Chapter Three

“I don’t know, June, isn’t that a little weird? Like for bored housewives who want to reclaim some lost sexual fantasy?” A week had passed since the key incident, and Illy was balancing flamingo-like over the toilet, trying to clip her toenails while talking on the phone. “Do you really want to stare at a room full of women in sweatsuits, seductively jiggling their big bellies? Why not ballet? It’s so much less…vulnerable or something.”

June had been Illy’s best friend since junior high, when a fateful gym class had revealed their shared inability to do a cartwheel. After three failed and flopping attempts, Illy had wrapped her lanky arms around her torso in a mortified effort to fold herself up and disappear, but June had bounded across the gymnastic mat towards her, frizzy-haired and beaming. “Finally, a non-cartwheeling kindred spirit. Please tell me you’ve also read Gone With the Wind.” When Illy mumbled through her braces that she’d read it three times and was currently writing a prequel, their bond was immediate and eternal.

Illy tugged at a hangnail on her big toe and tried to concentrate on what June was saying. June had recently fallen in love with a handsome and brainy historian she’d met at the community college where she worked, and today he’d mentioned that he adored dancing. June, who got flustered and wobbly trying to do the hokey-pokey, had of course agreed with too much enthusiasm (What is life without dancing? or something equally dramatic) and was now in a state of panic. She needed to gain what she called Basic Body Awareness as soon as possible, and was begging Illy to come to a beginners’ belly dancing class that evening.

“Oh shoot! I dropped the nail clippers in the toilet. Hang on.” Illy set the phone on the radiator, looking for something to use to fish out the nail clippers. Neither her hairbrush nor a washcloth seemed like a helpful option, so she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and reached into the water, wondering how sophisticated people dealt with problems like nail clippers in the toilet.

A few moments later, after a successful rescue and a lot of hand washing, Illy wiped her hands on her jeans, picked up the phone and sighed. “Okay, I’ll do it. But I think you’re nuts. What should I wear?” Illy accepted June’s wisdom on the inappropriateness of sports bras as outerwear, then hung up the phone and stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She lifted up her t-shirt and frowned. She had long rejected the idea that her body had to conform to any Hollywood standard of beauty and considered her unshaven legs and unpadded chest proud badges of an evolved feminism. But all her empowering beliefs about embracing her body in its bulging, birthmarked authenticity cowered at the thought of being paraded in front of a group of exotic strangers. She apologized to the insecure rolls in her belly that she’d been trying to affirm for years, then sucked them in and held her breath. Illy made a quick deal with both her sulking bulges and her feminist principles that if they’d just be willing to stay out of sight for one evening, she’d reward them later with Oreos. It seemed like a fair deal.


Continue Reading: Chapter Four