I have no desire to be a stripper. Many people reading this will recoil when they realize that this is a post about my experience with pole dancing. Yes, I am writing about this and am unashamed. If you are offended, I suggest you stop reading right now.
After my husband and I separated, I felt like shit. Pure and simple. I felt like a failure. I felt like no one could ever love me. I could barely look at myself in the mirror. I began to realize that this shame and hatred I carried inside truly affected how I viewed myself. What was more startling was the realization that I don’t know that I loved myself before my marriage. How could I be in the most intimate relationship with someone and not even love who I was?
These reflections actually went a step further. I was disconnected from my body – from my thoughts, my feelings and my flesh. I’ve spoken about my thoughts in another post. Embracing My Shadow deals with my feelings. But today, I want to talk about my disgust of my flesh and how this led to a massive disconnect that not only impacted my marriage, but also my identity. Believe it or not, pole dancing went a long way in helping me love what God created….
I don’t know if it begin with my history of molestation. I don’t know if it began with the teasing for looking different and being different when I was younger. I don’t know if it began with my first sexual encounters and experiences with the opposite sex. I don’t know if it was the messages I got from my father and other sources that said I must be pure, holy, and untouched and knowing that I wasn’t any of these things, at least not in the ways they meant them. I don’t know if it began with my mother’s attitude towards sex and femininity. What I do know is that there were moments when I thought that my body was disgusting. This carried over into adulthood and I’m sure it was a factor in my ongoing depression. Along with other issues, the way I viewed my body and sexuality had a negative effect on my marriage.
I feel like I was always struggling to find out who I was, what I wanted, what I liked and what I should feel. These feelings were complicated by the mixed messages from church and my faith about sex and sexuality. I’ll write more on that later….
So fast forward to six months after I separated from my husband. I was hanging on by a thread and looking for ways to deal with my reality. I was emerging from a depressive episode and was seeking forms of healing and support. I also needed to start exercising. A few friends of mine had talked about pole dancing and I was like, why not? I am not an adventurous person but I felt like it was time to confront some fears, stereotypes and assumptions. So I signed up for Pole Dancing Level 1 with the amazing PoleLaTeaz studio.
My first class I was so nervous. I arrived thirty minutes early and sat in the parking lot wondering what in the hell I was getting myself into. I finally got up the courage to walk into the studio and was immediately surprised by what I found. The atmosphere was lovely, the receptionist was hospitable, there were women who looked like me sitting and waiting for our class to begin. I took a seat and said hello to the woman on my right. I could tell that we were all nervous. The receptionist could tell that this was our first pole dancing experience. I think she could smell our fear.
When the time came, we were led back to Studio A to meet our instructor. The studio was very much like a dance studio except for the fact that there were eight gleaming gold poles that went from floor to ceiling. There were mats in the corner and the front wall was totally comprised of mirrors. There would be no hiding from myself. At all.
The first thing we did was sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. At this point, some of my anxiety began to ease. I heard stories from women like me – professional, divorced, seeking confidence, nervous about being here – and I realized in that moment that I was about to begin a sacred journey. Yes, sacred. As the instructor gave more information about the class and our curriculum over the next eight weeks, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time.
Pole dancing forced me to look at myself, at my WHOLE self. I learned to appreciate my body. I learned to not be ashamed of what God created. I learned that my body was capable of doing more physically than I ever imagined. I am 150 pounds – yes I shared that – and had to lift and swing and hold my body up. Talk about weight training!! There were days when the instructor would turn down the lights and we were told to just look at ourselves. To see who we really are and notice the beauty. I got to know this group of women who were so empowering and supportive. We created a safe place to share our deepest fears, concerns and hopes. It was amazing to see how each week, we got a little closer, grew more confident and literally shed clothing. We began as fully covered women hiding ourselves and ended as confident women who realized that one could not pole dance in sweats. Let’s just say it’s an occupational hazard and one needs to be able to have skin to pole contact in order to stay up. 🙂
The end of the course culminated in individual performances that we shared with the group. We had learned a routine but we got to choose our costumes and music and yes, even a name. I never thought I would be able to dance by myself in front of a group but I did it! I felt so empowered! The community was so supportive and I can honestly say that it was an experience I will never forget.
One day in particular stands out to me. I was at the studio working on some techniques before class and an instructor came to me and said, “You’re thinking too much. I can tell that you know the move, but you get to point of letting go and you over-think it. Just let go and trust yourself.” This advice was so powerful and I realized that pole dancing was a form of therapy for me. I rediscovered my soul through the power of the pole.
This experience was about so much more than the act of dancing. It was about learning to love my WHOLE self and learning to let go. It began a process of healing that I so desperately needed.
This might not be the thing for you. I am so thankful for this experience. My prayer is that you take a chance and do something that could transform you like never before. My prayer is that you find motivation somewhere that pushes you to embrace your whole self. My prayer is that you realize that you were made by God and that God said “It is good.”