So This is What Happens When You Go Pole Dancing at the New Museum

Repeat after me:

Reading is fundamental.

Back in November, some of the girls I’ve befriended at my local pole dancing studio (shout out to Sacred! Bed-Stuy do or die) turned me onto this new exhibit that included a series of pole dancing classes open to the public-at whatever cost you wanted to donate. Obviously, I perked up at the opportunity. How many times in your lifetime do you get to be a part of a museum exhibit? To dance on poles? In New York City? The blog post was already forming in my head and I started saving dates and picking out matching booty shorts to wear with my girlfriends.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to join my girlfriends when they eventually went together in December. I got slammed with a job event and couldn’t break away. I heard they had a bomb-ass time, though. Apparently the teacher didn’t show up so my girlfriends taught the class themselves, swapping moves with break dancers who happened to be there and teaching chair spins to hipsters and middle aged-women who came out in the holiday rush. It sounded like heaven.

My pole girlfriends are bad bitches, by the way. Teaching a class for them is nothing. Here’s one of their most recent posts on Instagram to illustrate my point:

Despite not being able to join their field trip the first time, I was still determined to go and I wasn’t afraid to do it by myself. I’m hip and adventurous, I said to myself. (My inner monologue often starts sounding like my mother when I’m uneasy or excited about something.) I am woman. Hear me roar.

Rahhh rahhh like a dungeon dragon.

Last night I rushed to the museum after work; I’d memorized 7 PM as the start time for the class after my conversations with my girls. Although I’d been waiting to do this for two months, somehow I still managed to get there fifteen minutes late after chatting with my boss about the Cosby scandal. I’d almost gotten lost trying to find the place and showed up frazzled with a layer of sweat under my clothes. My hands became numb while I waited in line on the sidewalk to get in. It was 17 degrees outside.

I got in, paid my two bucks, made a beeline for the 5th floor, hastily changed into my workout clothes and dashed to the exhibit space where two poles stood in a small, crowded room filled with photographers, the instructor, students, and you guessed it-hipsters. I dumped my purse in a corner by a chick with a notepad, hopped around the performance space to other side of the room, assumed my position in the back of a line with students waiting to use the pole, and then…

“Excuse me.”

I turned around to find a friendly-faced young man in a v-neck sweater and a mini ponytail on the top of his head standing right behind me. His eyes made me think of SpongeBob. SpongeBob was warm and genuinely confused while looking at me when he spoke.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah…I’m here for the open pole class?” I became unsure of myself again by the way he was looking at me. “I signed a waiver downstairs? By the front desk?”

“Yes,” SpongeBob said looking from side to side. “But I don’t think we were expecting you…”

“Expecting me? Why would you be expecting me?” And who’s we? I thought to myself.

“We, as in Gerard & Kelly,” SpongeBob said pointing his hand up to a wall decal above his head. It occurred to me then that in all this time I hadn’t even known the name of the exhibit, much less read a summary of it. I only knew about it because one of my Facebook friends wrote a status about it. SpongeBob was still smiling. “We invite dancers to take the class and people are allowed to watch.”

“But I thought it was an open class…”

“Yea, open to the public to watch…”

Three hours later when I got home and looked up the exhibit at the New Museum’s website, the listing for the project said that the public was allowed to “observe and participate” in the classes, so in my mind it was highly up to interpretation. Still, I had taken the word “participate” in the most literal sense, while the artists meant the word “observe” in the most literal sense. Once again, my boldness had gotten the best of me.

I looked back to the dancers, then back to New York’s self-declared elites looking on with wonder and amusement at the bodies before them. A few eyes wandered to me, quite naturally. Not only had I waltzed in the middle of someone’s museum exhibit, but I did it wearing a neon pink sports bra and biker shorts so tight and high in the waist that even a Gilad back-up dancer might have scoffed at them. You could see my thong through the spandex.

Rahhh rahhh like a dungeon dragon.

“But hey, if you give me your name, I can see if we can invite you next time!” SpongeBob said with a tilt in his head as he laced his fingers together. Why was he so happy and calm? Do people always randomly insert themselves into his art installations? Did he think my biker shorts were as charming as I did?

I took a mental note of SpongeBob’s email and sprawled out in the corner by my purse. Smart phones always make people whom look ridiculous otherwise appear busy and cool, so I pulled it out to check for the next yoga class at Sacred. I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I could see my biker shorts were starting to make people uncomfortable* so I put my clothes back on in front of the unisex line for the restroom and went back into the cold.

I wish I could say that at least the class itself looked interesting, but it didn’t. Out of five students, four of the students were men and for fifteen minutes they practiced flipping their wrist to walk backwards under their arms while holding the pole. A mattress and old television sets were perched in corners of the room to serve as screens for b-roll of modern dancers grabbing each others’ asses and waving giant red fabrics around their bodies. It looked less like a pole dancing performance and more like a Shia LaBeouf experiment.

I was so annoyed by my mistake that I watched a subway car pull into my station and then watched it pull away, later realizing that I had just missed my train.

One more time, repeat after me:

Reading is fundamental. 

*They were not making other people uncomfortable. They were making me uncomfortable.


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