I grew up in the mountains of Northern California on a lonely piece of land that featured a swimming pool. When I was young, my mom practiced water aerobics everyday to the same mix tape of Lauryn Hill, Gladys Knight, and Aretha Franklin. I was desperately bored, sitting on the steps of the shallow end, whining as my skin puckered beneath the surface. The pool was large and deep— it seemed to mock me for having no friends.
By the time I was twelve, I’d found girlfriends, and the pool became a social hub for us. We swam and played, and I choreographed dances for when the parents showed up. The photo below captures a well-received performance to “I Like Big Butts” by Sir Mix-A-Lot.
I enjoyed thrusting my hips and vigorously shaking my butt because those were the moves that elicited the most laughter from my mother. When my English grandmother saw my moves she was horrified, but I shrugged it off. I had no interest in Victorian sensibilities.
My friends and I delighted in exploring the funky, soulful freedom that comes from the hopeful awareness of impending sexuality and the vastness of life ahead.
Fifteen years later, I seized the opportunity to choreograph a new pool dance and relive a time in which I could unceremoniously slap my ass to Sir Mix-Alot. The dancers are three young women—friends— in their early twenties. For me, that was an age when I was both a child and adult. The dancers waddle around in flippers and play together—another celebration of living on the cusp.
I think about the ways we use our imagination to create rituals that allow us to journey into the next stage. Often, for women, entering new stages involves changes in our body and our sexuality. Hence, I continue to be interested in calling attention to and relishing in anything my grandmother (in her Victorian denial of the body) would consider inappropriate.