The perks of being a stripper

There are a lot of them–and some severe downsides–but the biggest perk, or anyway the one I find myself daydreaming about in class, is the freedom to walk away from the stupid things people say if they aren’t also paying you to listen.
Jewish history there’s this… I don’t know what she is. I mean she’s christian, clearly, but I’m not sure what she’s doing there short of providing exasperating comic relief. A few weeks ago in a discussion about Sephardic mysticism the phrase “godhead” came up.
Her hand shot into the air. “that’s the Trinity, right?”
We all stared at her.
“The father, son, and holy ghost!” she clarified impatiently. The word “duh” was buried just below the surface. My friend Eli was all, someone didn’t do the readings, which is redeemingly hilarious but Come On, we were already like five weeks into class.
So last class we’re now on the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, I have some familiarity with this from a seminar I took on the shtetl last year. We’re talking about how governance was a little bit messy, the Westernized Catholic-polish noblemen and the vast tracts of land inhabited mostly by peasantry and how Jews moved in as a sort of pre-fab middle class, with some scots and other Protestants picking up the slack–so okay, I didn’t take notes on the entire conversation because I didn’t know she was going to spout another idiocy until her hand shot up. That’s a warning sign right there.
“so the peasants were all Jews too.”
More blank stares.
“if the noblemen were catholic and the Jews were Jewish, and the peasants weren’t catholic, they were Jews too, right?”[1]
I don’t know, I just don’t. Moments like that, where class is derailed for a while while we try to figure out where the long disused rails of her one track mind have ended up and reroute them, they make me think kind of longingly of work and the girl who didn’t know the difference between Israel and Islam and how she had to give me a dollar just for that one interaction of listening to her be ignorant. And then I got to walk away. None of this ten tedious weeks of accruing thousands in debt to listen to someone ramble and derail four hours a week.

Just to end on a bright note, my early modern England seminar has hands down the most excited and interested and funny group of people, who are constantly saying things that make me laugh. One guy, short and brawny and curly haired, with a pointed goatee (I think some people, myself included, take on visual cues of our interests. So he looks like Essex and I tease my hair into an 18th century bouffant) gave a presentation on pirates, beginning solemnly with, “you can count on one hand the number of serious pirate scholars out there, and still have fingers left over.”
ok.

1- maybe you think I’m being a pedantic b and are wondering why this isn’t a valid question–the peasants of Poland-Lithuania, like um the majority of people in eastern Europe and Russia, were eastern orthodox. Or just “orthodox”. All of which is a) something she should know anyway at this point, like knowing there’s a lot of Islamic people in the middle east and b) it was in the fucking readings.

“can you give me a dirty dance?”

“Red, what was up with that guy?”
I look confused: so many guys, such a mystery what was up with any of them. Or any of us, really, who knows what kind of desperate tiny tragedies are happening and in the mean time making us all look insane.
I’m having that kind of month/year.

She clarifies. “that guy you were talking to at the end of the night last night. I cut him off; was he drunk or just nuts?”
Oh yes, I know exactly the guy she’s talking about. Him. I took a deep breath, and then reenacted the weirdest and most depressing interaction I’ve had in a while.

My last set of the previous night was at 1.40, I was pretty stoked to be able to leave so early but felt like I should hustle up one more dance. This guy at my rack on the second song told me I was beautiful, and I could tell I had him. My only other prospect was a married girl who was “here for her brother,” but actually wanted to pay me to make out with her. I thought about it, but didn’t know where to make it happen. She was totally cute, but I am a chaste, chaste maiden. I’m saving myself, I’ll know for what when I see it. So I have that and making out with some chick would just interfere. And she didn’t seem like she could afford the fifty I’d asked anyway.
This guy, who resembled Michael Pitt playing a hayseed in maybe an updating of The Grapes of Wrath, looked like a good prospect.
“You ready for a dance when I get off stage, cutie?”
“Can you… Can you give me a dirty dance?”
He stole the very line out of my mouth. I laughed. “totally!”
“I can’t tip you onstage if I get a dance,” he confessed.
Uh, let’s see. One more dollar over the cost of a lap dance. “totally fine,” I reassured him. I got through the next song, relieved that it had been so easy–no more striking out with endless bores, my quest for the night was done!–and took him by the hand as I left the stage. We got back to the dance room and sat down. I shoved my purse and top under the seat.
“Can you, can you show me your…you know.” he turned red. I felt like Hedwig about to give Michael Pitt a hand job; that corrupting.
“Uh, yes.” do you know where you are? You’re in the jungle. “yes, I can. And will.” I pushed him back and started to dance. But he wasn’t done.
“Can you–grind on me?”
Jesus Christ. “yes, I’m about to.” I sat in his lap with a thump and started moving.
Still not done. “I need to come. I really need to come. I’ve had a terrible day, I need you to grind on me til I come.”
Oh dear.
“I’m going to grind on you, that’s what a lap dance is. But you paid for a song. And getting you off is not in my job description; I don’t deal with body fluids, that’s more than I get paid for, or you can afford.” I felt suddenly sad and sympathetic, but still totally unwilling to come into contact with any more biohazardous material than had already been smeared across the stage by my coworkers; they’d been on a rampage tonight; all the bachelor parties, maybe.
He looked hysterical. I kept on moving, careful and dreading an eventual spurt but it didn’t happen. Thank god. The song ended.
He clutched his money and begged for another song. It was too tiring to even argue. “I can’t do that. I don’t want to deal with it. I’m sorry. Maybe another girl.”
He stuck his chin out tragically. “My wife hates sex. I’m desperate. Can I sit and talk to you and look at your tits?”
Retrospectively I don’t know what possessed me, I think it was my old problem of curiosity taken to a terrible extreme.
“yeah, okay,” I said, feeling pity.
We sat and he told me his wife can’t have sex with him, he’s too big and hurts her. I thought about his lap and wondered if that was her thoughtful lie or his own ego filling in–it certainly wasn’t true.
It was a sad conversation and like something out of Dan Savage. I tried to offer advice, but I did what my friend Adrienne is always telling me not to do, which is offer solid direction (“therapy” in this case) and then look annoyed when my audience tells me flatly for whatever reason my good advice is just not possible. Apparently I’m a Capricorn.
“you’re helping me just by listening,” he told me, probably to shut me up, and asked, “would you have sex with me?”
I paused, not knowing how to couch the phrase “not in a million years, for so many reasons,” and he continued, “don’t think about it! Just answer!”
“Son, I don’t know you from Jesus.”
“you can’t have sex with Jesus though,” he said impatiently. “Jesus is holy.”
“he’s probably a tender lover?” I offered.
He looked appalled. Finally! “you’re a rotten girl,” he told me solemnly. I almost laughed, but he then ruined it by blurting, “I just need to –fuck your –pussy.” I could tell he was both thrilled at his daring and horrified at his own filthy language.
Oh, okay. okay. I pulled back but he held on to my hands. “Please! I just know you would like it! It would hurt you and you would love it!”
“that’s enough!” I said sharply. “call a phone sex line, I charge extra for dirty talk.” he clutched at my hand and pulled me in for a hug even as I tugged away. “it’s last call! I’m leaving! Goodbye!”
He held me tighter and tentatively tried to touch my ass; I took a deep breath but he finally let go, walking away before I had to scream for a bouncer.

The bartender listened in astonishment, while a waitress couldn’t get over the wife’s line about his dick being too big. She was actually slapping her thighs.
“so do you think he was crazy, or wasted?” the bartender asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “maybe he was just crazy Christian.”
They both nodded, like this made total sense.

procrastinating

I’m trying to organise my notes on the (gradual) emergence of women onto the seventeenth-century English stage enough to have a coherent draft to turn in tomorrow morning; I even got rid of my dog for the night, for the express purpose of staying at the computer lab til it closes and then again bright and early tomorrow morning (what a chore, since I’m working a double tomorrow evening/night).  I can never write about what I mean to write about though: the things I’m reading (these) only remind me of things I want to write about here.

…at the same time that Congreve reworks the feminine tropes of Stuart comedy, Marwood’s likening of Millamant’s desire to ‘Mrs Primly’s great [pregnant] Belly’ belongs to an altered public theatre where the actress’s body and sexuality are visibly present on stage.  Such a vivid representation of female desire, and its outcome, could only be spoken by a carnally knowing woman like Marwood, whose character is irrevocably tainted by her sexual actions. The women who intend to survive in Restoration drama… must practise emotional containment. (Tomlinson, 105)

I was discussing a pair of implants with a customer, who refused to believe they were implants (he’d been vocal about his admiration for their bountifulness, and their improbable and miraculous perkiness considering how very large they were). I didn’t really like him, and didn’t have a good feeling about him, but the girls at his table were both cute and generous, although they were currently at the rack.

“No way!  No way!  Those aren’t fake!”

“Uh, yes they are. Which is fine!  No judgment!  But those are most definitely not real.”

He got defensive at my disbelief (and, let’s face it, derision).

“How am I supposed to know what boobs look like?  I’m not a girl. I don’t have any!”

“Didn’t you have high school sex ed?” I asked, incredulous.  “Have you been fucking porn stars this whole while?  What tits have you been looking at?”

“They look real!  They look like boobs!  They look like boobs in the movies!”

Zounds, sir, I thought.  And what movies are you watching? None of the porn my friends make has tits that look like that. In fact, most implants don’t look like that. “If Shelob were to lay eggs, that’s what those look like.” I said, very unkindly (but also truthfully, because, while I’m being honest, not only is it an obvious boob job, it’s also not a very good one. The skin is tight and shiny and the angle they rest at is not only improbable, it’s suggestive of an imminent explosion, one which would cover half the bar in silicon. Or whatever.  Probably not saline. But she makes a lot of money, and obviously men like my companion can’t tell the difference, so, excellent.  You go, girl. Take them for everything that they’ve got).

“Excuse me?” he asked.  “What?”

“You know, that spider from Lord of the Rings.  The one that almost kills Frodo.”

“And you’re talking about Lord of the Rings?  Now we know you spend too much time entertaining men.”

I had to process that.  I mean what does it even mean?  At least 80% of the men I interact with could not give a shit about Lord of the Rings, or fantasy, or most of the things I care about. That’s not what they’re there to talk about.  In fact, a lot of them don’t want to talk, period, which is fine by me because the freedom to let my mind wander is one of the most appealing things about stripping.  Most strip club conversations, in case you couldn’t tell, are less than scintillating.  (Although it does happen, and it’s welcome when it does.)

“I like Lord of the Rings,” I explained.  “And fantasy.”

“No you don’t, no you don’t!” He laughed me off, doing something like a ‘Bitch-please’ hand motion. “You’re a stripper.”

“And?”

“Strippers aren’t nerds. It’s impossible.  You’re a stripper.”

“Who likes to read fantasy.  Among a lot of other things.”

“No you don’t.”  He said it so calmly, so confidently, it was like he’d found me out; he was delighted to have caught me in a lie after the way I’d made fun of him for not knowing the limits of human anatomy. “You just don’t.  Just admit it. It’s okay, I don’t care.”

I was starting to get annoyed.  “Well I do.  Why would I lie to you, you haven’t yet, and show no indication of being about to, tip me. And there are so many stripper nerds.  I worked with a girl [lunatic, really] at [redacted] who refused to work mid-shifts because her World of Warcraft team or whatever did their raids at 5pm.  Nothing was allowed to interfere with the raids.  Her roommate, another stripper, used to complain about it in the dressing room.” (I always thought it would be fun to have such a geeky roommate, although the one in question was so annoying it wouldn’t have been worth it). I was getting heated and outraged.

“Huh.”  He processed.  Then turned away, like the discussion was over.  Which, it really was, there was no good place to go from there.  Except,

“Do you want a dance?” You know.  Just in case.  And also because, after getting obviously irritated, I like to just go that extra mile.

“No.” He turned to the girls, fresh off the rack. “How much would it take to get you to give a lap dance? Ten thousand dollars?”

They stared, kind of confused.

“Would you grind on some guys dick for ten grand?” It’s always some exorbitant fantasy number, never anything real and tangibly imaginable: a pedi in one song, a phone bill paid for in 9 minutes, a month’s rent in an hour and a half.

“Maybe for ten grand…” one of them answered. She had already asked me to take her onstage so she could dance on my next set; bored and hoping for some extra dollars, I agreed. What the hell.  When in Rome.[1]

“No way!” her friend chimed in.  “Never!”

“And you?” I asked him.  “Would you sit on a guy’s lap for ten thousand dollars?” I already knew the answer to this one too, but I like to be thorough.

“Of course not! I just don’t know how you do it, it’s disgusting.”

“It’s easy,” I said, going for sweetness.  “Have a great night.”

[1] and do you want to just note that everyone thought it was so wild and transgressive of this girl to get on my stage for free and take off her clothes for free–Free!–even as they shuddered in horror at the real money, the fast and (relatively) private transaction –which doesn’t necessarily involve nudity– of a lap dance?

Hard times, difficult dances: part two

I’ve been having third and fourth and fifth thoughts (I had my second thoughts before I even started it) about blogging about work and then making it public—then it’s been midterms and moving and after all that I’m feeling super burned out and of course got sick. I’ll probably have some sixth or seventh doubts about this later, but in the meantime, let me tell you how it ended with the hand holder.

We passed the bouncer and I rolled my eyes at him. I pushed Grabby down into his seat and didn’t even bother waiting for a new song to start. Sometimes you just know. He repeated his desire for sweatpants and I squeezed his hand hard. “Next time, sugar cookie! You wear those sweatpants.” I backed away any time it seemed like he was skirting dangerously near getting off: body fluid would be the absolute last straw and I would probably have to strangle him. We both made it through the dance safe and dry.

He gasped at the end. “That was just amazing. That was just what I needed.” He handed me sixty.

Most times I would accept it, no questions asked—why look a gift horse in the mouth or whatever—but he seemed like such a pill.

“Do you want change?” I asked reluctantly.

“No, no you keep it. You earned it,” he squeezed my shoulder.

“Aw, well thanks. You have a great night.” I passed the bouncer and made another face at him before retreating to the dressing room. One of the minors was in there; it sucks to be a minor because you’re basically captive audience to whatever lunatic older stripper feels like hiding out in the dressing room, a situation I still remember bitterly from my own days as an underage dancer after a bartender at the local lesbian bar gave in to an overactive conscience and called the clubs I was working at to let them know I was using a fake id. What a b. But today I figured I would take full advantage of my seniority.

“The guy I just gave a dance kept wishing he wore sweatpants,” I announced dramatically, sitting on the counter and glaring at her.

“I love that!” she answered, enthusiastic.

My glare faded to total bewilderment. “You love it?”

“Oh yeah! I love when they wear sweatpants! That way you can feel when you’re doing a good job!”[1]

“I can feel an erection perfectly well through denim,” I replied stiffly, thinking that I enjoy, and some days even love, my job but feeling boners through sweatpants has never been one of my gauges of if I’m doing well. A bulging purse, an extra big tip, that tells me when I’m getting it right. Boners can happen anywhere, and like to happen for free. An erection guarantees nothing except blood flow.

She looked at me like I had just said I hate fun—which, you know I do. This club is so weird. But before she could continue one of the usual suspects came storming into the dressing room, long hair flapping.

“Are you new?”

I didn’t know what was happening, but felt like I was in trouble, a feeling I deeply resent at work, considering customers to be high maintenance enough without girls and management thinking I owe them something. I ran through possible misdeeds, only coming up with this blog. Admit nothing. I settled for, “I’ve been working here since thanksgiving?”

“And do you do a lot of dances?”

Oh for FUCK’S sake.

“I pay my bills,” I allowed cautiously.

“Well, I have a guy, and he says he just paid you $100 for two dances, and that you didn’t do a good job. So I told him, I said ‘I think she’s new, I’ll go back and check on her. Maybe she doesn’t know how we do things around here’.”

My jaw kind of dangled, I had so many responses and all of them were rude and some of them would probably get me fired. But in any club, EVER, prices are always negotiable upward. Undercutting is of course excessively frowned upon, and I would never do that—for a lot of reasons, some ethical, some to do with personal profit (I have to pay out portion of each dance to the club and charging less would cut into that) but also because I don’t need to; I don’t have a problem selling dances for the baseline set. But that wasn’t the question, here I was being scolded—by a fellow dancer—for overcharging. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Plus it wasn’t even true.

“He tipped me extra,” I said, striving for calm. “But I asked him if he wanted change and he said no.”

She looked at me like I’d decided to write ‘thieving harlot’ on my forehead in Lady Danger. “And did you do a good job?”

I waved my hands. “Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t let him fist me, maybe that’s the problem.”

She ignored me. “Well, we do contact dances here.”

I found a smile somewhere deep inside me. The only thing to do was patiently let her talk, she had to have customers—maybe Grabby—that she would need to get back to at some point. “Oh, okay.” Like I don’t grind on dick for a living, just like she does. Whatever.

This was clearly the right response, however, because she looked satisfied and calm almost immediately. “See, I told him you were new. Some guys,” she leaned into me kindly, “they just want you to grind on them.”

My smile started to become genuine, this conversation was so stupid. “Ohhhh,” I breathed.

“He said he wanted a dance from me, so I gotta go!” she finished triumphantly.

“Okay, have fun!” I told her.

Later that night she came up to me, still triumphant. “He said I gave him the best dance ever,” she announced, like I’d questioned her abilities. “He just wanted someone to grind on him for a long time.”

“Awesome!” I hi-fived her. “You go!”


[1] I have a digression I want to make, about commodified sexualized services, (to use Katherine Frank’s term), and what we’re actually selling and what people think we sell, &c&c&c. which is its own post which means I won’t really make it right now. It’s complicated and changes with each customer but I’ve been thinking about it recently, cause of the changing (evolving) dance styles in my area.

Lap dance moments

I should tell you about the rest of the handholder night before I forget but this weekend was super crazy. I suddenly have so much more I want to tell you.

I try to focus mostly on the guy during s dance, cause sometimes I get distracted by the weird things he or whoever is doing.

Saturday night I looked over and the guy next to me was staring slack jawed at his dancer, mouth open and everything. I kept watching waiting for it to close and it never did. Finally I sneaked a peak at the girl to see if she’d noticed: she had and was clearly trying hard not to laugh. When I made I contact she choked a little bit and turned her back on him; his eyes got even wider.

Last week I looked up to see my friend doing a head stand in front of a similarly slack jawed man. Our eyes met, my thighs were aching and my guy was mumbling something that I had stopped paying attention to and my friend was upside down, tits in her face. What are you gonna do. It was amazing.

One of those nights

I sat down for a rest with a short little man who wasn’t sitting at the rack and read as extremely queer. He was wearing a very loud polyester shirt, which I used as my opening.
“that’s a colossal shirt you’re wearing.” I figured if he got either reference we were set.
“I found it in a free box,” he beamed in a thick Southern accent. “it is pure polyester and breathes like a bitch.”
“Looks like it!” i made a sympathetic face. “Where you from, sugar cookie?”
“Mississippi, and the south will rise again!”
Uh, okay. “you think?”
“I know! You don’t think so, I can tell, but I know.
Great. When I was 19 I would totally have engaged with this, I was that stripper, combative and righteous and totally willing to battle with customers about the stupid things they said. I don’t even know how I made money, although I did, enough to fund some very excessive habits; now I’m older and tireder and make a lot more, probably because I can make it through a whole shift without assaulting any customers. However much I may want to.
I closed my eyes, suddenly exhausted, by my job, by life, by this tiny little racist man whom I’d been hoping would be a totally awesome homo. Could he possibly be fucking with me?
His voice cut through my stupor. “I think she likes girls.” I already knew what I was going to see but I opened my eyes anyway. Yep, there they were, enthusiastically performing bisexuality to a crowd of mixed interest. It seemed a little early for cunnilingus to me but what do I know?
“I don’t know if she likes girls any more than she’s actually getting off.”
He laughed. “I know that, I watch porn!”
I didn’t really have anything to say to that but I was saved from any reply by my friend, who had two guys interested in dances. I rose and escaped.