When I was 19, I went to a club for the first time.
As I attempted to not bust my ass in heels a size too big, I noticed two girls dressed in all-out neon with rhinestone embedded bras and black stiletto boots, their hair curled and adorned with flowers. They took turns performing on two platforms on the dance floor and were both exuding confidence.
In awe, I worked up the courage -– with the help of a very strong Long Island Iced Tea –- to introduce myself and ask for an audition.
There was no way I was passing up the chance to get paid to dance, and it's the one thing I’ve held a steady, devoted relationship to for the past 18 years.
Next thing I knew, I was climbing up on a platform and doing my best freestyle, trying not to have a nervous breakdown. To my surprise, the head of the go-go dancing company liked me, and I began working regularly. I’m now 22 and have danced at several venues in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. And while I literally look forward to going to work on the weekend, one thing continues to frustrate me: People think I’m a stripper.
I recently told my hairdresser that I was a go-go dancer and she replied by telling me that she would have totally stripped if she were my age but that she “didn’t have the body for it.” Before I could correct her, she was on to reminding me to “never go in the back with the guys” and to “try to stay away from all the drugs.”
Even people at Whisper, the club where I primarily work, have some misconceived notion of what a go-go dancer is. Guys will put money on my platform as if it’s going to get them a lap dance or something. Attention all weird dudes at the club: I get paid well enough that I don’t need your crumpled-up dollar bill.
I’m not trying to be condescending towards strippers. I’ve had friends who tested it out, experimenting with the idea of getting naked for money. But I also take pride in the fact that while strippers are ultimately hired to give guys boners, I was at least semi-hired for my talent.
For those of you still confused at what exactly the difference is, I’ve outlined the major differences so you too can make the distinction:
#1: Go-go dancers don’t give lap dances: I realize that not all strippers give lap dances, but a lot do, and it makes them more money than solely dancing could. I’m sure most go-go dancers deal with the occasional creepy guy requesting a private dance for some extra cash, but newsflash: it’s not part of our job, and we would probably get fired for doing so. So while that weird balding guy who keeps snapping pictures of me with his iPhone might think he’s going to get a one-on-one session, he’s sadly mistaken.
#2: Go-go dancers DON’T TAKE OFF THEIR CLOTHES: You would think this one distinction would make it very clear that I’m not a stripper, but apparently it’s just not convincing enough. Yes, I wear provocative, lingerie-esque costumes, but they remain on my body. I don’t deny the fact that it takes some level of sexuality to be a successful club dancer, but there’s a big difference between wearing a push-up bra to make my boobs go from an A to a C and taking that bra off and shoving my tits in some grandpa’s face.
#3: Go-go dancers have experience dancing: At least at the venue I work at, you need talent to be hired. Most of the girls are dance majors at major universities and could seriously impress you with their perfected choreography. My boss won’t hire you if you think your flat stomach and platinum hair matters more than the fact that you can’t hold a beat. While people go to strip clubs to watch girls getting naked, my fellow dancers could grab anyone’s attention with their dance moves, even if they were dressed in head-to-toe sweats.
#4: Go-go dancers are hired to get the crowd hyped: Seriously, that’s our job description. When the dance floor is completely empty, it’s our duty to dance our asses off and convince everyone idly standing at the bar to join in. Sure, strippers get people pretty excited, but not to dance.
While we try to persuade people to let their inhibitions go and rock out like assholes to Gangnam Style, strippers try to turn on guys enough that they are willing to recklessly open and empty their wallets.
#5 Go-go dancers don’t work at strip clubs: Seems pretty obvious, right? I’ve worked in casinos, nightclubs, concert venues and bars, and I’ve seen amazing DJ’s, celebrity performances and a whole lot of drunken assholes, but never at a strip club. In fact, I don’t even know what the inside of a strip club looks like, so please don’t accuse me of working at one.
Despite these blaring differences between go-go dancing and stripping, I’m sure I will encounter many more judging stares and snarky giggles as I try to explain my profession. But I guess it’s OK because no matter how confused my conservative cousins get when I tell them I’m just tired because I was working at the club all night, I still am enthralled by the fact that I get to wear pink neon wigs, furry boots, bubblegum bras and body glitter at work.
So unless I have some sort of wardrobe malfunction in the near future, I’ll state my case one last time: I’m a professional go-go dancer, not a stripper, and just because I dance for money, don’t assume I’m taking my clothes off.