Summer is a voluptuous cherub in Barbie-pink platforms and smoky eye shadow. Her hips bounce side to side in black undies while her wrists pivot up and down and up and down.
A minute into the warm-up, the music slows and Summer transitions into a languid stretch. The grey carpet has a raised square pattern that she warily plucks at while she is doing the splits.
To stretch her back she grabs the bronze pole to her right and leans her hips away from it. All of her weight is on her left foot as she pushes it into the carpet like she would beach sand.
“Ok.” Summer announces as the music ends, it’s a dance song with a slippery beat.
“Mmmmmm, so what did we learn last time?”
A short girl with dark hair and toffee-colored skin answers. “Uh, the reverse hook spin?”
“Yes and what else?”
Summer likes to start class by brainstorming. She asks us what dance moves we have learned and we have to recite the correct pole dancing nomenclature. This carries on a lot longer than is necessary and at the end of it Summer remembers which routine she taught us. The very first time she introduced herself she stopped mid-sentence and announced, “never mind, I’ve got a memory like a goldfish. It’s gone now.”
Aside from dance moves, any topic can delay the start of class: hair bleaching, sparkly manicures (“so exciting”), lip tattoos, self-tanner (“Oh my GOD I look like a glow stick”), and the Pole Cruise poster by the entrance.
“I think that was last year’s poster,” Summer mused one evening. “They could only dance at port though, so it was not much different from being on land.” Her eyes suddenly grew wide. “I didn’t go because I am SO scared of boats. I mean, how can something that big float when I can’t? It just freaks me out!!!”
“Oh my gawd,” another student responded, “I know what you mean.”
There are two types of people who attend a pole dancing class: office workers and groupies. The groupies are keen to befriend Summer and they hang out on an overstuffed couch at the back of the room. The office workers are skeptical and hyper-aware of their robotic movements. At least I am.
My palms are tacky like English Ivy; my friend’s hands are as slippery as butter. Someone suggested a lashing of hairspray on her palms but it just made her hands, and the entire studio, smell like powdered flowers.
Summer encourages us but she also likes to point out when I look like a ‘flailing cockroach’ because I haven’t arched my back, or when I look like I’m ‘taking a dump’ because my leg isn’t straight enough.
“Stephanie, you need to loosen your grip so you slide down gently.”
Ok, Summer never actually said that, but she might have if she remembered my name.
Why am I taking this class? I don’t know; the idea just kind of evolved after a few drinks on a girl’s night out. I woke up the next morning, turned to Barret and said, “I think I promised my friend I’d go pole dancing with her.”
“Who are you?” Barret asked. Then without missing a beat, “Can I watch?”
Barret is allowed to visit at the end of our very last class. “Don’t expect too much,” I warn him. “Half of the routine was only added last week, five minutes before class ended.”
I don’t mention that two minutes into the routine Summer watched me attempt the worm. I was face down on the ground and laughing at myself in the mirror. “Is anyone else getting rug burn? Seriously? No one else is getting rug burn on their neck?” She immediately changed the choreography. We had three minutes to practice it.
Barret enters with a grin and sits against a wall while we run through the routine a couple of times. Just before class ends I stuff his hands full of red and tan raffle tickets and chase him out of the studio. The Southern Cross Hotel, where my friend and I like to get a glass of wine before class, holds a meat raffle every Wednesday night. It seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the end of a six week pole dancing course.
The bar is mostly filled with old guys and construction workers. A large woman with short brown hair and a black T-shirt is shouting out the raffle numbers for the smoker’s patio. She’s a slurry Vanna White.
Breakfast meat is given away first and then the Oscar meat trays are introduced: small, medium, large, and grand. The trays are shrink-wrapped and displayed in the middle of the room in metal buckets filled with ice. The winners look just as excited as if the bartender had gifted them a napkin.
“Well, that’s a bust.” I declared when the last ticket was drawn. “What do you think?”
“The meat doesn’t look that great.” Barret replied.
“No, about tonight.”
Barret thought for a moment. “The dance moves were sexy, but facial expressions are half the dance.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“You looked like you were working out.”
I had been worried that I was objectifying myself, but independent sources have backhandedly confirmed I was indeed exercising. What a relief.