In November 2018 I attended a burlesque show with a good friend of mine. During the show, the MC mentioned that one of the performers owned a pole fitness studio called Bombshell Fitness. I made a note of the name on my phone.
As soon as I heard that there was a pole fitness studio in Albuquerque I was intrigued. I’m not entirely sure why I had such a strong reaction. I didn’t think of myself as someone you would immediately picture on a pole, but I believe that had something to do with it. What I loved about burlesque was the wide range of body types brought to the stage, and how the audience would whoop and cheer for each and every one of them. When the possibility of stepping into that world presented itself to me, I felt excited about it.
When I got home I did a quick search and found their website. I sat in front of my computer contemplating whether or not I’d be able to make myself attend a class. I wanted to but there were a lot of things I was thinking about.
There is no use in denying the fact that I am a chubby gal, I have been for a while. I say “chubby” because I am still able to skirt by with some thin privilege. I can fit into most strait size larges so I have options clothing-wise. Still, though, my body type does not reflect what is commonly considered beautiful/sexy by most mainstream media.
I’ve lived with a certain amount of internal/external fat shaming for a long time. Because of this, I’ve always looked at myself with some semblance of shame and harsh criticism. As a society, we are very critical about bodies and health. In the eyes of most, if you are a thin person you are healthy if you are a fat person you are unhealthy, period. When you feel shameful about yourself, there are certain spaces you feel you can’t or shouldn’t exist in (gyms or fitness classes). It’s easy to feel your body is under a microscope when mirrors and a plethora of other types of bodies surround you.
Part of my own personal shame about my body makes me feel excluded from all things sexy and sensual. There is a clumsiness and lack of grace I’ve come to associate with my body type. In my mind, it wasn’t likely that I could make this thing move in a way that I could take seriously.
In the time that I have been thinking about myself in this space, I’ve come to realize I have a craving for owning my femininity. Part of the way that the media portrays fat people (fat women for this example) is void of any sensuality. Femininity is stripped away leaving fat women to make up for their bodies by being comic relief i.e often portrayed as lacking the grace that thinness (and by extension, conventional beauty) allows for. I’ve never felt as though I possed the necessary attributes to access the sensuality of femininity, even though I had an inclination that they were in me somewhere. In my mind, pole dancing seemed to be about harnessing sex appeal and sensuality in an empowering way.
Taking the class
I took my first class in mid-November 2018. Bombshell Fitness is a small studio on San Mateo. Before walking in I had to take a few deep breaths in my car. I had to build myself up to, in my mind, inevitably make a fool of myself. It was only me in the class that first day. I think this was helpful, as there were fewer avenues for comparison. It was difficult, but I didn’t feel as silly as I had thought I would. The instructor was bright, cheerful and confident. Her teaching style was non-judgmental and allowed for me to fumble around on the pole and just have fun with it.
The second class was a little more difficult, for the exact reasons I thought it would be. Because there were a few other girls there, I had a hard time focusing on myself and not making comparisons. I think women are in some ways socialized to compete with one another. We play a sort of toxic game where our assets are weighed against each other: Who’s prettier, who’s more successful, who’s more fun and so on. I felt much more self-conscious in the presence of other girls.
I didn’t want to compete with anyone. But certain toxic habits had sprung up and left me feeling insecure about the whole thing. It took me some time to work through these feelings, and I think I’m still working through them. But I pushed through the insecurity I felt and signed up for another class.
I worried that my insecurity during the second class was very apparent, so I did what overly paranoid people do sometimes and I apologized to my instructor about it. In response my instructor said this:
“Omg girl you did amazing! I honestly feel like you are starting to understand your body more and it’s okay if you’re not able to do something right away. I love seeing our students grow and most of the time it’s about how we’re feeling at that time and moment but you’ve made me so proud! I’ve already seen a huge difference between our first class and the last. Don’t beat yourself up!”
The more classes I took, the easier it got. I started feeling more confident in my body and space itself. I wasn’t making as many comparisons, and I was able to feel genuinely excited for the other people in my class as they were improving as well. Additionally, the effects I felt outside of class were awesome. I was also feeling much more confident in the way I looked and carried myself. After a few weeks of classes, I felt a boost of confidence and decided to go shopping for garments I’m afraid to wear. I left the store with a bodycon dress (my fashion kryptonite) and a strapless pantsuit, both of which I wore later in the week and felt stunning.
Pole dancing for me has been about realizing the ways in which I have been socialized to think, and combating those intrusive thoughts. As I go to more and more classes I can feel those thoughts taking the backburner and allowing positivity and confidence to pull forward. It’s allowed me to find an intersection between self-love and exercise that I can fit into my life on a consistent basis.
These classes have created a space where anyone can go and feel sexy and strong in a completely supportive and non-judgemental environment.
Pole dancing has now become an essential part of my self-care routine.
Thanks for tuning in to Girly Hues, I’m hoping to have another post up for yall soon. ❤
If you or someone you know are interested in taking a class with Bombshell visit their website here and don’t forget to follow them on Instagram at @bombshellpolefitnessabq