Since birth, I have been conditioned to feel shame. Shame for who I am, what I do, the choices I make, the way I dress, the people I hang out with, how I feel, what I eat and how I eat it. So much of my life was giving up my identity to serve the will of my mother. I dressed how she wanted, I hung out with people she wanted me to, and I gave up every part of me in a pointless pursuit of her affection. Every relationship I have ever had after that has been the same. I never felt allowed to be myself. Not only was I still carrying shame from my mother, those partners treated me the same way she did, enforcing those life long patterns and beliefs. There was shame for everything. I felt so much pressure to try and be who my partner wanted me to be and not enough time on myself. Most times I was ridiculed for my ideas, laughed at, and talked down to. As the years went on and my weary soul grew tired, I started to, piece by piece put myself back together. I started to find my voice and let it get louder and louder until one day I stood up and just like vomit, it came out. "I can't do this anymore. I'm done." That message was more for myself than it was for him. I choose me that day. Since then I have changed more than I ever thought possible. I am closer to the person I always wished I could be and every day I learn more about who I am and what I am willing to settle for. Now that I have started dating, I found myself again in the arms of those same men. Like some sort of cruel joke. The good news is, I am seeing it and being strong enough to leave it. All of these changes and awakenings have taken their toll on me this week. I will say that healing is a true disgusting bloody mess and sometimes it just hurts.
Last night I wanted to go for a walk and watch a funny movie. I needed a good laugh. So off I went, an hour and a half earlier than normal. I was half way, just turned around when I heard him yelling from across the street. As the product of an abusive household, yelling is a huge trigger for me. It puts me into fight or flight and I panic. So naturally I wanted to get out of there as fast as possible, until I noticed who he was yelling at. She looked terrified. I knew he was going to hurt her. For a moment I kept walking the opposite way, trying to talk myself out of the reality that was unfolding. Then I gathered up all of the courage I could find and I followed them. I watched him yell at her for two blocks. Too scared to do anything more than that. Three people drove by and two other men walked by as he screamed at her. No one did a thing to stop it. I knew it was going to escalate, I have seen that kind of rage before. I called 911. Thankfully, a close friend drove by the second I dialed and I was able to assist from the safety of her vehicle. We watched as it got physical, too scared to do anything else. Thankfully someone else was brave enough and stopped long enough for the woman to get in the car and be whisked away to safety. We then spent the next hour and a half waiting and speaking to police officers. When I gave my statement I was visibly shaken. He asked me if I had ever seen anything like that before. I had. "I hope not a personal experience." he said. It was. At the end of our conversation the officer reminded me that triggers can be very powerful. When I went to bed all I could think about was how I should have done more. My heart hurts for her. My wrestles sleep was plagued with nightmares. I woke up foggy and hurting. My body had relived my trauma through this woman's experience and I was feeling the post rush of chemicals, memories, fears and emotions. Not only that, I was so upset and ashamed for not doing more, it made my brain want to play it over and over in my head. It was this that made me realize how much shame I carry for myself. Not just for who I am and my choices, but for my lack of courage. Courage to stand up for myself, courage to stand up for others and courage to speak loudly. I know that I couldn't have done anything different and I am proud of myself for what I was able to do. But it has taken work to get to this point today.
I have never been very vocal about my experiences with domestic abuse. Again, shame. The problem is there are so many other reason why most women don't ever talk about their domestic abuse. This experience got me thinking about how far I have come. Every romantic relationship I have ever been in has been abusive in one way or another. Physical, mental, sexual. That ends now. I feel strong enough to recognize the patterns and shut them down. I also know that I can stand up and take action. For her and for me.
I wanted to share this story for a two reasons. One, to try and make the topic of domestic abuse a little less shameful. Talk to your friends, come out of the shadows, share, be brave. If one woman can stand up and be brave about her experiences, she will inspire someone else. And two, to remind you that if you are witnessing a domestic dispute, call it in. Don't wait for it to get physical because once it gets there, its ugly.
Love and showgirl kisses,
The Boudoir Rouge has always been an ever changing, ever shifting force. When I started back in 2013 it was to do two things, cross something off my bucket list and find a bigger and better way to empower the women in my life. When I told people that I wanted to do it, put on a burlesque show of my own, they laughed at me and told me that I would never find anyone to dance with me. There were only seven of us that first show but that was enough of a spark to ignite the fire that is still burning as we prepare to close out our sixth season.
Over the past six years the team has seen many changes. Shows have evolved to be bigger, better, sexier, crazier, and more people want to be a part of it. It seemed that each year we would have more and more women and men wanting to dance or support us in other ways. I am still blown away at the support and love I get from this amazing place I call home. People fall in love with the energy they get from a show. Walking into a Boudoir Rouge show is magical and you can feel it when you walk through the doors. Everyone is happy, everyone is ready, empowered, feeling their best and dressed the part. The exchange of energy from performer to audience member is real. The excitement and confidence that come from the performers is effortless. Its beautiful to watch.
While most of the changes have been good and exciting, there have been some significant changes in my personal life that have affected the course of Boudoir Rouge. In January of 2018 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and nearly one year later I ended my eleven year marriage.
Now that I have left our home and the studio that nurtured six years of brilliant creativity, I am figuring out what it means and feels like to be independent. I am reevaluating everything in my life, including Boudoir Rouge. I think that somewhere along the way my motivation to continue burlesque shifted from soulful reasons to a need to feel validated and seen by my husband. Now that we are apart I had to dig deep and remind myself why I started this journey in the first place. Growing up I never had anyone to tell me I could do it, or that I was beautiful, or strong. I worked hard to find that in myself. I want women to see how beautiful they are and what they are capable of. I want to continue to see women evolve from housewife to showgirl superstar, I want to dance with amazing human every week, and I want to stand strong knowing that we are making a difference every time we get on that stage.
Now more than ever I am committed to keeping the magic alive. If I quit now I would be giving up on a huge part of myself and I just can't let that happen. As hard as it was to leave everything behind, I know that the future is bright. The Boudoir Rouge Burlesque team is an amazing collective of super human creatives and beautiful souls and they can move mountains. They are who I have to thank for the continued success of this unicorn tribe and together we are force to be reckoned with. I am so looking forward to our up coming shows, (Three shows coming your way!) and I can't wait to see where this takes us.
Love and showgirl kisses,
Nearly every woman I talk to has experienced some sort of sexual trauma at some point in their lives. Many more than once. This includes but is not limited to, ass grabs, uncomfortable rubs against us, sexually aggressive comments and gestures, forced kissing, and rape. These actions come from our boss, our coworkers, our friends, our teachers, guys we meet in the club, guys we don't even know, our boyfriends, our uncles, our brothers, our fathers. I am not going to sit here and tell you all why this happens, or who is at fault. But I will explain my experiences in the hopes that some people out there might begin to understand the shame and embarrassment that come with such an experience. Then maybe some might understand why we suffer in silence with our sickening and crippling secrets.
It is very common for people to say that most sexual assault victims were asking for it in some way. Asking for it by dressing in a short shirt or exuding so much sexual energy that it was impossible for anyone to control themselves. The first time I was sexually assaulted I was in my bed at home. I had my jammies on. I was six years old. It was more than touching, I was assaulted. I never spoke of it. I swallowed it and let it fester until I was thirty five. I told my therapist and a friend. I felt so ashamed. I knew I couldn't do anything about it so I tried to process the trauma as much as I could. I will never confront my abuser and I will never get justice. I will always remember it.
When I was in grade school I had a teacher grab, pat, and rub my butt and my legs. I remember going into the police station with my mom and telling them what I had experienced. I was met with a lot of, "Are you sure he touched you like that? Maybe it was more like this?" We were also told that it was the second time this teacher was caught. I'm pretty sure he went on to teach after that. I will always remember it.
When I was in college I was pinned up against the wall in the dark corner of a nightclub and forced kissed by a man I had never met. He grabbed my face and held me there while he rammed his tongue down my throat. I can still smell the smoke and cologne. I figured this is what happens to women. Suffer through it, swallow it and move on. After all, I was drunk, I was wearing a short skirt and I was dancing in a provocative manner.
Was I asking for it any of these situations? Some would argue that I was and even if that were true, I was never given the opportunity to even say no. My choice, my safety, part of me was taken from me without my consent. Every. Time. These acts are not ok. And what's worse is that I sit with them and I suffer with them. Why would anyone believe a word I say? Its been so long, why speak up now? Because I am tired of hearing ANOTHER story of a women feeling shamed into keeping such a terrible and dark secret. I am also tired to keeping this deep dark secret. Maybe if more of us talk, more of us come forward, we can shift this disgusting reality for the women of the future. Our daughters will know that its ok to talk about it and our sons will understand the pain. I hope to hell that I am raising boys who respect and honor all humans and I hope that if they are ever in a situation where they feel compromised, they will know its ok to talk about it, they are worthy of justice and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and everything wrong with their abuser.
So to every woman out there who is holding onto that secret, I believe you.
A lot of people see us and think we are just a bunch of burlesque dancers. And while they aren't wrong in that assumption, we are much more than that. We are body confidence builders, we are warriors, leaders, helpers, and we show women how amazing they are when they cant see it for themselves.
Six months ago my life came crashing down around me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After months of flying high in a manic state, I had crashed and was extremely depressed. Those early months following were the worst. I felt like everything I loved had been taken away from me. With all of these changes, I didn't know if I could ever dance again. The future of the Boudoir Rouge Burlesque was in trouble and it scared me. My creativity, my spunk, my intensity, and most importantly, my confidence was gone. I felt like everything I had worked hard for had vanished and I didn't have the energy or the courage to get it back. That kind of sadness cannot be described.
But then something magical happened. This tribe of amazing women that I have around me, stepped up. Each one of them encouraged me in their own special way. Bit by bit I was assured that we can do this together. I had my hand held, my hair brushed, and I was lifted. Phone calls, flowers, messages, dancing, laughing...These beautiful women, who are more than just dancers, helped me piece together my confidence and find that fierce women who had been buried in sadness. They dug me out, dusted me off and assured me that no matter what, we are in this together. This is the culture that the Boudoir Rouge creates.
I am forever grateful for these women and you can thank them for the magic this season will create. If you are thinking about joining and are scared, I get it. But I can promise you that if you trust in the process, trust in us and most importantly trust in yourself, you too will be lifted into greatness.
We only recruit once a year, so if you want to dance with the Boudoir Rouge Burlesque, come to the meeting on August 24th. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram @boudoirrougeburlesque for all the details.
Photo: Craig Cochrane
I have been pretty quiet on social medial these days, and that's not like me. I have been really struggling with my bipolar diagnosis and figuring out what this means to me, me family, my friends.... The lithium I am on with only get me to a certain point and the rest is up to me. My brain needs routine. The one thing I hate. In the last couple of months I have felt like I have been struggling alone. Part of the reason is that there is such a stigma about it, that I don't want people to know what I'm going though. I worry that people wont believe me, or that they wont trust in me. I worry that if the day comes that I need to get a real job, I wont get hired. And I worry that people just don't want to hear it, which is fare. But I guess the main reason I have struggled alone is because I chose to. So from now on, I will be talking about it, if that's ok. I letting my crazy freak flag fly. I will ramble on sometimes, sound like a broken record, I will avoid you and I might annoy you, but I thank you for listening. From the bottom of my heart.
So for my crazy ramble of the day...
I see beauty more than anyone. The stars shine brighter for me.
I feel more love than ten thousand poets. But there is no love for me.
I am ignited by ideas.
So much so that my entire body vibrates with excitement.
I crave all things wild.
I feel all the magic in this universe.
I think too long, I breathe too fast, I try too hard, I cant let go, I want it all.
But this gift comes at a price.
I feel more than anyone.
Love, excitement, creativity, passion, anxiety, sadness....
I feel it harder than anyone.
And on any given day.
I feel them all.
It's that time of year again folks. Companies all over Canada are making millions of dollars telling you that you need to be driven and focused this year! "You are going to lose that weight, and I am going to help you get there!" or the "I am going to finish that project, get that raise, get the award, run 10km, finally get rid of that baby weight, pay all the bills, get organized, ...I think I could actually go on forever. I'm sure you get my point.
First of all, there are far to many people in our life who already disapprove of our choices, do we really need to salt the wound? Second, does it matter? Will anything change if you lose the baby weight? Will anything truly change if you get an award? I'm not sure. I just know that how I feel every day is more important than any of that.
I am an overachiever. There, I said it. I try hard to be good at everything. It's a new year in six days and I have the year already planned. I am focused on the goals ahead and I know what to do to achieve them. I will bet you money that I do. I have passion and drive that is overwhelming and delicious all at the same time. Spending my time with amazing women who all come to me without egos or expectations, trusting me to bring their burlesque dreams to life. There is no better job. I have songs picked for the next four shows. I am six steps ahead of everyone else. I have my days and months planned and I don't ever stop planning the next show. I do however, wish I had a choice in the matter. My brain literally can't turn off. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and would never ever change it, but some days I wish I could just turn it off for more than a half day.
So since I can't turn it off, I realize that I need more. I wish I was one of those mothers who just spontaneously takes the kids away for a fun filled weekend. Or the mom who dances in the kitchen and laughs at all the jokes. I need more play in my life. I need to laugh more at the dinner table. I need to feel a deep breath. I need to dance even more and I'm not sure that's possible. I need to paint and connect with myself and ink my skin. I want to get outside and feel nature. I want to feel good and be good to my body.
I want to be clear, there is nothing wrong with overachieving, and there is nothing wrong with having goals. If you want to plan the year ahead, never judgement here. Go ahead and lose the weight, get organized or whatever it is. Just make sure they are going to change how you feel on your terms. What do you really want?! Ignite your fire, do what you want to do and be who YOU want to be!
Love and unicorn farts,