I’m a pole dancer.
You might think that means I’m an exhibitionist who loves the limelight and enjoys flaunting her body. But, you’d be wrong.
I’m an introvert, an extremely socially anxious one who’d rather cower in a corner than swing from a chandelier. I’m the girl who never had the courage to go to the high school dance, let alone let loose and dance with my girlfriends.
I don’t strip. And, I don’t dance in a club. I dance in my bedroom by myself. Because, like with most other things, I do my best dancing alone when no one is watching me.
I’ve always been inhibited, believing my pessimistic, self-deprecating inner monologue broadcasting a steady stream of why I shouldn’t do something rather than why I should. I saw myself as lacking the natural grace that seemed to come standard issue to most everyone else. I was intimidated to expose my offbeat awkwardness. I spent years desperately trying to achieve wallflower invisibility. But, it didn’t work. Even worse, it didn’t make me happy, never mind fulfilled.
I was an introvert in an extrovert’s world. And I wanted desperately to glide through life without the fear that had always held me back. I craved to unabashedly expose who I was on the inside on the outside, too.
Finally, I realized I wasn’t going to find my place in the world or do the things I really craved to do cowering in a corner.
That’s when I found it. The internet, an introvert’s playground. Where you can be absolutely alone, but also be kind of social with people from the comfortable privacy of your own home. It was an accident really. A two-year move to Morocco for my husband’s job prompted me to start writing a blog to keep family and friends apprised of our adventures. After I’d been writing for a while, I began to delve into more personal topics than I expected. Exposing my insecurities to the world wide web stripped them of their power, giving me the confidence to try other new things.
I started taking a belly dance class to meet other women and experience the culture of North Africa. I didn’t have any friends, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose. After all, no one knew me. I was the foreigner who couldn’t speak the language and didn’t understand the customs. I was making a fool out of myself daily, just to get by. What was a little more embarrassment in the grand scheme of things? I went to that class every week (in French, a language I don’t speak) for two years.
It was on a Facebook page of another dancer from that class right before we moved back to the States that I first saw a clip of pole dance routine. The absolute antithesis of all things inhibited and introverted.
Back stateside, I found a studio in town and signed up for my first class. If I could take a belly dance class in a foreign country in French at 40 with no previous dance experience ever, I figured I could do this. At least it was in English. I’d booked a private lesson with Diane, the owner of the studio. She was nothing like what I expected. She was in her mid-50s, a mother, grandmother and her day job was a chaplain at a hospital. Oh, and she was also a fellow introvert. We hit it off immediately.
Although, I didn’t like the wall of mirrors at the dance studio forcing me to see myself in shorts and a sports bra reflecting my perceived flaws reflected back at me. That I was a scrawny, ungraceful woman with two-left feet—belly dance had assured me those things were true. Fortunately, the concentration required to spin around a 10 foot rod that was my partner in this dance focused my attention more on it and less on me.
Before I knew it, I was spinning around the pole. Sure, it wasn’t anything like that video I saw on Facebook. But, I could really do this. I wanted to do this. Not for any other reason than it felt good to dance.
After my introductory class, I was integrated in small beginner classes with other students. Unlike my belly dance class, pole class was limited to six dancers, the number of poles in the studio, which also keeps classes more intimate and personal, keeping me from feeling too socially overwhelmed. The more spins and pole tricks I learned, the more I aspired to do ones that were even more athletic, challenging and even a little terrifying. I wasn’t scared anymore, not even to look in that mirror at the studio. Because I didn’t see that skinny, gawky, inferior girl anymore. I had muscles. I could do some amazing things. Things I didn’t even realize were possible to do on a pole. Fun, cool things. Upside down, even. And, I was the one doing them.
I’ve been pole dancing for three years now. I split my time between taking classes and dancing on my pole at home. Sometimes, when I conquer a new trick and I’m particularly proud, I’ll take a picture or a video and post it on social media. Most of the comments are supportive. And, the few that aren’t don’t bother me. ‘Cause I can do some pretty cool things for a 40-something mother of four. I’ve even performed in a handful of recitals, dancing in front of real live people like a pseudo-extrovert. I’ve even considered competing in pole dance competitions, but I’m happy just competing against myself and what I couldn’t do yesterday. For now.
I’m not the best dancer. Nor am I the most flexible. Or graceful. Although I’m still very much an introvert, I’m not a wallflower anymore. I don’t hesitate if I want to do something—I’ll do it, which is what led me to write and publish a memoir and sing in a rock band with my girlfriends.
Pole dance has stripped me of a lot of my inhibitions. Because of it I’m more comfortable in my own skin every day. Who knows what I’ll do next?
The possibilities are endless.
Author: Marie Loerzel
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s own