March 1, 2012
This last week I had two radically different conversations which are relevant to this blog. The first took place during a dinner party. There were a ton of people over and the subject inevitably came around to My New Thing. I was talking to Tammy about my experience with pole dancing and how I was really into watching videos posted by an instructor in Australia who goes by the name Dirdy Birdy. It’s a really beautiful video that shows off the artistry and strength of pole dancing and there really isn’t anything overtly sexual about it, no more so than a Cirque Du Soleil show, that is. It’s definitely not what you see at a strip club. Completely obsessed and wanting to share it with my friend, I pulled her into my office to watch. Alan joined us and while Tammy and I were oohing and ahhing over the show, and he kept spouting off bone-headed male comments like, “How come she still has her shirt on?” and “It looks like she’s spent way too much time on a pole in a trailer park.”
Now I realize that he was just baiting me. Kind of. But his comments belied a pervasive attitude towards this burgeoning … sport? … past-time? … art form? What is it? Also found on youtube was another incredible video of Oona Kivela, the winner of first Pole Dance World Cup. Everything about how she moves on the floor to her build says elite gymnast, they just look and move differently than us mortals. Her performance was show-stopping yet when I perused the comments, I read some person (probably a man) wrote, “How come it sounds like there are mostly women in the audience?” Once again I found myself shouting at the computer, “BECAUSE THIS IS A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP NOT A STRIP CLUB YOU IDIOT!”
Since that conversation I have been walking around with a queasy feeling and wondering how I present myself and my interest as something I do for me and not for dollars in my g-string? This brings me to my next conversation.
I have been friends with Marcia for coming on 30 years, we met when I was a teenager. She is now 82 and was always that cool kind of Kama Sutra, “Let’s take belly dancing classes!” in the 1980’s kind of gal. I didn’t think I had any hesitation around telling Marcia about Spirals, yet I did notice how I was playing up the athletic aspects of it. I think I might have even said, “It’s not even really about being sexy. And when you are being sexy, it’s very internal and no one’s really watching” To which she replied, “Well I hope you feel sexy when you do it. That’s good stuff!”
Ah Marcia, the mother I never had. Anyway, she called me on how I was being apologetic about my sexuality and how there is nothing wrong with it, especially when we are all walking around not letting ourselves feel anything when we should be doing the opposite. That led into another conversation and at the end of it all I promised to visit her in Grand Junction and she said, “Wonderful. I miss you. I want to see you pole dance.” She’s coming to visit in May so I better get busy.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy about being sexy. I posted arty nude photos of myself on Facebook so my friends could see them. I went topless to a Halloween party last year. I get a kick out strip clubs and don’t mind anyone knowing. I’m the first person to take off my clothes when there is a hot spring involved. So why am I so squeamish about pole dancing being sexy? Part of it is that I want to be taken seriously. Part of it is that I’m in that age range where my friends are getting divorced and suddenly they are completely on fire, but in a scary, kind of destructive way that freaks me out. I like being the fun girl at the party but I also don’t like my accomplishments to be minimized and I definitely don’t like being pigeon-holed. What’s interesting about this is that in trying to avoid being stereotyped, I’m kind of perpetuating that stereotype by refusing to fully own it. Apparently there is a psychological aspect of pole dancing that I need to master, as well the physical.