You Were: The Belly Dancer

September 28, 2010

If the title has you imagining yourself in some distant land—eating dates by the camel-load and charming young men as handsome as Omar Sharif—then I must apologize for leading you astray. You worked in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, just off I-95. The food there was vile. (The hummus was not made from chickpeas. The chef, having once misread an old recipe, used chicken fat instead.) There was only one reason the restaurant stayed in business. The entertainment.

No one knew how a minister’s fair-haired daughter could have learned how to belly dance. You were four years old when you first stole your mother’s prettiest brassiere, decorated a belt with gold coins from your brother’s toy box, and put on a show for your family at Christmas. They were mortified. Back in those days, few people were familiar with the art of belly dancing. And four year olds were not encouraged to shake their booties. Everyone was convinced that you’d lost your mind.

Of course, this was hardly the first—or the last time—that people had accused you of being a bit loopy. You’ve always done things your own way—and that tends to disturb the small-minded folks who think everyone should toe the same line.

Despite your parents’ protests, you stuck with the belly dancing. By the time you graduated from high school, you were the best in the land. (Or at least the North East.) You could do things with your torso that seemed anatomically impossible. And there were plenty of people who enjoyed watching you do them.

You made an excellent living and could have retired quite young. Instead, you bought the restaurant, fired the chef, and started serving the most delicious hummus that ever graced a pita. And you kept dancing into your later years. Even when you were in your sixties you still drew crowds of gentlemen (and ladies), all eager for a glimpse of the most famous navel in New England.

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