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I Made Peace With My Body on a Sweaty Dance Floor

On a dance floor, I realized that I can use my mind not to punish myself, but to invite a special brand of silence to make room for celebration.​

by Kimberly Drew
Dec 17 2018, 5:52pm

Photo courtesy Kimberly Drew.

This Is Fine. is Broadly's weekly Sunday newsletter about the previously private and highly personal tactics people use to make the world less harrowing. This week's essay comes from Kimberly Drew, the curator and writer you may know on the internet as @museummammy. Sign up here to receive next week's newsletter in your inbox.

Growing up, visiting museums was a respite for me—I could always depend on the quiet of museums. The consistency soothed me. As a lifelong museum lover, I was halfway through college before thinking that I could even take an art history class. I never dared to think that I could claim art as a career path.

Now, with more wisdom, I realize that there are many young people who cannot fathom a career in the arts. To combat that, I’ve shown up for almost every press opportunity in the hopes that when someone else goes looking for examples of who they want to be, that that person may see my breadcrumbs and be inspired to do something extraordinary.

With each interview and article, I am thrilled to feel myself grow from a quiet art nerd into a leader in the field, but this work and its accompanied visibility has also unearthed some of my insecurities. I have never felt so in touch with my teenage self, who spent hours obsessing over every curve, poking and prodding. Now, instead of being at war with the mirror, I do battle with myself in the pages of my favorite magazines.

With so many new outlets for fight, I have grown increasingly good at finding reasons to hate my body. I have found hundreds of ways to lie to myself about my body; to tell myself that is not good enough. These thoughts find me most everywhere—when I’m emailing with stylists, taking business lunches, and even during potlucks with friends. I often worry that if I’m not vigilant about my body, that everything that I’ve worked for might slowly begin to slip out of reach. As if the size of my waist could mysteriously erase years of work.

Over the summer, I visited my dear friend Naomi Shimada in London. I was in the middle of a summer of self-discovery, but by the time that I landed at her flat, I was totally depleted. I got to her place and immediately fell asleep. I woke up to fresh fruit, yogurt, and the news that we’d be going to Naomi’s favorite dance party the following evening. (Naomi always takes the best care of her people.) After a quick shopping trip the next day, I landed an outfit, and we set off to the party she loved, PDA.

As the party’s DJs—Crackstevens, Khalif, and others from across the UK and beyond—guided us across genres and the room grew more and more packed, I discovered a new kind of silence as my body wined. I could feel my body’s strength: It was sweaty, raunchy, and dipped in tequila, and it was mine. I could feel the muscles in my back and a scratchiness in my throat from screaming along to the lyrics. I felt an embodiment and a power that I do not know that I’ve ever accessed before.

1545069088776-Selfie-in-Morocco
Photo courtesy Kimberly Drew.

That night, I was reminded that, on one dance floor at a time, I can use my mind not to punish myself, but to invite a special brand of silence to make room for celebration.

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With the help of a travel Bluetooth speaker, I’ve discovered that, in hotel rooms, at the beach, and in my own bedroom, I can join Beyoncé, City Girls, or Spice in a gesture of self-love and affirmation in any location.

Before talks, I’ve started to take bathroom breaks to jump around and sing to myself to get back into my body. With each beat, I am reminded of my body’s worthiness of love. With each gyration, there’s more room to pour gratitude into each curve.

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