If I had to make a list of positive adjectives to describe myself, ‘sexy’ would not make it into the top 100. ‘Cute’ might scrape its way in, or ‘curvy’ – I might even slip in ‘pretty’ on a good day – but, along with its various synonyms (alluring, seductive, sensual…) ‘sexy’ would remain on the subs bench, never even taking its joggers off because it knows it will never be picked. In the same way that I could never feasibly call myself ‘tall’ or ‘athletic’, I would never be ‘sexy’.
But then, 3 weeks ago, I started a ball rolling. In order to combat my low self esteem and lack of body confidence I got naked with a bunch of strangers in Portsmouth. I was prepared for people to be surprised by my nudeventure, but was completely overwhelmed by the amount of praise and support I received. People thanked me for doing what they couldn’t have done and understood just how much the experience meant for me. I came away from the week feeling proud and brave but, more than that, determined to build on the foundations I’d put down. I owed it to my public! As I started planning my next few alphabetterings an idea struck me – maybe the next logical step was to try to learn some techniques for feeling good about my body? For making it look more attractive? For projecting confidence even when I’m not feeling it? And what better way to do that than to learn to pole dance? I found a class in Peterborough and started practising my sexyface in preparation.
Pole dancing started in the 1920s, when American strippers in traveling shows started using the circus tent poles as part of their acts. Combining dance and gymnastics, pole dancing involves performing a routine centered around a vertical pole. This routine varies but generally includes a mixture of climbs, spins and inversions as well as dance moves around the pole. Moving away from its smutty roots, pole dancing has, in recent years, gained popularity as a form of exercise due to its benefits for building core strength and toning muscles.
So… its not strictly true to say that I gave up on being sexy. More that I failed at all my previous attempts. Why? Because when I endeavour to be alluring I become….. Captain Awkward!! The bedroom bungler!! The desire destroyer!! Zapping all of the lust out of the room with my awkward antics. If I stay out of my own head I’m fine but if I actually try to be sexy it all goes wrong. I just think too much, then second guess myself, then worry. I frown and fret, become all sharp and pointy, forget how to kiss. I am either like a plank (stiff and frozen) or a marionette with tangled strings. Like trying to dance with a sack full of coat hangers. Not sexy. As I walked towards the dance studio I was worried, its all fine and well squirming around like a drunken octopus at home – quite another to do it in front of people.
I arrived slightly early and so waited for a few minutes as the other ladies arrived. They all seemed lovely and were all really enthusiastic about the class, telling me how much fun they’d had last week. I calmed down, these ladies wouldn’t judge me if I was a bit awkward or stiff. I was feeling relieved and grateful until the moment I stepped into the dance room. I don’t know what I was expecting but the sight of the poles stopped me in my tracks. Even as we were warming up I found myself looking at them out of the corner of my eye.
The instructor, Cheryl, set the rest of the ladies up practising while she lead me (the only beginner) through the moves they had learned last week. First she talked me through the basic stance for pole dancing. The dancer stands with their right side to the pole, right arm up and holding on with fingers on one side thumb on the other, and you rise onto your toes to start. With that sorted we started with the most basic move, a simple spin. Leaning out away from the pole, you lift your left leg and let momentum spin you around the pole. I watched, I did. So far so good. We incorporated a little jump and added in a squat – all was going well. I’m not sure I was looking sexy but I was definitely not awkwarding out.
We moved onto ‘the fireman‘ which (coincidentally) involves spinning down the pole like a fireman, and my issues started. For the first time I needed to life both feet off the floor and hold myself up with my arms. I moved round the pole as before but when it came to lift off I stumbled, second guessing myself. When I did manage to persuade my feet to jump, my hands held on too tight and I didn’t spin. ‘One last go’ she said. I took a deep breath, hopped up onto my toes, and jumped – spinning perfectly. ‘You’ve got it!‘. Brilliant.
Having caught up with the others we moved onto some work with the whole class. Learning a move that involved sliding to the floor with your back against the pole and the, amusingly named, ‘cross legged fireman’. My confidence high I threw myself into the new moves… slightly too enthusiastically – my shin bearing the full force of my efforts. Ouch.
My right leg out of action I focused on the other move. Stood in front of a mirrored wall, I attempted to complete it without looking confused or anxious. Once or twice I managed to stay smiling all the way through. I realised that it was the parts between moves that I was looking lost or uncomfortable so worked on these – spending specific time practising rising to my knees ‘bum-first’ (actually much harder than it looks!). When Cheryl came back to us to check our progress I felt good. She called out the moves and we performed them as a routine. I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I looked happy, confident and relaxed – what could be sexier?
Pole dancing brought together lots of things I’ve enjoyed from previous weeks – the joy of completing a move I felt at the other dance classes, the sense of accomplishment that comes from completion of a routine as in bhangra dancing, it was as much of an effort as hula hooping and as much fun. And I managed to do something that was supposed to be sexy without farting, giggling or elbowing anyone in the face – although I did give myself a pretty impressive bruise. I’m not sure I’ll be installing a pole at home just yet, but I might well find another class – maybe if I pretend to be alluring once in a while I might be able to carry some of that confidence with me out into the real world. I’m certainly going to try.
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