These chapters come in no particular order. I am writing down the memories as they come, and will organize them all when the whole thing is done. Love to you all, Katrina.
The girls joke that you don’t audition at Cheeks. You just show Elmo your tits and your birth certificate. This myth, like most, is rooted in truth.
It is my first time on stage. Andrea stands off to the side, swaying her hips and pointing at her face: smile, she means, like some dance mom stage left watching her daughter freeze under hot lights. She is old. Older than my mom, maybe, but thin and tall with high taut boobs that look like they should avoid sharp objects lest they pop like pricked balloons. The girls mock her, but with a hesitation, an undercurrent of fear that asks: is that what will become of me?
Her presence is a comfort. Maybe this is what a mother’s support feels like. Two songs. An unwritten rule states that your top comes off after the first one, but this rule, like most titty bar rules, is open to interpretation; and, I later learn, amended case by case, based on tips. I don’t remember the song. I am alone on a tall platform, in new shoes that feel like a foreign country. Dead sober and as unsteady on my feet as I’ve ever been. In the mirror I am someone else. Someone better. I remember it in instants. A few Polaroids stashed in a cardboard box. I am larger than life. I move awkwardly, but it doesn’t seem to matter, and I won’t for long—I’m a fast learner. Just get through this. One song. Two songs.
A man approaches the stage, dollar in hand. I don’t remember anything about him. I look for Andrea, her white bikini a beacon under the black light. She sticks a thumb in the side of her t-back to show me how to accept the money. I feel the breath of a fully clothed stranger on my neck as he puts a dollar in my underwear. An inauthentic intimacy that feels a lot like power. This power will grow into something huge, something that exists almost outside of me. Like a monster ally that I come to love and rely upon.
I undo my bra at the last minute and all the girls cheer. Not at my breasts themselves, which are underwhelming at best, but at the act itself. An act that makes me one of them. This is the only moment in my life that I have felt truly accepted by other women.
This feeling is the Polaroid on top of the pile.
I retreat to the back of the stage to find the three dingy, carpeted stairs that lead to the floor, but because the stage is ringed with rope lights, everything beyond them disappears into darkness. I place my right hand on the mirror to keep my balance as I feel my way down.
Andrea greets by the dressing room door, clapping her hands and bobbing up and down, her breasts entirely immobile. A proud stage mother. Tiffany eyes me from the dancer’s table under the DJ booth. She stubs out a cigarette in a tin ashtray. She is wary, like an abused dog, of new people.
I look back at the stage, empty now. All I see is the greasy hand print I’ve left behind.
I undo my bra at the last minute and all the girls cheer. Not at my breasts themselves, which are underwhelming at best, but at the act itself. An act that makes me one of them. This is the only moment in my life that I have felt truly accepted my other women.
While I Recover from shoulder surgery, I am running a 30 Day limited run of this special Make Savage T-shirt I designed
Struggle is what strengthens us, and I will face this six months off the mats just as I would any other challenge, as an opportunity to grow stronger. Stronger for myself, and for those around me. Recovery has already forced me to face many demons, and I’m sure they’ll keep coming. I have bad days when I would give anything to go back in time and take back that takedown. But I also have good days where I am grateful for this opportunity to alter my focus and rise from this a new kind of warrior. “Make savage the body” represents the will to forge through the dark of struggle and emerge, changed, on the other side. Right now, it is hard to see that. It is easy to feel like I am moving backward, that I am being forgotten, that I will never accomplish my dreams. But these thoughts get me nowhere. I have to believe that I will come through this more savage in the end. We are warriors, and this is what we do—we persist.
I appreciate all of the support I have received from my friends, family, Crossfit, and BJJ communities. We should always build each other up. #savagecommunity #makesavage
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