Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You tricked me! This is about pole dancing, not health and fitness!!

Some of you may be wondering where the “health and fitness” part of this blog comes in, aside from me getting my butt kicked on a regular basis in pole dancing class. To understand any story, you have to start from the beginning: I was born on a lovely March day in Michigan to two loving, if strict parents...wait, no, that's too far. Forget it. Start here:

Rewind 16 years. It is 1996 and I am ten years old. I am in ballet class, trying to turn my hips out in a direction they should never go, and I look down to make sure my feet are at least at 120° to each other. Suddenly, I notice some weird lumpy things (breasts, for those of you who are wondering) which are much more prominent in my leotard than in the other girls’ leotards. Skip forward a few months, to me being teased in the gym locker room by the other girls about my butt being “soo big” (cue Sir Mix-a-Lot). Being a ballerina means spending a LOT of time staring at yourself (and others) in the mirror. Couple this to the fact that my natural build is “womanly”, as my mother likes to describe it, and the seeds for a rough adolescence and early adulthood were sown.  From then on, I struggled mightily with my body image and weight. I have never been “overweight”, but as almost any girl will tell you, there is almost no such thing as being “too thin.” My adolescent years were wrought with crazy diets, fasts, cleanses, and borderline if not outright eating disorder behavior. I spent one summer in middle school exercising over 2 hours a day to combat every single thing I put into my mouth (which was not much). I was lethargic and irritable constantly, and it was only when I fainted and had to be brought to the ED for severe dehydration that my parents and I were alerted to the fact that something was not right.

I am thankful to say that I eventually grew out of that phase, and slowly and gradually learned to accept my body, at least to the point where I was not actively trying to starve or exercise it into nonexistence. But those thoughts never quite go away, and to this day I still catch myself wishing away parts of my body I wish were smaller. The fact that I continued to do ballet and stare at myself in a leotard and tights did not help. Eventually I fell away from ballet, feeling “too fat and out of shape” to ever show my face in that austere studio ever again. The ballet world is an enchanting one, but it comes with a dark side most recently portrayed so excellently by Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Even in an amateur, adult ballet class, I could not help but feel the eyes of others on me, assessing, judging, constantly finding lacking, or in the case of certain parts of my body, excessive. Truly, I believe that Sartre must have been to a ballet class when he was inspired to have one of his characters in No Exit  utter the famous proclamation “Hell is others”. 

So, after seventeen years of hating my body and trying to conform it to a mold it would never fit in, I decided to try a different form of dance. To be sure, I had a lot of the traditional preconceived notions about pole dancing- that it was akin to, if not synonymous with stripping, that “nice” girls didn’t do it, and, and that you had to be in fantastic shape and have had said shape altered by surgical means, but, as always, I decided not to listen to what other people said, and to forge ahead. Onwards to the pursuit of being healthy and happy!

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