Gilded Serpent presents...

Beauty Has Its Price

A Quest for Beauty, Part IV


by Zorba
posted July 1, 2013

The Sunday evening after Rakkasah finds me in the shower, painfully removing the five bangles that have adorned my left wrist for the past two weeks. Having despaired of ever finding bangles that would fit my huge wrists, I was delighted to find some on Amazon that actually did. Barely. Several dance sisters advised me to use soap or other slippery assistance to enable the bangles to slip over my hands. Employing this trick now, I have to remember not to merely try to fold my hand as small as possible, but to also keep it relaxed as this minimizes the pain. As it is, I will only put the bangles on if I’m going to wear them for at least a week – preferably two – as the price I pay in pain is significant each time they are put on or removed from my left wrist. My right wrist, where I’d really prefer to wear them, is out of the question – its slightly larger size prohibits even these large, three inch diameter (or Indian size 2.16) bangles from going on at all!

Thus is the lesson that "Beauty has its price" once again driven home to one who wasn’t raised, conditioned, or expected to ever embrace its seduction. Of course almost any woman can tell of the price to be paid – and a humble thank you goes to the many women, both dancers and non; who have guided, advised, and helped immeasurably my journey through a world few men have traversed.

Being involved with an art form that is all about beauty, I too feel the need to present myself as best and as beautiful as possible. Beauty costs in time, pain, and money; and as philosophers have pointed out for millennia: its only fleeting.

As I’m removing the bangles, I inspect my gel-over-acrylic finger nails and find that they will need to be renewed within the next week. My wife of 29 years and I both have a favorite nail salon that we frequent. Painted nails work fine for toenails, but we’re both murder on fingernails so yet another price is paid for this particular beauty item. At least there is minimal pain involved, although the expense is not trivial, and it takes a good two plus hours to accomplish. A relaxing and enjoyable two hours, but two hours nonetheless.

Speaking of pain, every 3 weeks I mix pleasure and pain by visiting our esthetician – the pain is shaping my unruly eyebrows into some semblance of beauty by plucking and waxing. The pleasure is the facial which follows, unless of course she finds a blackhead on my nose in which case she digs it out with something that feels like a dull tablespoon. The price I pay in time, money, and pain is worth it as my skin no-longer has oily proto-zits and my eyebrows actually look good. It took several appointments for the esthetician to figure out how she could work with what nature gave me and give me the desired, classic arched shape – but she’s a miracle worker!

Zorba's TattooAnother price was paid on my 50th birthday, when I decided to join my many tattooed dance sisters with a tattoo of my very own. Leave it to the "stupid male" to go for a tattoo on one of the more painful areas of the body – the lower back. The three black roses with supporting motif were worth the greatest pain I’d ever experienced – but thank Goddess for my Tribal Fusion teacher who showed up to hold my hand for the first hour or so; I wouldn’t have made it through without her! The Lotus flower on the nape of my neck that I added two years later in memory of my father’s passing, was "nothing" by comparison.

Like most middle aged men, I had problems with an increasingly large belly that no amount of dieting or exercise would really do much to. It just got to be too much – even for “belly” dance! So I had "work done". Expensive, a long recovery time, uncomfortable and painful (but not nearly as painful as that lower back tattoo!), the procedure reduced me back to something "more reasonable", although a lifetime swayback still gives a more rotund appearance than I’d like. Still, enough was gone that I had to have a lovely necklace/belly drape re-sized down in order to fit correctly again. Thank Goddess the vendor was at Rakkasah!

One of the side effects of the procedure is that I "lost" my navel piercing, which I had had for about 13 months and which had really just finished healing. The doctor made me remove it for the surgery, and sure enough, 24 hours later when I was able to get back to it, the site had closed. So I get to experience the pain, expense, and another year of healing to re-do it! My pierced ears were done so many years ago now that I seldom give them thought, although there is still the occasional instance of "These earrings are killing me…"!

The one thing that I can avoid, as a male, is the bra. Still, I know waaaaay more about bras than a guy has any business knowing – and it makes me darn glad I don’t have to contend with them. Every time a dance sister tries on a new costume – everyone gathers around her in a gaggle of clucking hens (me included). The costume is beautiful, the color is perfect, and its just *meant* for her – but the damn bra doesn’t fit. 30 minutes later, it still doesn’t fit but everyone has had their say about the proper way to fix it. None of them work…

But I’m subject to the rest of the experience. Learning how to do makeup has been, and continues to be, an interesting process. Overall, a pretty (pun intended!) fun experience – some of the disasters I’ve made out of my face are hysterical! I’m still not particularly good at it, but I’m learning and gradually improving – mostly! Once I got it through my thick male skull that makeup life is much better with the proper primers and preps, I’m having a better time of it. "Makeup Geek" and similar YouTube channels are wonderful!

Like everyone else, as I age my hair has started to turn grey. I have a lot of hair! Not only my mid-back length hair, but 2 colors of facial hair besides. The facial hair is probably the easiest, cheapest, and fastest beauty "line item" I’m currently dealing with: five minutes every couple of weeks with a hair dye product made for the purpose. My head of hair receives a henna treatment about every three months. Not painful, but annoying with a head full of green glop for six hours!

Is all this worth it? Most men, and many women would say "no". At the end of the day, it is always a personal decision. When I made my stage entrance at Rakkasah with all this maintenance behind me; wearing a beautiful costume, beautiful jewelry, beautiful makeup, and dancing to beautiful music: The Joy ripped out of my being! I felt beautiful, I felt joyous, I felt complete, I felt magical – and most importantly, my audience felt it too. If the dancer doesn’t feel the beauty and the joy, how can s/he transmit it to the audience? THAT is what its all about, and what makes all the pain, expense, and time totally worth it!


use the comment box

Have a comment? Use or comment section at the bottom of this page or Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?

  • I am Become Pure, Destroyer of Dreams, the Belly Dance Police
    The fact of the matter is, nothing in the universe is constant: except change. "Inauthenticity" becomes "authenticity" over space/time – and vice versa.
  • A Quest for Beauty, Part 1: Beauty is Discovered
    My wife of 17 years asked, "You’re going to do…. what?"when I told her of my desire to take Bellydance lessons.
  • A Quest for Beauty, Part II: Damn the Torpedoes and Full Speed Ahead!
    I recognized that "femininity/masculinity" was an entirely artificial construct, and femininity/masculinity was based on reality, i.e. biology.
  • A Sense of Humor: It can Help! Quest for Beauty, Part 3
    What follows here are several humorous anecdotes. Some of them are about being a male in a female dominated field while some are merely about being a Bellydancer in the first place. My first rule concerning being weird ("weird" as evidenced by some reactions to my previous articles) is to have a good sense of humor!

  • A week long immersion into Middle Eastern music and dance while camping in the Mendocino redwood forest. Expect live music every night and classes with many music and dance teachers each day. Many of the names are linked to video interviews we have conducted with individuals or to their bio pages here on Gilded Serpent.
  • Munique brings Egypt to Spain Again, 7th International Festival of Egypt in Barcelona 2013
    Barcelona welcomed teachers and lucky participants for a festival that brought Egypt to Spain with well attended lectures, workshops, and galas during four days of fun and learning, January 31st until February 3rd, 2013. This event provided a unique opportunity to learn the art of Oriental dance from the best names in Egypt. span class=”artist”>Randa Kamel (Egypt), Mo Geddawi (Egypt), Gamal Seif (Egypt), Bozenka (Cuba/USA), Amar Gamal (Cuba/USA), Amaru Sabat (Spain), who together with Munique Neith ran workshops throughout an intensive weekend.
  • Changes in the Island Kingdom, The Bahrain Bellydance Scene
    Returning to Bahrain to work after four years felt like going back to my roots. This little island kingdom is where I did my first Middle East contract, busted my bra on New Year’s Eve, and returned several times in the following year. Those were the days. Now it had been a while. Had Bahrain changed? You betcha.
  • At the Crossroads, Discovering Professional Belly Dance at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century,
    The transition from awalem and ghawazee dance styles to theatrical raqs sharqi began during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth in Egypt. Unfortunately, scant film footage exists of dancers from that period to reveal exactly what professional belly dance looked like during that critical moment in Egyptian dance history. However, still photos and travelers’ descriptions from the time do allow a few conclusions to be drawn about the nature of belly dance in Egypt at this important transition.
  • Soloists, Belly Dancer of the Year 2013 Photos
    The goal of BDOY is to give qualified dancers a fair and equal opportunity to exhibit their skills, as well as promote and elevate the art of belly dance and support its amazing community. Khalilah wins!
  • Hafla Schmafla, Buidling Communithy in Our Dance World.
    Per my understanding, a hafla, in its most basic sense, is a party. It can be a party centered around family events, a circumcision, birthday, engagement, promotion, whatever, and it is a term that comes from the Arabic speaking world.
  • Costuming Trends of 1987, At the Rakkasah Festival
    Although the trend at Rakkasah ‘87 was definitely toward better dancing than we have seen in the past; the costuming I saw would be high on anyone’s list of worn-out ideas.  Nowadays, we have more and more of almost everything; it is immediately apparent that there is more material in the skirts—such as double skirts, ruffles, tatters, tiers, beads, and even elaborate sequined patterns, and embroidery.
  • I’m Back in the U-S-S-A! Queen of Denial, Chapter 13
    My first quarter at Cal-Poly wasn’t nearly as easy for me as finding work belly dancing. I had no idea what I was getting myself into academically when I registered as a business major.
  • Dreaming of the East, Orientalism in Early Modern Dance
    As a belly dancer and a modern dance student at York University, my attention was captured by the fact that a number of early modern dancers performed variations on Oriental themes. I became interested in how they interpreted the Orient through their modern dance technique, and how they represented the Orient in their choreographies, since their performances could have been loosely associated with actual Middle-Eastern dances.
  1. Maura Enright

    Jul 2, 2013 - 05:07:36

    Argh. I would tend to dismiss a woman who dedicated an entire article to her problems with bracelets, manicures, pedicures, eyebrow shaping, facials, tummy tucks and makeup as an airhead. Since Lynette Harris is publishing Zorba’s article in GS, I have decided to assume that he is not an airhead… but one of his mentors needs to share The Memo with him. The one that says, ‘It’s supposed to look effortless’ — and we’re not just talking about the dancing. Don’t blow your financial investment in your appearance by giving your readers every reason to look for plastic surgery scars and blackheads and grey roots instead of paying attention to your dancing. Not even Cher could get away with this tell-all.  

  2. Fotia

    Jul 8, 2013 - 12:07:58

    Most performances in any area are supposed to look effortless but guess what?  They are anything but.  Even Bobbi Brown has a makeup that’s supposed to look like no makeup.  And when performing for the GP, appearance means an awful lot, but at least Zorba has the guts and the integrity to ‘fess up.  Appearance is a huge part of performing; if I saw a dancer who didn’t bother with his/her appearance, I would think they didn’t care about how the audience felt about that as well.

  3. Edna

    Jul 8, 2013 - 02:07:57

    Zorba, thank you for writing this article.  You tell it like it is!  I laughed because every dancer goes through this. 

  4. Anthea Kawakib

    Jul 12, 2013 - 05:07:20

    I found your article interesting! Women are usually the ones who go on and on about their beauty rituals etc., in magazine articles and personal blogs. But reading this from the male perspective was unusual. I think if it had been a woman writing, I’d have skipped it, but I like seeing it from a man’s viewpoint for a change.

  5. Allison

    Jul 19, 2013 - 09:07:28

    I actually think it’s great that he’s shared all of this. For one thing, he’s coming from a male perspective; as he said, he is someone who wasn’t raised, conditioned, or expected to ever embrace the price of beauty. As beauty is something that women are conditioned to pay attention to constantly, I think it always helps when someone unused to those expectations goes through these things themselves so that they might understand what women go through.
    For another thing, I think it’s entirely healthy and necessary for us to examine our own behaviors and think critically about expectations and norms regarding beauty. The point that beauty is supposed to look effortless is the very reason we should be questioning these practices. As Fotia mentioned, these looks are anything but effortless. It’s not about someone complaining about individual choices, it’s about someone becoming critically aware of the countless rituals and practices they go through in order to live up to a certain expectation of beauty. This isn’t an expectation unique to the belly dance community of course, but it’s still good to be aware of these things.

  6. Pauline Costianes

    Jul 29, 2013 - 03:07:15

    If this guy dressed as a male dancer, and not as a woman, including getting the “tramp stamp” tattooed on his back, he wouldn’t have to worry about this. Good Lord! Bobby Farrah, Zeeba, Burt Balladine and Tarik didn’t/don’t look like this. I find it beyond disturbing.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.