As I noted in my last post, Chris and I attended a family wedding in New York last weekend.  The timing of the day before Easter was a bit of a relief, actually – his family was too preoccupied with the wedding to host any Easter festivities, and we were (obviously) unable to attend anything my family did.  I’m culturally Catholic (and, I suppose, ethnically – I’m Irish-American), but I’ve never been a big fan of Easter.  I am not a big candy person, I don’t like ham, and I don’t like hard-boiled eggs.  Easter Egg hunts and coloring eggs was fun as a kid, but seeing as I won’t eat them afterward it seems silly and wasteful to do it as an adult.

More importantly, though, I don’t feel this otherworldly awe and joy that other Catholics I know feel at Easter.  I feel something at Christmas, but I think it’s more  excitement and anticipation, combined with the warm fuzzies for being able to do something nice for someone else.  The realization hit me like a ton of bricks a few years ago, and that combined with the Catholic positions on some key political and social issues, including the presidential election, caused me to step back from the Church – and organized religion, in general – while I took some time to evaluate my feelings on the matter.

Anyway, I digress.  I was glad to not celebrate a holiday that I feel nothing for and don’t really enjoy, even if it meant horrible traffic back upstate on Easter Sunday.  However, fortunately for us, traffic going down to Long Island on Friday was minimal.  After a pit stop in Taconic State Park/Bash Bish Falls (aka, one of Finnegan’s favorite places), it was a smooth, traffic-free ride to Suffolk County.

After arriving to an empty-except-the-dogs house (my in-laws were traveling for my FIL’s business, and unable to attend the wedding), Chris and I set to finding somewhere to have dinner.  He scoured Yelp and found Kabul, a highly rated and surprisingly affordable Afghani restaurant.  We arrived and it was somewhat crowded, though fortunately they were able to seat us.  The food was fantastic, but the entertainment is what I want to write about.

They had belly dancers.  Two of them, in fact.

I’ve seen belly dancers before – once at Casa La Femme, an expensive (but fun and delicious) Egyptian restaurant in Manhattan, that we went to for a friend’s birthday a few years ago, and again in Walt Disney World at Restaurant Marrakesh.  However, because the restaurant was so small, the belly dancers were weaving between the tables, convincing people to get up and dance with them (Chris had his bellydancing debut!), and were chatting with diners in between sets.  It was very interactive and a lot of fun.  Most impressive, though, was what they were able to do.  The opening dance featured the one belly dancer with a plateful of candles balanced on her head.  The same dancer also balanced  a sword on her head for an entire dance (it wasn’t a real sword, but still).

I noted something striking while watching the performance – these women were not super skinny.  They were dressed in traditional costumes baring their midriffs, and they had lovely curves and not-quite-perfectly scuplted abs.  I have major issues with how my stomach looks, so to see this – these beautiful, healthy, women, clearly in good shape – was empowering.  Friends, you can’t balance a tray of candles on your head if you don’t have very strong and well-developed core muscles. Clearly, this is how women who are in good shape SHOULD look, not necessarily rail-thin.

Who knew that belly dancers would make me feel good about my body?  I’ve been working out consistently with weights, aerobics, intense core workouts, etc., for the past three years, and I’m in terrific shape.  My arms and legs are well-defined, I don’t get winded as easily, my endurance has improved, and yes my waistline has shrunk.  However, it’s still not model-worthy.  I’m still self-conscious about it, even though I know I’m in great shape and I feel so healthy and energized.  Rail-thin does not mean you’re in good shape, and being in good shape does not mean you’re rail-thin.  I know this, logically, but it’s hard to believe that on most days.  And yet, these belly dancers – these healthy, beautiful, women – were a personification of that statement.