I walked into the studio and up the stairs. Inside was a shut door with the studios name on it. I didn’t know whether to go in and risk interrupting a class, or to run back down the stairs behind me.
I opened the door.
Inside the room were eight poles, one of which had a raised platform in the middle of the floor. It was dimly lit, and there were mirrors on the walls. A couch sat in the corner.
My first thought: “Is this actually happening?”
The answer to that question was “yes.”
When I went into that studio for my first pole dancing class, little did I know I would be finding out a lot more than I had bargained for.
I met a variety of women that day. A woman in her 50s. A woman whom the majority of the population would shame for being “too big.” A woman my age (20s). A shy and quiet woman. Women who nobody would stereotype as “pole dancers.”
The woman who most people would ostracize for being “overweight” had the most amazing movements in her free-style dancing. She was one of the reasons I realized through this class that some of my own sense of self-love had disappeared.
I realized I didn’t feel very attractive. I still wanted to run out of the room! Despite this, the women in class kept reassuring me that everyone has to start somewhere.
I kept thinking to myself, “HOW DO THEY MOVE LIKE THAT!?!”
I felt awkward, like a baby trying to walk for the first time.
When I was finally able to do my first “fireman spin” (easily looked up on YouTube) at the end of class, the other women clapped for me or whistled. My instructor gave me a high-five.
They did this every time someone was able to accomplish a new move, or even just in the middle of their free-style dance to boost their self-esteem. It felt silly at first, but then I realized that it was empowering. I felt like I was part of a team.
How many other places can you get that automatic recognition from other women? How often are we in competition with each other, forgetting to support one another through our endeavors?
The reason I took the class was so that I could build full-body strength. I’ve never been a gym person, but I wanted to get in shape. I had also heard of fitness families. I didn’t understand what that meant until I walked through my studio door.
What I found is that you need a willingness to learn, try, ditch the stigma around pole dancing, and be able to laugh at yourself.
I’m not a stripper, nor am I planning to be one.
I’m the woman who weighs three hundred pounds.
I’m the stick-thin woman.
I’m the woman with a job.
I’m the woman who has children.
I’m the 18-year-old.
I’m the 62-year-old.
I’m the college student.
I’m the woman you’re laughing with over brunch.
I’m all of these women, wearing workout clothes with chalk all over their hands and bruises on their legs, trying to climb a pole in a studio nearby.
No seven-inch platform heels required.