This photo was taken more than a year ago, at my pole dancing class recital at the Rockwell Tent. It was the only time I did pole dancing in public; had you told me two years ago that I was going to slip into gold hot pants and strap a toy gun to my thigh and act like a Bond Girl, I would’ve laughed you out of the room. My friends once called me Prudence McPrude, but I’ve outgrown that girl.
At the same time, I don’t know exactly how different I am now from that gold-clad girl with big, wavy hair and an air of mystery around her. As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk, a tumbler of tea beside me. I’m waiting for the clock to hit five so I can go to the gym, sneak in a quick workout and head back to work again. It’s going to be another long night of copyediting and checking pages in a cold office, so I decided to be practical and wear jeans, a white shirt, and a gray cardigan. I used to never wear jeans, but I wear them *gasp* once a week now. (But that’s all I’ll allow myself).
I’m a lot more practical than I was say, three years ago. Most of my clothes are stylishly neutral (or so the fashion pages say), although I still wear a lot of cotton candy pink. Yesterday, my pole dancing instructor called me up to demand to know the reason why I hadn’t been showing up for months. I tell people who want to know why I stopped that the studio is far, that the classes end too late, and that I’ve been putting in a lot of late hours at work, but aside from that, it’s because I don’t know if being associated with pole dancing is a good thing for me.
Of course it isn’t a problem now, but how about when I go to graduate school? How do I explain that pole dancing is just a form of exercise to people who don’t know me at all, and just see me as a girl from an Asian country? Will the people at Columbia still take me seriously? What if it counts against me in a future job, in a city that’s not as small and familiar as Manila? In a world that sees Filipinos as domestic helpers, exotic dancers and contract workers, it’s hard to be yourself sometimes.
All these practical thoughts suddenly evaporate when I wistfully listen to my friends talk about the new tricks they learned in dance class. Then I think back to that time when I gleefully swung around a pole, applauded by friends and strangers, confident about myself and the world.