Written by Bexiita
I’m getting on a bit.
Earlier this year it was my 40th birthday. Sometimes, as author Jonathan Safran Foer wrote, I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living. Or to be more accurate, I can feel my body straining under the weight of all the pole moves I haven’t got round to trying yet. I think my pole to-do list is starting to exceed the length of time I actually have left on the planet.
I didn’t start pole until I was 33. While this is by no means ancient, let’s face it – it is on the upper end of the spring chicken scale.
It seems like everyone in pole is getting younger. Just a few weeks ago a discussion on children taking pole classes made international headlines. With that brings a new generation of fearless flippy gymnasts, and it’s easy to see why, even at the ripe old age of 25, some polers can start to feel past it.
Age is meaningless in my head. I don’t feel like I’m getting older. I feel the same as I did when I was 16 apart from the fact I don’t fancy Christian Slater any more. My body? Yeah it’s starting to feel a difference.
It takes longer to warm up. Gone are the days of turning up to class and launching straight into a handspring. But that can only be a good thing right? That sort of thing was probably ridiculously irresponsible anyway and led to all those niggling pains I had, but ignored cos I was being so badass. Much better now to have a good long warm up and stretch session, ideally in a toasty warm studio and possibly with a nice cup of tea.
While we are on the subject of injuries, I know if I hurt myself now it will take longer to recover. My days of being Wolverine are ebbing away. This means there are tricks I won’t do because I know they are not for me. Again, this creates a sense of responsible poling that extends to students I know have injuries or health issues.
I do not believe every trick is for everyone and it’s just a matter of pushing through the pain. I do not believe that pain is failure leaving the body. I think that sort of mentality is dangerous claptrap. Ageing makes you more responsible not only to your own body, but to those you teach too. I want my students to still be poling in 5, 10 or 15 years. I feel more aware of what the body can do and it’s limitations, and that health and body wellness is truly a gift to be treasured. As Isabella Rossellini says in the wonderfully philosophical Death Becomes Her, “This is life’s ultimate cruelty. It offers us a taste of youth and vitality, and then it makes us witness our own decay”. Or as more often said – youth is wasted on the young.
I have recently had to withdraw from a competition I love because I hurt myself doing the video heat. I know that training for the actual competition would be even more intense, and I can’t take the risk of injuring myself to the extent of being unable to teach, my source of income. Would this be different if I was younger? Am I at more risk of injury because I am older?
While on the subject of competing, I suppose the possibility of performing to Lana Del Rey’s Young And Beautiful is probably receding.
But while its undoubtedly a toll on the body, this getting older business, it’s definitely a liberating thing for the soul.
I can distinctly remember being “young”, whatever that means, and whenever older women (and shamefully by that I probably meant those over 30) said things like “I feel a lot more attractive now than I did when I was 20” I used to think it was a lie. When women said the confidence that came with age made them feel more comfortable with themselves, more attractive, more confident, I thought it was a lie they were telling themselves to make themselves feel better. I actually thought this. In Real Life. I’m so ashamed. If nothing else, getting older has been a wonderful thing because it stopped me thinking such obnoxious things and being such an arse.
Now I know not only it is true, but that it’s true to the power of a billion. Yes, I am happy to report to my whippersnapper friends who obsess over stretch marks on their perfect thighs and inject Botox into their non existent wrinkles, as you get older those things may get worse but you JUST DON’T CARE. Honestly.
I used to wear a skirt when I started teaching, so horrified was I at the sight of my own thighs and arse, Yet now there are probably more picture of my arse on the internet than there are conspiracy theories about Area 51. In fact the exposure of my arse could probably cover Area 51.
I laugh at those articles about what women shouldn’t wear after 30 or 40 or 50. One good thing about being older is wearing what you want and really not giving a toss. Don’t tell me I can’t wear a bikini after 30. I’ll wear a ballgown and stripper heels to the supermarket if I want and you can pick up all the f***s I don’t give in my wake.
You might think I look ridiculous in my sequinned Union Jack bikini but what business is that of anybody’s. I’ll listen to advice on what to wear from teenagers when they learn to pull their jeans up.
This is not to say I don’t have my own moments of vanity and self consciousness. I’m not for one moment saying I’m perfect. Instead, I mean as you get older you might look in the mirror and think urgh my face is literally starting to run down my body, but never mind. Look what my body has done. It has created new life, and brought those human beings up so who cares about a few stretch marks? It has borne the brunt of a million adventures and has the scars to show for it, from dents left from childhood accidents to surgery and biopsy scars that all tell a story to the remnants of unidentified drinking injuries that are hazy in detail but make great anecdotes. I even have a few dodgy tattoos that I still like even though they are faded and blurred and reveal a 90s penchant for Japanese calligraphy. (The tattoos were never meant to be seen by the way, how was I to know that 15 years later I’d have a job that required me to be permanent clad in hotpants and crop top?)
Plus being 40 is a brilliant excuse. If I look like crap, I can say “what did you expect? I’m twice your age!” If I look good everyone’s all “wow I hope I look as good as you at your age”. It’s a win win. What’s not to love?
I am a woman well lived and I think that’s a small price to pay for having to take an extra half an hour to warm up.