Monday, December 24, 2012


"Joy is not in 'things' - it is in us."

That is the message inside a Christmas card that we are giving away this year.  The cute little message comes with a picture illustrated my talented boyfriend which features a dog wear antlers too large with a comically sad look on his face.  From the cover you would expect some kind of funny message, instead the sentence is simple.  I have rolling this sentence over and over in my head this Christmas Eve as I consider this last year of my journey.

Can I call it a journey if I rode an emotional roller coaster and nearly abandoned pole?  Yes.  I have spent many months thinking, not moving, sitting in silence *almost silence, since February we've shared our home with a mouthy Savannah Cat* reevaluating myself and my life's purpose.  In pole dancing we find ourselves hitting plateaus, unable to conquer the next move, the next thing, the next step...and if pole dancing has taught me anything it's that sometimes you need to shelf things for a minute and create a plan to get past the plateau.

How do you get past life's plateaus, life's sometimes dreariness, life's sometimes negative rocks being thrown at you one after another?  How do you find joy in a seemingly vacant alley of sadness?  I think most of us get pretty sucked in and start catering to sadness, start telling the negativity that it's right.  I think we let ourselves fall into self sabotaging cycles.  For the record, I am a fan of letting yourself sabotage your own plans once in a while.  If we don't cry, if we don't ask questions, if we don't sit silently - we never grow.  Growth generally comes after a difficult period.  Look at the pole.  Only after several days, months or years of training, pushing and driving ourselves nuts do we find some of those elusive and impressive tricks.  We often let our fear, lack of spotters, lack of training, lack of background - whatever it is - keep us from achieving what we are capable of - because not doing something about it is sometimes easier.  Then comes that rapture of finally tasting that elusive move and then comes JOY!  Pure, unadulterated JOY!    Think about it.  If you just walked up to the pole and did a fonji without effort - would you have enjoyed the fonji as much?  Then it occurs to me the joy we feel in those moments of sweet success is the joy of overcoming failure, fear and time.  The move (thing) is great but the joy came from our struggle.

I speak of joy today because this is the season we are supposed to feel joyous yet many of us are working hard to create joy for others.  Creating joy is stressful, it's a struggle.  As many parents know, it can be hard to keep the kids out of the cookies and presents *or in my case the cat out of the tree.*  We're shopping and running around and all of this joy creates hardship, people taking your parking spot at the store when you clearly had your turn signal on to take it, long lines, antsy customers.  This joyous time of year also sheds light on those not as fortunate.  I also think of the amazing people who give up their joyous holiday to serve us - police officers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, military men and women, gas station attendants, and the list goes on and on.

I know many of us at this moment ARE feeling joy, that's why it's good to consider where joy comes from and be thankful for all of our own struggles and the struggles of other.

Joy is truly within each of us and I hope this Holiday season all of you have been able to take a moment and experience the sheer joy of existence, have taken a moment to be thankful to our friends, loved ones, those who serve us and even those who perhaps we don't entirely like.  I hope we can all take our joy and share it with one another.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Class It Up!

Today's thought...What DOES a pole dancer look like?

"You don't look like a pole dancer."  You know, that's a loaded statement.  Years ago I was telling someone at my local haunt JJ's - if you're friends with me on Facebook you'll know of where I speak since it's the ONLY place I go - that I was a pole dance instructor.  His reply was just that I didn't look like someone who would pole dance.  Recently, someone said this about my little potato - that she didn't look like a pole dancer.  I then thought to myself - well, that's quite offensive.  What does a pole dancer look like?  What image comes to mind when I say the word pole immediately followed by the word dancer?  How does one look like a pole dancer?

In the case of the gentleman (using the term loosely) who thought I didn't look like a pole dancer - that was probably a compliment.  I think that men think pole dancers have double D breasts, wear 8 inch heels, teeny bikini's, smell like cupcakes with pink, supple, pouty lips.  Ofcourse he looked at all 5'5, 120 pounds of A cup me and thought that I didn't fit the stereotype.  I am pretty sure he was complimenting me.  Interestingly enough over time since he's a regular drunk he's built quite a respect for pole dancers, learned a few things he didn't know about women, women's sensuality and the pole.

Now, on to my little potato - this is a name of endearment, by the way, she's really not a potato.  The person who questioned MLP's look of a pole dancer was a woman.  When women say things like this there is a loaded paragraph of unspoken judgments being made.  The woman met MLP and me at the same time.  I showed her videos of MLP and of myself.  You know what is so amazing about my MLP?  Her ability to flow, dance, spin, GRIND and be especially sexy.  She oozes femininity.  But, those things seemed to be lost on the woman who couldn't wrap her head around MLP being a pole dancer.  In fact, MLP is often dismissed and ignored when she's with me, which makes me sad, because MLP  is my rock, my heart and my soul, she's the one who lifts ME up, gives me the courage to dance with my heart in front of crowds of people, believes in me when I don't, believes in my messages when I am too scared to share them.  MLP is the one who has sat tirelessly on the couch eating smart pop watching me have emotional break downs whilst attempting to channel that energy into a story, into a dance that I have to tell.  MLP is the one who taught me the Janeiro, helped me clean up my lines, taught me to be emotionally raw with my movement.  Here we are, two women different ages, different styles, differing in appearance and SHE'S the one who "doesn't look like a pole dancer?"  Um, so what are you saying I look like?  What are you saying?

I've been giving a lot of thought to what a pole dancer is, what they look like and what impression I would like to give those who know nothing about pole.  You see, as pole grows, I think the image of, specifically pole performers (not exotic dancers), is and will continue to change.  A long time ago if you said you were a pole dancer the "stripper" image came to mind, while that is one type of pole dancer, it's no longer the all encompassing world view of pole dancers.  As competitions gain more notoriety  as we push forward in Olympic goals and studios like S Factor ride the PR media wave - the world is starting to realize that pole dancing is an art and a sport.  Pole dancing is less associated with it's roots (blog for another time) and becoming known as a trendy way to get fit, a form of aerial arts and gymnastics.  As we challenge the world's view of the pole and change their perspective they are beginning to have different images and associations in their head.

The new and improved pole dancer image includes monokini's, ultra thin and lithe dancers, long legs, athletic builds...and ultimately what we know as "tricksters."  The upper echelon pole dancing athlete will soon enough become the mainstream image associated with non nude pole performing.  What does this mean?  I guess it means to look like a pole dancer you gotta be ripped.  In a nutshell.  As you are reading this, you might be thinking that this ripped image of a girl in modest sports apparel performing feats of defying gravity is a positive thing, and you know, for the most part it probably is.

So, what's the problem?  Maybe we are telling women that pole is all about looking and performing like a gymnast instead of dancing, learning and creating a better and healthier inside and out.  What if that woman thought MLP didn't look like a pole dancer because she's not 20, she's tall, she has curves and breasts, so she doesn't look like gymnast or a dancer but a woman.  It is my opinion that the image of a ripped, trained dancer is as negative as the image of a stripper.  The most amazing thing about the pole movement is that it is for everyone.  I think about the men I know who pole dance, do they not "look like pole dancers" because they are men?

Keep in mind that my agenda here isn't to talk about what people look like or make judgments in fact it's the opposite.  I want to open up dialogue about the images we have and the images the world may have, I want to show ourselves as well as the rest of the world that every single PERSON, man or woman, is beautiful!  I want to show that pole dancing is more than tricks and heels, it's the art of self expression, it's a journey for many PEOPLE that takes them down a spiritually, mentally and physically healthier path to a better them.  That the better person at the end of that path isn't better because they lost a few pounds or learned a few hard tricks but the better person is better because they can share themselves in an artistic way with others, or  maybe grind out a bad day in their living room, or maybe just find an increase in overall happiness and wellness.

This brings me to my title "Class It Up."  One of the most powerful things is being in a class full of pole dancers.  Did you know on your first day of class - you are now a pole dancer?  Even if you are a pole dancer for 20 minutes, you are one, you are surrounded by pole dancers.  What do they look like?  Does it matter?  I've had the very rare encounter with a new pole dancer who was judgmental of fellow students or her instructor, though they exist and that's what stirred this blog.  Taking a class full of people for the first time makes you realize so many things...It makes you see yourself, see others, often be stunned by others, it makes you appreciate fear and you're allowed and even have to share that fear with your classmates.  Everyone is self conscious, you learn that.  The skinny girl with red lipstick to the older lady in the back - they are ALL scared and vulnerable just like you.  The best part is, they want to share it with you, they need to know you feel the same.  You begin to dispel any preconceived notions you had about pole dancing, perhaps it easier, perhaps it harder, perhaps you thought you would do better or maybe you did better than you thought you would, you start to lose yourself in the music and the energy flowing around the room.  Experiencing this with other women is in my opinion what truth feels like if truth were an emotion or an energy.  When you are surrounded by others you begin to realize just how unforgiving pole dancing can be, how you NEED kinship to keep going.  You begin to realize that you're body is uniquely individual, that what your body craves and loves, another body may despise and find horribly awkward.  You will probably not respect the things you can do and watch others and wish to do what they do, but know there is someone watching you and wishing they could be as beautiful as you are.  All things are so equal in so many blissful ways.

I realize not everyone can afford to or is even geographically able to join in this kumbiyah of fabulous and glorious energy sharing but that doesn't mean you can't HAVE it.  Even if you are self teaching, join a WWW.STUDIOVEENA.COM! Find friends on facebook.  Friend Youtubers.  Put yourself in a place where you can somehow reach out and be heard and someplace that you can see and appreciate others...share that energy.  Right now, SV is the place I tell EVERYONE to go because it's a worldwide pole class 24/7.  Just go, spend 15 minutes reading, 15 minutes watching.  Do you know what you will see?  PEOPLE.  People from all walks of life, all over the world, sharing their successes, failures, hopes, dreams, good times, bad times and personal lives in a single place.  No, this isn't an SV advertisement, it's my honest heartfelt opinion.  SV  is a safe 24/7 pole dancing school where you can see real dancers working it out.  I grew up pole dancer in a world of video clips and perfection, no one shared their misfortunes, no one was humble, no one shared the reality of pole which lead me to believe that my lack of strength and inability to be graceful was just ME.  I wish I had SV to grow up on because I would have learned that many feel as I do, it's journey for everyone and that I am not alone.

Look around, we are surrounded by pole dancers!  What do they look like?  They look like brilliant, amazing, strong,kind, loving people of all glorious shapes, heights, sizes, colors...pole dancers are you and me, we are a rainbow of pole dancers.

And for those who I know go darkly into themselves trying to live up to one image or another of what a pole dancer should look like, STOP!  A pole dancer looks like you and for what it's worth I think you're beautiful.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Airy Fairy Zen & The Art of Pleasing My Cat

I think it's fairly common knowledge I have a fairly emotionally codependent and perhaps abusive relationship with my cat.  See, my cat, unlike other cats - because he's sooo different, is an active ADD cat that can't still for 2 seconds, unless ofcourse you lay down and throw a blanket over your legs and create a safe kitty hammock with your legs - then he's a cuddle machine.  My cat is special in that he's extremely needy but also aloof.  Apparently he does not understand that if he doesn't want to be petted every moment of the day he shouldn't have been born with the softest fur on the planet - his fault not mine.  My kitty talks incessantly, he needs to be heard, he's loud, he's boisterous, he's an in your face kind of kitty.  Like, right now - he's contemplating jumping up and meowing my face, I can feel it, he will then rub his long body under my chin, turn and sit on my computer and probably turn it off!  I'll pet him, he'll close his eyes, enjoy for about 2 seconds then get up, jump down and sit at my feet and meow at the top of his lungs.  If he doesn't get my attention he will jump on the back of my chair and start tapping me on the shoulder with his paw, if that doesn't work he will use both legs to balance carefully on my shoulders and meow in my ear.  If that doesn't work he will then start either a) eating plants - which are slightly toxic to him or b) scratch at the cabinets until I can't take it anymore.  What does he want?  To be played with and entertained.

My cat is a fairly emotional cat.  While he may run off when he's tired of the lovin's he always, always comes back for attention.  He's not very zen.  He's antsy, anxious, he's socially awkward - try ringing my doorbell - he heads for the hills!  I stepped on his very long tail once trying to rescue him from the garage and he was angry with me for a full 6 days.  He'd run when I tried to pet him, he didn't talk to me, he slept A LOT because without entertainment I.E. ME he gets bored.  I was a little hurt by his actions, after all I hadn't meant to step on his tail, he was trying to run under the barbecue and I needed to save him from eating what was probably days old drippings seasoned with bacteria!  SIX full days later, I'm laying in bed with my eyes close and feel the bed move, feel his giant paws at my feet making a spot for himself, he curls up into a surprisingly small ball and there it was FORGIVENESS.  I sat up, gave his head and chin a little rubbing, he purred and gave my squinty kitty eyes and the world was right again.  Do you see what I mean when I say this relationship is a little weird?  Just now he hopped up on Rob for a few seconds, looked at me, meowed and was clearly trying to upset me by cuddling with another...he jumped down and ran right over to me when I didn't budge.  Emotional abuse, I tell you!  I feel for Rob who loves our cat as much as I do who only gets cuddles when it suits Jengo to make me jealous.

I'm not a crazy cat lady!  Well, not entirely.  There are so many things about this that speak to me about pole and have created a rather pole zen inside of me.  In my last blog, I talked about seeing ME.  Finding out who I am is the first step in finding out who OTHERS are.  My cat hasn't quite figured out who I am yet, however because I know, I can see him for every wonderful and annoying thing he is.

It's so easy to see human nature in our animals because everything is so basic, I'm sure some feel the same about their young children but since I only have a cat it's my only point of reference.  Recently I was spending some time with some friends, I left that situation feeling angry and slighted.  I felt shown up, hurt, I felt like I wasn't good enough because each thing I did it seemed someone else could do it better, harder, bendier, faster, etc.  I was made to feel less than.  I was steaming by the time I left, not to mention I was only there as a favor to a very good friend.  I called my closest confidants, cried and vented about how some people have a lack of ability to display kindness, empathy or be a real friend.  Then I realized something...the friend who was making me feel bad, feels bad.  What if like my cat she is just really ADD and needs attention.  What is she feeling?  Was she intentionally trying to hurt my feelings?  No.  I don't believe she was nor would.  Would she be equally as hurt as I was when I recount to her what happened?  Probably.  Deep inside is there a heart that is actually good and giving?  Yes.  Does my cat jump around, meow and do all he can for attention?  Yes.  Do I love him still?  Yes.  Does it annoy me sometimes?  Yes.  Do I walk away from encounters feeling like a human cat toy (in both situations)?  YES!  Am I strong enough to understand that sometimes you DO have to take a backseat to others who need accolades and love more than I do? YES.

Then comes the 6 day fight I had with my cat about stepping on his tail.  I have over the last year had some tumultuous disagreements with others for one reason or another.  Luckily, over the months many of the issues has been solved because I learned to listen and even greater understanding of empathy.  There was one thing though, one thing a few years ago where I felt a friend had stepped on my tail - nearly literally.  I was angry.  So angry we didn't speak for over two years.  I dreamed about this friend, I missed her.  I felt fraudulent acting as an ambassador for Peace & Pole when I had not made up with someone.  THEN, I got to spend time with someone who I watched anger eat them up inside.  I saw someone so consumed with hatred that I could actually FEEL the hair on my arms stand up.  It felt awful.  I think that was the moment I realized it was time to ask for forgiveness from the one who "stepped on my tail, in my eyes."  I needed to seek out forgiveness because even though I may have felt betrayed at one point, 2 years of not talking to her, not including her, being angry with her over something so small was eating ME up inside.  So, like Jengo I offered a cuddle (well, alcohol) and we talked and we're working on rebuilding the friendship we once both cherished.

As I walk through pole lately, I'm left remembering that we all come from someplace, in order to be seen, I need to see OTHERS, their place and their journey.  I am reminded that this is a largely female based community and industry and we are emotional!  We have feelings.  They are called FEELings because they FEEL, they aren't RATIONALINGS because sometimes it's not about what's rational or facts.  While facts and truth reign supreme, feelings must also be honored whether they are right or wrong.

One more thought before I go to torture my cat with pettings.  When everything is quiet and I've got that blanket thrown over my legs, Jengo carefully makes his way to his kitty hammock, lies down, can close his eyes, spend time with me in an unselfish way and be ok.  As I write this I am beginning to realize why that safety is so important and must be protected.  I can just BE in an unselfish way with those I love who have aided me creating my safe place.  I hope that all dancers have a safe place with safe friends that they can love unselfishly and where they can just be SAFE.  Whether it's your pole room, studio, a friends house, a forum - I am hoping all of you have a safe place to go with safe people who love you.  It's really hard to expose your heart without love.  May the love you give be also the love you receive.

On that note - I'm going to play with my cat and even if he bites me, I'm going to forgive him because I know where he's coming from.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can You See Me?

It's been ages since I wrote anything, even something simple.  I was going through a total creative block that was keeping me trapped in my head with my own thoughts that traveled so rampantly to and fro I could not grasp a single concept.

Since February of this year I started falling deep within myself, submerged with my own angst, sadness and questions about what I was doing, why I was doing it and who I was doing it for.  While drowning in myself, life decided it would not stay on hold and kept throwing curve balls, just one after another.  I watched myself recede and for the first time in my life, I let myself fade away into the darkness.  I chose not to fight it no matter what the consequences would be because I had never given into it before, perhaps that's what I needed.  I evaporated.  It was nice.  It made me feel safe.  How?  How can evaporating into your own sadness feel safe?  Because, the only way to truly understand the depth of the pain I was feeling was to go inside of it and FEEL it, be it, allow it.

I stopped teaching for the most part, I stopped dancing, I stopped performing, I stopped filming or adding much the community.  I started questioning the community.  I started seeing things that didn't add up, that didn't feel empowering within us.  I saw diversion and things that quite frankly spoke to me as being the exact opposite of empowering and uniting.  I cannot even put a finger on a singular incident that made me feel that way, I think it was an overall look at everything from local communities to the grand scale world view of pole  and across the board I began to wonder if we were over empowering people and thus somehow promoting this bad behaviour.  This thought left a really bad taste in my mouth as you can imagine.

Along this journey of searching within myself and looking at the larger picture, I began to feel fraudulent.  I began to feel invisible behind this woman named Charley.  This woman I created over 5 years ago as a place to go where I could pole, be accepted and have some anonymity.  She was never supposed to become a real girl, she was never supposed to be anything but a name on a screen.  Then the community grew and so did she.  She became the person I could hide behind and do things I never thought possible like perform a pole dance in public, teach a sexy class, BE sexy, wear stripper shoes, produce shows for every day women, give them a voice...she became the person I could never be.  She was like a winter coat and I put her on every time I left the house.  Charley, oh how comfortable Charley felt!  She is everything I want to be, although she could stand to be a little stronger and more aggressive, however inspite of those flaws, she's given me the world and let's face it, mousey little Crystal was her backbone - so she didn't have much to work with.  The thing is, this isn't Charley's journey, it's Crystal's.  Crystal wasn't able to move forward because she was letting Charley do it.  Charley was safe and loved, 2 things Crystal had not had much success in finding.  Crystal easily rolled and let Charley do the talking because for the first time in her life Crystal felt a real sense of acceptance, so what if she had to let Charley be the one to get it.

There became times that Charley and Crystal intertwined their beings, those incidents became more and more frequent.  At one point in time my facebook name was "Charley Pole."  I remember the day I married myself to my "Charley."  I sat their looking at facebook and it said "Charley Pole likes this."  Whose last name is Pole?  I ask you?  Then I decided that I would no longer be defined by the pole that I wanted to define IT.  I suppose the marriage also came to be because there were those who called "Charley" Crystal and I thought to myself - you don't know her, please don't call me that.  Some people who claimed to know "ME" but truly didn't even understand the tip of the iceberg.  I realized then that Crystal was being suffocated by Charley because she felt safe and Charley was just another wall to hide behind.  By marrying the 2 women to become one I was able to share some of the ridiculousness that is Crystal, the raw vulnerable girl who was picked on, never pretty enough, who had - at best a - tumultuous relationship with her mother, adores her father, is a crazy cat lady, has always been in love with the same man since she was 20, the girl who studied and did well in school, read books, the girl who cried once when her father made her look in the mirror and see herself...THAT girl.  When I became "Charley Crystal" the world seemed a little more right to me, though scary because there was so much less hiding.

Then came a day where Charley was no longer safe.  She was demonized into a bullying villain.  The safe place I built was no longer safe and that's why I receded.  If I couldn't be safe as Charley - where could I be safe?  Where could I go and be accepted and loved?  Why was Charley suddenly so misunderstood?  Was it because she and Crystal were merging?  Was it because I finally began to truly have a sense of self appreciation?  The moment things got bad was the moment I stopped giving, no matter who I was at that time.  The moment I could no longer GIVE FREELY and needed to think about myself was the moment it all fell apart.  It was interesting because during this time Crystal wanted to defend and hold Charley - tell her it was all okay - but how can you do that when you are the same person?  I wanted to thank Charley for everything that she had given me!  She was the reason I had been able to do so many things!  I think that's when Crystal actually grew a set and decided it was time for HER to protect Charley and honor the journey that Charley put her on...Crystal started showing up to the party a hell of a lot more.

So you're reading this and thinking, wow, schizophrenia, anyone?  No. I realize these 2 names are simply 2 parts of a single person who needed each identity to find a single person.  There is something so safe and freeing about having an alter ego, I, to this day believe in creating that safe persona to be and do all the things your heart desires.  At a certain point, at least for me, I needed to marry them in order to find the love and acceptance I so desired.  I needed to see that a persona is not a impenetrable wall of safety - eventually heart ache and pain will find that persona and devour it.  I also had to realize that this creature Charley growing within me, the creature that ate me up, was me the whole time.  It wasn't because Charley was a pole dancer, in fact pole had little do with it outside of serving as a vehicle for self growth, it was because Charley was a better vision of me and I was able to rise up and meet her, because of her.

Last month I did something I have never done before, I merged my identities into one story and shared with the world - okay a few hundred people, still felt like the world - the story of 2 women growing within one body and at the end of that story both personas want the same thing and infact one persona was CREATED to find it - self love, self worth, self acceptance inspite of my many imperfections, just at the end of the day being good would simply be enough.  And it was.

Some have asked if I was going to put Charley away.  My answer - NEVER.  She's still the part of me that makes me feel more confident, can walk into a room and take charge, organize an event, dance on a stage - I think the difference now is that Crystal isn't being swallowed up by this singular character so perhaps Charley is the dancer and Crystal is the woman.  Someone very special to me once wrote in my bio "Crystal, affectionately known as Charley."

So, my name is Crystal, I hope that I am affectionately known as Charley, that my self given nickname will continue to coexist, and that I will be seen.