As an adolescent, adults (particularly family members) commented to my back that I was “switching.” I would then turn around to catch a smirk, a raised eyebrow, or pursed lips. I figured this “switching” had something to do with my walk and the movement of my butt. And that it was bad.
Over the years, people made more comments about my walk than my intelligence. Sometimes I would stand with my back to a mirror, turn my head, and try to watch myself walk to see what was happening back there that attracted negative attention. Short of filming myself, I could never catch myself walking; however, I do believe I unconsciously stiffened myself to nullify the sexual innuendos.
By the time I was in my early sixties, hip pain was a constant companion. Massage helped greatly, and I learned not to sleep on my right side where the pain was greatest. However, when I consciously check in with my body, I notice that over approximately fifty years I conditioned myself to walk by taking small steps with little hip action. Rather than using my energy to counteract inertia, I submitted to it. Without being aware of it, I had succumbed to a pre-shuffle.
Now I take bigger steps. In order to do so, I must involve my hips. When I walk in motion with my hips, my buttocks rock and roll. Although I greatly nullified the hip pain with massage, I realize that there was a deeper pain that revealed itself only when I began to walk in a way that activated my hips. It’s as if my hips were saying, “Girl, where you been?” Fortunately the pain wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t continue using longer strides, and as I walk more expressively, that pain is lessening.
I know my hips are talking to the girl in me. Many years ago, while waiting for the bus, I observed a woman walking with two preteen girls. As they got closer to me, the mother handed the girls a lollipop, and as they strolled past me, the girls’ butts were rocking and rolling a mile a minute. I recognized that they were walking in a way that some people would say was sexual. But I realized that their swinging buttocks were an expression of joy.
Joy is a natural expression of freedom and power. Power, in its healthful expression, denotes a connection with the Source, the primal Mother/Father of all that ever was or will be—God. Some people don’t make the divine connection on their own and seek to possess, pimp, or otherwise subvert woman’s natural sexual expression. Those who are negatively triggered by a female’s natural sexual expressive power might try to curb it or protect it, which I think started happening to me when I was a girl.
But by denying my power (and I accept the responsibility for colluding with it when I was younger), my power diminished to the point that I gradually began to take small steps, which could easily be called aging, but in fact it was conditioning and a denial of my fundamental power.
Heed Audre Lorde’s wisdom:
In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. For women, this has meant a suppression of the erotic as a considered source of power and information within our lives.
We have been taught to suspect this resource, vilified, abused, and devalued within western society. On the one hand, the superficially erotic has been encouraged as a sign of female inferiority; on the other hand, women have been made to suffer and to feel both contemptible and suspect by virtue of its existence.
On the path to recovery, I ask myself, Where in my life do I choose to take small steps when I could also choose to take longer strides? How do I hold myself back? Where do I take easy steps (playing computer games, watching TV) when I might take larger strides (working on an idea for a book)? Actually, the small steps aren’t really easier when I have to pay for them with less mobility and decreased fulfillment. The longer, expressive strides take me where I’m going faster and smoother.
I have discovered that the correct way for me to walk is not legs and feet first (prelude to a shuffle), but hip and leg. The movement of the hip is circuitous, and although this movement takes more time, it allows my leg to kick out further than if my hip is only minimally involved. Walking with the full involvement of my hips counteracts an inclination to stoop Now that I’m getting the rhythm of it, my walk is regaining confidence and speed.
As I walk, I hear my hips singing to me, “Shake it up, baby … Come on and work it on out.”
Tags: Audrey Lorde