Dangling from a ten foot pole, legs all askew, body heaving and dripping with sweat doesn’t seem like the appropriate time for anybody to have an epiphany, unless it’s the one that’s telling them to get down. But there I was, using the fatty cushion of my inner thighs to cling for dear life to the cool stainless steel, employing muscles I didn’t even know I had to hold on to the position I’d managed to contort myself into. I was determined to master the art of exotic dance. But before I could master it, I had to learn it. And from what I could tell, the tricks and turns in a three-minute routine were more physically demanding than anything my little seductress getup was meant to lead to.

But I am not a quitter. No siree. I thugged it out class after class, legs bruised, shoulders stiff, ankles all jacked up from the buckles of my shoes scraping my skin. Nothing says sex appeal like a Band-Aid under the straps of a pair of 6-inch stilettos. In the end, I discovered two things: 1) I would never, not ever talk trash or get attitudey with a stripper because after finding out how much athletic prowess it takes to hold your body weight and perform acrobatic feats, I know I’d get whooped and 2) I had surprised myself by becoming one of those women I’d always been kind of critical of. A man pleaser.

I’ve always railed against standards that bully women into believing that we have to do it all to be That Chick. We gotta take care of babies, work eight hour days, come home in a good mood, cook a delicious and nutritious dinner and then oh! be ready to put it down like a porn star when the dishes are put away. Part of it is pressure we put on ourselves because that’s the definition of “superwoman” we’ve seen our mothers and grandmothers live out. Part of it is residuals from the old-school sexism that made them try to live it out in the first place. (Except that last part. I don’t ever—hear me?—ever wanna know the gory details of their bedroom activities. Dry heave.) But even with that consciousness at the front of my mind, I still put myself in the position—well, sort of—to go way above and beyond to try to keep my man satisfied. Dudes have so many distractions and in this put-‘em-on-the-glass culture, I guess I got caught up.

I also took the class in hopes that I could get enough of the basics down to make up for cutting off my man’s occasional attendance at the shaker joint. He stopped going out of respect for me, just like I squelched my naturally flowing flirtiness to do the same for him. I would never want him to go get all hot and bothered from a night down at the Pink Pussycat and then bring it home to me, anyway. What woman in her right mind wants to know that their dude’s five-star performance last night wasn’t based off his desire for her, but his redirected lust for Candy down at the club? I say no thanks. Call me a fuddy duddy, call me a prude, call me a square. But you won’t call me Inmate #4583948 because I had to go domestic after I found out my mister took a little trip to the nudie bar.

I’m not crazy insecure. I’m not a bossy, can’t-do-this, don’t-do-that kind of girlfriend. I’m not easily threatened by beautiful women, or even not-so-beautiful women with amazing bodies. (I am, however, still waiting for my own video vixen curves to pop out any day now a la Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor.) Keeping in mind that I’m none of those things, I’m also a firm believer that going to strip clubs is right up there on the cheating scale. As close as 7.9 is to 8—that’s how close I think sitting in a sleazy little den of smutty dancing is to actually carrying out the dirty deed of infidelity.

In the book of Janelle, if a guy wants to see other chicks naked, if he wants to run his hands across some other gal’s skin and squeeze on her soft, cushy, girl parts, and especially if he wants to give cash in any dollar amount to support her—which is ultimately what sliding tens and twenties down a G-string or any other place on a stripper’s person is doing—then he can’t seriously want to be in a committed relationship at the same time. It means he hasn’t gotten all of his wild oats sown in order to settle down and appreciate just one woman. When he’s immersed in happy coupledom, he doesn’t need to get off from being in the presence of other ladies shaking what their mamas gave ‘em. Unless, of course, what he has waiting at home just isn’t enough to keep him satisfied. So all that being said, I decided to play stripper myself. To show him what a down chick he had and, in essence, to keep him happy.

Me hanging from the top of a pole like a big ol’ Christmas ornament reminded me that I’m not above buying into this scramble to go above and beyond—literally—for my man. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that just a little part of me was doing some preventative work to stave off competition and fit into that mold of perfection. I mean, a woman who can bake a mean pan of cornbread, change a tire, sale shop and perform pole tricks all wrapped up in one loveable package? How could he resist? As much of a womanist as I consider myself to be, I pursue the dream girl prototype too. I just get a good workout while I’m doing it.

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