Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ask Jilly, the belly dancing colossal squid and agony aunt

Dear Jilly,
I attach a photo of all my ebay purchases within the last month. This is pretty much the source of my problem: I am running out of space and money.
Suzy's ebay purchases for the month
Nevermind all the pricey costumes I’ve amassed: when you factor in the cost of workshops, weekly classes, summer schools, CDs, iTunes downloads, instructional and performance DVDs, swords, Isis wings, zagat, shoes and Pedralta sandals, drums, jewellery, a belly-dance themed cruise I’m taking on the Mediterranean with Nesma and Ozgen, tambourines, a decent camera with video capability, knee pads (so important for floor work and handy for doing the gardening), canes, shamadans, stage make up, Sai'idi dresses, photo shoots, khaleegi gowns, hair pieces and wigs, cover-ups, books about belly dance and the Middle East, galabeyas, tickets to haflas and shows, a subscription to Mosaic, fake flowers, extra fringing, assuit shawls, practice wear, tassels, Bellydance Superstars merchandise, melaya leffs and veils, I reckon that since I took up belly dancing about 18 months ago I’ve spent roughly £2.7 million on my hobby.
So far I have funded this by selling (among other things) my house and one of my kidneys. I have moved into my car to save money on bills and rent. My husband left me and took the dog, and I was secretly relieved because there wasn’t room for them and my collection of Bella costumes in the back of the Toyota. Also, I recently acquired a sewing machine and a large amount of sari fabric and bags of beading and appliqué, so I needed the front seat (where the dog used to sleep) for storage. The other plus is that there wasn’t enough money left at the end of each month to feed all three of us, and while I’m happy with a bag of popcorn every second day my husband’s whining about his rapid weight loss and cramped legs was getting on my nerves.
There are a few other bits and pieces I’d like to get too, and I’d like to live in a proper building again so I can show off my huge collection of vintage Fifi Abdou movie posters. Unfortunately this won’t happen any time soon – I recently lost my job because I have sold all my ‘regular’ clothes to make more room for my dance kit. As a result, all I have to wear are melaya dresses, harem pants, 25-yard skirts, kick-flared tribal trousers and cabaret costumes, but my boss took me aside and said I no longer project “the right image for a funeral parlour” and that he would have to let me go.
Now that I’m single, unemployed, homeless and my dog has left me, what do you think I should do? Start performing professionally to make a living, or enter a Texas Hold’em tournament in hopes of winning enough money to buy a trailer to store all my stuff in? My only concern is that after only 18 months I’m not really good enough for ‘the circuit’. Since I’m taking up burlesque classes soon, ideally I’d like enough money to buy a house I can install a dance studio in, but I realise I need to be realistic.

Many thanks

Suzy Squashed

PS – how much do you think a large albino python would cost, and where would I get one?

Dear Suzy

I am not a doctor, but it seems obvious to me that you are suffering from sequinosis fabulosa (colloquially known as ‘the shines’), a common but serious ailment that afflicts roughly 99.999% of all belly dancers, ballroom dancers, figure skaters, burlesque artistes, showgirls and drag queens. For reasons that no one quite understands, it also tends to be fairly common among Australian women over the age of 50, though they are the only group outside of the performing arts known to be affected.

There is a milder, but similar, illness called glitteritis splendidiosa (‘the sparkles’). In its early stages, the shines is often misdiagnosed as the sparkles and this is why sufferers quite often develop a chronic form of the disease, despite the fact that it can be treated if caught early. The differences between the two are few but significant, and I’d like to take a moment to reproduce this section from Common Complaints and Ailments of the Eccentric (pp 1305 - 1306) for the benefit of other readers:
The Shines
  • The patient may not have always had an attraction to what they insist on calling ‘shiny things’ [hence the name], but after intense exposure to extravagant clothing, for example during an episode of Dancing with the Stars, they may develop an obsession with ‘shiny things’ almost overnight.
  • Their everyday attire may remain quite drab and/or conservative, but there will be beaded, sequinned and fringed items concealed around their home. Sufferers will often say things like, “I know I’ll never wear it, but it was so beautiful I just had to have it.”
  • Even “shinies” will be able to objectively admit that some of the follies they are splashing their cash on are quite hideous. This is part of what makes sequinosis fabulosa so dangerous: just because an object or piece of fabric is highly decorated and reflective, a shinie will feel compelled to buy it even if they know they neither need nor like it. The justification for this will often be something along the lines of “I’m going to cut that up and turn it into a costume.” Though this may be said with conviction, it is a lie.
  • Left unchecked, a shinie’s compulsion to acquire ‘shiny things’ will eventually take over their whole life until even their taste in interior design is affected. Among belly dancers, there have been reported cases of this developing into a distressing obsession with accumulating various items of “Egyptianalia”: plaster casts of black cats and shabti figures, plastic pyramids, brass lamps, gilded tea glasses, figurines of camels, reproductions of Tutankhamun’s death mask and so on. See also “Egyptophrenia”, “Turkophilia” and “Moroccomania”.
The Sparkles
  • A variant form has also been diagnosed in members of so-called ‘hair metal’ and ‘glam rock’ bands, but thanks to an intensive vaccination program undertaken in the early 1990s cases are rarer now. A predilection for ‘pleather’, lace, fluorescent neon shades and fur was also noted in most of these patients.
  • Unlike the shines, many patients will ‘grow out of’ sparkliness in their late teens/early-mid twenties. Quite often it is the acquiring of a 'real job' that seems to effect a cure. However, much like herpes [cold sores], symptoms may recur throughout the patient's life. Symptoms typically recur only on very specific occasions (for example, when dressing for a big night out or when the patient is organising their own wedding).
  • Long-term physical effects are usually no worse than nail art, a fake tan and a butterfly tattoo.
  • Often, but not always, patients may show a fondness for animal print, soft toys, and the colour pink.
You can see where the two maladies overlap. But Suzy, as surely as my mass is more comfortable when well submerged, you have a full-blown case of stage 4 shines. It's bad, and you may be beyond help. I note with concern the joy you seem to take in listing your acquisitions, and the fact that you think your 'real' problem is that you don't have the space or funds to indulge your obsession even though you have lost everything. I am therefore going to get a proper shrink to get in touch with you privately, and publish this only as a warning to others to be on their guard for the early warning signs in themselves.

But for Poseidon's sake, DO NOT take up burlesque classes (you have no room for corsets, tiny hats and feather boas at this point in time) and DO NOT get an animal. This poor beast belonged to a dancer in Omaha who had developed full-blown shines with aggravating Egyptophrenia*:

I wish you luck with your recovery.


Jilly x

*Or is totes Photoshopped. Up to you.


  1. Sorry Jilly, gotta disagree with you here. Suzy should definitely take up burlesque- pasties and merkins are much easier to store than bedlahs, and learning to strip can also provide a way into much more lucrative hobbies provided you don't feel the cold too much!

  2. I agree - merkins would make excellent insulation for the car too (heh, merkins). But get rid of all the belly dance stuff first Suzy! Actually, I think this is made up and that Jilly was having a dig at me and my overactive online shopping habits over the last month or so. But I want! I NEED!

  3. you know this is cruelty to animals and it is quite frankly disgusting.

    1. Agreed. I does not look like a hoax to me. People that would do that to an animal shout be banned from having animals -- and then given a good kicking...

  4. Hi 'anonymous' - as a cat lover myself, I totally agree with you that tattooing a cat (for reasons other than medical [e.g. protecting it from skin cancer) is disgusting and cruel. HOWEVER, Jilly researched this image before posting it and by all accounts it is a hoax i.e this cat was not actually tattooed.

    If I have misunderstood your comment and you are upset by my using a colossal squid to co-author this blog, then I can only say that Jilly is well cared for and comes and goes as she pleases!