While I was in Toronto training for my new job, I got a Facebook invite for something called “Girls Night Out,” which would take place the Saturday night I returned to SF and would involve me and 10 of my closest girlfriends (only two of whom were actually my friends) going to a place called Sedusa Studios to have a pole-dancing class party. We’d get an entire room of poles and and a 1.5 hour lesson on “sensual dancing.”
I was thrilled. Since the party was happening the day after I returned from Toronto and right before I officially started my job in SF, I had the perfect excuse to politely turn down this horrific invitation.
However, thanks to my crippling inability to actually say the word, “No,” I told my friends that I probably couldn’t make it, and hoped that they filled my spot.
Alas, they did not.
The day arrived, and they wanted to know if I was coming. I was exhausted, and feeling pretty solemn after a watching a movie on the airplane about a teenage surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack. I told them the chances weren’t good.
Then I started to think. Maybe this was a great opportunity. As an empowered, 21st century woman, wasn’t it my right – my obligation in fact – to get in touch with my sexy stripper self? I looked at myself long and hard in the mirror. Didn’t I want to explore?
“Nope!” I answered my own question out loud. Not remotely interested. My sensu/sexuality was fine, thankyouverymuch.
Then I looked at myself a bit longer and harder in the mirror and remembered reading somewhere that pole dancing burned a crazy amount of calories. I texted my friend, “what time are we leaving? I’m in!”
When we arrived at the studio, we were sent into a room to pick out our stilettos. I never wear high heels, so I was legitimately excited about this, until I realized that platform stilettos are absolutely freaking impossible to walk in.
I literally stumbled into the studio, where one of my friends gasped, “Oh my god, RB you are talllllll.”
I glared at her. “Don’t make me sorry I came here!”
But before I could storm out, the teacher told us to take off our shoes, get a yoga mat, and sit down for the warm up.
Yoga mats! Stretching! I was definitely going to be good at this part.
“Even when you’re warming up,” the teacher began, “it’s important to be sensual.”
“The most important thing about sensual dancing,” she went on, “is to always be touching yourself – even if you’re just playing with your hair. You have to touch yourself in the place where you want the other person to look.”
A wave of nausea crashed over me. But…I surfaced. I could play with my hair! I undid my pony tail, and then re-did it.
After the warm-up, we put back on the perilous shoes and stood in front of the mirror to learn some basic moves.
“The most important thing you’ll learn today is the Crawl,” she told us. “Do you know why it’s the most important?”
“Because the crawl is when you get your money!” She laughed.
Meanwhile, it turned out that stilettos made even crawling more of a challenge.
When we stood up, I felt like I was starting to get the hang of the shoes until the teacher directed us, “Dance like somebody you really like is watching.” I started to lose my balance. While regaining it, I furrowed my brow.
“You can’t be a stripper with a furrowed brow,” I told myself. But unfurrowing my brow cause me to lock my jaw. Unlocking my jaw caused me to start grinding my teeth. Bad to Worse: redefined.
“Ok,” barked the teacher. “Start to walk in a circle – and remember that the person you like is watching.” Balance lost, again.
Since clearly I was not going to able to perform this parade for an imaginary person I really liked, I decided to come up with a more compelling scenario.
I was a sixteen-year-old runaway. I thought I’d make it as an actress, but L.A was a tougher place than I’d thought. All I wanted in the world was to call my parents and beg to come home….but I knew they’d never forgive me, so here I was.
“Now, we’re going to learn something really fun, but it only works if you get over your fear of falling, and truly allow yourself to let go!”
Give me a break! I could have gotten better advice while watching a preview of the Sex and The City movie.
We were going to start swinging around the pole. On the upside, swinging around a pole did not involve walking in stilettos. On the downside, swinging around a pole involved swinging around a pole.
I decided to up the stakes of my imaginary situation.
I was a single mother. I had a six-year-old son. Maybe he had a learn disability? Whatever. Waitressing just wasn’t paying the bills.
“Ok,” called out the teacher. “Let’s do the routine from the top.”
The music began. “Don’t forget to touch yourself! Move in a way that feels good and natural to you!”
I started to panic. My learning-disabled six-year-old was going to be in trouble – because I was a terrible stripper. “Sorry, honey. No new shoes this year – Mommy didn’t get any dollar bills because she hasn’t mastered the elusive Art of the Crawl yet.”
Finally, the lesson was almost over. I turned to one of the other girls and gushed, “I’ve never been sooo glad I went into marketing!”
“One more small sequence!” The teacher told us. “Because I know you guys all have husbands or boyfriends waiting for you at home – you can do this for them the next time they’re watching TV and you need to get their attention.”
Then, she must have somehow realized her error, because she continued, “So now, look into the eyes of your husband, or boyfriend…or cat.”
I tried laughing, but it was insincere. I don’t even have a cat.
When that last nightmare was over, she told us we could “play around” in the room for a while. What on earth could that mean? Then I looked at the poles and had a great idea. “It would be really fun to pretend I was a fireman!”
Thanks, I suspect, to yoga, I had the arm strength to spin around the pole more times than anyone. You were supposed to land on your feet and come to standing, butt first, but I landed directly on my butt every time, and had a blast.
Sure, the crazy fireman hours might be a strain on my six-year old, but I’d be a much better role model if I chose this path…
As we were getting out of our heels, I asked our teacher if she had ever been a real stripper. She had been, then at some point came to the studio to take class for fun, and ended up getting hired as a teacher.
“So, before you did it for a job, did you have to take class?”
I saw her pause before deciding to tell the truth. “Well, no. You…um…can really dance professionally without much experience at all.”
“Yeah, RB” my friend burst in. “Drunk, horny men don’t care if you know how to dance, or not.”
“It’s true,” the former stripper said. “It’s not really an art. But when you’re doing it night after night, it gets kind of old. The men don’t care, but the girls turn it into an art – to stop from getting bored.”
“Men don’t care what you do, they’re easy,” my friend added.
So, I wondered, was there any point to this nonsense?
But of course, it occurred to me that the experience wasn’t about what men wanted. After all, my future cat might be hard to impress.