Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
“A fat woman walked into a pole dance class…”
Even with all of my confidence and “GO, ME!” and fiercely held belief that the only person truly holding someone back is themselves… I still walked in to my private pole and exotic dance session at Dolphin Dance on Sunday afternoon with the echoes of 20+ years of self-doubt on my heels. Not only was I keenly aware of this injury (left knee, left wrist in a brace, only 9 weeks postpartum) or that insecurity (my arms are really jiggly, what if I can’t support myself on the pole?), but there was that loud, nagging, perpetuated falsehood ricocheting in my head that says that fat woman not only can’t look sexy while dancing, but pole dancing?
Out of the question.
Enter my friend, Emily.
Not only is she an experienced dancer and instructor (she’s been doing this for over eight years), she is an open, honest and hilarious woman as well. She started immediately by showing me the poles that we would be using and letting me know how sturdy they are and how safe we would be. Now, if you’re like me, you’ve just read that sentence and thought, “What?! Did she point out how sturdy the poles are because she thought you’d break them??”, but I have to tell you, that wasn’t it at all. I didn’t feel shamed, and I didn’t feel pitied. I felt safe, because I was concerned about the equipment just as I would be for a pair of skis, a surfboard, or being clipped in with a carbine and rope; it’s a new activity for me.
We worked on pole climbs and slides, proper (safe) form, listening to our bodies, how one move depends on the successful performance of another, how to flow from one move or step to the next, what is universally sexy and what is up to the individual dancer’s preferences, dancing to the feel of the music, and so much more.
I fiercely, seductively made eye contact with my reflection as we practiced our walks.
I performed the choreography Emily taught me, and then used bits and pieces in the freestyle dance we did at the end of class.
I earned enthusiastic high-fives and encouragement.
I acknowledged how flexible I am, and reveled in what I could do just two months after giving birth and spending so many days breastfeeding my baby on the couch.
I got to truly live out the idea of “Health At Every Size“, by being physically active to the best of my interest and ability.
This experience in pole dancing and sensual movement brought something I wasn’t expecting; I was forced to acknowledge so much ‘good’ about myself, yes… but it also shone a blindingly harsh light on areas of my psyche and body that I haven’t truly accepted yet.
- I noticed how my first thought during a strength exercise was “OH HELL NO UH-UH TIME TO LEAVE”.
- The first time I gripped the pole, I was surprised when it didn’t squeak under the weight of my hand alone.
- I remember thinking that Emily was going to be laughing about this with her friends later when she assisted me in my slide to the floor.
- I had to constantly remind myself that I was doing this for ME, not for whomever might see me at that exact moment and to just breathe.
- I realized how *not okay* I am with the excess skin on the underside of my arms. “Batwing”, I decided, would have been my stripper name.
I’ve noticed how clouded and panicked my thinking can be when I’m nervous. It can feel like people are out to get me because, in the past, that *has* been the case; some horrible people have taken great pleasure in pointing out when adjustments for my height or size had to be made for no other reason than pettiness and spite. Remember those national physical fitness tests in junior high and high school? While it is now all about movement and developing an active lifestyle, it used to be about getting a good time on the mile-run, how many sit-ups you could do in one minute, and whether or not you could do a pull-up.
And no wonder it’s painful for me to relive… I remember my final physical fitness test of 10th grade, and how I couldn’t do the one, required pull-up even on the pull-up machine, which was supposed to make it easier. The entire class was watching, the workout room was silent, and all I could hear was the blood pumping in my ears, my desperate grunts, and my P.E. teacher telling me to try harder.
I switched schools that following year.
My take-away from that class?
It was as much a therapy session and lesson in self-love as it was about building muscle memory and exuding sexy confidence. It is for EVERY body, and Emily doesn’t charge nearly enough for how much genuine enthusiasm, expertise and sense of fun she brings to the table.
If you find yourself wondering what it would be like to take on an activity, please don’t just stop at wondering. I understand the fear, self-doubt and mind games we can be weighed down with, but I also know how sublimely freeing it is to step out from under that as well. You truly are limited only by what you believe you can or cannot do, and that’s what Bigger Expectations is all about – proving to myself (and, hopefully, you to yourself) that not only is it okay to have goals at any size, (dis)ability, and experience level, but it is okay to strive for and reach them.
You never know who you may be inspiring to do the same.