As a child I dreamed of only two things: catching all 150 Pokemon, and pole dancing.
I never did get around to catching them all, but now I can proudly say that at the age of 24, my pole dancing dreams have finally been realized.
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I’m not sure what first planted the dream of the pole in my young head. Maybe I accidentally stumbled upon “Showgirls” while watching TV one sleepless night in 1998. Or maybe an American flag flapping in the wind always inspired a dual sense of patriotism and envy as a child.
Whatever the inception, my childhood was filled with swinging around any and all pole shaped things, whether that was a lamppost, a freshly planted tree or even a very tall or skinny person. They were all fair game.
The morning of my class I woke up at the crack of dawn to make my class/dream come true at Chelsea's Body & Pole.
I was the first student to arrive and felt like someone who gets to a party a little too early. When that happens, I usually go to the bathroom and rifle through the medicine cabinet to kill time. I basically did the same thing at Body & Pole, and took the chance to explore the studio.
Body & Pole’s space has the look and feel of a dance studio but with grander, towering mirrored walls and impossibly spacious, breathable rooms, all of which were set up for either hoop, fabric or pole dancing. It had a wonderful and welcoming vibe — like Grandma’s kitchen, but with stripper poles.
I took a seat in the pole room and began “stretching,” in a desperate attempt to look at ease with being the only student there. It probably didn't work.
The class slowly filled up, and I realized that aside from two of the instructors, I was the only guy. I’ve been the "only guy in the room" for years, so this was nothing new, and not a big deal at all.
Our class began with a section called Body Art, which was essentially yoga except with an emphasis on destroying your physical and spiritual being with endurance exercises.
Although we only got a half-hour taste (which was plenty, thank you very much), it was an excruciating workout.
Our two instructors, both beautiful and impossibly fit, played good cop/bad cop with us. Our first instruction came from the intimidatingly tall adonis who gently guided us through yoga poses and movements. Then our other instructor, a petite drill sergeant, annihilated us with a four-course all-you-can-eat meal of mountain climbers, squats, sprinting in place and air-punches.
Body Art was true to its name in that I started out pretty calm and serene like a Monet, and finished it all feeling like a Jackson Pollock. Luckily for me, this was the most physically challenging part of the class.
Once we were through with Body Art the class was divided into pole, fabric and hoop dancers. More than half the class left for fabric dancing, and only about five people (myself included) stayed behind for pole.
Our instructors quickly introduced themselves and dove right into explaining how to ride the pole. We began with "grounding" ourselves to the pole, by gripping it with one hand and strutting around it.
"Yeah, yeah, this is great. But when am I gonna swing? I want to swing, goddamn it! Let me swing!" I screamed in my head, while gracefully circling the pole. I outwardly kept my cool, snaking around the like a ballerina in "Swan Lake."
We then did some upper body strength-building exercises (which made me feel like a very sexy baby sloth) and also learned how to do a fan kick (which made me feel like a very sexy windmill).
Then, our teachers revealed we would now learn how to swing. I got so excited I started to feel a little lightheaded."Oh sweet Jesus," I thought with my eyes closed, on the brink of screaming with joy.
Our instructors were incredibly patient with us and slowly went through each movement: where to place your hands, where your hips should rest, how to hold out your leg, and most importantly, how to hook one of your legs to the pole for the perfect spin. What they didn't teach you was how to look good while doing this.
BUT I DIDN'T CARE.
This portion of the class was really challenging and took a lot of tries to get right. Each time I spun around the pole I felt like I was learning how to tie a shoe again, except my whole body was the laces being wrapped into a knot.
When I finally was able to hook one of my legs and “fly” around that pole, it was a Freudian dream come true! The only thing that could ruin it was if my mom showed up to read off a list of all my failures, and I suddenly had the urge to sh—.
Lucky for me, my mother only reviews my failures at Christmas, and I hadn't had my morning coffee yet.
One thing I should warn you about is that by the end of the class, your knees will hurt and your inner arms and thighs will get a little pole burned (an intriguing sensation, to say the least). This especially hurts if you have inexcusably hairy legs like myself.
The moves that come with pole dancing aren't exactly feminine so much as they are sensual and expressive — two things most men (straight and gay) aren't used to doing. Even me, a forest fire of a gay man, had trouble letting my body roll, my ass popping out with attitude, and just being sexy in general.
Unless, of course, you count a sexy sloth or sexy windmill as actually sexy.
But plain ol' sexy? Nope.
I felt about as sexy as undercooked pasta and probably looked about as comfortable as Carrie Fisher in her Princess Leia slave dress. Just not sexy. Not even close.
But by the end of the class I was like a duck to water on that pole. It’s amazing what two decades of swinging on subway and tetherball poles will prepare you for. And they said I wouldn’t make it in New York.
Perhaps the instructors were just trying to fluff my ego (I’m very okay with that), but they told me I was good for a first timer.
"This is really your first time?" they asked me. "You've never done this before?"
"Only in my sweetest dreams," I thought as I shook my head.
So, ladies, I highly suggest pole dancing classes. In all seriousness, it’s an awesome workout and a great way to feel like a silly sexy sloth. You might have an easier time moving your body than a guy, even if you normally dance like Elaine Benes. Even that requires some hip popping and body rolling.
And boys, if you're thinking about taking a pole dancing class, I say do it! Get in touch with your body in an entirely new way, and build up its strength and endurance at the same time. Just remember you’re probably gonna feel about as sexy as Newt Gingrich’s lipless mouth.
There’s a reason why pole dancing has seen a rise in popularity over the years. Whether it's the devil slowly creeping into society to usher in a cultural apocalypse (he isn't), or people are just becoming more comfortable with their sexuality and bodies (we are), the trend is here and seems to be growing.
And my younger self and I are both really, really down with that.