A man searching for a balanced life has many stories.
Originally posted at Vertical Fusion:
As a Boy, I was Bullied; as a Man, I Choose to Pole Dance
By Kenneth Kao.
I was drawn to pole dancing because it was absolutely inspiring. The strength, grace, and beauty of the discipline had something about it that mesmerized me. However, as much as I wanted to try it, I was equally terrified because it meant facing my deepest fears.
I went to a private Christian school growing up–meaning that parents sent troubled kids there as a last resort. I wasn’t a trouble child, myself. But as one of two Asian kids in the entire school, the tiniest student in my class, bullies were just a part of my every day.
Now, I’m a doctor, an author, an athlete and a husband. I’ve been a community leader and a counselor, even a musician. Everyone seems to respect me.
But no one knows me.
They don’t know “corner Ken,” who watches inside, hiding behind a smile. Ken, who judges because he’s afraid of being judged. Ken, who doesn’t become vulnerable because it’s easier being an authority than someone’s friend.
See, I’m emotionally disconnected. I don’t listen to music because I don’t feel music. Social dancing is the equivalent to spasming wildly and not being slugged for dry humping a random person. Even drinking is merely losing control, appearing to fit in while actually accomplishing nothing.
I can’t “go with the flow” outside logic and flowcharts. I don’t see beauty as much as intriguing elements.
Trusting your gut is asking to be wrong.
But pole has forced me to step out in the open and see things differently. My opinions are changing; my world is changing. In the short time I’ve been pole dancing, I know of three people who have “unfriended” me because of it. I have blocked several others because of words said. I’ve shared photos of what I consider to be great accomplishments, only to be met with judgments about my appearance and my body–from friends and strangers alike. It has hurt and angered me. Yet, no matter how it makes me feel, or rather, because of how it makes me feel, I’ll keep sharing. I asked for this.
Because I’m afraid of judgment, of rumor and gossip. I’m afraid of being bullied again.
I must face this. These fears have lingered in me for too long. Though I’ve learned to disguise it very well, and though I’m a growing expert at appearing confident, comfortable, and social–beneath my disguise lies my deepest fear and shame…
I am most afraid of girls, because girls are evil. Of all the bullying I faced as a child, it wasn’t being chased or being made fun of or getting into fights that scarred me most. It was one, emotional moment:
I was maybe 9-years-old, and I fell for this girl, Andrea, who wore pink-rimmed glasses, who let me borrow her pencils, and who actually smiled at me when no one else (but the teacher) did.
At a school play rehearsal during the “We Like Sheep” song, while holding hands through black socks that went all the way up to our armpits, I summoned my courage, leaned over, and told her that I liked her.
She smiled at me, like she always did.
Except… Somehow, after school, all the girls knew about it. They, Andrea included, chased me around the school, laughing and teasing me until I slipped in some snow outside the school entrance. They surrounded me and pelted me with snowballs until I was blabbering denials–No, I hadn’t said I liked Andrea!—-until I wished I hadn’t said it, that I hadn’t even felt it. Until they became bored and left me there, crumpled and humiliated and crying in the snow.
Of all my memories of being bullied, pranked, and publicly mocked–that moment sticks with me most. I’d really cared about Andrea.
Keeping women at distance is my specialty to the point of being an unconquerable habit, and not associating with them has clearly left me emotionally stunted. My wife, the exception, is not the typical girl at all, and she is every reason why I’ve come as far as I have. But I still see my lost development clearly through the years–in my writing… How do you write about girls if you’ve spent your life escaping them?
So, with my wife’s permission–nay, her encouragement–I’ve taken one of my greatest deterrents (girls) and something immensely cool (pole), to create the most scary-awesome concoction of my life.
It’s become one of the best decisions of my life.
Besides how freaking incredible pole dancing is, I am learning so much about women. Pole dancing has helped me better understand women because all women deal with judgment daily: Their appearance. Their self-confidence. Their fears are put before the world every time they walk outside.
And by me pole dancing, instead of judging, I have asked the world to judge me.
I’ve recently overcome my first public performance only six months into pole dancing. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever done. I stood, pretty much in underwear-level cover before an entire audience, and then I danced. I invited strangers to decide what they thought of me. I didn’t want my friends there; I didn’t want lots of support because–I wanted to face the fear raw. By performing, I stripped away my conservative upbringing, made vulnerable my reputation, and danced for myself.
–I faced those girls throwing snowballs at me while I huddled against the wall and denied everything.
But I want to keep growing. I want to keep understanding. I’m not even close to done.
This is the video of my first performance. I’m putting it out there. I’m making it public. I’m re-posting this and the video on blogs, on Facebook, on YouTube. And then I’m going to wait.
To be judged, and to be okay with it.