Sarah approaches the pole and walks around it once before pushing off on her left leg.
Her heels hook onto the pole and she does a fireman spin with an outstretched arm. Her free hand traces the silhouette of her body as her red hair creates a fiery spiral that sinks down to the floor.
She lands softly on her butt then gingerly stands up, her butt sticking out and a smile behind her eyes.
“If you want a move to look good,” she says, “stick your butt out.”
Sarah is my pole dancing sensei and I am in week three of her tutelage. She is a former stripper who decided to give up the club circuit to teach pole dancing in a studio above a gay nightclub.
I’m learning to do what she does one spin at a time. Someday I hope to be good enough to string a handful of moves together into a coherent routine. But to say that I’m here to learn the mechanics of pole dancing would be a lie.
Sarah is like a bastion of sensuality. When she moves around the pole she is part athlete and part showgirl. Her hands don’t just trace her silhouette; they feel every inch of her body.
The smile behind her eyes reveals a woman surging with the power of her own sexuality and I could use a little power surge myself.
I’m a 30-year-old man with a metabolism on strike. I am neither flexible nor well balanced.
But just because I’m a little older and a touch fleshier doesn’t mean I should surrender my nights to needlepoint and stamp collecting. I may not be a club kid anymore but there is still a part of me that likes being a little naughty.
Somewhere beneath my doughboy exterior is an inner sex kitten that’s dying to be preened.
I follow Sarah’s lead and attempt a spin of my own, and am soon faced with the precarious task of getting up off the floor and making it look good.
From my vantage point I can see myself in the mirror: my ass is stuck to the ground and my legs are wrapped around the pole in front of me. Next to me, my friend Aaron is in the same position. He eschews showmanship and hoists himself up on the pole with both arms like a logger climbing a tree.
Sarah repeats the move. From the floor, she shifts her weight to one side, opens her legs one at a time and places each foot on the floor. She then stands up with her butt sticking out and makes the act of getting up off the floor as sexy as the spin that got her there in the first place.
Now it’s my turn again.
Even though I just watched Sarah do it, I can’t remember which side to shift my weight to or which foot pivots where. I clutch the pole, stick my butt out and wriggle my way into a squat before slowly standing up.
I have the grace and allure of an infant standing up in his crib after drinking a bottle of bourbon-spiked milk.
“Keep practicing,” Sarah says. “It will get easier and look better the more you do it.”
The moves may look easy but they are anything but for a couple of everyday guys like Aaron and I.
In his moss green t-shirt and herringbone Bahamas shorts, Aaron takes another spin around the pole, hits the floor and, this time, rolls onto his stomach. He sticks his butt in the air, pulls his torso back and gets into a kneeling position. He looks at me and flicks his tongue out like a cobra.
“You like that, dirty boy?” he asks.
I stifle my laughter as he tucks his feet under his butt and jumps up, flinging his shoulder-length hair back.
He walks around the pole once before jumping back up on it. His legs constrict around the shaft and he tries like hell to keep from moving but gravity wins out and his impromptu routine is brought to a slowly falling end.
If it weren’t for Aaron, I never would have thought to attempt this. For his 25th birthday I enrolled us both in a Curious About Pole Dancing class because Aaron said he always wanted to try it. We both loved it and signed up for a six-week course on the spot.
“It’s great exercise and it combines sexuality with movement,” Aaron tells me when I ask him why he wanted to learn pole dancing.
Pole dancing is indisputably a good workout but that’s hardly sufficient motivation to flip yourself upside down on a pole and spread your legs. There must be more to it than that. I press him.
“Well, I like the idea of doing something I’m not supposed to be doing,” Aaron confides. “I feel a little naughty by taking this class because you don’t see guys pole dancing.
“It’s like it’s supposed to be done only by women to entice money out of horny men. As a guy, I feel a bit naughty for breaking a gender rule.”
His only regret: the lack of pole access outside the studio.
The idea of us putting on a show is so far out of my mind that I can’t even fathom the cojones it would take to try this in front of anyone outside this studio.
The last thing I need is to try pole dancing at a club where some judgemental prick is eyeing me and saying, “What do you think you’re doing? This ain’t Showgirls. Move it, Shamoo, your fat ass is scaring the twinks.”
But Aaron has a dream.
“I want to do all of the tricks that the girls at the Penthouse and Brandy’s can do,” he says, “because at some point I want to be good enough to put on a show. It’s a fantasy of mine.”
“Do you feel sexy when you pole dance?” I ask.
“God no,” he says. “Right now I feel a little ridiculous. I take these classes because I have a goal in mind of getting really good at something not many other people can do. I like the challenge.”
I look at Sarah who is busy hanging herself upside down and gripping the pole with nothing more than the skin of her inner thigh. She makes it look so effortless, even enjoyable.
As a man, I am under no illusion that I will ever look as good as Sarah doing these moves. She is a petite redhead with pale skin and a well toned body. Her legs are shapely and powerful and can hold her up on the pole for hours.
My body is a vague recollection of my well toned youth covered with a layer of soft flesh that has collected around my middle. I fear I will always look like a parody of an exotic dancer no matter how far I stick my butt out.
But everyone has to start somewhere and before I can be good, I am going to have to let myself be terrible.
I practice the spin again and again until I can finally wrap my brain around the series of moves required to get up all sexy.
Every time I get up, I look at myself in the mirror and see a series of moves being executed. There’s no allure or sensuality. It seems so mechanical. I’m worrying more about doing it correctly than just doing it.
The man in the mirror looks like he’s trying too hard. I close my eyes and try again.
I grab the pole with my right arm and walk around it once before pushing off with my left leg. My heels hook around the pole and I feel myself spinning. I lean back and let myself spin so fast that the force lets me hover above the ground for a split second. I can feel the pull on my body from both sides and the tightness of my muscles as I pull myself towards the pole. I feel a rush course through me like being on a rollercoaster or walking out to an expectant crowd.
Is this what performing feels like? I want to lose myself in it. I want to let my body take over and do something astonishing. It feels good.
As I sink towards the floor, my spin slows. My knees bend and my legs slacken as I swirl down to the ground and land with my legs splayed out before me.
I shift my weight to my right side and position my left foot on the floor, then I shift to my left side and position my right foot on the floor. I stick my butt out and slowly push myself up enjoying every second of the graceful, fluid, sexy motion I just pulled off.
I have no idea how it looked in the mirror but it felt great.
If I can string a few moves like that together into a coherent routine, maybe I would like to show it off someday. My inner sex kitten looks up hopefully as I imagine an audience watching me perform a routine with the same energy as that spin.
Maybe someday I’ll be good enough to climb the pole and flip myself upside down. Maybe I’ll be flexible enough to do the splits and powerful enough to hang from the pole with nothing more than the flesh of my (hopefully) smaller hips.
A fantasy seems to have birthed itself in the recesses of my mind.
Sarah looks on and smiles as she climbs up the pole, flips herself upside down and does the splits.
“If you two keep at it,” she says, “you’ll be able to do this.”
Nine months later, I still can’t do that.
Aaron and I have spent many hours in this studio learning new spins. We’ve started climbing the pole and are working our way towards flipping ourselves upside down.
Every week I come home with purple and black bruises on my inner thighs from trying to hang off the pole. I have trimmed off a bit of weight and I can kick a lot higher than I used to, but my inner showgirl still needs considerable refinement.
Still, it’s nice to know that she’s alive and well inside me, sticking her butt out every chance she gets.
One day after class, Aaron and I are walking out of the studio when we see a group of 12 women waiting outside. They’ve come for the Curious About Pole Dancing session.
I overhear one woman tell her friend that she wants to turn tail and run.
“Don’t worry,” I tell her. “It’s a good time. Just relax and have fun.”
“I don’t know about that,” she says. “I’m only here because I lost a bet.”
“Trust me, it’s not that bad,” Aaron says. “We do it. Besides, the pole is there for you to lean on, you won’t fall.”
“I’m going to feel so stupid,” she says as she follows her friend up the stairs and into the class.
I want to tell her not to look at the other girls, just to trust her instructor and her pole and shut everything else out.
I want to tell her to relax and that it’s no big deal how you look, it’s how you feel.
I want to tell her that it’s her body and she should enjoy it. She should let herself go on the pole and learn to be amazed by what she can do and how she can make herself feel. She may laugh at herself, she may cringe, and she may even turn herself on.
But I only have time to say one thing.
“If you want a move to look good,” I yell after her, “just stick your butt out.”