Dangling from a ten foot pole — legs all askew, body heaving and sweaty — doesn’t seem like an appropriate time for anybody to have an epiphany, unless it’s the one that’s telling them to get the heck down. But there I was, using the fatty cushion of my inner thighs to cling for dear life to the stainless steel, employing muscles I didn’t even know I had to hold on to the position I’d managed to contort myself into. I was determined to master the art of exotic dance. But before I could master it, I had to learn it.

The Diamonds of the world make it look so easier than it is, but I am not a quitter. No siree. I thugged it out class after class, legs bruised, ankles all jacked up from the buckles of my shoes scraping my skin. Nothing says sex appeal like a Band-Aid under the straps of a pair of 6-inch stilettos. In the end, I discovered two things: 1) I will never talk trash to a stripper because after finding out how much athletic prowess it takes to hold your body weight and perform acrobatic feats, I know I’d get whooped and 2) my future husband is going to be one happy camper. Turns out, I’m pretty good at pole dancing. Not a natural talent my mama can brag on, but I’m sure my someday spouse will appreciate it.

Any woman who says she’s taking a pole dancing class purely for the exercise is lying — to herself, to her friends, to somebody — but she’s telling tales nonetheless. Between yoga, jogging, spinning, kickboxing and zumba, there’s a whole lot of fitness forms to choose from if the goal is merely to stay in shape. I fully admit I took the classes for three reasons: they’re a fun way to work out, yes, but they’re good for spicing up the lovin’, too (even though I’m saving my grand debut until I’m married).

Hitting the pole is also a sort of olive branch for the boyfriend, since he stopped going to the shaker joint out of respect for me. In the book of Janelle, if a guy wants to run his hands across some other gal’s skin and squeeze on her cushy girl parts, he hasn’t gotten all of his wild oats sown in order to appreciate just one woman. I would never want my man to go get all hot and bothered from a night down at the Pink Pussycat and then bring it home to me, anyway.

I blogged about my experience as an amateur private dancer before and got heat from readers for being insecure and domineering. The ladies were not amused. But I especially got the business for supposedly setting the woman’s empowerment movement back about 25 paces, hear my critics tell it. Hanging off a pole like a big ol’ Christmas ornament wasn’t something my guy expected me to do. It was, and will always be, a matter of choice. My choice, more specifically. From what I’ve heard and seen, good relationships are based on mutual respect and give-and-take. So just like he gave up going to the club, my budding pole expertise is part of the compromise.

I think women, especially us younger, less-lucky-in-love girls, are quick to be hardened against the thought of doing anything extra for a dude. We don’t want to be taken advantage of, so we say uh-uh to even basic compromises for fear of losing power or being walked over. But you can do for your man. You can strive to make him — and keep him — satisfied. You can make sacrifices to keep him thankful to come home and never be anything close to a flunkie. In a solid couple, he’s doing the same thing for you. Maybe not climbing up a pole, but he’s somehow taking one for the team in the same spirit of sacrifice. So long as it’s equal parts effort, I have no problem with it. And I am far from being walked over by anybody, particularly a man. Mama didn’t raise a fool.

My grandparents were my model couple when I was growing up. Although I’m sure my Nana never wrapped herself around a pole (and Lord help me, if it ever did happen, I don’t want to know anything about it), she and my Granddaddy were happily married for 43 years. Key word: happily. And I watched them give and take to make the household and the relationship run smoothly. If that’s what it takes to be in love for more than four decades, I’ll follow suit, thank you very much. Pole and all. 

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