Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
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Stop Giving A Fuck What They Think

The girl with the hairy armpits whirls and twirls, faster and faster. The bongo players follow her lead, pounding harder, faster. The tribal beats vibrate the ground, sending shock waves up through the soles of my feet into my legs, my knees, my hips, vibrating my heart until it feels as if it's thumping in unison with the dozen or so bongos filling the air with music.


Violet looks at me and when I return her gaze she grins so big I can see all the little Chiclet teeth dotting her pink gums. Look mama, she's dancing. A second girl with a hawk tattoo eating up most of the skin on her torso steps delicately into the circle of beating drums and begins to undulate with a hoola hoop. She does crazy things with the plastic ring, contorting her body around it like some kind of punk rock circus performer. It circles her neck, her waist, then her knees, never wavering. It gets closer and closer to the ground but before it kisses the grass she kicks a leg up and the hoola hoop is spinning around her ankle, fast as ever. The flesh around her hips hangs slightly over her torn jeans, jiggling with each circus-like maneuver, but it's sexy. Womanly. Beautiful.

My children and I are at what locals call The Drum Circle. Every Sunday hundreds of folks from all walks of life gather in a local park. Dozens bring drums, bongos whatever they've got to pound on. People laze about on blankets, the unmistakeable smell of pot lingers in the air. Dreadlocks and nose rings are commonplace. I could sit here forever. I love everything about it.

The Drum Circle has been going on for as long as I've lived in Salt Lake City. I'm fascinated by the people that go there. Of course, in my t-shirt, sneakers, the only dorky shorts that fit my post-baby body and the enormous double stroller loaded with two kids, I look like a soccer mom who made a wrong turn on the way to the big game. But maybe not. The Drum Circle is the kind of place where everybody fits in because nobody does.

"Get down?" Violet asks and I lift her from the stroller. She immediately runs to the nearest bongo and begins pounding. Dude who owns it smiles and shows her how to slap it just right. I look back and a tall man with piercings lacing much of the skin on his head is making silly faces at Henry, who is still in the stroller. Everyone is smiling, enjoying the tiny bubble of what feels like joyous anarchy we've created in Utah; home of conservatism. This is my kind of crowd, I think. You could transplant this group directly onto Washington Square in New York City.

I watch the girl with the hairy armpits work her body like a belly dancer and I am filled with regret that I never worked it like that. She is slow, sensual, probably stoned. I think back to my twenties and all the time I spent worrying what other people thought about me instead of dancing like nobody was watching. I never would've danced in the middle of a circle because I've would've been too worried about looking stupid. What a waste.

Think of all the time you've devoted to caring what other people think. Strangers! Why do we care so much what strangers think? Hours and hours of anxiety over what strangers think. Stop it! Let it go. Of course, the older I get the less I give a fuck but now I've got kids to worry about embarrassing. I wouldn't mind dreadlocks, my hair is treading dangerously close to that neck of the woods anyhow. I want to unleash my jiggly, white belly skins onto the world, let them bake in the spring sunlight and have the stone cold confidence that makes it appear sexy to others. But I'll never do that. Because I'm me. I care too much and I don't know why.

Grow your armpit hair, unleash your jiggly belly and dance in the middle of the circle! Do it for me, the dumb ass who has logged way too many hours worried about what others think.

Reader Comments (23)

Um, this sounds awesome! I love me some hairy armpit girls and sexy muffin tops (for real). I'm out of the loop though! Is this downtown SLC? I'm in the area, I guess it's time to start exploring more!

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTashi

This may be my favorite post EVER!! Love, love, LOVE IT!!! And you guys of course! ;-)

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterApril

Good God Amighty...AMEN, sistah. And while we're at it, changing our behaviors and all, can those women with the Food Obsession please stop reciting every, single morsel they ate during the day. I was explaining to a male friend of mine about HOW MUCH TIME IS WASTED with these almost daily conversations. I don't care what my co-worker ate over the weekend. Really.

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

It took me until I turned 33 (now I'm 35) to stop giving a fuck and just be me. And you know what? The world's a nicer place because of it. Jiggly belly, tattoos, and all.

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

@Tashi Liberty Park every Sunday. Just follow the drum beats...

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

I love this post, and wish that more people would get this...

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle

I'm gonna hijack this post since comments were closed on the other one, but please keep posting your babble stuff here. I want to read it and I'm sick of trying to sift through the babble website trying to find your pieces! Would be much easier if you linked 'em all up here. Thanks.
There you go, an opinion on how you do things on your 'let's not give a fuck what people think!' post. Sorry! heh.

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterevanderz

You pose a provocative question as I sip my Pinot Noir and ponder the existential views of authenticity vs. social mores. I often wonder WHY we care so much. I think the need to be accepted is powerful motivation to care what others think. When we behave the way we think we are "expected" to it puts constraints on the possibilities, doesn't it? This post definitely got me thinking, huh?

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterniobe19

Weeeell, this'll make you happy, then: I'm 26 and I've always danced as if no one's's a freakin' FANTASTIC feeling and you simply muuuuust do it. I've always loved dancing and have been/am good at's such a high dancing to really good, fun music.

Because, as you say, who gives a f--k? The strangers don't matter. If anything, they'll admire your moves as you admired those of The Drum Circle girl. It's all about the confidence and letting go. And don't be filled with regret, dude! You're still young and can (nay, SHOULD) dance up a storm when you get the opportunity...!

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPretzel Thief

amen! :)

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranajo

quite nice, monica.

i'm 55 and sometimes I still struggle, although less and less. i grew up in a home loaded with fights and lots of confusion. lots of moving around from place to place. it took me a long time to find my own peace. my kids are grown and gone. if i gave them nothing else I hope i gave them a sense of self, a feeling of peace, and a soft place to fall when all was not well in their world.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDona

Jump naked into the hot springs of love, peace and punk music, baby. Okay...I think it's only natural to want to dip a toe in the pool of versatility from time to time.Throughout life opportunities present which seem exciting and safe to try. Your inner mother will gauge these things to keep you safe, but don't allow her to silence that fun loving child in you. I mean, as long as you are not selling out to something which goes against your moral compass. Shaking a little belly fat can be funny and fun and you can laugh about it later. Hey, even cellulite can be exhilarating if you can get past it. Cellulite does NOT DEFINE ME! So It's not like you're joining the carnival or anything ( not that there's anything WRONG with that) and only a handful of people will ever see the You Tube...right? Right?! Have fun while you can still get outta bed without assistance.Monica. Nothing wrong with being considered a little eccentric, so long as you don't mind. Have fun and smell the funnel cake!

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I adore everything about this post, and think it's fan-fucking-tastic that you take/teach your children to enjoy it, too.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

I'm in my 40s now, and recently went on a rather magical trip to morocco, where I managed to remember what it was like to touch and smell and taste in a way I hadn't in a long time. I am trying to keep those feelings in my daily life. Laughing loudly, lazing languidly (especially nakedly), rolling down the windows even if my hair won't look perfect when I get where I'm going, etc. Thanks for another set of reasons!

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMishell

Thanks for this. Also, I agree with what that person said about babble...their website is very difficuLt to navigate to find just your stuff. the crazy thing about utah, is when I lived there it was so much easier to be a part of the long leg/armpit hair crowd. You are either one extreme or that I live in Michigan, I feel like I blend in, just another face in the crowd...we are all the same, even more so than in utah. It makes me miss utah, being a part of something cool, a part of something different. I miss Utah, all of its beauty, the outcast people that were so accepting of me, an outsider. I will say I definitely dont miss all of those aderrall moms stoping traffic to wave and be overly nice (and freaky) what? Is there acid in the water? I was in Logan, so it was even more sheltered than slc.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

You may not be brave enough to dance as though no one was watching, but the entire reason I love you is because you don't seem to give a fuck what anyone thinks when you're expressing yourself through your writing every day. I wish I were as brave as you when it comes to putting whatever it is you want to say on a page for everyone to read. That, to me, is equally as sexy and womanly and beautiful.

White people with dreadlocks are definitely thinking long and hard about what others think of them. Shame, because what most people are actually thinking is 'what an idiot'.

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterL

I have been thinking about this so much lately. I think back over how my fear/self-consciousness/body image/ect have kept me from really digging into certain moments. Monica, this is so beautifully written. Please, please, please shake your ass in the drum circle at least one time before you leave SLC! If you are anything like me you will always wish you had, if you don't. You can hold your baby (or better wear him in a wrap) and hold your little girls hands and dance. You can give her an awesome example of what it looks like to live without self judgement, or better and more truthfully, face your fears and dance with them. And really, no one is watching and judging-- we're all too busy thinking about ourselves. I hope you do it! And if you do, I hope you tell us about it! Again, so beautifully written...

May 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterurbangoddessmamma

I also worry too much about what others think. This is a good reminder. I've had 2 other good reminders about this in a short timeframe. One, the recent passing of my day who didn't give a rat's ass about what others think. Two, on my walk along the busy downtown waterfront today, I watched a lone shirtless guy with headphones jamming out like nobody's business while holding a walking stick. That dude had his own drum circle going on. I say all of that to say, go for it!

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

I totally love this post. Thank you!

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Damn Monica....wish I could, but I'm with you worrying about what other people think..... The curse of the "People Pleaser".

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTricia L

In all seriousness, I love the increased self-confidence I've gained in my mid-30s and am glad to hear others are having the same experience (it's not necessary to be in your mid-30s of course).

Just don't get dreadlocks if you're white, and think about whether your tattoos, piercings, clothing etc are really the result of really giving a fuck about what other people in your social group think. There's nothing wrong with adhering to a fashion of course - everyone does - unless you spend your life in monk's robes or something (another uniform - nothing wrong with uniforms, but still a uniform), but don't tell yourself that's not what it is.

Of course, it sounds like it's the unselfconscious dancing and body acceptance that is striking here.

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterL

Monica, you are awesome!

P.S. I know quite a few white people who rock the dreads. I disagree with the statements about skin color qualifies it as a universal rule for what people should or should not do with their appearance/identity. That's just contributing to the societal judgment and prejudice without any substance. People--white, black, whatever--can do whatever they want with their appearance in the name of self-expression and personal happiness, and they can still be fucking beautiful people.

May 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

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