Today, I read something that wanted a reply in a FB group that I have just joined, and since my membership request to the group has not yet been accepted, I was unable to post my response to that comment directly in the thread. But then I figured it might make some good blog fodder anyway, so I figure I will go ahead and speak my mind here, and then just link to this in that thread once I am allowed to participate so I don’t forget to go back to it later. It reads:
“I was wondering if any of you other polers face a stigma of “pole dancing” when you tell family or friends that you pole. My mother hasn’t seen me on the pole but when we chat she makes it sound like its something nasty. My husband is beyond proud of me but when his friends find out that we have a pole in the house there are always comments with a sexual inuendo. This irritates me. I pole for me! For health, strength and confidence. Any tips on how to gently (or not) set these people straight?”
Now, This is interesting to me from the standpoint that it is a part of the artistic world, and that just because there are poles in strip clubs, having a pole at home isn’t necessarily anything to do with sexuality, but also interesting because I happen to know the sexy side of things from actually having been a stripper. The first thing that I note is the negative connotation that is associated with that concept of a strip club is generally perpetuated by people who have never actually been INSIDE of one.
It might surprise many to learn that first person I met who was a member of MENSA and also was the first to put the idea in my head that I would also qualify was someone I met while working in a strip club. And it may further surprise folks that it was not a customer, but another dancer a few years younger than me. It is because of that young woman that I became more aware of how much brain power I really had, and also by extension how that then really ramped up my sense of social responsibility and speaking up about politics and community leadership when before I had never considered myself at all qualified to say anything.
My own mother recently made a rather reflective comment about how “it isn’t like how people make it seem,” when I mentioned that day she utterly shocked me by coming to visit me at my place of work, to comfort me after finding me very distraught with her phone call. She had long been disapproving of my choice of work, having made all sorts of assumptions about it based on reputation of seediness, but this instance she must have felt the need to come and rescue her baby, because she came to the club that afternoon, bearing a care package.
Once she located me, which was difficult for the fact that she didn’t recognize me in my dragon robe and thigh high boots and hot pants and blonde wig, she looked around at the mostly empty place as we sat on a couch near the entrance and noted, “I don’t see a lot of fake boobs!” as though she found it rather baffling that the women who worked there were actually real people and not Barbie dolls. And then “Chanel,” one of the more outgoing dancers, came over and started to chat with us, putting her even further at ease, and we all ordered lunch.
When the time came for my own turn at bat, I assured my mother that the management would allow me to skip my scheduled turn on stage, as I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable watching me do my strip show in a nude club, and having now had the opportunity to reconcile the real me with the world she had not understood before, actually threw me for a loop by saying, “well, I don’t know… I think YOU’D probably do something more interesting than just walking around the pole…”
Okay. Challenge accepted.
I made my way to dressing room and gave the DJ my set instructions, and pulled out all the stops on the stage show with one of my many “theme sets” which comprised of a fantasy costume and music combination and usually some Circque du Soleil inspired pole ballet some 18 feet above ground on 4play’s exceptional pole that stretched all the way to the ceiling of the second story. As surreal as the idea was that I was putting on the show primarily for my MOM since there were only two or three other patrons there, I still love to perform, so she got the full treatment. And then she couldn’t stop being impressed and amazed. By the time she left that day, she not only had a transformed opinion of strip clubs and what I did there, when she met my manager before leaving, she actually leaned over the bar to whisper proudly and confidentially to him as she patted me on the small of the back with one hand. “She’s very good…!” She even paid for Chanel’s lunch along with ours.
So when you mention the stigma of pole dance that comes along with the association of the naked places, perhaps the first thing to call into question is not whether the pole is being blamed unfairly by that, but whether the whole branding of female sexuality as a whole has been maligned in this negative light, along with the clubs and the people who frequent them for work or pleasure. I can honestly say the one place I could not hope to classify into one homogeneous group label all of the various sorts that cross paths there, are the strip clubs and nudie bars I have been in across the country. One of the best things I enjoyed about such work was the thought at the beginning of each shift, “I wonder who I will meet today?”
There is apparently one thing that seeming every single type of human, male or female, single or married, old and young, rich or poor, the lonely and the adored, smart and educated to not so much, from black to white and all in between ALL seem to have in common there too – an appreciation of beauty and the opportunity to witness it for the price of a 2 drink minimum. So if pole dancing is anchored in that – it is a stigma I don’t mind. Viva la topless joints and Nudie bars of the world!!