Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February Blog Hop 2: Why I'm Comfortable With Men In The Studio

My first post for this month's blog hop highlighted the Twirly Boys in my life.  This post is about to get a little more serious.  In various spots around Facebook (and earlier this month on Twitter), there was some debate about whether pole studios should have women-only classes.  You will find some who passionately argue that there should be at least some women-only classes.  Shoot, there are some entire studios who only allow women.  In the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association group, there was a comment made about straight men in class sexualizing women and that making some women uncomfortable.  

That's when it hit me.  Duh.  I don't worry about men sexualizing me because I haven't felt sexy in probably 25-30 pounds.  I wear a veil of fat.  I am invisible.  And, if I don't find myself sexy, how would anyone else see me that way?

It is no secret that way too much of my personal identity is tied up in my weight.  There is not a single day that goes by that I don't think about weight in some capacity.  Whether it is not liking how my clothes fit or counting calories or blaming body pain on the weight I've gained -- my weight is a daily reminder that I don't like myself.  

That being said, I don't shy away from throwing on my tiny shorts and dancing around on video or for photos and posting them on Facebook.  But I think that's more about thinking that if I force myself to share my large body with others, then it will become more common place and people will think nothing when they see someone with some extra fat on them.  But it also doesn't mean that I don't cringe when I see some videos and photos.  I was just watching class videos from AJ's class last Saturday.  My legs are chunky and I almost waddle when I walk.  No, it's not even a waddle.  I tip from side to side, much like I think Humpty Dumpty would walk.  My bra cuts into my back fat, leaving a crease that cuts around my entire back.  I reminded myself to start wearing black tank tops and stop wearing stripes.  My thighs jiggle and slap the ground in a grotesque way.  My thigh scars give the illusion that every wide-legged move is showing off my labia when it isn't (although if you can't handle a little labia shot, you shouldn't pole dance).  I sweat profusely, and am making myself wear a head scarf so I don't drip sweat all over the floor or have to wipe my face every 30 seconds.  My face has become soft and my chin now disappears into the rolls in my neck.  Nothing.  There's nothing I can come up with that I love about my body.  AJ has such beautiful choreography too, and I already figure he has probably dumbed it down so I can keep up in the first place.  For that, I love him.  But I don't love me.  

And that's why I know straight men in pole class wouldn't give me a second look.  I clearly don't love myself enough so why would they?  I'm comfortable saying, "hey dudes can come to my class -- no problem" because I have never felt like anyone is sexualizing me, which might make me uncomfortable or self-conscious (I would like to believe, though, that it would only happen if a guy I actually liked was watching -- dancing for strangers seems much easier to do).  I know Twirly Girls is a safe place for me and so almost anyone can come into that environment without ruining that experience. 

When I weighed 180 pounds, I found myself at odds with men in general.  Suddenly, they were opening doors and smiling at me.  I didn't really get that at 350 pounds.  And now, at 257 pounds, I feel as fat as 350 pounds and my self-esteem is worse than it was then too.  I definitely notice that men don't notice me or jump to open the door for me like they did 80 pounds ago.  Is that because I keep my own eyes averted and so they pick up on those cues and don't bother to help me?  Or has society told them my large body isn't beautiful and I'm not worth helping?  I certainly noticed my first head-turning experience was only shortly after gastric bypass surgery.  I couldn't have lost more than 25 pounds, and was easily still close to the 300 pound range.  But I was happy as a clam that the weight was dripping off of me.  I passed a man in a crosswalk and he almost got whiplash as he turned to take a second look.  I have always felt like that was a product of my clear happiness and self-assuredness, not of any weight loss.  

There was something I noticed years ago when I dated a very large man.  He was 6'5" and well over 350 pounds.  The bigger something is, the less people seem to notice it.  People would walk into him on the street on almost a daily basis.  As if he was so large, they couldn't even see him.  I feel that way about my weight sometimes.  The bigger I get, the more invisible I feel.  Whether that is self-imposed or not, I can't really say.  

So, I can't tell you whether I would be uncomfortable with men in the studio if I still weighed 180 pounds.  I want to say that I wouldn't have cared then because my self-esteem was high and I was just happy to be alive.  It sounds like, for myself, I need to get back to that place mentally.  I need to not care whether men, or women, adore me -- not because I'm so fat that I'm hiding in the corner -- but because I'm so confident that it truly doesn't matter.

There you go.  That was a whole lot of words to say I don't really know whether straight men in the studio would bother me if I was at a lower weight or in a different place mentally.  I know that gay women wouldn't bother me, so why should it matter if a straight man was in her place?  They both like chicks, right?  So much to ponder and I may never truly know the answer...  Food for thought, though...  How do YOU feel about men in the studio?  

Photo journal of my journey.  Note: despite my negative attitude here, I look back fondly on all of these photos and memories.  My life really doesn't suck.

2003: 347 pounds - highest weight

2005 (February): 179 pounds - lowest weight

Possibly 2006 - probably 215 pounds

2006 - post-plastic surgeries, weight 200-215

2008 (June) - Climbed Half Dome at 215 pounds

2009 (March) - pre-Twirly Girls at a bar - close to 200 pounds

2009 (August) - climbing back toward 215

2009 - around 225

2010 (March) - Twirling for four months, up to probably 230

2011 - 240 pounds

2012 - 250 pounds

2013 - highest post-surgery weight at 263

2014 - 257 pounds



  1. That's definitely an interesting reason as to why you are comfortable having guys around. I haven't really spent much time thinking about why I am so okay with it, but you are making me do just that now. I guess I finally need to write my own blog hop post!

    1. I guess I don't want to come off as pathetic but I really have never worried about guys objectifying me. I am trying to feel it out and figure out fully for myself...

  2. Hmmm, I wonder if this is similar to how I felt on my 99% white college campus. Women were always having these talks about men and how they looked at our bodies and whether our skirts were too short and if their makeup was done right...and i was one of 10 black girls at my college and I was vocal and have a dark personality...so i knew 99.9 to 100% of the men on campus didn't give a flying fuck about me...so I just didn't have to think about it. Your experience reminds me of that. In an all white environment, I was able to hide behind a veil of "black girl with attitude"

  3. I'm intrigued by your thoughts on this. It's an interesting view to take on your feelings towards men objectifying and/or sexualizing you in a pole class. I can't relate appearance-wise, as I am a white, thin blonde girl of decent attractiveness, but I can relate to your feeling attractive being the catalyst to other people finding you attractive. I have a self-view of a nerdy straight-edge band geek whose only instance of a detention in school was for reading a novel under her desk during math class. I never had cable growing up and don't have a lot of the pop culture social currency that so many of my peers seem to have, so I can be somewhat socially awkward. I get excited about things most people don't, like education, grammar, Latin, and books I love. So even though the public might look at me in a sexualized way based solely off my looks, I don't feel like my personhood matches with my appearance, so I don't see myself as sexy (the majority of the time). So it's for a totally different reason, but I also don't have a problem with men in pole class sexualizing me because I don't think of myself as sexy. When I do happen to think I look great that day or my body rolls are particularly fluid, it's then I become aware of the possibility that a man watching me would think I'm sexy.

    All that to say, we ALL have to realize that we're sexy, no matter what we think we look like or feel like. I know it's been said over and over ad nauseum, but confidence is by far the sexiest thing about a person.

    P.S. You look great at any size!

    1. thank you!! As I was saying above, I hate to sound pathetic but I can only guess that's why I don't worry about it. Or maybe I don't REALLY have to face it since most of the men in my studio are gay. I'm still feeling it out for myself. :-D

  4. i was just watching that video of you dancing from Saturday and thinking "she moves sooo beautifully"

    1. You make me cry real tears. I would make starfish foot babies with you any day! Thank you for being part of my journey.