I’ve always had an obsession with being a stripper. Maybe I was a stripper in a past life. Maybe I’m going to be a stripper in my future—like if my writing career fizzles and suddenly there’s a strip club where middle-aged women with sagging tits and muffin tops is the Stefon-style “hottest club.”
But for years I just knew I could work a pole to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” like nobody’s business. The fact is that working a pole actually is somebody’s business and people who do it well have years of skill and experience and body core strength.
A few weeks ago, I was doing research for my second novel that landed me in an adult club in Baltimore; my first time in one. The less-porny section of the club featured a bar, lounge area, elevated dance floor with a dance cage, two stripper poles and a DJ. I was with a friend of mine, Tara, who is far sexier than me and wore a gorgeous glittery dress and stylish high heels.
Since I own nothing in my wardrobe that says “stripper,” I did my best with a fitted print dress that with a good bra at least meekly offered some cleavage, and a pair of sparkly wedges that are in the suburban “cute but comfortable” category, revealing a fresh pedicure. I found makeup, which, as someone who works in vintage Pac Man t-shirts and yoga pants and doesn’t see other people, was no easy task. Tara took me to the bathroom and did the best she could to “add volume” to my hair.
I haven’t been out dancing since… okay, I don’t ever remember going out dancing, really, which is why I took hip-hop cardio for a year, to pretend I was in a club having fun. So, with two Jack and Cokes under my belt, I hit the dance floor (the only white girl doing the “Cupid Shuffle”).
I noticed there were no professional strippers per se; it seemed to be a volunteer situation, no money changed hands, and no one was actually (at that point in the evening) removing clothes. Tara asked if I was going to dance in the cage. I said only if “Pour Some Sugar On Me” came on. Nothing about the dance music played indicated that the young DJ had ever even heard of Def Leppard, but we submitted the request anyway. He nodded to me: he had the song.
About an hour later as the song came on, Tara had to come up and inform me it was playing, because it had been “remixed” into a far more pounding-bass-beat, not-at-all-80s-hairband style. Once I recognized it, there was no stopping me. Into the cage we went. Tara and I were joined by three younger girls and I was shamelessly shaking my voluminous hair and un-toned ass like I was a bleached blonde teenager in a Whitesnake video. It was a blast.
I didn’t care what anyone thought. That was the best part. It was helpful that “beyond the dance floor” was dark, so if there were dozens of people laughing, you couldn’t see them. As a married mother of four, I certainly wasn’t trying to impress anyone, and since no one was removing any clothing yet, it wasn’t really stripper stripping, it was just mildly slutty cage dancing. I had fun, and fun in my world is a rare plum; one I was willing to suck down, savoring each juicy bite.
The younger girls took me under their wings, even though I was old enough to be their mothers. It was like “Take Your Mom to Pole Dance Day” at the club. They asked if I knew how to dance on the pole. I didn’t. They showed me how. “Use the pole for balance…” they said, “…Just swing your hips like this,” and, “Do you think you can pop it?…” (“What is popping it?”)… “You just push out your booty, quick, like this…”
And alas, I popped it.
“Oh honey, you don’t have the right shoes,” said one gorgeous girl, “here take mine. You can’t dance on the pole in the wrong shoes.” She stepped out of her legitimate stripper shoes and slid them toward me: a pair of bright orange suede four-inch pumps.
“I can’t walk in these…” … “You don’t need to.”
“They help you balance the pole,” she said. And somehow, she was right. She and her friends taught me how to turn around, grab the pole above your head and slide down it until you got to the bottom and then work your hips back up. She went upside down, bare feet in the sky, twirling down the pole. I smiled, because no core strength. But I danced on, the pole fairy godmother’s magic shoes giving me a confidence I don’t really have.
For three days afterward, the muscles in my upper thighs screamed and I ate 800-mg Motrin like candy. I thought about how I wished the pole fitness dance lessons weren’t on the other side of the Bay Bridge; too far away to be realistic.
-Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.