Being the perfectionist that I am, I was way too eager to become the best little stripper I could possibly be. I took it as a challenge. And I went at it in a way only I could…with unrelenting and slightly obsessive fervor. I worked on my bootyshaking, which proved to be fruitless at first. You see, I don’t really have a booty. It’s there but it’s not a bodunkadunk that people drool over. The only time mine looks its best now is when I’m making sure I get at least an hour of pilates in three times a week. Otherwise, it’s almost nonexistent. Not flat, just nothing you could sit your drink on, at least if you still wanted the drink. Back then with as much ballet, african, tap, hip hop, etc. that I was doing, my rear was as tight as a military bed sheet. Yes, you could bounce a quarter on it. So it just wouldn’t move. Whenever I tried, it just looked like either there was an earthquake that only I could feel, or I had to pee really badly. In the future as a manager, I would watch all the little newbies practice their shaking and I always felt obliged to share with them what others in my day wouldn’t: give up or gain weight.
The only reason a woman’s butt shakes like that is because it has excess flab on it instead of muscle. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just physics. Energy emanates up from the ankles and into the cheeks, thereby causing a ripple effect that continues to pass energy from one cheek to the other until the ankle motion ceases. Kinetics. If physics classes incorporated more practical lessons such as this one, we’d all be nuclear scientists. Muscle is a little too solid to make this work properly.
But I was determined. I practiced at home in the mirror, at work behind the sex toy counter, in ballet class during stretches (that one I tried while on my back with legs in the air like a dead cockroach, one of the many variations of bootyshaking I would undertake and eventually conquer) and anywhere I felt the urge. I caught myself while waiting in line at the grocery store. I don’t think the person behind me noticed since I was wearing jeans, but who knows? I didn’t have the courage to turn around. Finally, after weeks of numerous attempts, I got it! My left butt cheek cooperated. Just the one.
Referring back to physics, it didn’t dawn on me at the time why only my left side was performing the way I wanted it to. Now I know that it was simply because my right side was stronger than my left anyway. When it came to pirhouettes, leaps, stretches and kicks, my right leg was always superior to my left. The weakness in my left allowed more leeway in the ‘jiggle’ factor. Awesome. After checking in the mirror, I decided that it didn’t look too bad shaking just the one. It actually seemed more original than shaking both because that’s what everyone else was doing anyway. Again, my rationale behind anything continues to astound me!
Why am I telling you all of this? Working as an exotic dancer is mentally exhausting and helluva challenging. More than any ‘civilian’ could ever realize. I’ve always been the type of person who was more comfortable and confident doing something with as much knowledge about it as possible. If I could learn to perform and play the part, my mentality on the subject would catch up and the task not so daunting. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes you need to just dive in, but that’s my personal theory and I’m sticking to it. Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough power to get me up the damn pole.
Pole dancing is difficult. As proven by the blossoming pole dancing classes popping up in every gym and basement across America. You have to have upper, mid, lower body strength and an amazing sense of balance to accomplish even the simplest spin. But the most necessary element is confidence. If you don’t think you can get up there, you probably won’t. And when you hit the floor, it hurts. It’s called gravity.
Once I became a regular weekend face at the Tampa club, life in there became a little easier. I didn’t go every weekend, but definitely often enough to be remembered. So, I made some acquaintances. I say acquaintances because how well can you know a woman wearing a slingshot, a wig and calling herself Bambi? You can’t. But most of the girls were pretty funny to talk to and the genuine bitches stuck to themselves anyway so I really had no major altercations to worry about. I’m even still friends with some of them thanks to Facebook (which I avoided for as long as possible, but eventually gave in to the hoopla). When the subject turned to pole tricks and the club was pretty dead, I got brave.
Remember when I compared the horizontal ballet barre to the vertical pole? Yeah, no comparison. Rarely did I ever fall off of a ballet barre, and if I did, it wouldn’t leave bruises. Warning to those who will eventually try it: you will bruise in places you never thought you’d bruise before. If there’s someone in your life you DON’T want to have to explain them to…wait until winter when you can layer properly. My first climb was painful, both to attempt and probably to watch. I had a couple of pairs of hands on my ass trying to get me to the top. And it wasn’t even that high. The hardest part was finding a position and holding it. Your perch. Like a f*&^ing bird. My arms were killing me, my legs were wobbly but I finally got to a point where I was comfortable (relatively) and could look beyond the stage and not at the floor. Honestly, it felt good. Until the girls tried to rearrange my legs to hold myself upside down. “Now let go.” They said. I didn’t trust them or my legs at that moment. “Squeeze your thighs around the pole, hold your stomach, let go, bend backwards and hang.” I made a mental note never to curse the pain my ballet pointe shoes caused me. And that it sounded like a porno I watched once at my mom’s boyfriend’s house when I was eleven. No, they weren’t home.
I took a deep breath and slowly let go. I didn’t move. I was staring at my knees as my legs were criss crossed around the pole and I wasn’t falling. Slight victory. So I timidly laid back slowly to dangle upside down. No one warned me about the shift in weight, which I should’ve known anyway but I wasn’t in my most logical space at the moment. As soon as I was almost vertical, I went down like a ton of bricks, no time to catch myself with my hands, no time for someone else to catch me. We thought I had it. I landed directly on the top of my head, then my arms and legs crumpled around me. It wasn’t pretty. But I wasn’t mad. I was exhilarated. Even as I picked the broken bobby pins out of my hair back in the dressing room, I was thrilled with myself. For a split second, I was upside down…learning new stuff, making new ‘buddies.’ A couple of these girls would prove an even greater loyalty to me several months later. And like that first upside down moment, it’s something I’ll never forget.