Dancing's not something I've ever understood outside intoxication, and I know I'm not alone. There are plenty of us who would rather die than waltz without drinking, which is why I thought this mid-week dance party, No Lights No Lycra, promoted as "friendly, non-threatening and drug and alcohol free" sounded so horrendous. It's a dance class where sober people do freestyle dancing in a dark room. They just go there after work on a weeknight and rock out with a bunch of strangers. I decided to go and find out what type of losers actually did this.
But to my surprise, the place was brimming with a diverse mix of Sydney's young and 'cool' population and I ended up dancing the 60 minutes away with a bunch of groovy hipsters. The idea that your inhibitions fade when the lights are down rang true and I found that I quite enjoyed the peculiar disco.
The experience led me to question the almighty high horse I often find myself gallivanting around on. Who am I to pass judgement on something when I have never actually tried it myself? That doesn't make me cool, that makes me an asshole.
I decided I would spend a week trying not to be a judgmental asshole. I planned to lock up my skepticism and try doing things I would normally dismiss as lame, cringe-worthy or just plain boring. I wanted to see what would happen if I let down my guard and wandered off the track I'd beaten for myself.
Science says there's no such thing as detoxing but marketing says there is. And because most people watch TV commercials instead of reading New Scientist, the scam that says there are toxins our bodies can't naturally excrete makes people do weird things and spend lots of money.
But hey, who am I to say my temple can't be purified with pseudo-medical concepts? I've never tried.
I woke up on Monday and rinsed my mouth with a spoonful of pure coconut oil for 20 minutes. I did this because new-age fanatics say the ancient system of Oil Pulling would detoxify my mouth. I certainly didn't need oral impurities ruining my day so I fought past the gag reflex and let the oil have a microscopic battle with the bacteria in my mouth.
I usually dismiss people who say coffee is bad because I like coffee, but this was a day to bow down to my perception of codswallop. I skipped the caffeine and went straight to a tea blend that was "based on centuries-old remedies for keeping your body happy". Unfortunately, I wasn't familiar with the program and instead of drinking the Day Detox, I drank the Colon Cleanse, which promised to keep my "insides feeling amazing". My insides felt so amazing that they spent the whole morning coming out.
That night I tried ear candling before bed. It's an ancient practice that supposedly removes wax from the ears, thereby improving physical and spiritual wellbeing. Doctors have expressed concerns over it but my job was to ignore the claims of ineffectiveness and hazard and put my faith in the millions of consumer dollars spent on it.
And look what came out of my ears!
If I was my usual cynical self, I would say it was just the melted candle wax. But as a believer I was pleased with the spring clean.
Tuesday: Acrylic nails
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a nicely manicured nail as much as the next female with fingers. I'm not about to make a habit of paying someone to do it, but I get why people with more money than me do. I've just never understood the glitter and vajazzle or the long and obscene shapes. But I do get the concept of this article.
I went to see Abby at Bella MEDI SPA and ordered a set of nails that only a drag queen could love. Abby embraced the challenge and spent an hour transforming my hands into extremely impractical, pimped up feature points of my person.
My distaste for the semi-permanent claws she was attaching clearly showed, but I reassured her that although I disliked them very much, she'd totally nailed the brief.
I walked out of there with a set of talons that rendered my hands totally useless for everyday tasks, but terrific for more abstract purposes such as picking locks. When I got home I decided not to focus on the negatives like an asshole and tried to find ways they might enhance my existence.
I could no longer use my phone's touchscreen with ease but I discovered they're great for combing my hair. Getting coins out of my purse was way hard but picking ice out of the tray was easy as pie. Washing myself was difficult but scratching the dog's stomach was wonderful. I went to bed with achey finger tips that night.
Wednesday: Pole dancing
Beneath the irritation of ordinary tasks being less simple than they once were, I was starting to feel a little sorry for the nails. Everywhere I took them they would become victims of sideways glances and curious comments. They didn't suit my personality, my clothes or my lifestyle. I had to find somewhere where they could experience a sense of belonging.
I contacted Bobbi's Pole Studio about my article and the appropriately named Candy invited me in for a 12pm Open Slap class, which evidently didn't actually incorporate pole dancing. The class turned out to be what can only be described as a sexy exercise class, run by a 7-month pregnant, girl-next-door type, named Roxy. The ultimate paradox.
The warm up was raunchy by most standards, with a lot of spread-legged stretches, hip thrusting and bum clenching. Then the stilettos came out and we did sexy walks around the room, straddled chairs, humped the air and did naughty-looking things with the poles. My black office heels felt a little inadequate among the sassy platforms in the room, but I suppose I had the best nails.
Admittedly I had fun pretending I was a saucy little minx over lunch -- sure beats the sweaty beast feeling you get during a spin class. But I'm not sure it's something I would take up as a regular pastime. Not least because I like to show off my party tricks and I just don't think erotic floor moves are dinner-party appropriate. I couldn't lap dance grandma at Christmas and none of my family would come to the end of year performance.
Thursday: Betting rooms
The idea of going into one of those sinister-looking betting rooms by myself at 10am on a Thursday morning did nothing but make me want to stay in bed where I risked feeling equally depressed but more comfortable.
I had to do a few walk-bys to build the courage to enter the brightly-lit room with a strong middle-aged-man presence. And when I did I had no idea what I was doing. I struggled with the machine's touchscreen because of my fingernails but eventually managed to slap a $5 note on the nose of a Greyhound called Scott Tied Up.
I'm no stranger to the odd punt at the track but it usually happens when I'm with friends, alcohol and generally a here-for-good-time vibe. Today I was sporting an unmade-bed look with my morning coffee and half expecting someone to ask me to leave because UGG Boots weren't under dress code.
I considered sparking conversation with someone but resolved that if you're in a betting room in the AM, you probably don't want people asking a lot of questions about it. So I just sat there trying to radiate the certainty of a seasoned gambler, suppressing squeals when my dog was leading and cursing quietly when he was overtaken last minute.
The fact that I'd almost made a quick $100 but had it robbed from me made me feel bad about myself. I decided that betting rooms were just as sad as I originally thought and no dog goes as fast as the money you bet on him.
I was so scared of doing karaoke that I spent five days in training. I organised a backup singer and pulled together a small crowd of supportive friends. But I was in my hometown where the only karaoke is at a family pub and my only friends are my family.
My dad was there taking photos and my uncle was on video-recording duty. My aunty, who was also my backup singer, had to give me a pep talk and I almost vomited when the Elvis impersonator called out our names.
But to my utter shock (and secret joy), he announced he couldn't play my song because it was a family pub and no obscene language was allowed. I had to get up and explain to Elvis that I had been rehearsing all week and simply had to rap my Eminem song. I promised I wouldn't say the bad words and he agreed.
By the time we got on stage I had concluded that I was definitely not the only one who had been rehearsing all week. I wrapped my dangerous fingernails around the microphone, pulled up my hood and tried not to look like I was taking myself too seriously.
I ended up being so nervous that I forgot to beep out the naughty swears in the first verse. It was only when I noticed Elvis waving his arms frantically on the sideline that I started saying fudge that sheet.
Nursing a hangover and already conscious of the article's word count, I took a day off and passed loads of judgement on everything.
I hear the Catholic church is aware of its need to modernise, but I don't think they're speaking to God through groovy tunes just yet. That's why I chose to spend my Sunday morning at a Frontline Christian Church instead, where praise is given via rock band.
Daniel was not impressed that morning when I dragged him out of bed and announced we were going to be late for church. I asked him to come with me in case I fell to the ground speaking in tongues and needed dragging out. He told me he used a brand called Frontline to remove external parasites from his dog.
I had all intentions of telling anyone who asked that I was writing an article about doing things I would normally avoid. But everyone was so over-friendly and cat-killingly curious that I didn't want them to think I was there to, you know, judge. We made up a small sinful lie about experimenting with churches and tried to go unnoticed when we saw people we knew.
The first 45 minutes was just live music played by a Godly band of about six. There were disco lights, arms towards heaven and a few tears over the intensity of God's presence in the room. It was similar to karaoke in the sense that there were words on the screen to sing along to, and there was a girl in the front row who I'd seen drunk and wild at karaoke on Friday night.
We left before the Lord could call us out as imposters, but after the donation plate went around. I chucked in a fiver and spent the rest of Sunday drinking in my church gear and trying to get over the wads of tax-free cash I saw being donated to the Church Enterprise, from the pockets of individuals.
I got my talons trimmed down pretty much as soon as the week was over. They were making life really hard and were starting to feel like the wobbly teeth version of nails. I probably could have saved myself an early onset of arthritis without them, but it was worth it to experience what it was like to be judged by strangers on something as superficial as acrylic attachments.
My experiment demonstrated the fine line between being cynical and using one's critical sense. I realised that when we go around criticising things without fully understanding who or what it is we are criticising, then we are more likely to be labelled as cynical, skeptical or a judgemental asshole. In fairness, you should only really call something out as ridiculous after you know it to be true by experiencing it yourself.
But honestly, in the name of "coolness", it's probably better to just leave some things unfairly judged.
This post was first published on Jessica's blog Comfort is for Wimps.
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