Monday, 23 January 2012

Your boyfriend must love it that you're a pole dancer...

If I had a dollar for every time someone has said "your boyfriend must LOVE it that you're a pole dancer," I'd have.... well, probably only around 80 bucks, but that's still enough to put it up there as one of the most common things people say to pole dancers, along with the time-honoured classic "hey baby, you can dance on my pole!"

I'm sure people imagine that going out with a pole dancer guarantees you wild, contortionist sex and private dances on demand. Maybe it is like that for some pole dancers. Maybe other pole dancers don't drag themselves through the front door after a class or performance, limping, smelling a little sweaty, make up smudged, false eyelashes a bit wonky, and either demand a deep tissue massage or go straight to the freezer for an ice pack. Maybe other pole dancers come home and put their cute pole costumes to good use, by pouncing on their partner in a frenzy of sexual pole dancer energy.

But I'm going to come clean here, in the interest of honest blogging, and put it out there: my boyfriend hates pole dancing.

It's not that he's against what I do. He's very happy that I'm so happy doing what I love. And it's not a jealousy thing either. I honestly can't believe how lucky I am to have a boyfriend who lets me perform the way I do in public, and never hassles me for being too, umm... provocative in my performances. He has one rule: no stripping (as in, taking clothes off is fine, so long as I at least keep a top and bottom on at all times, no matter how small). Which is fine because I have no need or desire to strip anyway.

I think that in the beginning, he was pretty into the idea of his girlfriend being a pole dancer. But his interest has definitely waned over the past five years of coming to watch my shows, being made to watch clips of me performing variations of moves that only a trained eye would know were different from each other, listening to pole-itical discussions about who should have won which competition, and having to sit through hours of pole analysis every time a pole dancer comes to stay at my house. Now, the second someone mentions the word pole, his eyes glaze over.

To be really honest, the whole issue of pole has at times been a real source of conflict in our relationship. I guess it's because I want him to love it as much as I do, but at the end of the day he just doesn't. For me, pole dance is the most inspirational, sensual, beautiful, athletic display of strength, flexibility and emotion. For him, it's a bunch of people jumping around a pole in their undies.

I've asked myself many times over the years, why doesn't my boyfriend appreciate pole? I think about whether or not I could handle watching endless football games if he were a professional football player. Although I hate watching football, I think that if he were playing, I would learn to appreciate it. But then maybe I wouldn't (I really do hate football).

I can freely admit that pole dance is not just my passion, but also my obsession. I think that obsession can be a double-edged sword - it provides you with the drive you need to achieve your dreams, but at the same time, it can isolate and frustrate you. Being in a relationship with a non-pole dancer means you have to make a real effort to avoid being swallowed by your obsession, or else risk having nothing at all to talk about with normal people. As a pole instructor, I've actually seen the topic of pole dance cause relationship break-ups amongst my students. It's almost like their partners no longer recognise their new, confident, pole dancing girlfriends - and some of them decide they don't like what they see.

It's not just female pole dancers who deal with this issue. One of my male students (and incredible performer) David Helman has a partner who is not a pole dancer. David says: 

"It was particularly hard when we first met, because he didn't understand why pole came first, and why if I didn't do it I would get cranky/sad/mad. He's gotten better and he’s now more supportive, but he still feels left out if I'm with a group of pole people and we talk about tricks and moves and performances etc. He still finds it difficult to understand that I’d rather spin on a pole than go out to a party. Also it doesn't help that sometimes he’s scared to touch me because I'm always in pain in some way! Especially when I dislocated my shoulder.

To make it fair, I called David's partner, Steven, to get his view. Steven says:

"I appreciate the sport and his love for it, and I love that he loves it so much, but it definitely impacts on our relationship. If we’re out with a group of pole people, and they’re talking about pole, the conversation is often on a completely different level and I can’t understand a thing. They’ll be talking about pole tricks, and I’m thinking what the hell is a phoenix? Some kind of bird move? I don’t always want to ask what they’re talking about because then I feel like a kid sitting at the adult’s dinner table. Sometimes can deal with it, but other times I’ll throw a tanty and go home. David wants me to be involved, and I try, but I can’t always do it. It’s hard, but we find ways to make it work." 

On this topic, my sister Maddie has a pretty good perspective, I think. She says that just because you love two things doesn't mean that if you combine them they will work well together.  She says there's nothing wrong with keeping your loves separate. I think she's right about that. But obviously, it can be hard when you want to share your excitement with the person you love, only to find them staring blankly at you as though you were speaking a different language (which possibly we are).   

And then there's the Holy Grail of pole love - two pole dancers in love, training, performing, competing and instructing together... Can such a thing exist? It can, and it does, in Suzie Q and Toby J. Those of you who have seen their doubles pole or trapeze performances know what I'm talking about - it's so beautiful to see the trust, love and magic that they put in to every one of their performances. No doubt there's a lot of yelling and shouting that goes into their training sessions, but it must be worth it to share that thrilling moment onstage together when the crowd goes wild after a performance.

Suzie Q says: "I've dated pole dancers, and non-pole dancers. I definitely appreciate the fact that another pole dancer really "gets" what I do - because he does it too!"

And Toby J adds: "I like sharing performances together - I also think it enhances the trust levels in our relationship. Plus it makes for some cool party tricks when the two of us bust out something acrobatic!"

But if your boyfriend or girlfriend would sooner have their teeth extracted un-anaesthetised than consider performing on a pole in public, you're going to have to find some other way of making sure pole doesn't become the third wheel in your relationship. 

In the world beyond pole, it's often the case that women get a bit of a social status boost from the success of their husbands. In the UK and in Australia, cricket/football WAGs (the wives and girlfriends of cricket/football players) have their own status and celebrity, which they derive solely from how nice they look sitting on the sidelines while their other halves chase a ball around for large amounts of money. Although unfortunately it doesn't really work the other way around, I think pole boyfriends and husbands deserve their own title, just like the WAGs. Let's call them Polar-BAHs.

When I was at Worlds in 2011, I had a fair amount of time backstage to do nothing but stretch and wait.  During this time, I had a bit of a chat to Nic Judd, Zoraya's partner, who is possibly one of the most supportive Polar-BAHS in the pole industry (along with Suzie Q's partner Toby J, Jenyne's partner Andrew Ball, and probably a few others I don't know about). I asked him if he got sick of all the pole events he has had to go to. He surprised me by saying something along the lines of: 

"I don't care about pole dance. It's not my thing. It's her (Zoraya's) thing. But she's my passion, and pole dance is her passion, so I make it my thing."

I can't tell you how much what Nic said affected me. All I could think was, my God, I wish my boyfriend felt that way. 

But since then, I've come to realise that what works for others doesn't always work for everyone. My boyfriend doesn't enjoy attending pole dancing events, and I'm coming to accept that I can't, and shouldn't, try to force him. He may not love pole dance per se, but he's supportive of me, and he comes to all the big competitions to be there for me. Whenever he does compliment me on a performance, I know it means that I've really killed it, because he wouldn't say so otherwise. I remind myself that if he tried to drag me along to football games every weekend, I would probably explode. And I'm pretty certain that his aversion to pole dancing means I'll never bust him going to strip clubs with his boys. 

So, until the day comes when Polar-BAHs have their own special status as the privileged partners of pole dancers, I guess I will just have to accept that the reality of being a Polar-BAH is probably a bit of a drag for most of them, or at least my boyfriend. Having to share your lady with an inanimate metal rod must be pretty tough. Especially if he suspects that, judging by the amount of time she spends embracing it, she may be more devoted to the pole than she is to him!

To my boyfriend: I love you and thank you for the support you show me in my pole pursuits. I get that you don't get pole. That's ok. But darling, can't you just fake it a little bit from time to time? For me??? ;-)

Shimmy xx

PS As you can probably tell from this post, I'm still trying to work this topic out for myself. I'd be really interested in hearing how your Polar-BAHs cope with your love of pole - so please feel free to comment and share your own story/advice :-)


  1. When i first started poling my boyfriend became really excited and even swung around a few times himself. But gradually his interest in it dwindled and while he is still happy it makes me happy I think he saw that its not a mini strip club but rather a fitness centre.

  2. I'm not quite as obsessed with pole as you (though I'm headed that way!) but I think my situation is somewhere in between the two extremes of pole love. My boyfriend is somewhat interested in doing pole tricks (we have handspring competitions... damn male upper body strength) but the main barrier to him seriously learning pole is simply that he would never be able to tell his friends what he's been doing every Saturday without them making fun of him.

    He has his own obsessions that I'll never get into though (skydiving, rockclimbing, wakeboarding) and they have their own bizarre vocabulary and are just as technically immersive - he's spent hours trying to explain the difference between lead climbing and normal climbing, asked me advice on which wakeboard boots he should get... so I assume he similarly glazes over when I talk about the merits of various grip aids and the different tricks you can do with/without heels. It's kind of nice that we have passions outside of our relationship - it's good to have our own "things". But I can definitely see how there can be resentment if it gets too one-sided.

    I think he's almost completely sick of pole performances now, but he definitely still likes the lapdances :P

    It's so great that you and Maddie are both into pole - my sister's just started, I'm hoping she'll get hooked and I'll have my own private pole confidant too :)

  3. Cool topic, I'll come from the 'other' side of the fence if I may...

    No I can't claim to know Nic Judd, we've not even met but my personal thoughts seem to largely echo his (paraphrased) comments. Let me explain...

    Kate started dancing about 4 years ago with a few friends. At the time, I don't think there were any long term plans or visions of still being into it years down the track. It looked like fun and a bit of a laugh and as luck would have it, she was hooked within the first few weeks.

    I'd hear stories about what was happening from week to week and by the time their first performance came around, I didn't know what to think - some of the girls were wearing what I'd have called (at the time) fetish wear! Pole dancing is pole dancing but I wasn't sure how comfortable I was with get ups like this...

    Anyway, after sticking with it for about 12 months, it became clear that this was something that wasn't going to go away anytime soon and given what she means to me, I started coming up with ways to support her in what was quickly becomming an obsession.

    My guess is that Nic and I would look about as graceful on a pole as each other (sorry Nic!) so that was out of the question and simply turning up to performances just didn't seem enough so when Kate and the girls got together, I'd go along to try to break the code and understand what the hell they were talking about.

    Kinda glad I did. Some of these girls (and their confused partners) have turned out to be great friends. Not just the kind you check out on facebook from time to time - real friends that'll come around and help out if necessary and let you know that you're doing a good job just as soon as they'll tell you you're acting like an idiot. You know: Friends in the old fashioned sense... Now I was also getting something out of it so once again, it didn't feel as though I was doing enough. What now...?

    Part one...

  4. Part two...

    After going to a few performances, I noticed some of the girls comparing photos of themselves and discussing what they could do better, complimenting each other and talking about the night that was. By this stage (about 18 months ago), we had been to MPD and Pole Candy and I was having trouble keeping up with the learning curve and all the new moves. When I'd ask what they were talking about, they'd show me these grainy little pictures that made no sense to me. I knew nothing about photography at the time but I could tell when a photo was not very good.

    The penny dropped: maybe I could take some better photos of the girls that would enable a better appreciation and understanding of what they looked like as well as giving them something they can remember their performances by.

    I'm an all or nothing kind of guy so if I was going to invest that kind of time and energy into this opportunity, I was going to do it right!

    Long story short, I started taking some reasonable photos of local performances and since then, I have managed to work with some wonderfully generous people who give their time and energy selflessly in an effort to develop their ability and fulfill their dreams. These people are inspirational, there's no better way to describe it. You can't tell them that - they'll laugh you down but that's the way I see it.

    From the first timers to the pros, I've been privellaged to meet, chat with, shoot and share some stories with many of you and for this, I'm grateful. Grateful to the studio owners, the performers, the promoters, the events managers, the students and the supporters.

    Most of all, I'm thankful that Kate is still as enamoured with the whole deal as she was on day 1 which has enabled her to become the one person that I'd rather see perform over any other on her worst day and also for allowing me to come along for the ride. She has gone one way with it and I have gone in a different direction but we now have something else in common, another thing we can share. Not only have I benefitted from her dancing, sometimes she gets to benefit from what I have done as well! That's what I tell myself anyway...

    I guess when something is as important to you as Kate is to me (soppy time :), I try to support her in any way I can. This was and is just my way. For some, it is making themselves scarce, for others it is giving lifts to training (and invariably to the physio afterwards), and for some it is to be around for performances and comps. Everyone will handle it differently and as long as there is a harmony in the relationship, it should all be ok.

    I don't profess to be a Toby J or a Nic Judd but I'm happy to do my bit and provide opportunities for my better half so she can indulge in what is arguably the most important thing to her.

    After all, wasn't that the point of the story? :-D

  5. I'm really lucky to have a lovely boyfriend who supports me and not only frequently sits in the car while I enjoy a lesson or masterclass he also drives me all over the country to shows and events where I sell my pole dancer charms and jewellery.

    Pole dancing is not really his thing at all but he is always complimentary when he sees me on a pole and has learned a few names of the moves too, in fact I caught him looking up videos on YouTube just last week and telling me what he'd seen so it's rubbing off on him a bit!

    There's no chance he'll ever get on a pole himself but he can actually recognise a few of the leading lights in pole dancing although his eyes do glaze over at the shows after an hour.

    We've instigated a "pole weekend / non-pole weekend" rule to make it fair and ensure that he gets to do the things he wants to as well. All in all it works well and I feel blessed to have someone so understanding and supportive by my side.

    Who'd have thought men could ever get bored of watching women wriggle round a pole in their scanties?

    Laura "Spinny" /

  6. I've been with my fiancé for 11 happy years. Just as my life was going in the direction of fitness, teaching and competing, my fiancé started a career as a club DJ, so it's felt at times that we're living on completely opposite schedules. I became a morning "ish" person, while like many artists, he does his best creative work at night. I couldn't always go to his gigs because I had to get up early in the morning; he's missed some pole competitions because he was on tour.

    Despite this, we've managed to work it out and surprisingly, he doesn't hate pole dancing -- 'the hobby that took his girl away.' And like you, Shimmy, while he doesn't always come out to my shows, he's there when it matters and he's always willing to listen to my pole drama, re-cut my music, or massage my feet when I get home.

    When I started pole 7 years ago, it was at a studio that really emphasized our pole classes as that one night during the week where you could leave behind the stress of your career, the troubles of home or the drama of day-to-day life and just escape into your dance movement. So I've always had a very personal and intimate connection with pole that for many years was very private. So while I love having his support, I'm 100% ok with pole being MY thing, just as music is HIS thing.

    -Natasha Wang

  7. Hi everybody :-) I might be a bit late, but I'm looking for some points of view about this... I've been in a relationship with this really nice, respectful and deep guy for 17 months, and 17 months ago I thought pole dancing was just something interesting for me instead of boooooring gym ^^ Since a few months things has changed and I started performing in public too. He disapproved it and given that I didnt want to renounce he asked me not to be told about it anymore. Now things got worse and he's asking me to stop with public shows and just do it "at the gym". He says he's not jealous, but the problem is the real situations I put myself in when performing. He says that if we were living in USA, where everybody is used to pole dance and is more open minded, it would be ok, but since we live in Italy it's not cool so I gotta quit. I don't even know how to react. If to minimize this sacrifice and simply do what I've been asked, or to get mad! I'll probably go for them both: i'll renounce getting really mad *_* Maybe I'm making such a big deal... It's just that I really can't stand hypocrisy: "italian girls are too nun" and when YOUR girlfriend just do the hell she wants, then "no, italian men are old minded so that will make YOU volgar and ridiculous; stop performing for everybody's sake". I'd better not to think about it, cause it makes me sick! What are your impressions? Am I exaggerated? :-P
    Thank you and good pole dancing to all of you!! :- ))

  8. My boyfriend is supportive of my pole love, but he never watches me. I have a pole in my shed and I don't have mirrors up, so I've asked him a few times to watch me to make sure my toes are pointed, leg is extended ect... but he never does. I've come to terms with that and compensate by setting up a camera and film myself, then watch my video to see what I'm doing.
    However, my boyfriend helps me in another way. I'm currently trying to get into a full split and work on my flexibility in general, so whenever I'm doing some hardcore stretching, he'll help by putting his legs on me and adding pressure so I can go lower. Which I know must be hard for him because when he puts his legs on me I usually start making noises of intense pain, but he does it for me anyways. As soon as I tell him to he takes his legs off me. So he is supportive in his own way.

  9. I have been pole dancing for a year and am about to compete for the first time. By boyfriend has always been excited and supportive but since I mentioned that the rules wont allow me to join the audience after my performance his attitude towards coming has changed. I understand sitting for hours to watch a three minute performance isnt that appealing when he isnt interested in the other dancers. I just assumed that he would be more excited for me and happy he has a girlfriend that participates in such an athletic but also sexy sport. Most guys jaws drop when I mention pole dancing. Its just a little sad to see the novelty wearing off on my own boyfriend.

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