every day I’m hustling

My shoes are getting loose and my ankles keep twisting as I back my ass up and down on this guy’s lap. It hurts and my thighs are getting tired and he’s driving me crazy. I mess up the rhythm accidentally-on-purpose, partly to give my ankles a break and get grips on a new angle and partly to throw him off so he doesn’t come.  He’s dead set on coming. We’re two songs in and I swear this is the longest song I’ve had to give a dance to since my bitchassho of a friend Ellie got mad at me and decided to make me suffer through an 11 minute Sisters of Mercy song six years ago at the tiny club where two girls switch off the stage through five hour shifts–the same club where I met Hundred Dollar Dave, in fact.  That was awful but this is pretty close to as bad.

“We gotta compromise,” he keeps declaring.  “We gotta come to a compromise, a conclusion.

“About what?” I giggle inanely.  I already know about what.  My last breakup didn’t even involve this much discussion and begging for compromise. He’s driving me crazy.

The bouncer walks by and I see a ray of hope. Last Friday, the first, I accidentally gave a two-song-long dance instead of one because, I don’t know, I’m deaf or all the dubstep really starts to sound the same after a while.  It worked out because it was a couple’s dance and I charged them 40$ each–it really is twice the work, not to mention the annoying stress of having to make everyone feel included, and the goddamn boyfriend kept noisily nuzzling and kissing my shoulder whenever I got near him, I wanted to charge him a gratuity for all the saliva: I deserved compensation for the time it will take to wash off as well as the emotional effort of keeping my temper in check, but we all know how that would go over.

But if I confused two songs for once, maybe I’ve done it again. That would explain this interminable lap dance.

The bouncer nixes this idea, it’s only been two.  And I was paid up front for three.  If it was theoretical money still to come I’d probably call it quits at two but there’s no way I’m giving any money back. No way.

As soon as the third song ends, however, I’m done.  He still wants to compromise, we really need to talk, he wants more but I need to stop being so afraid of my own pleasure.

“You like it too much, I can tell.  Girl don’t be afraid. We just need to work this out, you need to stay doing that same thing, let’s do two more.”

“Oh no!” I trill. “So sorry, so thirsty, oh my. So thirsty! Let’s check back after I’ve had a glass of water.” I’m shooting this over my shoulder at him cause I’ve already grabbed my stuff and am heading out at a fast trot.  I pass Regan, who gives me a questioning look.  I make a face at her.   With any luck she’ll nab him and get a few dances out of him before he wears her out.

Regan and I are having a competition (If I put the word friendly in there, that actually makes it seem less friendly); I’m not sure if it’s who can get the most dances this month or who can get to 100 fastest, but either way I’m winning.

When I got back out there she got him by the ATM[1].  While he fucked with it she leaned over to talk to me.

“He’s exhausting,” I explained. “I like can’t even handle it and I really don’t want him to come on me!  seriously. But he tipped so ask for a tip for sure.”

I wandered off, found someone new.  A sweet faced German boy.  I led him back and saw Regan still at it which means she definitely got ahead of me for the night. I caught her eye as we walked past and started laughing hysterically; shoulders shaking, she hid her face behind her hair. I beamed at my customer, steered him to a chair where I would have a good view of this past the curtains and sat him down.  Regan looked mildly tortured, shoes off and dancing away with determination.  I couldn’t tell if he was trying to boss her and she was ignoring it or if he just gave up, but he seemed more tractable with her.  Maybe he was afraid of her.  I think once she said she shoved a customer up against the wall and choked him with her arm.

“I can’t do that,” I said wistfully. “I got in trouble for slapping a customer.”

“Yeah, but that was at the rack.”

For a while I was slapping guys at the rack on a fairly regular basis: if they didn’t tip, if they tried to touch me, if they threw dollars at my ass, if they were at all aggravating to my perhaps already frayed temper–and focused on the important part. “How did you know about that?”

“I was in the office when they were going over the footage to try to see what happened.”

“He deserved it.”

“It was at the rack.

Compromise seems content to lay back and let Regan do her thing.  My customer is staring at me with a look of baffled delight, an expression I really enjoy.  I stop making eye contact with Regan because I can tell my uncontrollable giggles are confusing him. We do three songs and leave Regan still at it.

Continue later, I just got exhausted.  And I have so much more to write!

__________________

1- Present tense got exhausting.

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What am I doing with my life

Inspired by Sarah Rees Brennan and the Rejectionist, and courtesy of the brain fog brought on by my latest sinus infection (I’m beginning to think either my apartment has toxic mold or my sinus health is inversely proportionate to my stress level, that is, as my stress level goes up my capacity to breathe and ultimately to function goes down and bam here I am again with my mucinex and my giant mountain of tissues, definitely someone you want to get a lapdance from), My Work Process:

Wake up.

Make coffee.

Put the new Santigold on again and blow my nose a bunch.

Daydream about steak. Wonder if it’s time to start eating red meat again. Compromise with eggs.

Debate driving to school where computers are faster, but in public, or patiently wrangling with my old laptop, which shuts down if I run more than one program at a time (still haven’t taken my macbok air in to get fixed. Really kicking myself over that one). Decide on laptop, for now.

Check work schedule. Same as always. Working with Regan, yes! Bibi still not back. Remind myself to start requesting Saturday nights, except not this Saturday because I have ballet tickets.

Facebook: still boring. Interesting books reviewed on the Rejectionist.

Remind myself that I can’t buy any new books until I finish the last two papers of the term, one of which (ahem, ahem) is due tomorrow along with a presentation for My Darling Professor who thinks I need to stop biting my nails. (The last presentation went better–nothing in my mouth!– but was still imperfect.)

Fantasize about not being in school, and how perfect Regan’s life must be. We sat in back swapping pictures on our phones Friday night: hers were of fun times, minigolf, and photobooths, mine were of my dog.

“Drop out of school, get a boob job, and be a trophy wife,” was her advice.

“My student loans are twice as much as a boob job!” I answered.

“Yeah, but with a boob job you’d probably recoup twice as fast.”

Go back to outlining paper due tomorrow. Wonder idly how I’m going to fit revisions in with my busy procrastination schedule.

Suddenly feel the pseudoephedrine in my nasal spray hit my brain. Also, I can breathe! Time to go work at the computer lab.

Starting next month when I only have one online Art History class (art credit bizarrely mandatory for graduation, I guess to make me a well-rounded individual? Please. My life is my art) I’m going to live the lazy and luxurious lifestyle I’m always hearing my coworkers talk about. Sleeping in, reading whatever nerdy fantasy I want, working four nights a week, and rapidly checking my debts off as I pay them, all Regan-style? I can’t wait.

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It will look like this, all the time.

Living the dream pt 2: supernerds

The waitress is moving on through the series! I got the first one last week to reread.
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They upped the prices of dances at my club and started handing out 2$ bills. It’s Tuesday so I can’t tell if this is affecting anything yet. It’s fun though.

Regan and i play drawsome at work, and I just made Autumn download it. I picked “Unicycle” to draw for her thinking even if I fucked it up, it’s pretty recognizable. She blanked.

“Ask Regan! I can’t tell you but it won’t be cheating if she tells you.”
“It’s a bike with one wheel! What’s a bike with one wheel?!”
When Autumn still looked confused, Regan giggled and hit the bomb button. Autumn wrinkled her forehead, still blank.
“okay, so a bike is a bicycle, right? A cycle! And then what’s left over?” She checked Autumn’s screen. “okay and now that part goes first.”
“I got it!” Autumn yelled triumphantly. “All by myself!”
“Strippers!” I cheered.

Regan sent me this picture as we sat in a row being nerdy.

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Right?” she asked me.

A step by step directive to alienating the dj

(or, “I’m grumpy and want to complain”)

Eat a cookie in the dressing room. When he comes in back to check on the rotation, sees you eating your cookie, and grabs your wrist to try and take a bite of the cookie while it is in your hand, without asking[1], say very firmly,
“No.”

He will of course still expect his ten percent of your income at the end of every shift, and he will give you a lackluster and ungrateful “good job” as you hand him several twenties, concentrating on Pema Chödrön, or at least not punching him, while you do.

1- Unsurprisingly, eating other people’s food is actually a serious problem he has and the manager has yelled at him a few times.

The best description of my club ever:

via Katstories:

… the GG Allin-esque stage shows and dance area that resembles a swingers’ living room were a bit much for me. (Especially when the customers look like they’re going to destroy Toontown just as soon as they’re done watching the young alternative things pleasure each other.) I don’t want my work environment to feel like I stepped into a time machine with a bunch of Suicide Girls and stepped off in the middle of an ancient Greek orgion. (I want it to feel like a rap video with forklifts of cash and oiled up butts and whatnot.)

Me too. 

when in Rome

I’ve been having a weird year–all two-ish months of it–although it’s only partially to do with my club (full disclosure, I work at the ‘weird club’ Kat’s been referencing.  And it’s weirder than she even says). I quit dancing for almost two years and just started again last summer,  working in dive bars as a way to acclimate–I was so burned out and angry when I quit that going back scared the hell out of me.  If I had a meltdown at the places I was working at and just walked out, I wouldn’t be burning any real bridges.

That didn’t happen though; I was making such shitty money and feeling so exploited at my legit job that the idea of stage fees and tipouts felt like no big deal at all.  It felt like going home. It’s a testimony to my musical-chairs living situations of the past year that it actually felt better than going home.  And the money!  I was making pocket change compared to what I’m making now–for the first time in my life I have disposable income and I can start paying off the hospital bills the department of revenue keeps calling about, as well as maybe making a dent in my student loans before they stay with me for the next fifty years–it was small peanuts but it was still so much more than the minimum wage I was making at the daycare/preschool: minimum wage to take care of rich people’s children.  I would watch parents arrive in beemers and benzs, drop their horrible offspring off for me to coddle and discipline, feed, change, wipe their bottoms[1] for the next 8-ish hours, without health insurance or anything, and I barely made my bills.  I had genuine affection for two of the kids, and I actually still miss them, but it was exhausting.  There’s no time to think in a daycare.  Space out for a minute and Lucas has gone and hit Kai, again, or swallowed a lego, again.

I was grateful to be back dancing.  Even an eighty dollar shift was more than I made at work before taxes.  I quit the daycare. I’m not sick as much and I pay my bills on time.

I’m happy to be dancing, but it’s not great. I get so irritated with new girls and the perky cheerleaders. I understand the impulse to keep defending it–it’s not bad for the reasons I hear all the time, being naked is degrading, sitting on laps is disgusting. whatever. So was Olivia’s diarrhea that clogged the toilet in the preschool.

I don’t get a wage, I pay to work.  It’s by the dance at my club, which is another thing I really appreciate about the place, whatever its drawbacks.  I will never leave in the negative, although on the days when my regular comes in I pay close to a third of what he gives me to the club, and another 10% to the dj. The club’s cut goes up incrementally with how much you make, the dj always gets 10%.  They keep track.  I once under-tipped a dj by five dollars; on my next shift with him he followed me when I walked in the door and called me into the office.  They gave me a math lesson and a lecture (if I’m not good at math, someone can help me) and made me give him 20$ more. I pay bouncers who do little but keep track of how much I make to report it to the club. 10% to djs who rarely take requests kills me. Unless I’m on rotation with the one black girl at my club, I’m stuck with nu metal (Wed-Thurs) or dubstep (Fri-Sat).  The best part about working Tuesdays is that the old hippie does his best to make me happy.  This means I get to dance to Crazy On You or Magic Man.[2] Otherwise he’s stuck in the 90s with the numetal dj.

I think that the dj percent is unique[3] to my club, but the rest is standard.  Clubs defray the expense of paying workers a living wage by having dancers pay stage fees and tip out employees.  Stage fees and tipouts are actually cheaper in my city than almost any place else I can think of.

I got a lot better at taking everything in stride; I smile so much that some nights my face hurts more than my feet. If I don’t smile, I don’t make money; I think this is true for all of us but irritatingly, slightly more true for me: I have to overcompensate for the threatening woman with guns on my chest. And I have bitchface.  If I’m not smiling, people think I’m angry.  Actually, I think that part is true for all women.  I was reading Kat’s post about pet peeves and nodding furiously to my laptop:

    I smile more than the average person. I smile so much that it’s not even voluntary. All night, customers compliment me on my smile and my teeth and I think, “I’m smiling?” I smile so much that people call me Smiley. They call it a “shit-eating grin” and ask what I’m smiling at, but there’s nothing to be let in on. I have smile creases and crow’s feet from excessive use that I sometimes study in the mirror, adding frown lines to the mix.

The few times that I don’t smile at work include when I’m walking to a specific destination, because I’m not mentally handicapped or on MDMA. Or, say, when I’m mid-speech and I can’t just flex the muscles at the ends of my mouth and hold them there because they are in use moving my lips to create sounds.

It’s hard because it’s still the service industry. On the nights when I can’t fake it til I make it, forget to keep that inane smile pasted on, laugh at everything and call them sugar, I don’t make money.  And then I have to pay to leave early on top of the tip outs and stage fee. I could stay and try to make it work, but it’s usually worth it to just fork over 20$ and go home and finish my homework.

I don’t know where I was going with this, I’m just trying to write more stuff that’s not academic.  I like a lot of the girls at my club, even though most of them are young and inexperienced and have no idea that they don’t need to do the things they do.  I have some good friends who do know that the club is weird, and the brief headshakes and grimaces we share keep me going. When in Rome, right? It’s all in what you can deal with.  I can take in stride the girl who fingers herself and other girl customers for a pittance: I hustle extra dances and try not to touch anything she’s touched. I hum Little Red Riding Hood in my head and try to block out the dismal beats of the dubstep. When it gets hard I go in back and shoot the shit with the cook, who gives me tiny dishes of jalapenos to eat, then I go back out and inflict my now-toxic breath on customers.


[1] I had to rethink my use of the word ‘bottom’. daycares and strip clubs are about the only places I hear ‘bottoms’ used, ever.  it’s a really weird word.

[2] I think kind of longingly of two clubs whose management I hated where we got to use our own cds and ipods.

[3] and hold on, do the math on that.  20 + girls a night, paying 20$ or more to a guy who says our names and then plays the music he likes.  That means that at least half the time he’s making more than most of us, the girls who are actually naked and giving lapdances.

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.

hard times, difficult dances, hand holding: part one

A guy fell in love with me off my rack. I like when this happens, it spares me the trouble of having to sit and make small talk while gauging their level of interest and income. It was the kind of night where I kept finding myself having conversations about extras; one particularly oblique one went like this:

“Do you work on the side?”

“No, this is my only job.”

“No, do you work on the side?”

Beginning to understand but annoyed enough by the stupid question to play deliberately obtuse, “I go to school.”

“No, do you work on the side?”

“No, this is my only job.”

Really angry now, “NO DO YOU WORK ON THE SIDE?”

Blink blink. “I just don’t understand what you mean. Do you want a dance?”

“I don’t want a dance! I want to touch you outside of here!”

I hunted around once I was offstage and finally found my enamoured man at the bar. He was ecstatic to see me; I don’t like prolonged conversations in general. Take the money and run, that’s my motto! I mean that’s an exaggeration, some conversations are really great—the banker on the way to Qatar comes to mind—but for the most part they run exactly the way I post them. Kat said at some point that most of her conversations with customers run along the same predictable track which, left uninterrupted, would go all the way back to the moment of her conception. So tedious.

This man kept touching my knee and trying to caress my thigh, his hands kept darting toward my crotch and then restraining themselves before I actually had to hit him. Mentally I heaved a sigh of exhaustion; the trend set by Do-You-Work-On-The-Side was going to continue.

“Are you ready for a dance?” I asked him.

“Yes!” he said enthusiastically, before ruining it all with, “but after I get my drink.”

Fuuuuck. He assured me that he’d already ordered but I could tell he’d order some froufy time consuming drink, the line at the bar was long, and moreover, it was obvious the bartender had already forgotten. I was in for at least another ten minutes of tedious conversation and paw-blocking before I could get him in the dance area and have actual control (and money). I reminded myself about moving, about how I have bills to pay and a mattress to purchase, and moreover, a 40$ cancellation fee from the Friday night shift I cancelled so I could pack for my big extravagant trip to San Francisco. So dumb. So here we were.

Eventually I caught the bartender’s attention and she started making his drink. I asked him to order a snack for me too.

“Do you want to wait for it here?” he asked.

What, so I can keep fending your hands off me for free? “No, let’s go do dances!” I cheered. He beamed at me.

If I hadn’t already known this guy was more trouble than he was worth, his next comment would have yelled it loud and clear.

“I should have worn sweatpants!” he told me brightly as we started.

Unsurprisingly, like the girl from C—–, this gentleman was an airhumper.

Thank god he did not also moan. I had to physically restrain him by holding his hands as the dance progressed, and more than once he darted in for a kiss, actually planting a nasty wet one on my shoulder at one point. Household goods, I reminded myself. Bills. Making in three minutes what takes over five hours of changing diapers to earn. The bouncer was watching me anxiously, I kept baring my teeth and rolling my eyes at him every time my back was turned to my customer. The wet spot on my shoulder begged for sanitizer.

“Let’s do more after you eat,” he suggested. That sounded like a terrible idea, but I’d already wasted so much time and energy on him, it hurt me to think of kissing more dances goodbye. I’d just have to start over again with someone else. We sat down and immediately his hand went back to fluttering over my crotch. I grabbed it firmly and held it as I ate, realizing I wasn’t even hungry and was definitely annoyed. He took a chip.

“Here! You eat some!” I let go of his hand and pushed them toward him. Big mistake. I flinched as it dove back into my lap, looking like it was getting in position to fist me. What the fuck.

He laughed and pulled back. “I scared you, huh?”

“Let’s do another dance,” I suggested. I could go back to holding his hands, he could go back to paying me, I would feel more fairly reimbursed for this crap, and then I could wash my hands of him. And that food. And just literally wash my hands.

“Ooooh, you can’t wait for it can you?” he crooned in my ear, flecking my dry shoulder with spit.

“I am at work,” I offered patiently. He looked blank. “I mean, no, I just can’t wait to dance for you some more!” I pulled on his hand. “Let’s go!”

The bouncer looked startled to see me heading back with a guy who was so plainly a handful, but what are you gonna do?