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National Editorials & Columns

Dancing exotically

“We’re very excited by the prospect of having you as a client. Do you have any questions about us and what we do here?”

Staring down at me from behind a huge wooden desk sat a veteran literary agent and my potential new representation. I glanced from her to her teenage-looking assistant, who was bouncing on a yoga ball and jotting down notes. I subconsciously tugged at my pink headband and lace dress, recent purchases made in hopes of creating a youthful appearance for my meeting. By 30, you’re practically the Cryptkeeper in my industry. My ultra-adolescent outfit was a pathetic attempt to cover up my granny mothball stench.

“Well, I guess I’m curious whether you are going to give me any extracurricular assignments,” I said to the veteran agent.

“Of course. We will do our best to get you paid writing assignments.”

“No,” I said. The veteran agent noticed as I awkwardly pulled on my dress. “I mean more, like, uh, are you going to send me to classes for things outside of my writing ability?”

“I’m not following you,” said the veteran.

“I mean, are you going to send me to stripping classes?”

“Excuse me?”

A couple of years ago, my then agent was promoting a script I had written. The story had garnered some interest, and meetings were set up. But one thing was bothering my agent.

“Your story is sexy,” she said. “But you — oh, how do I say this — aren’t.”

“They’re meeting me because they like my script,” I said, “not because they want to sleep with me.”

“Oh, I know. But wanting to sleep with you couldn’t hurt, right?”

“Uh. I guess not,” I said.

“How do you feel about pole dancing?”

Strip-based exercise classes are a big trend in my town. I have no issue with women who take take control of their sexuality and their core muscles with some Sunday morning pole dancing. However, I made perfectly clear to my then agent it was utterly appalling to insist on a client’s taking such classes to enhance her sexual appeal in a pitch meeting. There was no way I would partake in that type of misogynistic, anti-feminist behavior!

A few weeks later, I was looking down at my baggy T-shirt and yoga pants as the 10 a.m. class let out. So much for standing my ground.

Women in their early 60s, wearing sequined corsets, came out of the classroom. They stopped to comment on the newest clothing being sold in the lobby before continuing on to the changing room.

The classroom was dark, with no windows and no mirrors. Our instructor sat in the center of our circle, yelling out self-affirming statements as we stretched. “Love your womanhood!” “Embrace your Virginia!” I thought about yelling back, “I will once you embrace wearing pants.” But I chickened out.

Our warm-up exercise consisted of performing the iconic slinky cat crawl. This required our using our arm and core muscles to lower our upper bodies, barely avoiding sweeping our breasts across the floor, and then pushing our bodies back up as we inched forward on all fours. I was excited to give it a try. I figured, “Hey, I’m here already. May as well make the most of it.”

That day, I gained immense respect for my exotic-dancing sisters. Stripping is hard work! I tried to crawl. I tried to slink. I lowered my torso in a suggestive way. But then, just as I was supposed to teasingly lift myself back up, I remembered something: I don’t have upper body strength. Bam! My face hit the mat.

The instructor yelled at me to relish my femininity. I tried again. Bam! Face and floor met.

After a few more face plants, I was relegated to the side to watch the other class members slink sexily across the mats. I went home with a bruised ego and an even more bruised nose.

So, I wasn’t ready to go through that again.

The veteran agent looked at me, mouth agape. “We would never send you to stripping class.”


“With us, you don’t even have to dress like a teenager.”

Aw, she noticed. I smiled. “Where do I sign?”

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