Off With the Old, in With the Nude

Cat Tacopina
Cat Tacopina

I think we all have that first college experience that completely changes us. Whether it be getting drunk, finding a first love, experimenting with illegal substances, whatever. It’s one of those “I-know-I-shouldn’t-be-doing-this” experiences that will lead us to finally learn something about ourselves that we wanted to know for a long time.

Here’s mine.

I was pretty taken aback when Maeve Halliday said “Oh Cat, you should come with us to the burlesque show tomorrow night!” First of all, I didn’t know any of these kids at The New Paltz Oracle yet (And quite frankly, some of them really scared me). I was just the shy, reserved, naïve, freshman copy editor who had just been recruited to sell my soul to this publication – nothing more. Second: burlesque show? Why would I go with a group of kids I didn’t really know to a burlesque show? I smiled and I told Maeve that maybe I’d see her there. I thought about it for a bit and after a long, hard thought out decision, I set out with my friend Rachel to go see ‘Dungeons and Drag Queens.’  The second the two of us walked into the doors of Parker Theater, we ran into Maeve along with our past News editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor and the Sports Editor (who is kind of my boss since I’m the sports copy editor).  It all seemed like a whirlwind of confusion in my head, and soon we were all sitting together watching the show unfold. Here I was with Rachel and a bunch of kids I barely knew watching our peers “Get Nerdy with It.” What had my life come to?

I couldn’t help but feel weird sitting there. And that’s when it happened.

You know how when you go to baseball games and they have those cheesy competitions in-between innings? They kind of had those at the Burlesque show. And I got chosen to participate.

In a strip-tease competition.

The burlesque troupe told us that we could take off anything, whether it be a shoe, or a hat, or any accessory. The two best would go onto the next round. I wasn’t wearing an accessory and I didn’t know how to take off a shoe and make it sexy at the same time. I was contemplating my options as the first person went, and strategically took off his scarf. I decided on taking off the boot. I was set.

That didn’t happen. In fact, I only remember two things perfectly. One, is that I took out my ponytail. The second is when, right after the hair tie, I took my shirt off. Yes, the shirt came off.

From what the witnesses of that night said, I fidgeted with my sleeves, looked nervous, and all of a sudden, I smiled coyly and proceeded to take it off. Screams erupted and my friends stared in shock, because they had NEVER expected it.

Needless to say, I went onto the next round.

For those of you who only sort-of knew me before reading this column, I’m apologizing to you in advance that you’re probably reading this and not knowing what to think. Or that your jaw is hanging open and you look like an idiot.


The night is pretty foggy since everything was completely in the moment, but I remember perfectly what it was like as I walked to my seat (with my shirt back on). I was shaking so incredibly hard, I thought it would never stop. But everyone was telling me how cool it was that I did that. Sitting in my chair, I barely paid attention to the other acts. I was thinking.

“Oh my God, I’m such a fat-ass, why did I just do that?”

“Crap, my chest probably looked weird.”

“What was I thinking?”

And then I realized…I felt great. I mean, I felt really, really damn good. I felt incredibly comfortable in my body for the first time and I felt pretty damn bad-ass.

Now is the part where I tell you the point of me telling you this story. The point is that you should never underestimate your body. I had never been comfortable in my own skin until that point. That night changed the way how I view my body forever. I’m no stick, I have curves and boobs and a bit of a pooch. Sometimes I get a little self-conscious about it, but then I remember that the cliché is kind of true beauty does come in all shapes and sizes.

There’s also another reason why I typed this. There are some long-overdue ‘thank you’ messages that need to be said.

Alpha Psi Ecdysia, I don’t even know where to start in thanking you. Thank you for a wonderful show, and thanks for being so open with your own bodies that it was encouraging enough for me to be okay with mine. After your show, I love my body, each and every part of it. I will always and forever be thankful to you. And go to all of your shows.

And of course…

Rachel, Maeve, Julie, Justin, Maxim and Andrew. Thanks for being there with me. I’ll never forget you for just being there that night, and I guess now would be the time to say none of that would have happened if it hadn’t been for any of you. Even you Max, even if I rag on you all the time. You’ll always be special and I’ll love you just as much as everyone else. Maybe.

Oh, and for those of you who want to know what happened in the second round, you’ll have to ask me yourself. All I can say is whipped cream, pie and that Oops! I did it again.