Earlier this year, I was reunited with one of my first loves—pole fitness. Back in March, I attended my first pole dancing class since my local studio closed in the fall of 2016, and it felt like a homecoming of sorts, both to dance and to my body.
I first fell in love with pole after college graduation. I was looking for a way to stay active once I was no longer cheerleading and dancing regularly. But what I found was a confidence I never knew I had. Yes, the pole is an excellent full-body workout, but more than that, it helped me get in touch with my sensual side, and soon my weekly classes turned into a full-blown obsession.
In fact, I was even unanimously voted Miss Congeniality in a regional pole competition hosted by my home studio in Baltimore. When I moved to Chicago 10 years ago, finding a pole studio was at the top of my to-do list.
I’d attended traditional gyms but didn’t love being surrounded by the #GymBros. Pole studios became my home away from home—safe sanctuaries where I could prance around in my skivvies and not worry about being catcalled (okay, maybe there was some catcalling, but in the form of loving encouragement from the other women in the studio). These gyms were home to body positivity before they became a thing. You could find everyone from college students to grandmas twerking it out on a Tuesday night. I’m not kidding! But best of all was the self-love these studios exuded and helped me embody. With the lights low and my booty shorts on, I could feel myself transforming into Beyoncé or Rihanna. I was literally and figuratively feeling myself.
When my studio in Chicago closed in 2016, I lost a large part of myself and an even larger community. I eventually fell out of touch with the sport altogether. I joined one of those traditional gyms I loathed so much, unable to find another studio that was convenient to attend. I would later fill the void with my Peloton bike to some degree of success. I found community with the brand’s popular #BlackGirlMagic group, but it wasn’t the same as the in-person sisterhood that filled those old dance studios.
My focus on my health shifted from wellness to reproductive in 2020. After a year of trying to conceive naturally, my husband and I began the long and arduous road of IVF. My infertility was due to scar tissue from a myomectomy and a history with fibroids, as I had 17 of them removed in the past. Getting that coveted positive pregnancy test would take a full year and multiple cycles. Shortly after our daughter was born in the fall of 2021, I naturally lost all of the weight I’d gained during pregnancy and then some.
So I was a bit startled six months later when I found myself heavier than I was during pregnancy. I was even convinced my IUD was to blame but was informed by my Ob-Gyn that wasn’t likely the case. We were preparing to go on a family vacation, and I was set to put on a bathing suit for the first time since giving birth, when I was astonished to see that I still looked pregnant. Between the pandemic and then pregnancy, nothing fit. Try as I might to not give into #SnapbackCulture, I didn’t like how this new postpartum body looked. I appreciated what it had done—enabling me to carry a healthy and happy baby to term—but I struggled to learn to love it. So I decided to do the work to feel good in it.
Earlier this year, I vowed to do more of what makes me happy and return to dance. I found a place to take a sultry dance class in February. The next month, I gathered some girlfriends for a private pole party. We had a blast! The instructor was a beautiful Black woman who immediately made us feel at ease. As we did solo dances for the icebreaker and threw fake money at each other, I could feel everyone’s walls coming down.
Sure, I can’t do all the tricks I used to do, but that didn’t matter. Standing in front of a full-length mirror in my bra and booty shorts again, I felt my mood shift and my confidence climb. I may not look the same as I did at that competition back in 2013, and that’s not the goal. Instead, I’m starting to feel like the girl from that picture, and I’m proud of myself for getting back in the ring or, shall I say, on the pole.