When You Put A Stripper Pole In Your House

it me

Pole dancing gets a lot of flack. Either you’re a stripper, and that’s seen as a bad thing even though all it means is you are probably really strong and know how to walk effortlessly in heels and get lots of money thrown at you, or you’re the type of person who falls for fad workouts. Pole fitness has been and on and off “trend” for years, with plenty of hand-wringing about it being feminist enough, or #actually acrobatics or whatever.


Anyway, I’m not here to sell you on pole dancing. It’s either your thing or it isn’t. But it is my thing, so much so that I installed a pole in my living room for personal practice.

To me, this is on par with putting a treadmill in your basement or keeping a stack of free weights in the corner, but to lots of people it’s either disgusting or hilarious. I feel like I’m “caught” whenever my super comes to fix something, even though it’s not actually bolted to the ceiling and I can take it down whenever I want. I know I’ll never mention the hobby to my grandmother, even though I have no reason to be ashamed. I suffer jokes about putting on a strip tease for my husband, and also heavily considered it, until I realized him seeing me practice, with my flexed feet and my bent knees and the blood rushing to my head, made the whole act decidedly unsexy for him. Once I accidentally caught him watching me with a mixture of pride, adoration and pure lust, and then I attempted to handstand-cartwheel out of an inversion and smashed into a bookcase.

It’s hard to be proud of something I feel slightly ashamed of doing. It’s even harder to be proud of something that, let’s face it, I’ll never be that good at. I’ve been at it for a few years and the pole remains in the living room. I use it for practice and stretching and occasionally showing my friends how to do basic spins. But lately, I look up from writing and it’s there, and I think hey, why not take a five minute break doing crunches, or practicing shoulder mounts, before I inevitably look back at my Google Doc and stay seated for another four hours.

This is what it looks like to have a passion for something you’ll never be great at. I will never be like the women in those videos. I don’t have the money or the time to devote myself to that sort of training. This is fine, I think. We all know that we will never have every skill, but there is a pain in admitting we won’t be the best at the skills we’d like to master. I am a competitive person, or at least competitive about the things I care about, which is a great thing about me that loops around into being a fault. I don’t care about being great at welding or singing opera or running marathons, but I care very much when it comes to writing or cooking or, as I’ve learned, pole dancing. I do not need to be the best at everything, but I need to be the best at my things. I am never good at wanting to do something and having someone, especially myself, tell me that I can’t.

There is, I think, a prevalent idea that we all need to have these things about us. You can’t just like to read, you have to be a “book person.” You can’t enjoy a show and not be in its fandom. If you run it has to be a marathon, if you write is has to be every day or else you’re not a “real writer.” You’re a liar and a dilettante if you dabble, and every thing you take on has to be taken on with the utmost dedication. I am as guilty of internalizing this as anyone, and mourning a career as a pole dancer that never existed is what it looks like. I just want to be good, and I think that to be good I have to be great.

It’s such bullshit! I mean really, fuck anyone who tries to dictate how often and with what dedication you have to do something to be real. That’s where we get that “fake geek girl” crap from. But it’s just this escalating arms race of liking something and then proving it and living up to someone else’s standards, until you’re defensive and raw over something you just casually enjoyed but now has to be your thing. Or you wanted it to be your thing but now it’s not on your terms anymore.

I took a class last week where the instructor put on “Sabotage” for the end of class freestyle and I totally killed it. There’s that buildup at the beginning and I circled the pole like a jungle cat and lept halfway up the pole when the lyrics broke, and my feet were totally flexed and I slipped a few times but I had moments of greatness on a Thursday night. I’m trying not to overthink it (last 900 words notwithstanding) and just let it be. Whatever, I can do pull ups now.