I have always harbored a secret desire to be stripper.

I love dancing, am perpetually broke, and have an insatiable need to have my beauty validated by men. How better to meet these needs than a ritualistic dance where male admirers throw money at you while you spin and fly around a pole?

There is something so smart and sexy about those girls—we all know them—who worked their way through law school as a stripper. I worked my way through college as a waitress at Mac-n-Bob’s, serving fries and beers to my fellow obnoxious college students. During the summers I alternated between hotel maid and breakfast waitress, changing peoples’ dirty sex stained sheets and then being yelled at in the morning for more coffee. Nothing smart or sexy about that.

If only I’d pursued my stripper fantasy when I was in my twenties, or maybe even my thirties. Not only was my body more toned, more flawless in the way that only young bodies are, but with each passing decade my need for reassurance that I am sexy has increased. My stripper clock was ticking. At 45 years old, I could wait no longer.

In my fantasy I am a high-class stripper. A woman with goals and aspirations who is doing it because she wants to, not because she has to. More of a Demi Moore in Striptease than a Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. I even have a secret stripper name, it’s so secret that it has never been revealed.

In my fantasy I am a high-class stripper. A woman with goals and aspirations who is doing it because she wants to, not because she has to. More of a Demi Moore in Striptease than a Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler. I even have a secret stripper name, it’s so secret that it has never been revealed.

*IMG_1511 copy 2 I come from a family of NASCAR men. Beer drinking men. Men who hang posters of scantily clad women perched on cars in their garages and bathrooms. The kind of men who glorify strippers. I have heard my brother Jerry remark on more than one occasion, “I met the most awesome girl last night—she was a stripper!” Not once have I heard him say, “I met the most awesome girl last night—she was a [insert—lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur]!” The last time I was at my brother’s house in Long Island he was rebuilding a car. The garage was strewn with car parts, engine hanging from the rafters, tools in drawers in a big red tool bin. After having a beer with the boys, unfortunately, I had to pee. Sitting on the toilet seat (well lined!) I saw at eye level the Brazilian bikini wax job of a woman with one leg propped open on a shiny red car hood.

It all started with my father. He was the kind of guy who would practically give himself whiplash looking at a woman walking on the sidewalk when we were driving by. “Check out the ass on her! Let’s see the face—” he’d say as he slowed down to look in the rear view mirror. “Face of a dog, but great body.” Yeah, okay Dad. This is your daughter in the car. Strangely, I have inherited this habit. Cut to thirty years later on any given day. I’m driving down the road, headed to the food store, when I pass a hippy girl in an Indian print dress walking down the sidewalk. Can I just drive on by? Nope. I have to check her out like a dirty old man. Worse, comparing her to myself. Pretty sure this is not what they meant when they coined the phrase, “Daddy’s little girl.”

Over the years I found some small satisfaction in staging sexy little striptease acts for boyfriends. I recently wowed Jim with my Kama Sutra Girl routine. Lit the room with candles, put on some Indian fusion lounge music. Over-the-knee black suede boots, red metallic string baby-doll with fringe, a real garter with thigh-high black stockings. My dance included a lot of putting my hands together in prayer position. Namasté, baby.

Over the years I found some small satisfaction in staging sexy little striptease acts for boyfriends. I recently wowed John with my Kama Sutra Girl routine. Lit the room with candles, put on some Indian fusion lounge music. Over-the-knee black suede boots, red metallic string baby-doll with fringe, a real garter with thigh-high black stockings. My dance included a lot of putting my hands together in prayer position. Namasté, baby.

When my friends Brian and Rebecca invited me to go to a red dress party. I imagined that all of the women would be smokin’ hot in their red dresses and the men in their black tuxedos would be handsome, sophisticated. Trays of martinis would be offered in the smoky room, and conversation would flow, witty and flirtatious.

Brian is in his sixties, with thinning sandy brown hair, a mustache and long slightly bowed legs. I imagined he’d look rather debonair in a sharp, black tux. I’d found my most reasonable facsimile of a red dress, and was putting on my finishing touches when he pulled up in his Prius. Which, I’m sorry, is not a very sexy car. I watch, out the living room window, as he unfolds himself out of the low car and stands tall, wearing a too tight red dress that lands just above his knobbly, hairy knees.

Unfortunately, nearly all the balding, slightly overweight, middle age men at the party were poured and stuffed into red dresses. The styles they wore only made it worse. What woman would allow her husband to stretch and ruin one of her good dresses? These men were stuffed like bratwurst into their wives’ discarded, out of fashion, worn-out two decades ago red dresses. My heart sank. This was not going to be a flirty, sexy party.

Making my way through the sea of tattered red dresses to the drinks table, I saw it—a pole. There was a catch in my breath and a pounding in my chest. It was a red dress party and a pole dancing party. Perhaps there was hope for this gathering after all.

Even as it thrilled me, the pole struck fear into my heart.

I wanted so badly to grab hold of that pole and to unleash my inner stripper, but I didn’t know if I could. I could barely hold a conversation the whole night. Someone would say something to me and I would laugh distractedly, nervously, glancing at the pole out of the corner of my eye. I was fixated, paralyzed with both intense fear and desire.

It was my big opportunity and I didn’t know if I could take it.

I wanted so badly to grab hold of that pole and to unleash my inner stripper, but I didn’t know if I could. I could barely hold a conversation the whole night. Someone would say something to me and I would laugh distractedly, nervously, glancing at the pole out of the corner of my eye. I was fixated, paralyzed with both intense fear and desire.

It was my big opportunity and I didn’t know if I could take it.

I love to dance, but prefer an organic disorganized Grateful Dead type dancing atmosphere where everyone is inside their own dance, and occasionally—optionally—interacting with others. In that world, I lose myself—hands waving, hips swaying, head spinning in total freedom. I live for that. I also live in mortal fear of the Darwinian dancing rituals of women in which everyone forms a circle, someone dances in the center of the circle, and everyone claps their hands and pretends to celebrate your great dance while what they are really thinking is how much better they are than you.

In my twenties, I took African dance that always culminated in a circle in which dancers would take turns dancing solo. The really good dancers would dance in front of the drummers, hips gyrating, arms flying, seductively drawing out the beat—one with the drum. But as soon as that circle formed, I lurked nervously around the edges, wanting at once so badly to perform but being afraid I wasn’t good enough.

To this day, when a group forms into a dancing circle, I die inside.

As I watched the pole dancing at the party, my confidence began to build. The only people performing on the pole were the aforementioned geeky men in red dresses attempting various athletic feats that they were not really in shape for. Trying to hold their saggy bodies parallel to the pole. Running up to the pole and swinging fast around it. Turning upside down and holding the position for about two seconds before crumbling in a sweaty, drunken heap on the floor. As the alcohol consumption level went up, the quality of the pole tricks went down.

The music didn’t help matters. It was all 80’s, all the time. I came up in the eighties, watching MTV and grooving to Boy George, but karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon is not still on my playlist.

Grabbing Rebecca, I waded my way through the throngs of red dress men, arriving at the back porch, where I would be free to drink as much wine and smoke as much pot as I needed for courage. Just when I was starting to feel my confidence rise, I heard the unmistakable opening guitar riff and grunt of Prince about to sing Kiss. That was all the sign from the universe needed: Rebecca and I looked at each other, declared, “Yes!.” and walk-danced our pretty selves right back into the room.

Identifying Kiss as the perfect pole dancing song was not an original idea. The pole was swamped. A circle of red dresses had formed around the pole for the sacrificial dance. I didn’t actually have a red dress, but I did have the red metallic string baby-doll that I threw over a slinky black dress. Tall Rebecca was slim and sexy in a slinky crimson shift.

Rebecca has been my dance teacher for years. She was just the person I needed in this situation. She knew I was insanely desirous and mortally terrified. Rebecca slyly dance-lured me over to the pole. Rebecca is an experienced dancer and performer, and the red sea parted for her with me swimming in her wake. Rebecca and I first started dancing around the pole together. Simple at first, each grabbing it with one hand and circling.

By the time we got to “act your age not your shoe size,” something had taken over my body. I was possessed. Inhabited. I was owning every inch of that pole. At some point, I must have flung Rebecca off the pole, but I don’t remember.

By the time we got to “act your age not your shoe size,” something had taken over my body. I was possessed. Inhabited. I was owning every inch of that pole. At some point, I must have flung Rebecca off the pole, but I don’t remember.

The music started to come back into focus in my head and it was the last line of the song, “I just want your extra time and your kiss.” I slowly came out of my trance. I opened my eyes and saw the upside down dropped jaws of the entire party circle staring at me. I was on my knees, legs spread wide around the pole, my back was arched, long dark hair sweeping the floor behind me. You could hear a pin drop. I unwrapped myself from the pole and slinked to the back of the room amid hoots and applause.

I’m not sure what’s worse—the shame of not doing something you want to do intensely or the fear that you did it poorly and completely embarrassed yourself.

Some guy in a red dress with a red plastic beer cup in his hand sidled up to me a little later, “You really know your way around a pole,” he stammered, “Are you, were you, ya know, a stripper?”

“Only in my head,” I said. Until now, I thought.

The red dress party was only the beginning. I knew I could not count on the random pole showing up at a party and an out of body experience to carry me through. I needed skills. I needed a pole. I needed a teacher.

Not to worry.

A coupon for pole dancing classes serendipitously showed up in my email inbox. Pole dancing classes?

Apparently, while I had been harboring secret fantasies about slipping away to an unknown town to become a stripper, the sport of pole dancing had come into the mainstream. No longer for down-on-their luck single mothers and law students, pole dancing is now for the middle-class suburban housewife. Pole dancing is now a fitness sport for women!

I took some introductory classes. The lights in the pole studio were red and low, velvet curtains on the walls and a few poles in the center of the room. We were on mats on the floor. We moved catlike on the floor and stroked our bodies in ways that made us giggle.

This is not about making money from pole dancing, they tell us. This is not about impressing men.
This is about you.
It’s about finding your own inner sexiness.
It’s about loving yourself.

I thought it was about receiving adulation from men, but okay, I was willing to learn.

This is not about making money from pole dancing, they tell us. This is not about impressing men.
This is about you.
It’s about finding your own inner sexiness.
It’s about loving yourself.

I thought it was about receiving adulation from men, but okay, I was willing to learn.

We did some floor exercises to strengthen and warm up and then learned a few basic moves. The pole walk. The butterfly. The corkscrew. I was exhilarated.

I moved up from introductory to a level one class. All of the women in my class were about 25 years old. All but one: I was 45. I kept comparing my ass in my booty shorts to their asses in their booty shorts. That was not making me happy.

Pole dancing is hard. Really hard. Triathlons are nothing compared to pole dancing. Give me a triathlon any day. Swim a mile, bike 24 miles, run six miles? Easy. No problem. Pole dance for one hour? Completely debilitating.

Even though it’s just for you you still want to look and feel sexy when you are pole dancing. This necessitates a hot little outfit. Booty shorts are de rigueur and, of course, sexy shoes or boots. By sexy I mean high heels. Very high heels.

I can barely walk ten feet in high heels. I am in awe of women who can walk across the parking lot, prance down the aisles of Whole Foods, and back to the car—with groceries—in 3-inch spikes.

My everyday shoes are Birkenstocks. My dress-up shoes are Dansko. I do love to wear “come fuck me” boots, but I better be on my back in five minutes or less if I am wearing those. Those boots are not made for walkin’.

Pole dancing is hard enough without having to try to execute it in thigh high leather boots or a 5-inch spike, the recommended shoe for maximum sexiness. I was bruised all over my arms and ankles. I was limping. I had to take to wearing an ankle brace. A few people asked if I had been in an accident or taken a bad fall.

Jim was not that excited about my new hobby as a pole dancer. Early in his career, Jim was going to make a documentary about the brothels of Berkeley, California. He went to live among the ladies and document their lives, but on day two all of his equipment was stolen. On the upside, the girls asked him to stay on until he could get back on his feet.

“I have been on the inside of the sex industry,” he said, There is nothing glamorous about it. It’s just sad.”

Nonetheless, I was determined to pursue my white, middle class, middle age version of the pole dancing fantasy.

If I was going to improve I needed 24/7 access to a pole. I did some online research and landed on the ‘Lil Minx. Not only did I like the name, but the ‘Lil Minx was safe and discreet. The top fastener looks like a plant hook to unsuspecting house guests and the bottom fastener could be explained away as a furniture coaster. I had a carpenter friend install it in my office.

I stepped up my efforts, but was not making much progress. I couldn’t piece together even the most basic of moves into one coherent pole routine. I was looking more like the men at the red dress party than like Demi Moore.

Rebecca, Celeste and I were all working on one-woman shows and we decided to workshop our pieces in one performance called Sex, Death and Dating, to be staged in our garage. This was my big chance. I was going to do a pole dance performance in public. A garage performance in front of friends may not seem like much, but I live in a small town where gossip is a full contact sport.

I was battered, I was bruised, I was aching in my bones. I was a total klutz and the performance was two weeks away. If I was going to overexpose myself in my small town, I wanted to at least make it count.

I needed professional help.

I heard that there was a woman in town with dance training who was a great pole dancer. Her name was Trixi.

Trixi was hot.

Trixi was sexy.

Trixi was an Evangelical Christian.

I heard that there was a woman in town with dance training who was a great pole dancer. Her name was Trixi.

Trixi was hot.

Trixi was sexy.

Trixi was an Evangelical Christian.

Trixi was trained as a modern dancer. She did not put her skills to use in the public arena, rather she employed them at home with her husband in order to be fruitful and multiply.

She took off her frumpy sweat suit to reveal her hot body in her booty shorts. The Christian pole dancer whipped me into shape. We worked out a routine that I could almost do, and I practiced, practiced, practiced.

The day arrived.

The music started, I chose a melodic, Oriental sounding piece that started slow and then worked up a lather. I came out from behind the curtain in my old wedding dress and approached the pole. I held the train of dress over my face, red light illuminating the white underside of my yellow silk dress. In a sweeping motion, I pulled the dress away from my face and arched back. Here comes the bride. Wedding walk around the pole. One way and then the other. I stopped with my back to the audience and struck a pose. Slowly I unzipped the back of my dress and let it fall to the floor. I kicked it out of the way. The music tempo got faster. Pole Walk 1,2,3. Squat, left leg up, fan kick, right leg up, spin to the ground. Hands on ground, push butt up on pole. Final walk, corkscrew spin to the ground. Let go of pole. Panting on my knees on the floor, arched back, hair sweeping the floor behind me.

The crowd erupted in applause.

I have not been back on the pole since. For a year, I walked by the pole in my office every day, giving it a wide berth. Now, instead of a symbol of sexual freedom, it looks to me like a torture device.

When I bought and moved to my farm, I debated what to do with the ‘Lil Minx pole.

Jim said, “What? Don’t get rid of the pole. Keep it, please.”

Maybe he saw that there was no career in it for me. That I wasn’t serious enough about it to ply my trade among the clubs. He felt safe. It was clear that I wasn’t going to become a cog in the wheel of the sex industry.

I don’t know. It feels more like hard work than sexy to me now. As so many things do. More perspiration than inspiration. I am inclined put it to use on the farm.

It feels more like hard work than sexy to me now. As so many things do. More perspiration than inspiration. I am inclined to put it to use on the farm.

Grown beans on it? Use it to slide down from a tree house? Flag pole?

I can tell you one thing that I won’t be doing on it: dancing.

These days I spend way more time in rubber farms boots. They’re way more comfortable, and sexy in their own way. Kind of dirty, if ya know what I mean.

Oh, by the way, my secret stripper name is Pussy Willow. I won’t be needing it any more, you can have it!

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