Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Then Again (And How I Started Stripping)

I've been in something of a funk since the election, but I'm starting to snap out of it... After all, life goes on. It sure does makes me wonder what the world will look like when I'm an old lady (read: 30 years from now -- er, maybe 20).

Here's something I wrote in June 2000:

My First Time

My stripping career came as a surprise to my friends, and it was a surprise to to me too — I'd never even been inside a strip club until just before I started dancing! If anyone had told me, even a few months before I started, that I was going to become an exotic dancer, I'd have thought they were out of your mind.

My only explanation is that, all of a sudden, different threads of my life came together and I realized that stripping was exactly what I wanted to do. I'd ended a draining, sexually deadening relationship less than a year before. My ex had never expressed any interest in strip clubs while we were together, but during a conversation after we broke up, he mentioned having visited one with a friend. I was shocked! And I guess a seed of both defiance and competition was planted in me, because it stayed in the back of my mind even though I didn't start dancing for almost another year.

Another thing happened right around that time: a girlfriend asked if I'd ever considered stripping. I was in grad school, feeling short of money and none too happy with the day job, as a writing contractor, that I worked as few hours a week as possible. She suggested stripping as a way I could make some money and, although she denied having tried it herself, claimed to have friends who'd enjoyed it and made decent money. At the time, I dismissed the suggestion, but it took root as well.

The catalyst was a a beautiful curvy redhead I met the following spring in Portland by the name of Deborah. We went out dancing one night, and she told me she'd been an exotic dancer — she had two kids, and dancing had paid her bills until she started making enough money as a real estate agent. "I want to buy you a couch dance," she said. Intrigued, I let her take me to the strip club where she used to work, but they had just closed for the night. After that, I started thinking I wanted to visit a strip club just to see what it was like.

"Why don't you try dancing?" Deborah suggested on another occasion. I couldn't commit to a regular job at that time because I was going to move back to Los Angeles in about five weeks, but I needed cash. "You'll have fun and make some money," she said, and showed me the basic stripper move: "here, turn your body so you're at an angle rather than straight on, suck in your gut and throw your shoulders back and your boobs out. Now rock your hips..." The last instruction was the hardest; it took me a long time to get the hang of it! Deborah and I agreed to go to her old club for their next weekly dance contest, but for some reason that next Wednesday she couldn't go. When I thought about it, I decided I'd go by myself; the club had security, and it was in a decent neighborhood. I figured that if I didn't like it or felt uncomfortable, I'd just leave.
So I went to my first strip club by myself, and when I walked in the door I was shocked! I wasn't in California at the time, but in a state with much more liberal laws: there were no topless bars. The dancers were nude. I walked in and saw a tall, thin blonde with short curly hair wearing a short dress and no panties bent over the pole, and I couldn't believe it! For about three minutes, I was horrified — and then, fascinated. "I have to do that at least once in my life!" was all I could think. I stayed for the contest and really enjoyed it. Then I went home and thought about it some more, and realized that if I wanted to try stripping I had better do it soon, because there was no sense in waiting until I was 50.

My first audition was at a different club. Believe it or not, it was no big deal! I was more concerned with looking like a klutz on stage than with getting nude in public. And I'm sure I did look inexperienced; they didn't hire me. I went to that audition with the idea that, if I hated it, I would never do it again and at least I'd have had the experience. But I didn't hate it; I went back to Deborah's old club where I'd watched the dance contest and got hired as a day girl. I danced almost every day for the next five weeks, until I moved, and had a lot of fun trying to learn the moves and swing myself around on the pole. It seemed impossible at first, and my whole body and especially my knees were really really sore.

Then I moved back to L.A., and I didn't dance again until the end of the year. Around Christmastime, it occurred to me that I could make some extra money if I danced a couple of shifts. A short investigation of the topless and full-nude clubs around town convinced me that the nude clubs were pretty sleazy, and a rip-off to boot: girls usually pay about half of their dance money to the house, and there are mandatory tip outs too.

I kind of missed being on stage, and it seemed like a pleasant enough way to make some extra money. So I started dancing topless, and pretty soon I was doing well enough to leave my day job behind.

What I Think of This Now:

Wow. Well, I've been watching that HBO series on porn lately, the one where they talk to some girls just starting out, and I think my attitude was like theirs: I was utterly fascinated by exotic dancing at first, and I just had to do it and don't think anyone could have talked me out of it. (Actually fucking on camera, on the other hand, always seemed like a bit much... More on my porn friends another time.)

I was curious about almost every aspect of it: shopping for stripper clothes and figuring out how to dress (it's a big part of the job, as clothes and especially flattering T-backs and bras make a huge difference); the shoes (platform boots are more comfortable than sandals, but I love platforms period); the shaving (it took me a few years to learn that waxing is way better); getting ready in the dressing room (I liked hanging out with semi-clothed babes); picking music (clubs with DJs are a lot more fun than clubs with jukeboxes); how to hustle dances (I never liked this -- the trick however is to be friendly and keep moving) and work a room; and especially, learning how to look good on stage.

I don't think I looked all that good when I started out in Portland: my clothes were dorky, and so were my moves. I worked a lot of shifts when I started dancing topless in L.A., and I remember a customer telling me a couple of years later, "your dancing didn't used to be any good, but now it's great!" Jerk. He was right though.

My favorite part of it bar none was seeing myself on stage, because I felt sexy, desirable, beautiful when I danced. Keep in mind that it's a performance; the trick is to know how to present yourself. It's all about flattering angles and lines.

My sense of my own desirability on stage spilled over into my regular life, to the extent that I enjoyed being a chick who was a stripper. I felt it gave me power and confidence in relation to men; it also put me at a comforting emotional remove from them. That seemed like a good idea at the time.

In retrospect, I'll observe that I had no enduring intimate relationships when I was dancing, and I received notice that I was outgrowing it when I fell passionately, unexpectedly and excruciatingly in love at the end of summer in 1999. I think I was overdue. That's because, while I'd felt cared for by some of my lovers while I was dancing, I didn't really feel a strong emotional connection with any of them, even though I was always involved with someone or several people. Some of the relationships I had while dancing led to feelings of pain and even passion at times, but not because I simply loved someone with all of my heart... That part of me was shut down.

What I wrote in June 2000 mentions the fact that I'd broken up with someone about a year earlier, which is true, but what it omits is that I'd replaced my ex with a loser jackass in L.A. with whom I was trying to have a long-distance relationship while living in Portland. This new boyfriend was an ineffectual, entitled dope who wanted to have sex with other women, and since I had major self-esteem issues at the time (no fault of his, I admit) and was also strung out on his rejection, I talked myself into the idea that an open relationship was the way to go rather than just getting the hell away from him (I did that later). Every so often, he would take off with some rancid chick and then act like it was the greatest thing in the world that I put up with it, and I would be totally crushed but tell myself I had to bear it -- and that's probably why I became obsessed with stripping once I came into contact with it, as a form of passive-aggressive revenge.

Now that I think of it, one of the chicks he took off with was a stripper; I'm sure that helped plant the dancing bug in my head. I ended up having sex with her too, and it was not nearly as erotic as it might sound. But that's a story for another time.

Believe it or not, I think dancing was what I needed at the time, in that it raised my sense of self-worth to the point where I could dump him. I have a lot of negative feelings about many of the men with whom I was involved before I met my present-day fabulous husband, especially those I met while I was a sex worker. If it's not obvious, the above-mentioned boyfriend is quite possibly the one I now despise most. What a frigging idiot. But then, I dated him.

Ack. Sigh. Ah well. Apparently it was something I needed to go through.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

I spent much of yesterday in a funk about my country, especially how fucked-up my fellow Americans seem to be based on how the majority of them voted. But already there is compelling evidence that the election was stolen with the aide of electronic voting machines in swing states: exit polling does not match the results for those counties with only e-voting, although it matches exactly in the case of counties with paper ballots. And the e-voting counties went for Bush by a margin of around 5% over that indicated by exit polls...

It's still a terrible time in American history, but at least my faith in my fellow Americans has been somewhat restored. Now, of course, the question remains: what are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Grim Day for America, A Grim Day for the Species

Black is white. Up is down. War is peace. 2 + 2 = 5. Oppression is freedom. Hatred is love.

Apparently repeating such lies often enough makes them true for a majority of voting Americans.

“The great masses of people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one. Especially if it is repeated over and over.” — Adolph Hitler
Some other fitting quotes:

"In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."— Benjamin Franklin, Speech at the Constitutional Convention, at the conclusion of its deliberations.

“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.”— Nazi leader Hermann Goering, at the Nuremberg Trials before he was sentenced to death.

“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.” — Oscar Wilde

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature." — Thomas Jefferson

"During almost fifteen centuries the legal establishment known as Christianity has been on trial and what have been the fruits, more or less, in all places? These are the fruits: pride, indolence, ignorance and servility in the laity, and in both clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry and persecution." — James Madison


"The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice." — Martin Luther King, Jr.

The people have spoken, and we have a mad president chosen by the angry, fearful, self-righteous and gullible among us. But there are literally tens of millions among us who know better, and I still believe that the great dream that is America -- one of equality, tolerance, liberty and justice -- will never be extinguished from the human heart.

There is nothing to do but to keep moving on.

May your knowledge that much greater things are possible, and that we can bring a better world into being if we are willing to keep working for it, bring you comfort in these dark times.

Peace. Out.