Thursday, August 18, 2005

Belly-envy and why I need more ab crunches

In continuance of my birthday celebrations, and to accomodate the San Diego appendage of our gang, we went off to Caspian in Irvine for a long-drawn out dinner on Saturday. A lot of last-minute bail-outs later (too far!too exhausted from work!yadda yadda yadda), it was me and S who set off to meet Em and family and the Pumpkins (yep that's what we call Beck and her boy). Also joining us was lovely Anna who made an earlier appearance as long suffering on-off girlfriend of Triangle. He was in Greece then, hooking up with past girlfriends and trying to join the mile-high club (as we learnt later) while Anna was trying to get a hold of him by calling him up as frequently as she could.

We reached Caspian only to encounter a mutant version of the Iranian diaspora that I had never encountered before: the pushy, rank-pulling Persian-palace-in-the-suburbs type. As we waited patiently in queue to speak to the host about our reservations, two to three parties who clearly joined the queue after I did tried to jump ahead and spoke to the host about how they knew so and so and how he should score them a table. These were all mostly older first-generation immigrants in their 50s and 60s, usually the most polite in LA. Clearly Irvine operates differently. The host was harried by the commotion, ignored us for almost 15 minutes before I insisted that he look up our reservation. We finally made our way to the table, where we were ignored by servers for about half an hour. In their defense, I must say that the place is cavernous and huge, and resembles one of those San Gabriel valley dimsum emporia or Glendale Lebanese-Armenian restaurants in its expanse. And it was packed to the gills on a Saturday night.

The rest of our party came in, and Matt (Em's nephew) was eating his 5th or 6th Iranian meal in a row. From once a month to every meal for three days was a bit much for the poor boy. But then, he loves burgers, and the koobideh kebab comes as close to a burger patty as anything, so he kept ordering koobideh at every place. The food came, and it was no patch on the excellent offerings of Shahrezad or even a take-out joint like Downtown Kebab. Average at best. But then, food was never the attraction of this place. The crowds were explained a few minutes later, when the lights dimmed and the belly dancers came in. Most places manage one on the weekends, this place had a whole troupe of belly dancers! They were all fairly good, but one of them was absolutely exceptional, and I really wished I had her talent with the diaphragm. The girl could wiggle her puppy fat like no other, making the guests erupt into applause every time she came in.

I can sincerely say that I've never ever had mixed feelings about belly dancers in restaurants. S says that all said and done the men are ogling at a scantily clad woman shaking her bum and belly, and tipping her by stuffing dollar bills in her flimsy top and belt is sort of objectifying. Somehow, I can imagine it being sleazy when performed for an exclusively male clientele who are less interested in the art and skill of it than the sexual arousal potential. However, in spaces like restaurants with men, women and children in mixed groups, it becomes easier to focus on the skill-set of the dancer. Sure you'd still pay attention to how sexy the dancer is, but her sexual aura is part of the allure of the performance and is not distilled out for its own sake. In fact, I prefer it when belly dancers dress sexier, (as opposed to a fully covered one) because it is possibly to see the amazing things she manages to do with her abs. Somehow we seem to operate on this whole Madonna-whore dichotomy where anything de-sexed and sanitized gets to be called art, while anything explicitly sexual is sleazy (think classical nudes vs. erotica/pornography). The only painter I've seen who seems to be able to straddle both worlds is Titian, with his sumptuous nudes, dazzlingly sexual, but I digress.

So apparently it was Matt's first time at a belly-dance performance, and he seemed really happy with the whole thing, especially with us urging him to tip the dancers as they came to our table. A very beaming Matt did so, and even joined Em and me on the dance floor to dance to the live Iranian music that followed. He did his best to keep up with the dance moves and was very sweet and trying to follow his uncle. Em explained it very precisely, "See Matt, it's easy enough, pretend you are changing two light bulbs with both hands and fidgeting your feet around as you do so!" Em can launch a brand new career as a dance instructor, Khordadian watch out!

So we stayed there for what seemed forever, eating and dancing and tipping the dancers, till the Pumpkins decided to make a move, as they had to drive all the way to San Diego and we followed suit. In the parking lot, Em's brother and Matt were hilarious mimicking accents from different parts of England for us. They live close to Leeds so they've got the Northern England accent down pat. The Yorkshire accent was so funny, and so was the cockney. Now if only they can explain this to those who marvel on my "British" accent!

24 Comments:

Blogger Heh Heh said...

hmm.. been sometime since i came here.. Screwing in lightbulbs with your hands while fidgeting around with your feet (actually hopping on one foot) is the way my half American cousins describe Bhangra too..

11:29 PM  
Blogger K said...

There used to be a place at the Maurya in Delhi - Maroush - which had Belly Dancers every evening. I once went there with my father and found half the place was full of Male Members of Parliament - no Commies though. There were a few women (some wives of MP's, and some 'friends' too). But let me guarantee you, three Black Labels down, a belly dancer can make you feel very very 'orny indeed. Its a guy thing!

2:52 AM  
Blogger AB said...

I watched a belly dancer at Mashrabiya once. I thought she was cool and fascinating. I wouldn't mind learning it:)

6:40 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@fingeek: A lot of dancing to Persian popular music does look like bhangra on slow tempo.

@k: Oh I'm sure there must have been some men (and women) in the restaurant who would have felt quite 'orny! But I think in that set-up, the horniness is incidental and not the primary aim of the performance.

Aren't most of the dancers in Delhi from erstwhile Soviet states, and pretty mediocre at that?

@AB: Oh you should! It's great fun and a good workout as well! I took a few lessons but my instructor was pathetic. Once the dissertation is out of the way, I intend to resume, but after I find a better teacher.

12:39 PM  
Blogger www.gypsynan.blogspot.com said...

Basic belly dancing training move, open the fridge door with your hips, fast, when you can do it smmoth and quick, throw your body back and roll with it!

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Hey! Happy Birthday! Not sure when was it, or is, but have a beautiful year ahead! :D

6:59 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:51 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Whoa! A blogger spammer! The posts that I've deleted above are all from spammers. Does anyone know how to deal with them? Should I disallow anonymous comments?

10:22 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:27 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@sanity starved: Thanks a ton for your wishes. I do hope this year would be full of great things.

I have decided to use word verification on the blog to get rid of spam-bot comment generators. I know it's a bit tedious, but would hopefully keep the pests away.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

When is your birthday though? It's very odd to wish someone and not know one's birthday :D

PS - Okay, I just cursed the word verification thing...
... and the spam bots.

2:14 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@sanity starved: Sorry, didn't mean to be all mysterious about it. It's on August 9. And sorry about the word verification, but I've noticed that comment spammers have grown alarmingly in a lot of blogs.

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Okay! Belated Wished for your August 9 Birthday!... Feels better :-)

And, get to curse again :D
Just kiddin'

3:18 PM  
Blogger eeesh! said...

hey,

belated birthday wishes..

what's up? haven't from you in some time...

8:06 AM  
Blogger K said...

Thanks for the advising of the 'word checker'. Blogspot seems to be under constant spam-attack of late, may make for an interesting story if I really wanted to work on something like this, or i'll just palm it off to someone. No new posts in some time?

1:00 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

@sanity starved: Thanks again:)

@Eeesh!: Thanks hon! Been very busy hanging out with friends so not time to blog.

@K: I'm glad you found it useful. I see blogger spam in almost every blog I visit these days. And reasons for not blogging stated above. But has been rectified now, check two new posts.

12:29 PM  
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2:42 AM  
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Anonymous theexilesclan said...

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3:51 AM  

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