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At one point in my life, I managed to work at two of the most disparate professions possible at the very same time: stripper and librarian.
After I entered grad school as an out-of-state student at one of the top programs in the country for library science, I quickly realized I was in far over my head financially. I hadn't really bothered to stop and consider whether I could ultimately afford spending so much money for an expensive degree that ultimately didn't pay very well, especially when I intended to work in the world of public libraries.
There were much cheaper ways to get a library degree, but I had failed to investigate those and had operated under the assumption that a degree with a fancy school's name would help me when I graduated and began seeking employment (spoiler: It didn't).
I knew I would end up graduating with $80,000 worth of debt after my two years in the program. I kept feeling like a fool for entering it and not considering the long-term financial consequences of my decision. I felt stuck and began to sink into a feeling of helpless depression. Then I further started to feel even more pathetic for feeling so depressed about a decision I had made myself.
During my first year in the program, I had thrown around the idea of taking up stripping to address some of my insurmountable debt. Any time I tried discussing this idea with my friends though, they always dismissed it as unrealistic and ridiculous. However, I knew I had no problem getting naked in front of people and if I drank enough alcohol, I could handle flirting with strange men all night as well.
It was more of the stigma of having been a stripper that made me feel uncertain, along with the fear that people would find out, somehow leading to everyone in my profession knowing and me never getting a job in libraries.
By the beginning of the second year in my program, I had totaled my car and made some serious mistakes with my credit that had ultimately affected my ability to get as many loans for living expenses as I had the previous year. I was in an even worse place financially and I was getting very sick of listening to myself whine.
I was also tired of the incessant over-intellectualizing that had been going on in my head about the whole stripping idea. So I finally picked a night, packed a bag full of stuff Internet strippers said I would need, and showed up at a club about 50 minutes from my apartment.
My audition entailed getting on the stage with all the other girls who were working the night shift for a "finale," so it was a relatively low pressure way to get started, which I appreciated. The DJ then informed me that I could just assume I was hired because "You're not fat" and the manager had not shown up to work yet.
After that I sat at a table and just watched the stage, because I felt way too shy to go up to people and try to talk to them. I got lucky my first night and had some nice well-behaved guys who came to me first, but I would quickly learn it didn't always work that way.
I had to learn to hustle, which meant I had to figure out how to go up to men and get them to buy dances from me as well as navigate all of their BS. As an introvert, this type of interaction wasn't particularly natural for me, but after I began starting each night with a half pint of Jagermeister, it became considerably easier.
I discovered that it was ridiculously common for customers to ask you out and solicit you for prostitution, which I had naively assumed were obvious taboos in a strip club. You had to find a way to keep these kinds of entreaties at bay, while also acting as though it wasn't completely impossible that they still might happen in the future, especially if you wanted to keep those customers buying dances.
I was also working part time behind the Reference desk at a public library and on the weekends I would often just go straight to the strip club after my library shifts. In the beginning, it was just plain weird to go through this type of transition over and over. I found myself proceeding with extreme caution in the library world. It was as though I was afraid the stripper side of me might come out at any moment if I wasn't careful.
For a while I was unnecessarily worried that I would accidentally giggle flirtatiously or strut too provocatively and give myself away in front of the other library professionals I worked and went to school with. Essentially, I was afraid that since I had figured out how to turn stripper me on, I wouldn't be able to control her and she would come out when I least expected.
One of the best parts about stripping was the flexible schedule it afforded. I could come in and work whenever I wanted. If I had a week with a bunch of things due for school, I might only come in and work one or two nights and then work four nights the next week.
It was also great for my library's schedule which gave me varying and different days to work almost every week. I never would have been able to schedule a normal second job around both the library I worked at and school, and I needed that library job in order to get the requisite experience for future full-time library employment.
When I graduated from my program, I got a nominal promotion to "librarian" at my library and began working even more nights in the strip club. I was getting better at stripping; I had learned how to deal with all of the different club personalities, had cultivated some dedicated regulars, was having more and more high rolling nights, and had found my niche with some of the fetish guys who come into strip clubs.
I had figured out how to navigate both worlds and had managed not to experience any overlap whatsoever (although in the beginning I had been convinced someone would find me out at every turn).
One day I finally did have a customer come in who I recognized from coming into the library and asking for an Al Franken book. At first I just tried averting my eyes from him whenever I walked past, but when I got on stage I kept sneaking a peak to see if he was looking at me because I was so sure me must know.
However, he was busy talking to his friends, so I began to consider that I might just be off the hook.
The club I worked at was not very large, though, and eventually one his friends called me over. I hesitated for a moment, but my curiosity about the success of secret identity got the best of me and I eventually began chatting with the customer I recognized, once his friend had moved on to another girl.
We ended up getting into a political discussion and I was completely astonished that I seemed to be getting away with being both someone's librarian and then later their stripper. After I gave him some dances, I couldn't stop myself and ended up asking him "You know we've met before right?"
He just gave me a blank look.
I ended up stripping for a little over a year until I finally got burnt out, and decided to really buckle down to search for full-time library jobs. During that time I had worked at multiple clubs, attended a hustling seminar in Vegas and began to seriously consider high-end escort work.
I also finally agreed to go on a date with a customer, which was something I had sworn I would never do. He was a college professor who had naively been attempting to use PUA techniques on me. I ended up calling him out on it and he rightfully came clean. Somehow we got past that as he continued to come in and visit me, and I eventually decided to go out with him.
This professor is now my husband and very few people actually know how we met. That is because I successfully continued to work in the library profession without my past coming back to haunt me. It is now over seven years later and no one who knows me would guess in a million years that I used to be a stripper. I have moved up to become a department head, mentor other librarians and speak at conferences. I have completely gotten away with it.
You might be able to read more of my story in my book "Stripper Librarian: A Memoir," if I decide I'm gutsy enough to publish it and possibly ruin my career.