Surmounting Shame

It haunts us from the time we are young. Starting innocently at first and then morphing into an at-times insurmountable foe. ABC’s Jane the Virgin confronts, hides from, and surmounts shame consistently throughout the storyline – it is merely a part of everyday life. In a recent episode, Mateo does not get invited to a classmate’s birthday party (because of his bad behavior). Like any child, he cries to his mom – sadness veiled under the true emotion of shame. Why me? Singled out, the feeling of shame slowly rises. As a child though, he merely processes it as sadness. His mother Jane, feels the full weighted shame when the school administrator suggests Mateo needs a shadow, or aide, to control his behavior problems. She resists at first, but by the end of the episode gives in, acknowledging the shame she felt from thinking she wasn’t a good mother to prevent this from Mateo. By taking the help, she not only shows her love for Mateo, but faces her fears and shame head on, overcoming, growing and becoming an even better mother for Mateo.

The past two years have been riddled with shame, on and off. Some unfounded, others not. I put myself in a highly unfavorable (aka shitty) situation and ended up losing the respect of a lot of people I cared about. In shame, I hid and dwelled within myself. Shame for being exposed, shame for supporting a rationale that had led me to that situation in the first place, shame in not feeling like I could move on. But then I did. I reinvested in myself. Sought more to understand why, how this might have represented other phenomenons occurring within me, and ultimately forgiving myself. And most important of all, I learned to let go of what I could not, or chose not to, recover.

When I started kizomba, I felt shame when men would walk away after I stepped on their toes a few times. Was I doomed to be clumsy? I decided to stand in the back for a bit and watch. Breaking into the social dance scene can be hard sometimes and being handed rejections publicly was no fun. But then I practiced. Not for them, but for me. I loved the dance and the music and wanted to freely dance it without reservation. Though rejections on the dance floor may still come, it is their loss, not mine.

In the end, standing strong within yourself, knowing your worth, understanding your mistakes and being gracious with yourself make all the difference. We can combat shame before it takes over.

Last night, I went to a social dance spot, a Valentine’s day bash. A sensual bachata song came on, and here I was head, shoulder, body rolls and all. But damn those headrolls. I chose to wear a wig when I came to Colombia to try something different. Most of the time I have no problem wearing my natural hair out, but a new place gives me the added opportunity to try something new, and a protective style to bout. I knew Colombians danced sensual bachata and with all those fast salsa turns as well,  I wasn’t taking any chances. I clipped my wig on and shook my head around at home to make sure all was secure. Yet here, in the middle of a fantastic powerful head roll, my wig falls off. On the floor, in the middle of a crowd. My partner and I both reach for it as I grab my wig cap now prominently displayed for the public. Mortified, I plopped the curly mess back on my head and held it there as I finished the dance. The show must go on. El hombre apologized profusely, but I merely asked him to lead me to the bathroom. The curls were in my face and I’m not sure I could take bumping into a wall as well. There, in the corner of the women’s bathroom of a packed club in Bogotá, I readjusted my wig, did a delusional silent laugh-scream of disbelief, gathered my bearings, and headed back to the dance floor. A year ago (one I wouldn’t be wearing a wig), I would have screamed, ran to the bathroom, and cried until my Uber came. But I felt no shame. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Shameless, but most likely, I had just come  to know that I am more than my hair, and an unfortunate miscalculation would not, should not, ruin my night.

After a few emotional texts and tweets to friends in the U.S., I got back on the dance floor, wig uncertain. I told my next partner I had hurt my neck so he wouldn’t do any headrolls and proceeded to let the bachata beat fill me once more with its timbre, spontaneity, and warmth. No wig formed against me shall prosper.

Perhaps there was snickering, perhaps there were photos taken, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I came to dance, and dance I would.

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