A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Intro to Pole, on what probably seemed like a lark to anyone not privy to the inside of my brain. Honestly though, it was fulfilling a desire I’d had dating back to, I’d say, at least 2019 – it was definitely pre-COVID – when I first discovered the pole fitness place near me and idly considered how much fun it might be to take a class someday.
I took, way back in the day (somewhere along the lines of ten years ago), a six week primer at the Boston Academy of Burlesque Education (B.A.B.E. for short) and for a brief time, burlesque was a major interest. Of course, ten year ago I was ten years young – just turning 30 – and 75 pounds lighter. My body was a different body. I was a different person.
In the intervening years I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body. I have been fat for most of my life, and prior to the brief time when I was 135 pounds and taking burlesque, I averaged about 200 lbs (at 5’4’’) for most of my adult life. Getting to 135 was a physically and mentally draining ordeal that left me with a borderline obsession with calorie counting and weight watching. Quite frankly, it felt shitty, especially as someone who considered themselves both a feminist and body-positive.
Fat liberation… except for me. “All bodies are beautiful…” except for mine.
And that’s really what it was. I never judged anyone else’s body except my own. I often found myself in spaces with women who were fatter than me who I found strong and beautiful, but I never thought of myself in those terms. I lived in this weird compartmentalized reality where every body was a good body and everybody (and every body) deserved respect… except me. Except mine.
In the intervening years, I’ve made several conscious choice – not always easy, often time with a lot of deeply ingrained self-loathing and negative self-talk – to extend the concept of body positivity to myself. I don’t know why that’s hard. I don’t know why I can wholeheartedly believe in and uphold respect for other people and not extend and apply that same respect to myself, except to say that messages of white, thin, cishet normative beauty are insidious and we are taught at a young age to hate ourselves. But I have been surrounding myself more and more with social circles – even if most of them are virtual – of fat people; body positive people; fat people who are athletic, sexy, creative, active; fat people who model; artists who center fat bodies in their work – and it’s been… better.
I’ve got a lifetime of bullshit beauty stigmas to break down, but it has been better. It has.
I thought pole would be a good next step, and boy, so far, it has been.
So many bodies! So many big bodies, so many fat bodies, so many bodies like mine doing strong, sexy, amazing things. I mean, ok, I can’t do about 90% of them yet, ha ha, but I have proof that I can get there.
All this a very long preamble to say, I’ve now taken two classes – one of Intro to Pole, one of Liquid Motion (with another Liquid Motion class next week), and man – fucking ow. Intro to Pole absolutely kicked my ass. Though, to be fair, I honestly didn’t expect to leave the ground at all my first go – I’ve been almost entirely sedentary the whole duration of COVID, and was never exactly strong to begin with – but I managed a few crunches on the pole! And I did two poses on the pole! And I almost died trying to do a chair sit, but we’ll get to that when we get to that, ha ha. I hurt – like bone-deep, muscle-deep aching – for days afterwards, and had huge, black bruises on my arms and thighs, but oh my God, did it feel gratifying and wonderful. For the sheer pride of having done it. Of saying I’d do it and following through. Everything beyond that was just confetti.
I will likely take breaks over the summer, just because the classes are fairly pricey ($30 a pop; not bank-breaking by any means (and I can technically afford it), but I want the opportunity to spend my money on other things this summer as well), but I’m hoping after this to do a class at least every two weeks, and start an exercise routine in the interim.
Not to lose weight. I’m through with killing myself to make myself less. Fuck that.
I don’t need to lose anything. I’m going to work to make myself more – to gain strength, stamina, and flexibility.
I urge you all to make more of yourselves, as well.
Physically, if you want, but metaphorically, definitely. Take a risk. Be seen.
You deserve to take up space.
Take care of yourselves and each other.