egyptian room and she should come to the show. She was familiar with the club and asked what time, what day, and can we come? Well of course I gave her the details, saying absolutely and bring everyone. Not typical, annual exam conversation right? As always, I left her office laughing my ass off as usual and of course assuming I would see her at the next annual lady meeting.

Well, I didn’t have to wait a whole year. The following week, as I arrived, at the club there she was, sitting at a table with friends and being totally her; happy and bubbly. Now, I don’t know about you, but when friends and family are in the house, who have never seen me dance before, there is a bit of added pressure. I tend to be a little “up tight” at the beginning of the show, concerned about offering my best show and hoping not to let anyone down. I really don’t want them to think I am all talk and no shimmy so-to-speak and this evening, was no different.

I honestly don’t think I was on stage more than a few minutes when I heard her; my sweet, funny, bubbly “Gynecologist” yell, “ohhh baby, take it off, take it off”. What? I was horrified. And what went through my head in all of one beladi rhythm set was: Say what? What did I just hear? Oh Lord, that is NOT my Gyn telling me to take it off. What will the rest of the audience think? Why would she say “that”? Oh God, what should I do?

That took all of 10 seconds because as I spun about to see Michael Beach laugh and shrug his shoulders, my face turning various shades of red, my ability to speak finally engaged, and I responded with a resounding,

              My response from the stage:  “Why? – – – – You’ve Already Seen It All”?

Sigh, yes indeed, I said that. And no I am not sure why that came out or how it was what all those thoughts finally put into my mouth to be blurted out. But, my Doc and her friends were at their table rolling about in a fit of laughter. I continued to dance and while spot-checking the rest of the audience, some seemingly amused and others looking around confused, apparently not having heard either the Docs comments or my response.

All that was left was for me to finish the show, as I seemed to think it was funnier and funnier the more I danced. It is still one of the funniest and best dance moments ever, partly because I was so shocked in that moment never expecting that comment, and also just as shocked by my own response.

Advice: Invite everyone you know when you dance. You will create some of the best moments ever, no matter what is said and it will give you even more to giggle about and appreciate later in your dance career. And remember, laughter is so very good for the soul.

The Day a Man Fell into My Panties

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Zaina’s Zany Funny Stories from Years Gone ByeBye

Over the years I have danced in some of the oddest locations, and experienced some truly hair-raising moments.  So I thought I would share a few of them with you. Those that made me cringe (and still do), the funny incidents and even those embarrassing or humiliating moments.  One story at a time, one moment at a time; I hope you get as much of a giggle out of them as I have.  Let’s start with one that will forever be stuck in my mind, just like he was stuck in my panties.

The day a man fell into my panties!

So, this one time, when I was at a dance show, a man fell into my pants, well really it was more like my panties.

Setting the scene: I was scheduled for two shows at a small local Greek restaurant (in the early 90’s). My husband had invited a co-worker and his wife to have dinner with him and watch the shows. This particular location, in downtown, was close to the docks, trains and across from the county courthouse (and associated jail and bondsmen). I had been warned a few months earlier when I agreed to perform there, the restaurant-bar could get a little “rowdy” later in the evening because it was a stopping point after shifts for a brewsky or two or six. But as it turned out, this really was a fairly easy venue, with descent money, the crowd not too difficult, but admittedly the owner could be a tool. I stuck to my rule of not going in without an escort, either my husband or a couple of friends. And until this particular evening, nothing unpleasant had happened, at least nothing to really write home about.

The four of us arrived about 8pm; I headed to the office to add the extras to my costume and my husband and his friends found a table close to where I would be dancing, then they ordered dinner. About fifteen minutes later I was ready for the first show and on I went. Caveat: I have always been a stickler for how I will accept a tip (unless I am horsing around and being silly with someone I know). A few unpleasant issues early in my career taught me a trick or two to assure safety and to keep my costume on and intact; holding my hands and arms a certain way to cover the front of my bra, only allowing the side of the belt or covering the back of my belt with my hand, knowing my escape route, assuring I had space enough to lean “away” from a customer and the ever famous “two forward, one back bra hook trick” that never failed me. I have even wagged my finger and given the shame-shame to keep folks in check. However, these tricks would not serve me in any way, shape or form this particular evening; they simply didn’t apply.

I always eyeball the crowd when arriving to any performance, whether restaurant, showcase, festival, etc. And I always know my exit point. I check the rowdies, the leeries, the talkies, and the “can’t sit stillies” trying to get a feel for the energy. This particular evening seemed quiet and calm enough when arriving, but in less than a half an hour and by the time I hit the dance floor that had changed. There was a loud group sitting at the bar who the minute my foot hit the floor began catcalling and in essence, being “obnoxious”. I wagged my finger at them, stopped in the middle of the song, shook my head no and they quieted just a bit. But I still I did not take my eyes off them “much” which is how the falling in happened.

I was just a little too busy keeping an eye on those I thought to be the most unpredictable, all the while trying to reassure my husband, with only a look and wink that I had things under control. My cockiness however got the best of me because it didn’t occur to me the sweet little old guy in the corner was going to be the real problem. And believe me, I discovered quickly the problem was first, he was really snockered and second, he could barely get off that bar stool without falling. My husband had even given me a head’s up nod in the guy’s direction, but I continued to keep an eye on the rowdies instead. As I said, that was my mistake.

When it came to the last piece of music, the portion in which we generally allow tips, I was cautious as I moved towards the rowdies. In my own special way I simply said, “be nice boys – these zils really do pack a punch”. They laughed, told me I was cute and were then careful with their placement of tips. Of course I did the “here is the hip, here it is not” a couple times and since no one wanted to be embarrassed trying to catch said hip, that sobered them up enough to easily move through them without further incident.

But, then with my focus on them, as I backed away and started a turn back to the middle of the room, I was hit from behind, hard. This was at about the same time I heard my husband say “oohhh shit, turn around”. That warning was a fraction of a second too late. The little old guy was reaching for the center back of my belt with a few dollar bills just as I started into that turn. My movement combined with his forward momentum and his hand aimed at my butt landed him elbow deep in between that butt and my panties (with my skirt and belt on the other side). Everyone in the room froze. No one made a sound except for the man hung up in my belt, who began caterwauling, “help me – help me – get me outta here”. The more he tried to wrench himself away, off balance, and the more I tried to turn and see what was happening, the worse it got. My poor husband was apparently incapable of movement and sat there just looking at the two of us twisting about. He later told me the guys hand kept poofing out my skirt as he spun about with me.

Now, one must picture this fiasco – – a room full of slightly inebriated longshoremen, music still blaring, my husband and his friends and every other dinner patron looking on, whilst a little old man is buried elbow deep in the back of my panties and skirt with his face planted against my back, screeching for help. Yeah – it was like that.

Finally, I just yelled “Stop Moving Damnit”, which seemed to snap him to attention (as much attention as a drunk old guy hung up in someone’s panties can muster of course). I managed to reach around with one hand and hold onto my belt, and with the other grabbed his arm at the bicep and pulled. And out came the arm and hand which was still clutching those damned dollar bills, but thankfully not my panties. He turned and simply wobbled from the bar. As he got to the door he muttered, “damn, never fell in someone’s uniform before”.

Well, I still had to finish the show, so adjusted my belt and skirt, put a smile back on, and finished my show. At this point I think everyone felt so bad for me that they erupted into cheers and atta-girls and tossed in some more cash. As I left that evening I discovered the old guy had paid for our dinner and left a $20 bill at the door (but he stiffed me for those couple of dollars that were hanging about under my skirt). As it turned out that was the best tip night I ever had in that particular restaurant, “go figure”.

Advice: Don’t turn your back on the little old man at the bar; he could fall right into your panties.

Join me as iShimmy and Shake Things Up – Zaina’s Zany Point of View

I have been gone, but now I am back. A bit of a cliché but true.  Admittedly, it has been odd not sitting at the computer these last few years pounding out a review, or story with a looming deadline hanging over my head. Over the years I have written not only for dance publications, as well as owned my own magazine, (iShimmy.com, The Belly Dancer Magazine), but I also dabbled outside that realm. I knew early on in my life I enjoyed writing and as luck would have it, nearly every company I have ever worked for sat me at the helm of their company newsletter. That seat has clearly helped develop the zany writer I have become.

Since I write, pretty much just like I talk you may have to cover your ears (or eyes) every now and again. I have never shied away from the use of a descriptive four-letter word, or two or three. Now I am not talking about those benign words our language is fraught with, but rather those gritty words that raise people’s eyebrows, or give some the vapors. And, I am apparently in tandem with “the times” as they say because recent studies show the use of those wonderfully colorful words are actually a sign of intelligence. I did pass the Mensa test after all – apparently not that I needed to take the silly thing, especially if just cursing could have shown my intelligence. The articles I have read go on to further site those who curse as being loyal, honest and forthright. The last three adjectives are accusations I have personally lived with for a good many years, sometimes to my own demise.

But I digress, and I will occasionally (this is your only warning). When you see those colorful words just remember I am just being really smart and no doubt very honest. And, yes I know, sentence structure and English 101 rules are broken as I write, but I don’t really care. At least my written and spoken words are not fraught with, you-know and like at the beginning of every sentence. And the only additional codification to my writing is, “I write about what I experience as me”. Basically, this is me-telling-you, about what it was like being me, seeing from my own eyes, in the moment of the experience. Capiche?

Back to where I have been. It started with the death of my dear friend Oberon, which really rocked my world and in so many ways. On the heels of this came the relentless onslaught from my sister and mother.   More lies, hate and discontent (LHD-remember this acronym because I will use it often) than anyone should suffer at the hands of family. But that is a story for another day, and when I am less angry. And I don’t need a therapist to tell me it is all right for me to say “I am angry”, I am an Aries after all. I may share a chapter or two of that story as time goes on, but I have lots more fun and important things to share first.

At the same time all of this was happening I was working in the worst and most demanding job I have had in 45 years; suffering bullying, harassment and plain old hate and discontent.   I should have left much sooner than I did but, I was left with little time or emotional energy to look for another job. And according to the agreement I signed I am not supposed to discuss the details of my departure, but I can tell you what serious ass hats some of the individuals I worked along side are. That said, the lesson is; take a cut in pay, drive a little further and work a job you “like” rather than stay where you are miserable every damned day you walk through the workplace front door. And I did that for two and a half years, when no one else in my position had survived (so they told me) even a year. Complacency is not your friend in this scenario because like a husband who beats you, they only hit you harder the next time and so on. Tanks, haters, and mean people should have no place in your life. You’re welcome.

There are other stressful events over the last few years that will go unmentioned here but suffice-to-say by the end of 2014 my creative and articulate sides seemed to systematically shut down, one horrific stressor, henna application, and panic attack, at a time. But while she is no longer in my life, if my Mother taught me anything, it was how to survive. I have taught myself how to come back out of the darkness, how to rise from the fire and how to thrive in what is often a burning briar patch.

Writing was not the only thing that I have not been able to do. I could neither emotionally nor physically keep up with my dance career. Dance is what has always relieved stress and emotional and physical fatigue – for over 40 years it kept me upright and feeling whole. But, my body was no longer cooperating, pain was at times too intense and the emotional cesspool accumulating was blocking any creative thought or movement. Then there was the added weight (literally and figuratively) and wretched feeling of no longer fitting in to the dance scene (or my costumes) because I could not participate at the level I always had in the past. And when you participate at that level the community still has that same level of expectation. It is disappointing to not see you at events and then there is speculation in the “not knowing why” you are absent. I had gone from teaching five times a week, dancing locally several times a month, and flying around the country teaching and performing at events many times each year – to being lucky to work with troupe once a week and dance once a year. My troupe and dedicated students and dance peers thankfully refused to give up on me and just kept pushing me along anyway. It seemed they would take me anyway they could get me. I am grateful for them.

I am also grateful for my children and grandchildren who have watched much of this, and at times been drug into the LHD from my mother and sister, often not knowing what else to do except to tell me they love me. I am lucky in that. I am blessed to have their support, although I know at times it has been very hard on them.

All this said, after the court case was over in 2015, I was still not rebounding.   I was trying to look for work in the spring, but my health and stamina were just not there. As already mentioned one of my better characteristics is rebounding, so what was wrong with my rebound switch and why was I so fatigued? And, if I was so damned tired, why couldn’t I sleep?

I wondered how much was due to my age, which seems to be the first excuse the Doc gives you, right? The next thing blamed is peri-post-menopause. Admittedly, some of it really is age, but ultimately, three years of this onslaught of stress and daily need for “flight or fight” led to the failure of my adrenal glands. Vitamin D level was incredibly low, but my thyroid, which had failed years earlier was functioning thanks to the daily pig thyroid replacement I was taking. But for me anything that has the word failure in it is simply not acceptable. The Doc told me I was “in a danger zone” and I absolutely had to offload some stress.

Thank Goddess I was not yet laying in the corner in the fetal position, wrapped up in a blanket with my thumb in my mouth. Okay, well, maybe I did have my blanket in hand as I stood staring, longingly at the corner. But since I am not a quitter I turned around, put one foot in front of the other and tried trudging away from that fucking dark corner.

Then I was told, again by the Doc, “time heals all”. But here is the reality for me; when you’re 60, you don’t have “time” to waste on liars, bullshitters, haters, sociopaths or any other pathological disordered ass hat. And I considered this adrenal failure to be in the same category – I didn’t have time for it. With age, you realize the best commodity is in fact TIME, and I didn’t and still don’t intend to waste another minute of it.

But back to that diagnosis, which led to me getting seriously pissed off, well as pissed-off as those failing adrenals and lack energy would allow. I start taking back pieces of my life. With some assistance for the adrenals I was slowly getting a little of my former strength back. The job bull shit came to a head in June, well, really in April when I came to work with Henna on my hands and was sent home for having tattoos and breaking the coveted but archaic (IMHO) dress code. I resigned in June, and finally left the job in November. Why November, if I resigned in June? This I can talk about. As it turns out, I was harder to replace than they may have thought. Not enough applicants had them asking me to stay longer; until they found a replacement. Still being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. So I should have been feeling better right? November should have been celebratory, and it was in part.

Then in December 2015 the pain came again; muscles cramping, joints, aching, too hot all the time, the days I could barely lift myself out of a chair, the internal vibration, couldn’t stand clothes touching me, rashes on my rashes, brain fog, RLS, etc. etc. I have been going through some of this for the last five or so years, but usually one of those symptoms at a time, not everything at once. And this round was worse than ever and it was just “different”. The intensity was frightening. What was happening?

Diagnosis:

Well, the words that had been uttered – considered so many years ago, that, a) I didn’t really believe and b) I have tried so desperately to ignore and like everything else, just work through was rearing its big fat ugly head.  I was told in December I have FM, Fibromyalgia, and it was apparently hitting me like a full on freight train at high speed.  After years of stress that I could not get away from had become the beast.

Sweeping it under the carpet and ignoring it was not going to work this time. And neither was taking a pill or combination of several as was suggested to deal with the discomfort and pain, at least not in my book. I have watched my mother take various drugs, sometimes anything they would give her for pain with no consideration for addiction or side effects. And I have no intention of going down that same road to finish my life barely able to move or think rationally. Bottom line – NOTGUNDOIT.

There are good days and bad days and again, the best medicine is and always has been my kids and grandkids, dance, writing and friends. I am choosing a different path.  I am working, so medical Mary Jane is not an option. When I was diagnosed, to get me on my feet, a short dose of prednisone, a trip across country (has anyone else ever fainted on a plane?) and spending time in a warmer, dryer climate seemed to be the kick in the pants my body needed.  That was December.

In January and February there were conversations with a Naturopath, an Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist, and Chiropractor.  Between them all, I have some great options – drugs not being one of them. Cutting out gluten, large amounts of dairy, getting back to fast walking a couple miles a day, a stand up desk, and dancing are the life changes that are making a huge difference. Now that I am not working in a bad environment, but rather an encouraging one in which I am surrounded by, caring, kind people, I am left with more time for me to take better care of me. And while I am not functioning yet at 100%, and may never be there again, I will happily settle for 99% any day of the week, with a few at 50% functionality – here or there.

The Flood:

All that said, over these last 3 – 4 years I have taken copious notes, so I am finishing the written words from there. In time I will mention some of the crap I dealt with, or maybe even the loss of my mother, but for now, it is important only to know where my current attitude comes from – a place of death, destruction and disappointment. For 45 years people have referred to me as THE PHOENIX and it appears this is another “rising”.  The talons are out, the wings are spread far and wide, and the beak will be moving fast and furiously, not out of anger, but out of that good old Aries style impatience. I have much to say and it seems the floodgates have blown open, so the sharing of story begins, one silly or serious event at a time.

So, sit down, or stand up, but strap in because, I’m back and iShimmy a story, a tale, a review, an event, or a DIY for you.

From the Fire she is Reborn

Fire in her belly, passion in her soul, and love in her “Hart” – Zaina offers writings, stories, performances, coaching and friendship.  Her powerful stage persona comes not only from years of education in this incredible art, but also from the experiences life has brought her.  From the fire she is born and reborn; sharing those experiences with YOU.