When I Was a Pole Dancer
I’m going to be controversial for just a moment here and state something bold, something you might not want to hear.
I think this pole dancing thing might actually have merit.
No, really. I do.
First, it’s good exercise. Second, it promotes cultural understanding. Third, it’s good exercise. Fourth, it’s artistic. And fifth, our kids are getting fat and it’s good exercise.
Did I mention it’s good exercise?
So why not incorporate pole dancing into our children’s classroom curriculum?
Of course I don’t mean that kind of pole dancing. Of course I didn’t fool you for a second. And, yeah, of course I know you’re a big mean cheater who looked ahead.
But aside from getting good exercise . . .
What the hell am I doing here?
It’s cold as hell. I remember. Cold As Hell. Look, I’m even wearing a winter coat. In May. (In a pair of white tights and dirty tennis shoes.)
And I’m dancing myself silly in a ridiculous attempt to keep warm. This is how the professional pole dancers feel.
Okay. Are you ready for this? Here it comes! Here comes the exciting part where we release our balloons!
Why? How the hell do I know.
I’m pretty sure that balloons weren’t around a billion years ago when maypole dances got their start. Are you kidding me? People back then were just lucky to have poles.
Poles and maybe two sticks to beat against their heads.
So why are we dancing around the maypole with balloons?
I’ll take a crack at this. Because everyone in the 1980s loved balloons. So we therefore had to incorporate them into every activity. Get this. Back then, we even had stores that only sold balloons! (You forgot that, didn’t you.) That’s why we built shopping malls. So we could help drive customers into the balloon stores. You could pick up some cheese popcorn, a new pair of culottes and a Mylar balloon all under one roof — no more than ten steps in between. Amazing.
Balloons were right up there among many other great iconic symbols of the ’80s — you know, unicorns, dolphins, that Lucky Charms leprechaun guy, Care Bears, rainbow suspenders, that birthmark thing on Gorbachev’s head — symbols of our carefree ’80s joy! Our President was a movie star, we ate Pop-Tarts for breakfast, and we had stores that only sold balloons! Oh, every day was a party, my friends.
And speaking of balloons, I remember this kid right here could not release his balloon. He couldn’t get it untied from his wrist. Poor little dude. He screwed up the balloon release and screwed us all. Because a four-minute delay in the balloon release meant four more weeks of winter. (I just make this stuff up as I go along but then I later marvel at how true it must be.)
Below you can see our maypole in all its tissue-papered glory. My apologies for the inky photo blemish. It appears to be a swarm of angry bees attacking poor Julio. Rest assured it is not.
A few months after this photo was taken, my family moved away. To another school, to another town. A town without maypoles.
Many years later, a new kid moved to my town — he was from the same town as my old grade school. He knew an old classmate of mine named Kenny.
“You know Kenny?” I asked. “Kenny was in my 2nd grade class! Do you still keep in touch? Did he ever mention me? Did his dog’s hair grow back? Did he tell you about that? Did he tell you about me?”
And then, in an attempt to further demonstrate just how tight I once was with Kenny, I added:
Kenny and I used to dance around the maypole together.
But I probably overshot it a bit there.
And then I learned what Kenny had been up to since our maypole dancing days.
Good ol’ Kenny? Yeah, he was now a burnout.
Actually, I think his exact response was:
The only thing Kenny is dancing around these days is the marijuana plant.
And actually, as I look back now, it all seems rather obvious. This is what was bound to happen. It could’ve been any one of us.
Pole dancing is a gateway drug.