Photo by Dorothy Lee
For some reason, we’re seen as interchangeable with strippers—and even if that were true, it would hardly be as insulting as people seem to intend it. The pole is more than a Freudian euphemism. She is our stage, our partner, our lover.
I think about her when I’m alone. Her cool, shining skin invites me to warm her endless curves with my touch. I see her everywhere—standing under street signs, holding up flags and banners, cast in the shadow of street lamps—and feel the heat rising in my face. Our relationship only blossoms in the mirrored walls of the studio. I can’t afford to fool around with her. I can think of 206 reasons why that would be a bad idea.
The pole is a strict teacher and an even stricter paramour. When I grip her, she squeezes back until I bruise and blister. Sometimes she wants a gentle stroke; other times, she demands a firm and unforgiving grip. Mixing it up can be painful. Getting it right, even more so. This relationship revolves around pain. It is both the punishment and the reward. It makes us stronger; not just because we want to be, but because we need to be if we want to improve, and in improvement, we validate that we deserve to call ourselves pole dancers.
It can take minutes or months, but finally we do. Sloppy work is punished. Hard work is rewarded. We swing ourselves up and around and she catches us, holding us in a perfect inversion. We spin and twist around her and she lifts us up higher than we could ever climb, and I never want to come down from that high. The sweat makes us slip, but it only proves that we work hard to earn perfection. People say exercise releases endorphins. There is no greater rush of pure bliss than finally perfecting a maneuver that has eluded me for months.
My bruises are medals of honor. I wear them with pride. The pain is sweet and sharp, like a shot of frozen gin, but they are unavoidable. The bruises mean I’m doing something right. They brand me not as a victim, but a devotee. Each one heals and gives way to new ones, toughening the tender skin with every passing day. One day they’ll fade away and won’t return, and only then will I truly know that my place has been earned. In the meantime, a few marks are a small price to pay for my obsession.
My blisters are passionate affairs between her metal and my flesh, the unfortunate byproduct of her kiss burning my hands and my touch warming her skin. Their sting wells up from under the surface of my skin. I reach out a hand to go in for a spin only to find her searing hot from my last attempt. Energy is transformed into understanding. No one ever said it would come easy, but I trust her all the same. She’s become a part of my life. I can’t look at a streetlight or a stop sign without the need to show off rising in my chest.
My studio is my family, united in our passion. Pole dancing isn’t just a stripper’s game. It is an art. It is an exercise. It is trust and determination. It is a partnership.