I wasn’t asking for much. I just wanted someone who was unique in the same ways that I was. Or at least complementary.
THE SLIPPERY SLOPE TO STRIPPING
Like more bad things than I’d care to admit, it all started with the Internet. Specifically: Craigslist.
My dad -- appropriately a software developer with a Southern Christian upbringing -- had a theory that the Internet was actually the Beast in Revelations . Beyond his vague crackpot theories regarding evil, he also had some solid parental advice that most upright citizens would probably agree with: “Nothing good ever happens past 2 AM.”
If I ever have children, I will probably warn them that nothing good ever happens when you turn to the Internet in moments of desperation.
It’s easy to knock conservative figurehead types, but maybe those guys are somewhat enlightened when it comes to erecting barriers between yourself and all the Shit You Definitely Won’t Do. Whether it comes from a legitimate place of moral strength or a fear of shady shit surfacing, the fabled slippery slope is very real my friends, and I’m here to tell my version of this universal tale.
I almost walked out within 10 seconds of walking in.
During our first meeting at the club, the owner fed a very shiny, terrified, trembling version of me beer after beer until I finally agreed to an audition. I got up there with a hula hoop, did the routine that I had been getting paid to perform at raves in front of a room of confused dudes, and was instructed to come back the following Tuesday for my first shift. I was in.
At this point, I just thought I was doing the same thing that I had been doing for the last year in the same clothes that I would have worn to a public beach but for way more money. I would come to learn that this job is a total deathtrap for voyeurs, chronically curious girls, and writer types.
I should have been wary; anything that is that hard and simultaneously that easy is bound to be devastatingly addictive.
“So, what do you wanna go by?” the manager asked me on my first night.
“Uhhmm, uhhhrr,” I stuttered. I thought of who I wanted to be, what kind of girl I would transform into after I walked through the door. Chloe Sevigny in "Party Monster" came to mind. Yes! Pigtails, lollipop in mouth, sexy but innocent vibes. What was her name again? Gitzy? Glitzy?
“Glitzy!” I announced, proudly. Manager looked at me like I had grown a penis on my forehead.
“Most girls pick, y’know,” He paused, searching for a way to state the obvious. “Normal girl names. Candy, Jenny, Lily, Mercedes.” I zoned out, trying to comprehend the difference. None of those names sounded very normal to me.
A week later, the manager held an intervention. A cluster of concerned strippers brainstormed a new identity for me. These fairy godmother-like figures christened me with yet another a cheesy name ending in the letter "y," and instantly my job became five times easier.
Unlike most newbie dancers, I did not improve for a freakishly long time.
About a month into my fledgling stripper career, the same owner that hired me paid me a visit to see how I was doing. After my atrocious set he took me aside, poured me my usual (vodka and Redbull -- the official sponsor of 21-year-old girls across the nation) and, in a measured tone, shared with me the universal secrets to success as a stripper.
A Very Serious look came over me and I listened intently while scanning the stage. As I watched the hyperconfident 30-year-old with a bad C-section scar and Tigger tramp-stamp tattoo magically extract dollar bills from the ether -- I had to ask myself: Why are they throwing money at this ho instead of my nouveau jail-bait ass?
“It’s all mind control,” he said. “It’s got nothing to do with how good you look or dance. Just own it and look them in the eye.”
Petrifying shyness and a lifelong mildly Aspergic symptom of not being able to maintain eye contact canceled out any kind of points my lack of stretch marks had scored. I wondered if I should just quit now, but given my dire situation even $100 a night of predominantly sympathy tips was life changing. The owner sensed my hopelessness.
“Hey,” he said, cueing the bartender to refill my glass, “You’re a smart girl, you can do this. Once you master the mind control, you can do anything, inside or outside the club.”
“Maybe this is exactly what I need,” I thought to myself as I retreated to the sanctuary of the dressing room. I remembered all the things that I had missed out on in life simply because I was too afraid to ask or too afraid to stick up for myself.
My caste status in high school (lunchtime darkroom-dweller) had stuck with me internally, and despite developing into a conventionally attractive girl, it was evident in how I carried myself that confidence was still in short supply.
Of course, it was fun to fantasize about making a grand a night and embodying the languid sex appeal that the pros had, but at this time my main focus was squarely on making it through my shift and avoiding eviction.
ZEN AND THE ART OF GETTING YOUR TITS OUT
Even anxiety-ridden perfectionists such as myself power through given enough time. It’s kind of like Bikram yoga -- you submit yourself to the same ritual torture over and over and learn how to tune out the mental drama in between.
For this reason, the stage can actually become a vacuous yet comforting addictive pursuit in and of itself. There is no future, no past, no thoughts. Funny how all that Eckhart Tolle shit your mom made you read starts to work when it’s all just booty flex left, right, left, right, 1, 2, 3, 4, left, right, right, right.
As Brandi -- the 60-something woman selling bikinis 20 years after quitting -- often said to the disaffected cluster of strippers before leaving for the night: “Ladies, your job is to be an actress. Never forget that.”
While at first I thought she was referring to the cartoonish “O” faces that the veterans had perfected, the message runs much deeper: Our very job description is to be entertainers.
Logic: It’s gone! You will routinely be around men that leave logic in their BMW convertible or Suite 242 at the Hyatt. Your own behavior and desires make less and less sense to even yourself.
When there are people to hustle, you’ll feel tired and want to hide in the back until the next stage set, and when it’s dead, you’ll whine about the lack of suckers to hustle.
You could drive yourself crazy (and broke) being confused by an obsessive need to deconstruct the mechanics of the club vs. the fact that the whole thing is an absurd illusion where evolution and de-evolution coexist in mathematical defiance.
It was becoming clear to me that beyond the money, the attention, and the cliché daddy issues that lurk beneath the surface of the collective stripper consciousness, I was becoming addicted to the WEIRDNESS. You learn new shit all the time, even if it’s as stupid as the fact that the old type of implants glow in the dark or the chirpy top-earner Barbie with the perfect husband, perfect kid, and perfect tits allegedly stabbed her perfect pet terrier because “she didn’t want it anymore.”
In this way, stripping is not unlike the Internet -- instant gratification amongst a deluge of information that you had no idea that you even wanted.
Stay tuned for more Strip Club Science next week.