In her autobiography, Good Morning, I’m Joan Lunden, Joan wrote, “4:30am comes around very early.” I couldn’t agreed with her more. A year ago this week, I got up at the butt crack of dawn, to attend my very first Pole fitness competition. I had only been pole-ing for six months, but I say go big, or get off the pole.
I rode my bicycle to the theater, as a feint drizzle fell onto the dark city streets, and onto my freshly flat ironed hair. I wondered if rain was good luck on competition days like it was supposed to be on wedding days.
Since day one, straddling a 45mm in diameter chrome pole had agreed with me. The world outside, with its stresses, noise, and ex-boyfriends, disappeared. My laser focus was on squeezing the bejesus out of a pole between my legs, without falling on my ass, or my head, onto the hard wood floor. My inner thighs were bruised, my knees looked like I had been whacked by the mob, and the tops of my feet were scratched and red. I was in love.
It had been a challenging and sad time, but somehow it motivated me to trot out my ‘to do’ list, which included activities that I had meant to explore but that had not yet found time. Now was the time.
When I started pole-ing, it was impossible for me to climb to the top. I would get frustrated and I couldn’t wait for the class to end. I shrugged off my inability by telling myself that it wasn’t something that I wanted to do anyway, and who cared. I wasn’t in it to become a professional poler, although secretly the thought had crossed my mind.
Some of my predilection for quitting stemmed from fear; most of the time it was fear. Would I be good enough? Couldn’t the first draft be the final draft; metaphorically and literally. The pole wasn’t any different. Why couldn’t I touch the ceiling on my first try? As a Pilates instructor, did I tell my clients who struggled with a particular exercise that they sucked and that they should quit and try Yoga? No. No, I did not. Why would I expect that from myself?
The following week I attempted to climb up the pole again, and after several tries, I made it to the top of the chrome behemoth. That climb was for every karate class, piano lesson, gymnastic team, tennis club, and acting workshop that I had quit.
The over 40 category was called the Master’s group. I thought that was a tad misleading. I wasn’t a master of anything- yet. I waited in line to check in, and I nervously watched women wearing leg warmers, and not much else, stretch, kick, bend and twist, as they warmed up. Was I really going to dance on a pole, half naked, on stage, in front of strangers? Unlike stand-up comedy, where I could hide behind jokes, and self deprecating humor, the pole was too thin to hide behind.
My fellow contestants practiced on the poles on stage, under the lights, taking turns, running through their routines. The space felt a lot bigger than the one around my pole in the middle of my living room in my apartment. When it was my turn, I hummed the music in my head, while I kicked, straddled and threw my body around.
When I finished, I walked back to the end of the line, which moved slowly. I told myself that I didn’t have to run through my routine a second time. The beauty of getting older is knowing your patterns, if you’re paying attention and the lies that you tell yourself. If I did a poor job during the competition, I had an excuse. I could blame it on not having enough practice time.
Nothing good, or productive, has ever come from that attitude, I know. I’ve tried. I got my booty shorts-wearing- pole-ing ass back on the stage and took another spin.
As sad and disappointing as it, the Pole was not going to be a new career move. Oh, sweet lost potential. A part of the struggle for me was realizing that not everything that I did, or tried, had to have a material, or financial pay off. Doing something for the pure joy of it, was enough.
I waited in the wings. I stared at the pole. My only job was to have fun, and not fall. I took the stage and danced my Masters heiny off. My body gyrated, and I slithered on the floor, without thinking about the choreography. I may have blacked out—hard to be sure.
I skipped offstage when I was done, adrenalin pumping, and a Master grin on my face. I heard the Stage Manager say, “Keep doing this.” Yes, I think I will.
When I got home and I changed clothes, I noticed that I had been wearing my booty shorts on backwards. I suppose the up side was that they weren’t also inside out. To my humble surprise, I placed second. Maybe I will consider a career move.