“I added another bill to the stack on the kitchen bench and sighed. ‘How am I going to be able to pay them all?’ I wondered.
My husband and I had separated almost a year earlier and I was still struggling to adjust to life as a single mom. I could only get three days a week work as an office assistant, yet I still had to come up with enough money to pay the rent on my new place, the bills and make sure my three kids were well fed. It was a real struggle on my income. I sat down and started to sort through the stack of bills to see which were more urgent. Coming across an invoice for pole dancing lessons, I smiled. I’d started taking them with a friend last year and really enjoyed it. The teacher had been impressed with my moves, too. But looking at the invoice for R1 000 a term, I knew there was no chance I’d be able to afford them again. ‘What a shame’, I thought, screwing up the invoice.
A few weeks later I was wandering through the supermarket with the kids when I felt a tap on the shoulder. I was surprised when I turned around and saw my pole dancing teacher, Marie. ‘We’ve missed you at class’, she said. ‘When are you coming back?’ I felt flattered and part of me wanted desperately to say ‘next week’.
But the kids needed new school shoes and if I didn’t pay my phone bill in the next week, our line was going to be cut off. ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t afford it’, I said, sighing. It was hard but I told Marie how my circumstances had changed and I simply couldn’t afford to come back to class. ‘Why don’t you come by the studio one day and have a chat?’ she said. ‘Sure’, I smiled. It was a strange invitation, in that Marie had only ever been my teacher and not a friend. Still, I was curious, so I visited the studio days later. ‘When you told me about your financial situation I wondered if you might like to start dancing professionally?’ Marie said.
‘Who, me?’ I stuttered. I was lost for words when Marie told me I could earn up to R1 500 a night dancing at a club on the other side of town. I’d never considered anything like that before. But the more she told me about it, the more I liked the idea. I could do a two-hour shift every weekend, while the kids were staying the night with their father and make an extra R1 500 a week.
That was almost half our rent. Suddenly I had visions of new furniture, clothes and the kids taking up dancing and swimming lessons. ‘I’ll give it a go’, I blurted out. Marie kindly gave me some free lessons over the next few weeks to get me up to speed while the kids were at school. Once I had the moves down pat, she organised a timeslot for me at the club. Luckily, it was more than a 40-minute drive from where I live and not the kind of place I imagined any of my friends would turn up. As I warmed up for my first performance, I was a nervous wreck. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine’, the other dancers told me. I was a bit slow when I took to the stage. There were about 50 people watching me. It was really daunting! But once I got into my rhythm, I actually started to enjoy it.
I was nowhere near as good as the three other girls who were on stage with me. Nevertheless, the men didn’t seem to mind. I even made R800 in tips alone! I have been a professional pole dancer for more than a year now. Nobody knows about it and I do feel a pang of guilt sometimes, when I drop the kids off at their father’s or lie to friends about what I’m doing on Saturday nights. But the kids are well provided for, my bills are paid and, sometimes, I even have some extra cash to treat myself to a new pair of shoes. I know being a pole dancing mom isn’t the norm. But it is good exercise and I figure it’s not harming anyone. I’ll just keep it as Mommy’s little secret!”
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