Addicted 

“Oh my god…” I whispered to myself on the floor of my friends room. “I made a thousand dollars…”

Still in shock, I drunkenly recounted my money. But there wasn’t a mistake, I had banked a stack that shift.

“Mike! Omg wake up!” I shouted.

He nearly fell out of bed, still not quite used to me coming home at 3am, loud and hyper from the buzz of the bar.

“Ashley! Jesus! You’re gonna wake my dad.” He sat up in bed and followed my wide eyed expression staring down at the floor. “You what?”

“I made a thousand dollars….” I shifted my gaze back up to him. “Fuck I’m not gonna quit now. I’ll be rich by the time I’m 25.”

19

That, ladies and gents is the sole reason girls find themselves waking up in their 50s, still stripping. The money is good and whats worse is it’s fast. Fast in making it and faster in spending it.

At the time I didn’t realize how dangerous that was….I would take “shopping trips” for new shoes, bags, hair extensions, clothes, makeup all stuff i already had plenty of but never seemed enough.

The thing was, I knew that if i spent it all, it was no big deal because all i needed to do was head into work and make it back just as quickly.

Now

One experienced dancer suggested that i put 20$ away each shift. It was a good idea but i needed those thigh-high “come fuck me boots” more.

This is the thing about the club, its addictive; the glamour of getting dolled up, hair done and nails to boot and to live at night where everything is just better.

Before work, I spent an hour getting ready, doing my hair and makeup and deciding upon my outfits that night. If I tried hard enough, I could lie to myself during the hour before work, that i was actually a showgirl in Vegas and wasn’t working in a seedy bar run by bikers. But that would have to due.

I felt like i was in control, something I never really had before and in some ways i was. I could work whenever i wanted, sleep my hangover away all day and if I just didn’t feel like going into work one night, i didn’t have to.

The attention didn’t hurt either. Its basically a party where you’re the main attraction. When you’re being bought drinks and shots and being fawned over, making fast cash and essentially being your own boss there isn’t really a reason to stop. Who wouldn’t want to be told they’re beautiful while getting paid for it.

People would literally flock to whever you went, they wanted to see you.

And if one day you just didn’t feel like being yourself, it was fine, just throw on a  wig and suddenly you were whoever you wanted to be. You gave a fake name and a  sob story to match. Because you weren’t obligated to be honest about it.

No one cared.

These were some of the addictive reasons to keep dancing. I found solace in the club because it wasn’t reality…instead it was a place i thought I could escape to.
 

 

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Dancer house

When Kristy and I traveled, sometimes we stayed in the dancer house.

It was an glamorous, ” hole in the wall” for the dancers to stay in while they worked. For some of the girls, their roomie was a surprise. For Kristy and me, we were lucky because at least we had each other.

When we pulled up the first day we instantly knew by the outside alone that we weren’t going to be staying in the lap of luxury but at least the club paid us at the end of the week. Back home we paid to work. 6ab993045c072753fd518dc15f68ad1e-tumblr-drawings-sexy-drawings-225x300

Girls would sometimes bring their customers back home with them so the word safe was hardly uttered around it..

One night after work two girls got into a huge fight which resulted in one being locked out and then throwing a brick through the front window. It wasn’t the first incident, the police knew the address….

 

So one night after work Kristy and I pitched on a taxi ride home and McDics for later. When we got to the house we were the only ones there. Usually there was only 6 girls at a time but not one of us left the light on. We asked him to take us to the back of the house and after getting inside, and me locking the door first thing.

Not long after when kristy turned the kitchen light on, we heard banging on the door followed by drunken yelling, “open up!”

We had been followed.

Kristy killed the light and we both ducked down onto the kitchen floor in the darkness. We could see his shadow outlined in the kitchen door window from the light of the street lamp.

“grab a broomstick,” kristy told me as she crawled to the sink and grabbed the first frying pan she could find.

“Come on girls, fucking open the door!” He kept banging his fist against the glass. Admittedly, i was scared shitless.

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Kristy and I both crawled under the window kneeling down with our broom stick and frying pan, ready, waiting out the banging and drunken slurring. Through it, Kristy remained composed.

“Go check to make sure the rest of the windows and door is locked,” she told me.

I felt around in the darkness the entire time my heart in my throat, being led by the dim light of street lamps coming in through the windows. When I got back into the kitchen, Kristy was sitting in the darkness at the table.

“I think he’s gone.” She explained. “Just drunk.”

“Should we call the cops?” I asked.

We decided that he was gone by then but we sat still in the dark for a while until we were sure. Thats when I realized dancing wasn’t just fun and games anymore. It was a dangerous job that I was now knee deep in and it was only the beginning.

 

 

Salt N Pepa

Stylish, ambitious, beautiful and strong are only some of the words you could use to describe my best friend, Cris.

We all want to know her; the girl people want and people want to be. Who is confident and funny, shows you tough love when you need it or lends a shoulder when you don’t.  She’s a friend who no matter what curve ball life threw at us, we found each other.

Through the years after I left home and took up dancing, I fought to figure myself out. Through it all, Cris was there without judgement or criticism but instead showed me what family was really all about.

I grew up an only child, an outcast and lonely. When I met Cris and our other friend Tasha, it was like the void I could never fill was suddenly whole. We spent hours together and to this day still spend most of our time when we are together, laughing.

She was exactly the sister I never had but longed for.6687f189b9aa1d6886e0521707814d6c

When our friend Tashas mother died, we went to the funeral together. It was one of the hardest things we both had to face and we had both been through a lot. Standing side by side at the funeral, it was a little serial to see Tasha standing at the front with the rest of her family as they told their mother and wife goodbye.

It was when Cris took my hand, the two of us wiping away tears from our eyes that I had to try and accept that life wasn’t always fair or easy but that I was thankful Cris was there with me.

Then one day years later, after our usual catch up which consisted of driving around in my sports car, blasting music on the stereo and confusing the people at Starbucks with our ridiculous orders, I mentioned I was dancing later that night. When I first told Cris about stripping, she hardly batted a lash but instead was understanding. But this time, she shook her head.

“Ashley why don’t you take a night off from dancing?”

“I can’t, I have so much to catch up on. Bills, groceries, ect. I’m kind of tight for money right now.”

“Let me lend you some money,” she offered. As per usual, being my stubborn self I declined. It wasn’t fair in my mind to take my friends money while she was studying at University. But she had a different idea.

After I dropped her off at the bus stop and got home, Cris told me to check my CD case. She had slipped inside it enough money to cover my rent. Her kindness brought tears to my eyes.

“Please take it.” she wrote back after i messaged. “Take a night off dancing. Pay me back when you can. There is no rush.”

Cris is a rarity in this world, kind, real and gracious. I am lucky to have someone like her in my life and even luckier to call her my best friend.

 

 

 

 

just me

The idea was I didn’t want to look myself.

I wanted to look like those girls I saw in my fathers penthouse magazines. Perfect bleached hair and small features with mile long legs and big boobs. They had unrealistically set the bar for my beauty standards. I bleached my hair as blonde as I could get it, bought the longest hair extensions because my hair just wasn’t long enough, layered foundation on so strong you couldn’t see my acne scars and drank until I was, I thought, a better version of myself. I would look in the mirror after putting together my “masterpiece” and not recognize my own reflection, satisfied with my work.

me

. It may have taken a few hours of getting it right but by the time work rolled around, I left the house as my own version of Frankenstein.

It was a constant battle between accepting myself as the awkward, lonely and undesirable teen I had grown up as or instead forming a mission to reach perfection that I would chase forever.

I got spray tans to hide that I was so pale so it looked better in the black lights. I would shop in all the stores that had the most revealing clothing so I could lure customers in during my daily life, adorn a push up bra so tight it left marks on my skin for hours after taking it off.  As I yearned for what I believed would make me the most cash, I was losing the most important thing…. who I was. And to be honest, it was exhausting.

This charade of pretending, … it never lasts.

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Me now

Soon enough, It was no longer glamorous to look into the stage mirror and see past the heavy eyeliner the tired girl looking back at me. It quickly became boring and I realized how much fun it could be to be real. This fantasy I created for myself wore thin and suddenly I was yearning for something different…

The real girl who stood awkward in front the mirror when she was naked and without makeup, exposing the acne scars. The girl who laughed loudly at almost every joke and loved fiercely. She had an attitude and sass but that was okay. The girl  who teared up at tiny sentiments, who loved her friends, and endless dreaming. The girl who always wanted to cut her hair short and lost herself in joy when she went running.

932057259d53c037d453d9608c950188Sure I wasn’t elegant or tall, my boobs were small and I was awkward in my own skin, but that was me. 100% original, and that could never be replaced.

In some ways I have stripping to thank. It let me realize that I didn’t need to cover myself up to be what I wanted. It took so long but I realized I just had to accept who I am. And maybe instead of letting strangers convince me of who I was I should have started with my own reflection.

Another 7 years

I realize a lot of my posts have been about my father…and I’d love to come on here and say after 7 years apart, my father and I are finally spending thanksgiving together but I can’t…

I’m sad but ready to accept the fact that we may have to go through another 7 years. And another. And another..

I used think of going back in time, like maybe I wouldn’t have walked out on my family as I stared my dad in the eye like a huge fuck you, I shouldn’t have taken up stripping, I shouldn’t have started drinking, I shouldn’t have met him….so many I shouldn’t haves. But if I would sit here and ponder all these damn shouldn’t haves what could I possibly learn?

SFA. So it is just pointless. I went through it and I learned from it.

I have to admit it though, I regret it. I regret what I did to my dad. It fucking hurts every single day of my life and It probably will for the rest of my life and there is nothing I can do but perhaps accept it

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Although maybe…sometimes maybe, you just have to be hopeful for the next 7 years. Despite it all, I am still hopeful.

 

 

 

 

That Damn phone

He always acted like I was just there; no real reason except to have me around to satisfy his need for sex, supply him money and sit quietly. At least that’s how it felt sitting in the car beside him that day.

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Ken, my then boyfriend and first love, had the phone in his hand while he drove. It irked me to no end, why couldn’t he just for the love of God put the damn thing down? I was practically convinced it was glued to his hand because it didn’t matter what we were doing, he was on it.

I edged my way closer in the seat pretending to stretch my arms but instead i peaked over his shoulder to see just who was important enough to risk our lives over.

There it was on messenger, Emmy at the top followed by kens reply, “you want me to fuck you?”

I lost it. I lunged for the phone seeing only red but he reacted in record time, yanking the  phone away from me and turning the car off the street into a gas station where he parked.

“Are you fucking crazy!?” he yelled, ” What are you doing Ashley?”

“I knew you were cheating on me! I knew it! Let me out of this damn car!”

I flung the door open, struggling with my purse and slammed the car door with as much might as my 5’3 self could muster.

“Ashley! Don’t you walk away from me!” Ken yelled getting out of the car as well. “Its not at all what you think. We are just texting, joking around, I would never do that to you. What about when you go to the club and flirt with all those men, I don’t say a word about that.” It was always his argument. He secretly hated the fact I danced and constantly made sure I knew I was amounting to nothing.

His crafty way of somehow always making me feel insane did the trick as always and i believed his lie. I was also blinded by love.

But the suspicion remained in the back of my head and all my friends told me I should leave. So one night i dared to steal a glance into his precious phone. I had to know.
He was asleep but I had made sure to stay awake and it felt like a painfully long time until i was sure he was out cold. Sliding out of bed, I tiptoed to his bedside table where there his sacred device lay charging. Like a thief I took it off the table, my heart was admittedly racing until I got into the bathroom.

I knew the password already as i had managed to grab a glimpse of him putting it in time after time. Without hesitation i skipped to his messages. And there it all was… The girls, the lies, the games. And that girl Emmy was a strong player. I crumpled to the floor in tears. Why had i been so naive and stupid to believe i was enough for him… The serial cheater.

I stood up and in a rage i flew into his bedroom, turning every light on in the damn place.

“You Fucking liar!” I yelled and as if someone had attacked him, Ken jumped out of bed and went straight for the missing cell. That’s when I saw everything register on his face.

By then I couldn’t hold it in, I was bawling.

Like most things in my life I don’t cry gracefully, i heave and gasp for air like its my last breath and it drains my body of all it’s energy. I hardly fought him off as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into bed.

When i woke the next morning, red eyed and puffy, i was emotionally done, done with the lies, the wondering, the money he took and the way he put me down for just being who I was.

I could hardly look at him while i packed up my stuff. He paced while begging me to forgive him but it ended up just being noise to me, a fly that was caught in a sticky trap and was beating his wings annoyingly loud to be freed.

I left him that day. It was the first time i ever had a taste of heartbreak.

I feel completely empty. I know i have emotionally drained myself by allowing my thoughts to wander places they shouldnt. There just feels like something is missing, like a part of my life is a void. Maybe its someone instead of some thing….You know when you love someone so much but deep down you know that it will never work out? You know you will eventually have to accept this But when you try to walk away you cant bring yourself to. Love can be such a beautiful but dark place, one moment you feel like you are soaring, the next youre falling. If only things were so much simpler.