When I was in middle school, my aversion to organized group activities kept me from joining orchestra for a year and a half. My curiosity for joining a larger music group was not great enough to override my dislike for encountering large numbers of people together.
In case it wasn’t already obvious, I ended up loving orchestra so much, the people I saw only a couple times a week in the various orchestras I joined rapidly became some of my closest communities of friends.
It would be nice to say that I learned from this experience and realized that I shouldn’t let my aversion cloud my curiosity, but, of course, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve definitely let my aversions to one thing or another discourage me from participating in a variety of activities I ended up loving more than I anticipated I would (many of which included group activities).
For the past couple years, I’ve made a point of going out of my comfort zone, whether it’s trying pole dancing and realizing I enjoy it only enough to take advantage of free classes when I can find them; going to a club when I don’t like EDM music or alcohol (or people); or attending various fitness/workout classes, alone, so I can rest assured that people who actually know me won’t judge me for how foolish I look.
This past weekend, my curiosity (and Candle Boy’s extended invitation) ended up bringing me to a Middle Eastern music and belly dance showcase where one of his friends was belly dancing. We both assumed this was a hobby of hers, like how we do salsa and bachata after work and on the weekends, but spoiler alert: she’s actually been doing belly dancing for 15 years, teaches private lessons, and has won several competitions.
Candle Boy and I ended up having a blast. We had an entire table (meant to seat at least eight) to ourselves, and there was a potluck, so we nibbled on an extra plate of desserts through the show and were able to share our thoughts in the moment between us. I really enjoyed watching the dancers and have such a huge amount of respect for their art.
But it’s been a somewhat awkward time figuring out what to say when people ask me, “Oh, what did you do this weekend?”
Some times, I said, generically, that I went to a friend’s dance showcase. Other times, I’ll add that I went to a belly dance showcase—and then hastily add afterward that it was a friend’s showcase and no, I did not dance.
I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed to go to this event, but I did feel slightly uncomfortable about sharing this news with others. There seems, to me, a stigma attached to dances that run the risk of appearing sensual or voyeuristic, if you’re the audience member. While it might be perfectly acceptable to go to a friend’s ballet performance of the Nutcracker, attending a belly dance showcase can raise brows (which it did).
Thinking back on all these brief conversations I had, I wonder if the other person’s response would have been any different if I had been a little bolder with how I’d presented my weekend activities. Rather than beat around the bush, I’d have simply said, “I went to my boyfriend’s friend’s belly dance showcase. It was so incredible and fun to watch. I have so much respect for these dancers, because I cannot imagine how tiring their dances must be, or how much work they put into this performance.”
It wouldn’t have been any less or more of the truth than my halting explanation, but I’m almost certain it would have elicited a different set responses from my friends, colleagues, and peers.
I’ve experienced often among my friends, moments when they, or I, are reluctant to share our secret side hobbies or weekend activities, simply because they’re unconventional or we feared we’d be judged for it. These activities ultimately ended up being wholly innocuous: staying in bed and cancelling plans to take a mental health day on a Saturday, watching up at the butt crack of dawn on a Sunday to try and catch the sunrise, going to a restaurant to re-take photos of their food…
I find it sad that many of us live in spaces where we find it difficult to reveal the passions to which we devote our after-work hours. Being curious about the curious things in life is a chance for all of us to learn more, and I believe it should be better fostered, particularly among safe spaces among those whom we value and respect.
“Curious… Very curious…”
“Sorry… But what’s curious?”
“I remember every wand I’ve ever sold, Mr. Potter. Every single wand. And it just so happens that the phoenix, whose tail feather resides in your wand, gave another feather. Just one other. It is curious that you should be destined for this wand, when its brother gave you that scar.”
—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone