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.

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Best tip ever?

Also? A customer offered to pay me by getting me into the history doctorate program at UCLA. How? He “is buddies with Chris Snitko.”
Can we talk about this?
Every day I’m hustlin’.

practical applications

In class with my favourite professor, a dapper, intelligent, and sometimes hilarious professor of Jewish history (I would go straight for him if only he weren’t gay), we are covering medieval Jewry under the Islamic empire. For all intents and purposes my focus is on early modern England during the Reformation and seventeenth century, even though my actual long term interest is queer identity and family structure during the eighteenth century. There aren’t many (maybe any) eighteenth century classes offered at my school. So I’ll have to figure that one out later. For right now my focus is Early Modern England, and I love it. My EME seminar is one of the highlights of my week, along with Friday nights at the club and any time spent with a quad soy latte and my dog.

But this guy is my favourite professor, his class on the shtetl last year was the highlight of a very rough winter. And I can’t stop my interest from roving. So here I am in Jewish history, Jews in Europe from about the Medieval period on. Because it’s a survey course I was afraid people would say a lot of stupid things (in the next post where I bother to talk about school I’ll tell you about stupid shit undergraduates say) but this is truly up there with my EME seminar on all-time high class interest and participation.

So we’re on the Islamic period, talking about the Karaites, Saadia Gaon, his Book of the Eloquence of the Language of the Hebrews, and the influence of intellectual Islam on the Jewish thinkers, the spread of this idea that you can have Reason and Revelation united: Revelation as the short cut, the word of God, and philosophy as the incredibly long and tedious way of arriving at the same conclusion for yourself. Thrilling stuff. Especially when you compare the belief system of Antique Israelites to the other denomination I spend the most time with, CoE and Calvinists. The emphasis on faith and works could not be more different. Sort of.

He spreads his arms wide. “It’s legit!” He picks up his coffee mug. “I’ll see you next class. Don’t forget the readings.”

The day goes by, I do whatever it is I do when I’m not at school or work (more coffee, extensive time at the bookstore or library, yoga, maybe a pedicure) and head in to work. It starts off slow but I get a few dances, which is nice. There’s a tall dark and handsome guy at the bar who I walk up to.

“How’s it going?”

He shrugs. “Good, good. How are you?”

I don’t know, bored, hungry, chilly, not really in the mood for small talk. Want a dance? “I’m great! A little chilly, but warming up.”

“Fell, look fat you are fearing.”

“Bikinis in January are an occupational hazard. Where are you from?”

“Israel.”

“Oh really? Have you been here long?”

“A few weeks.”

“And is this your first time at [club name redacted! duh!]?”

“Yes.”

“Then you haven’t had a [club] lap dance before! are you ready?”

“I don’t belief in that.” He hesitates, asks, “Can I speak honestly fith you?”

If you were wondering, this is always a bad sign and you should always say no to this question, at least in a club, but in the spirit of honest intellectual inquiry I say valiantly, “Of course!”

“I think this is very degrading. I don’t like it.”

I can’t even engage with this. “Okay, well, I hope you have a great night!” I pat his shoulder.

The next time I see him it’s three hours later and he’s sitting at my rack with some annoying female customers. One of them throws a dollar at me and shrieks, “Isn’t he so cute? He’s from Islam!”

The man from Israel and I share a glance; probably the only thing we will ever share. Because hanging out in a strip club with girls who are A) not working and B) don’t know the difference between Islam and Israel is inherently less degrading than talking to strippers.

“Islam?” I ask her. “Really?”

She bristles at me. “Yes, why.”

“Because Islam is a faith and Israel is a state? A place one can be from and, incidentally, where he is actually from?” Then, because it will make me laugh even if it makes no one else laugh, I add, “I learned all about it in class today!”

Practical applications for the degree I’m going into debt for: lecturing strip club customers in the difference between a religion and a country.

The girl from C—–

(Or, the hardest dance I ever did.)

Around 1am on a busy night this cute girl can’t stop following me around with puppy eyes and finally convinces her friend to buy her a lap dance. I get the full story while we wait for the next song to start. They’re both from C—–, and dated in middle school. The boy now lives here and she still lives in C—– but hates it, is bisexual, and she comes to the city to sleep with her middle school boyfriend. I blink, nod.
“you should definitely move here,” I assure her. “you could date girls if you wanted. There’s an actual queer community here.”
She gazes up at me, wide-eyed. “who do you date?” she asks. “would you ever date–”
oh dear. “I’m celibate! I’m wedded to school and my job!” The song starts and I push her back in the chair, hoping she won’t talk anymore.

She does me one better. As I move from purring into her ear to sitting in her lap she starts humping me and her breath gets faster and louder. I try to continue unfazed–it’s not like this doesn’t happen, although it is the first time a girl customer has done it to me–but soon she’s scuttled her legs up onto the seat with her ass and she’s in full-on crab walk position, the better to thrust at my ass. Her thrusting does in fact knock me off balance and I almost fall over, torn between wanting to kick her and laugh at how ridiculous she looks. And now sounds, because she’s also moaning.
The bouncer is looking at me like do I want him to put a stop to this, but the other dancers don’t seem fazed and I do feel sorry for the girl, sort of. She’s not going to get the best dance with all that humping/crab walking, but I can keep going. I keep moving, from a safe distance now, only making contact with her shoulders and sometimes breathing into her ear. I squeeze her thigh, smile. She’s still crab-thrusting at me and moaning, and I’m still torn between horror and hysterical laughter. I know the other girls can hear and see and I wonder if I’ll hear about it in the dressing room. I’m a little impatient, I want the dance to be over so I can start making it actually funny in the retelling, rather than awkward and embarrassing.
It reminds me of a story that was disapprovingly linked to on Tits and Sass, about some writer who went to a club with her male friends and got a lap dance and humped the poor dancer til she came. Did she even tip for that? I can tell I’m not going to get tipped extra for embarrassment, my customer clearly has no sense of scale or the contextually appropriate and is still pushed up on all fours, moaning.
Finally the song ends. She stares at me like we just shared something special. I put on my top and pat her and tell her I’ll come find her and hustle her out of the room, breathing deep with relief when she actually exits.
Yikes.

Circling

I circle the room in an uninterrupted round, trying to make sure I’ve noted every customer and gauged their level of interest through eye contact or a smile before committing myself to having to actually sit down and talk to them. My favourite time of night, especially if I’m not getting dances right off my stage sets, is the two hours from 12.30-close, when mostly all I have to do is walk up to a guy, announce, “you look like you need a lap dance,” to drag him off to the private dance room like a Neanderthal dragging a clubbed bit of prey.
I vary it, sometimes they need a “wild dance”, but actually that one makes them give me side eye, like I might take that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song seriously, get a little crazy, cut off their head, or dance dance dance til they’re dead.
Tonight I think they need “a really dirty lap dance” and this is going well. I haven’t felt like I’m dragging the clubbed spoils of war back to the dance area, so much as going back under the bleachers with delighted boys at a middle school dance, to sneak shots and make out. It’s been rare this January to get customers so gleeful about spending money.
I walk up to a man standing by the first stage. “you look like you need a really dirty dance,” I purr into his ear.
He frowns. “I look dirty? How do I look dirty?”
oh for god’s sake. “no, sugar. You look like you need a good old dirty dance.” I’m already annoyed and bored by this conversation and want to walk away but feel like I have to see it through.
“oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“oh, I don’t know. You’re just so clean cut and buttoned up. You need to loosen up.”
“well, I’m a cop. So I need to stay buttoned up.”
oh jeez. I can’t help laughing at the whole stupid interaction. “fine by me!” I smirk, and pat his arm. “have a safe night!”