Shit talking: Baby says, “Everybody poops!”

Friday night and the bathroom stunk. I went in to wash my hands and immediately gagged; a female customer looked at me guiltily and sidled by me, without, I noted, washing her hands. Choked by fecal miasma I left &  stormed into the dressing room.

“Don’t poop in the bathroom!  Jesus Christ! Why is that so hard? Just don’t poop at someone else’s workplace!”

Baby started laughing hysterically. “What are you talking about?”

“Bitches taking horrible giant dumps in the bathroom!  Where we have to go to!  Customers! Wait!  Just wait and go at home! You know what?  I was in a relationship for four years and I bet I only pooped while she was in the house five times. And one of those times I had food poisoning. We were just not on those kinds of terms and that was fine.”

Other girls started laughing too.

“That’s insane,” Baby said.

“I don’t even care.  Probably. But! There’s such a thing as Too Much Intimacy.”

Baby was dying by this point.  Bad smells make me crazy, I can’t be rational about them.  I used to work in a tiny dive bar with a girl I unaffectionately nicknamed Skeletor who looked like a walking corpse.  Skeletor kept herself going with copious amounts of coffee and invariably had a bowel movement two or three times a shift.  It was like clockwork. I know about this because the toilet was in the dressing room and the bar was so small that everyone knew.  It was awful.  It made me want to die.  It wasn’t even worth being the hot, non-stinky one to put up with that.

“Everybody poops, Red!” Baby hooted.  “Everybody poops!  It’s a book!  didn’t your parents make you read that when you were little? Everybody poops, everybody poops.”  Baby was maybe a little drunk.  She exited the dressing room caroling, “Ev-ery bo-dy poops.”

Melissa Gira Grant writes about labour struggles in the club

Organized Labor’s Newest Heroes: Strippers

 

The words “labor dispute” make a lot of people imagine big men on a picket line. This, despite the fact that the high-profile workers’ struggles of the past year happened in jobs dominated by women stuck with low wages and little respect: from domestic workers securing benefits in New York state, to Chicago’s teachers’ strikes, to this week’s Black Friday actions organized across the country against Wal-Mart. There’s another group of women we should add to this list, women who have been continually fighting for their rights at work, who are met with disbelief and retaliation when they stand up, and smirking headlines and punny scorn even when they win.

Last week, strippers employed by the Spearmint Rhino chain won an unprecedented $13 million settlementin Federal court, the result of a class action suit to restore back wages and contest their status as independent contractors of the clubs.

By managing dancers like employees but putting them on the books as independent contractors, club owners get out of paying dancers the benefits they’re legally entitled to, which could include worker’s compensation, unemployment, and health insurance if they qualify. Owners and management alike tell dancers they’re independent, but they still exercise control over dancers on the job, routinely using the kinds of restrictive rules on breaks and conduct you’ve come to expect of Wal-Mart, not the mythically “anything goes” world of sex work.

As its currently organized, stripping is service work—and not unlike most service work in the United States, it’s a field dominated by women who have to fight to be treated fairly. Even in a strip club where she was getting a pay check, Mariko Passion, a former dancer and current escort and artist, said, “I was still being charged $80 every day to work there, not including my tip-out,” additional fees to be paid to DJ’s and other club service staff. Dancers’ tips can vary widely, depending on factors as unpredictable as customer whims and volume, to banal concerns like rain and football. On a shift where you pull in eight $20 dances (that’s $160 before tip-out, for your back of the cocktail napkin math), an $80 “stage fee” per shift means you just gave half your earnings to your bosses. You might feel differently if you get twenty dances or a big tipper, but the stakes are the same every shift, and they’re rigged to maximize club profits. “But restaurants can try to do exactly the same thing with your tips,” says Passion, who brought her own individual suit over illegal tip sharing and won against three California clubs. “It’s not just a strip club thing. It’s a capitalist thing.”

music matters

The local basketball team was in the club last night, the only people with money.  So annoying, tell me again about how Pantera is rich people music?[1]  I asked for Azealia Banks, it seemed like a valid time to request good music.

He asked why he should play Azealia Banks for me.

“Aside from the fact that I pay you 10% of what I make?” Cranky, I had to go there.
“You have to do that anyway.”

Later,

“Ok can you play MIA?”

“Like Paper Planes?”

“No.  Paper Planes should never be played again, let alone in a strip club.” I’ve lost count of how many strippers I’ve seen dance to that, each thinking it’s new and clever to clasp their hands together, pointing at the audience and pretending to fire at the part, you know the part.  Worse, I’ve seen girls get into fights over “whose song” it is and who did the gun/hand/shoot the audience thing first.  Tired. I’m insulted he even asked. If I’m going to dance to a song about wanting your money I’ll request Gangsta Boo.

Maybe he hasn’t been djing as long as I’ve been dancing or maybe he has a higher tolerance for cheesy stripper dramatics than I do.  He looks blank.

“Xxxo will be fine.”

______________________________________

1- The well-worn strip club line is that hip hop and rap is “poor people” music, ie, brown people don’t have money, so we shouldn’t encourage their presence in the club by playing music that… oh my god I can’t even finish that sentence. It’s too gross and stupid on so many levels.  We’re far enough from the 80s that men with money no longer want to hear Girls, Girls, Girls or whatever, but apparently no one’s found a passable replacement.

This seems to be fading at my club, or maybe it’s the fact that I tip an extra ten dollars to sometimes hear a song that makes me smile. One night I requested Santigold but the dj–the weeknight dj–was too busy staring at my boobs to register.  I thought he was kidding, but I repeated myself just in case.

“Santigold, got it?  Or if that’s too crazy I’ll settle for Paranoid.  Either should be good with these kids.”

He waved me away, and I found myself onstage dancing to fucking Pantera.  Everyone at the rack left and I fumed my way through the song, hearing “Keepers” start up just as I got off stage. He probably thought he’d come up with it himself.  I watched and saw exactly what I expected, young hipsters in oversized glasses returned to the stage as my friend Baby unwittingly benefited from the djs lackwittedness.

“You mean you didn’t ask for Pantera?” he asked, genuinely bewildered.  I flipped out.

“I’m going to give you a good solid minute to look at my tits, you’re going to get all that out, and then you are going to pay attention when I talk, because it is polite, and because I pay you ten percent of what I make and it is insulting to do otherwise. Those kids?  Those 20-somethings?  We do not want to hear Pantera.  We do not like Papa Roach.  It is a new dawn, it’s a new day,” and I am not feeling good, I silently added, “and we want fucking good music.”  I thought about it.  “Here’s five dollars, never play Pantera while I’m onstage again.”

Palms greased, he looked appropriately contrite.

My mom

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Once she came into the downtown dive bar I worked at when I was 21 with a bunch of sushi for me and the other girls[1]. I had to awkwardly explain to my customer, “uh, that’s my mom.”
“You have a mom?” He was truly scandalized.
No, all strippers are hatched under the stage, fully fledged in bikinis. “So does your girlfriend, son!”
“Yeah, but… I gotta go.”

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1- an incident that lingers in the memory of those who were there:

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Russian red, gingham style: a tale of two lap dances

Thursday night was all geek love, IT guys and gamer nerds who were stoked for a hot nerd stripper and basically darling and frequently hilarious. Last night was the exact opposite.

1.
“Can I ask where you’re from? I can tell you’re not from around here.”
“Boston.”
He looks disappointed. “But your accent… It’s Ukrainian maybe?”
Now, I’ve been having a conversation with this guy for a reasonable amount of time, he’s heard a good sample of my speech patterns. I talk fast and slur my words a lot but don’t have a thick Boston accent, and I’ve been tainted by the west coast to the point where it’s almost impossible for me to make a direct statement, or even say “I think”. Instead it always comes out “I feel like–“, a habit I’m trying very hard to break. But my accent is very American English.
“Ahh, my family is from the Ukraine, yes.”
“I can tell, I can totally tell.”
“…да.”
He looks thrilled. “So, are you ready for a lap dance?”
He gets three, and at the end calls me by another dancer’s name. We’re not easily confused: She’s tiny, nearly a foot shorter than me, South American, and it’s a Spanish name, but the name does sound a lot like “Yentl” and I can only imagine it’s some fucking shtetl fetish coming out.
“It’s Red,” I correct him gently.
He looks startled. “But Y—– is such a Russian name.”
I almost die. Because it’s not, at all, like a Russian name, because he’s so attached to this narrative in his head that it’s like I wasn’t even there. But if you ask him about last night he’d probably tell you all about the hot Ukrainian stripper and her accent. Two totally different lap dances were just had.
“It’s Red.” He looks hurt and baffled so I make it easier on him. “Like Russian Red.”
His face clears. Later he gets more dances.

2.
“You! You’re so hot!”
“So are you, are you ready for a lap dance?”
“Whoa whoa whoa! No no no!”
Okay. “I like your shirt. It’s very gingham, very Dorothy Gale.”
“Gangnam?!”
“Aha, no. Gingham. It’s what this pattern is called.”
“I thought it was called plaid.”
I sighed. Deeply. I was already annoyed by him, I don’t know why I kept going. Because I’m a Capricorn and I love money.
“So what’s your name?”
“Red.”
“Pfaw, no it’s not! That is not what your parents called you. I’ll tell you my real name. —– [2] What’s your real name?”
Seriously, are you seriously going there. It’s been a while since I heard this and I was hoping it got old and was now universally recognized as a signal for time wasting bad taste–which it really is. Not that I followed it.
“I’ll tell you during the lap dance.”
“Hold your horses tiger! I’ll get a dance, I’ll get a dance. Not right now.”
Yeah ok whatever. I waited 10 minutes and enlisted my young redhead doppelgänger in the cause. She’s pale like me, more babyfaced but we both have round enough faces and pointy chins, so when we tell people (guys) we’re sisters they don’t question it, they just look thrilled. She got his friend into the back and I followed with Gingham.

Gingham kept being charming.
“So I just got back from three weeks in Europe and you have a lot to live up to.”
I rolled my eyes. Because you go to an strip club in the states to have the same experience offered by a prostitute, European or otherwise. Idiot.
He kept talking and trying to grab my breasts. “In Prague the girls are so hot. Are those real? It takes a lot to get me hard.” He reached out for my chest. I ducked away again and grabbed his hands. “Are they real?”
“Why don’t you tell me, doctor.” I inadvertently channeled Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express, fitting because he was about as winsome as Clive Brook.
The song ended and I moved away from him with relief.
“That wasn’t the best lap dance ever. You said it would be.” He remained seated, sulky look on his face like if he complained enough I’d say, “oh, ok. That one’s on me then.”
“I did not say that, and I wouldn’t bother to do my best for you, you’re way too arrogant and annoying. Maybe you need to go back to Prague. Forty dollars.”
He still didn’t move, although now his face looked shocked.
“I don’t have forty, I only have a fifty.”
“That’s fine, I have change! And how much change do you want back and how much do you want to tip?” Now that I didn’t have to put up with him anymore, needling him was fun. He looked way more distraught than the situation called for.
“I will not be tipping. You didn’t earn it. Ten dollars.”
“Oh no,” I made a sympathetic face. “I only have five!”
“Then I’ll pay you in twos!”
“Oh no. I have enough twos. Let’s go to the bar and get you some change, big boy.”
He glowered. “I will not be forgetting you.”
What a threat! I rolled my eyes again. These guys were such badly behaved babies. Plus, after last week I got myself bear spray.
He got change from the bar and thrust two twenties at me with his face averted. It was like I’d destroyed his innocence.
“Thank you!” I caroled, and walked away.

A short while later a bouncer found me.
“I heard you were mean to a customer in a lap dance.”
“Oh my god!”
I told him what happened. He’s not one for overt laughing, but his face cracked.
“After last week I thought maybe you’re going on a rampage, hitting people, being mean to them.”
“I did not hit this guy! Don’t think I didn’t want to!”

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1- When I was younger I would pretend to have a French accent when I was drunk, and run around insisting I was an exchange student from Paris named Ludovine, but it’s been a while. There is absolutely nothing about my accent to suggest Eastern Europe or Ukraine. I could do it if I thought about it, but that’s rarely a noticeable asset so I don’t usually bother. If someone seems to have a Russian Mail Order Bride type fetish I can just start dropping pigeon-Russian into my speech, whispering пожалуйста in their ears, whatever.

2- I don’t know why I’m leaving his name out, he doesn’t deserve the protection of anonymity.