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There is no “sorry” in pole dancing (Op Ed)

“I’m sorry I didn’t shave my legs”

“I’m sorry I didn’t have time to do my flexibility homework”

“I’m sorry I’m so tired”

I hear “I’m sorry” multiple times every day, in every class from women (yes, women and very seldom men) who are badasses in their life. These are full-time moms, working moms, single professionals, extremely educated, high powered humans who could wither a lesser creature with a look. The women who, in the DC-metro area where I teach, literally are building and tearing down empires on a day-to-day basis.

“I’m sorry I don’t feel very strong today.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get the move you showed us.”

At first, I thought it was a function of generation. My older (45+) students came from a different generation than I did. They were more accustomed to having to hide their amazingness and more inclined to apologize for simply existing in a “man’s world.” But then I started to notice this same “I’m sorry” habit in my 30-something peers and then in my brand new, still in college, female students. Everyone—correction, every WOMAN (https://www.livescience.com/8698-study-reveals-women-apologize.html)— was apologizing. For everything. All. The. Time.

“If you think you hear women saying “I’m sorry” more than men, you’re right. Women apologize more often than men do, according to a new study.

But it’s not that men are reluctant to admit wrongdoing, the study shows. It’s just that they have a higher threshold for what they think warrants reparation. When the researchers looked at the number of apologies relative to the number of offenses the participants perceived they had committed, the researchers saw no differences between the genders.

Men aren’t actively resisting apologizing because they think it will make them appear weak or because they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions,” said study researcher Karina Schumann, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. “It seems to be that when they think they’ve done something wrong they do apologize just as frequently as when women think they’ve done something wrong. It’s just that they think they’ve done fewer things wrong.”

I have one private client I see regularly. She’s a working, high powered mom and she’s desperate to have some alone time to work on herself for herself – not for her job, her husband, nor the kids. In one 60-min session I think she told me “I’m sorry” at least 10 times. I finally told her: you don’t ever have to apologize to me. Not here. Not ever.

It doesn’t matter if you’re tired. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t shave your legs, you have sweaty hands, your tit popped out, you’re not feeling strong/sexy/flexible or even interested in the material today. You exist. You are allowed to exist and you are entitled to have a space in your life that is sacred. You don’t have to apologize for anything.

A pole studio should be that place. And every studio that I have any sort of influence over is going to be that place. It’s a place where you can be yourself. An imperfect creature barely staying awake amongst all the pressures of daily life – pressures that we acutely feel as women.

While I hope this is changing in the generations that follow behind me, I see women continually baring the burden of their work AND their home. We women didn’t trade one for the other when we burned our bras. And in metro areas (and likely everywhere soon), most women can’t just have one job. They have several side hustles, several diversified interests, several hats they wear that range from social planner to financial organizer to puppy poop picker-upper to sex kitten to database administrator.

And in all of those roles, we feel the pressure to be perfect. To be more than we are. To show the world that we’re worth it. That we always have impeccably contoured makeup and coiffed hair. That we are constantly improving – we’re better pole dancers, more holy yogis, better parents, quintessential partners.

We’re tired, we’re frustrated and maybe, just maybe all these conditioned “I’m sorrys” are a way to rage against the madness.

As Sloane Crosley in an Op-Ed for the New York Times said so eloquently:

“To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologizing.

It’s a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want. All that exhausting maneuvering is the etiquette equivalent of a vestigial tail.

…So we should stop. It’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want.”

Pole is the one place that you never have to say I’m sorry—ever. Bad Kitty® editor in chief and resident badass Claire Sterrett shared her thoughts: “Pole dancing teaches you to be unapologetic. You can’t go into class, or go on stage or even just free dance and come from a place of being sorry. The women in your class won’t let you. The environment in pole class encourages empowerment, not to diminishing. The goal is to take up space, not to shrink. The most common piece of advice I hear in pole class from teachers (and I used to say this too when I taught) is, ‘If you screw up a move, flip your hair, stick your booty out and touch yourself. You’re the star of your show.’ Goddamn right!”

Fellow badasses and super stars: erase “I’m sorry” from your lexicon. Check your apologies at the door of your local studios, shake your booty – whatever size and shape it is! – and enjoy your life without apology.

You deserve it.


Originally published in the Bad Kitty blog. Reposted with permission.

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