when she left

 I don’t know why but this post always seems to come out wrong. Im never satisfied with the way i tell it and I must have written it over about a dozen times by now. I feel like i just cant give it justice.

In short its the day i changed everything in my life. And broke my fathers heart.

To this day I am still living with the consequences of this decision. My father is a stubborn man. SO unfortunately, I hold the tiniest sliver of regret.

The day I left home, I didn’t have a plan. In fact it was a spur of the moment decision i made When I was 17. I had only $45 dollars in my pocket and 3 bags of my belongings. I did Have a place to stay for a short bit, in a friends basement apartment but I didn’t have a job or even working experience for that matter. And i would need one fast.

While I packed my bags my step-mother hovered over me with a Poisonous tongue but for once in my life I blocked out her hurtful words. I shoved past her out of my room, never even thinking twice about the fact that it would be the last time I would ever be able to see my childhood room again.

AT the bottom of the stairs stood my father. The crease in his forehead was sharp enough to cut stone and the look in his eyes was even worse. However, it wasn’t that he was angry, he looked exhausted and heartbroken which in my opinion hurts more.

“Ashley, tread carefully, “he said once I reached the bottom. “If you leave home, you will never be able to come back.”

I believed him with every fiber of my being and so I walked past him and stepped out my front door, turning my back on the man who had once been everything to me.

When I got to my new place, it felt suddenly so real. I knew I had to do this for me and I could never go back, no matter what

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me: now

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I remember crying myself to sleep that night because finally, it was all over. 

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just rumors

I used to be ashamed about my past as a Stripper.

When word got out I was dancing I heard a lot of things I didn’t even know about myself…

“oh that run away girl with daddy issues, I heard she started dancing just to spite him?”

“What a slut, look at the way she dresses. Shes always looking for attention from men. She’s not even pretty.”

“If you hang out with her you’ll get in trouble.”

“I heard she got a botched boob job…”

“She’s sleeping around with everyone! Talk about a slut. I think she even got knocked up and doesn’t know who the father is.”

These were among some of the poisonous tales I heard once I left home. I would bite my tongue, I was better than lashing out at rumors and letting them get to me, right? I knew who I was and that was the most important. So I turned my back to the naysayers and decided that I didn’t need it in my life.

But truth be told… it hurt.

I’m sensitive by nature which in fact made working in a strip club an impossible thing to get used to. You are constantly at the mercy of someone else’s rejection. And already for most of my life I felt rejected.

I needed to remind myself that no matter what you do in life someone will always have something bad to say about it. So why hide who you really are?.

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I tried not to let stripping define me. When I was recently introduced to a new friend of a friend she exclaimed, “Oh you’re Ashley the stripper!” I sighed, rolling my eyes.

Being in the sex industry made me realize that people aren’t exactly what you assume. I’ve met some really good girls that were dancing for the sheer fact that she had no other choice. That in itself is one of the most important lessons I learned.

Perhaps in a way writing this blog has helped me come closer to terms with who I am. I don’t think we ever really figure that out and that’s the beauty of life, you’re always discovering new things about yourself.

Even if they are just rumors …

 

 

 

car rides

The one thing my dad and I used to love to do together was go for long drives.

I would talk to him about pretty much everything and he would listen and answer all my endless questions.

Even before my step-mother came into the picture it was something we did that I didn’t have to share my dad with anyone else. I could talk about anything I wanted. We would drive anywhere and that was the beauty of it, I was happy to go anywhere so long as he was by my side.

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One car ride stands out in my mind. I was young, it was after my mother had died and my dad was raising me on his own.

We were driving this time back from the cottage when Bonnie Raitt’s “I can’t make you love me” came on the radio. I’m not sure if maybe it was the incredibly sad tone of the song or maybe it was something he had held in for too long.

Before that time, I had never seen my father actually bawl, I was shocked. Not even the day my mother died, he had held it together until I was gone from sight. He was always my rock.

Through his tears he told me something like, “You know how much I love you. And I will always love you. No matter what we go through in life we will always have each other.”

I looked over at my father, the picture of strength and it broke my heart.

To this day that song still makes me cry.

 

 

new

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Initially, I was a little too shy to go up and talk to men. If they wanted a private show they had to come up to me to get one. I moved around the club like a mouse, trying not to step on anyone’s toes. I knew I needed to get used to the attention but I had spent most of my life up until that point trying to avoid it.

Thankfully I had Q, the bouncer and my then boyfriend who looked out for me, always pointing the men in my direction.

I had  no idea what I was doing especially on stage where I gripped the pole white knuckled and desperately tried swinging my hips to the music. My new, “sort of” friend Kitana would sit off to the side at one of the tables with second degree embarrassment and wasn’t shy about sarcastically telling me afterwards, “well that was something…”

I didn’t know anything about the business. I was making things up as I went.

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I watched the girls a lot to see their approach and I think that’s how a lot of dancers learn. The number one rule I caught on to was DO NOT go up and ask for a dance first thing. Most of the time the guys were so turned off by this act of desperation, they didn’t even bother buying the girl a drink. So instead I introduced myself and asked if I could sit with them. I asked them about themselves like it was a normal first meeting.

My ploy was innocence, demure… virgin, even though by then I was sure I loved sex as much as the guys I talked to. I picked out soft colors and kept my makeup as neutral as possible playing up the look that screamed fresh out of high school. Q advised for as long as I could to use my innocence to my advantage because it wasn’t going to last.

I learned that if I told the men that it was always my “first day” it intrigued them enough each time to take me into the back. Of course this only worked for so long but for a while I was still considered “new”. Something about not being tainted and bitter made it an easy selling point because when you’re new, you haven’t figured out the reality of your job yet. And you hadn’t become a “man hater…” as they called it.

I didn’t need to pretend that I didn’t hate my job because then I didn’t. The other girls on the other hand, clearly did, and that crucial detail claws its way to the surface no matter how hard she tries to hide it.

I thought I was having fun, finally out on my own able to be who I wanted to be. I was meeting new, strange people, basically partying as much as I could to make up for all the years I thought I was missing.

Even though it became my way of survival, the reality of it was simple, I was rebelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the breaking point

For some strippers there comes a breaking point. There were only two ways to go, up or down aka get out or get sucked in.

Some dancers I met that had been working in the club since they were 18 were now in their 40s. Weathered from drugs and alcohol, with listless eyes paired with a bitterness that you could only develop from spending most of your life in this business. Sometimes when I looked at them, in the pit of my stomach I felt fear. Fear of becoming the same.

the problem was a no brainer, the money was so good and for some this was all they Knew.

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As my time in the club wore on, I started looking in the mirror and hating the person I saw. This bitterness followed me to work.

Suddenly, I was struggling to make money and the money I did make I blew on drinks and a lot of shots. I was partying too hard and recklessly driving home after instead of taking a cab so I could hold onto the small amount of money I had left.

Soon I needed to always have a drink in my hand and it wasn’t hard to come by, men would usually offer to buy the girls a drink but it never seemed like enough for me. I wanted to feel completely numb.

I knew I was spiraling downwards and The people in my life noticed.

Even though I was experienced now, with an edge on the business, I was really competing among the other girls.

I would turn my head away when I caught dancers fucking or sucking off their customer without shame in the backroom.

The men were well aware this was happening and were starting to figure out it wasn’t worth spending money on a tease when they could get the whole thing for cheap.  Hookers were no longer being discreet about their services and danced only to advertise. I was always being asked the million dollar question, “so how much for the night?” And every time I would reply with, “I don’t go home with customers.”

 

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Above the club I had been working at, The Mate, there was now a porn theater that a lot of the girls took the guys. It was basically just a fancy way of advertising a private room to fuck in with porn as an added feature. And of course, I can’t forget to mention the rub and tug down the hall. Except for the diner above the club the building was becoming a dangerous “whore house”. It was a rough area of town to begin with but it didn’t matter, by then most of the clubs were stooping low. Girls at another club I worked at occasionally, could drop 150$ at the door and be allowed to do whatever she wanted.

At the Mate, whenever a girl was “heading out for a smoke”, man in tow, she’d let tell the manager and disappear upstairs for an hour or however long. The club was fine with it because they were getting a cut.

It was when clients started asking me more frequently if I wanted to go upstairs instead of a dance that I realized the road was ending.

I always declined, believing that if I said no I still had a shred of my dignity even when my dance offers were beginning to be turned down.I would order myself another drink with my dwindling money and sit in the change room wrestling with my morals.

However One night I found myself convinced by G, my client/friend to go upstairs. We walked all the way to the back of the dark rooms. I sat down on the black couch, the wide screen TV offering a variety of porn you could choose with the remote control. On the wall there was a paper napkin dispenser and a garbage pale…

G put his hand on my leg like he always did but I went rigid.

He had said, “its’ just me.” But for me that hadn’t been the real problem. The fact was I was becoming so desperate to make money that this was becoming the few options..

. I lied when he asked if I was okay but he knew. He led me back out of the room and we both didn’t look at the lady working the desk. G had already paid her. it went unspoken.

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My breaking point hit me one night as I was leaving, another pointless shift as I left with less money than I had going in. I was lonely and discouraged especially without my friend I worked with who was now hooking on a site.

I had again spent all my cash on booze. I slipped out the front door without even signing out and sat in the drivers seat of my car and cried.

When I got home I woke my boyfriend careless for the hour which was usually 3 or 4am by then. When he saw that I had been crying,  He told me that I needed to quit, end of story.

So That night was my last shift.

For Dad

Placeholder ImageThe day I left home was the last day I believed I could ever rely on my father again. I hadn’t left on good terms.

We spent a year in silence after that. Even though he never left my thoughts I made sure to keep my back to him and no matter how easy it could have been to pick up the phone and dial his number by heart, I didn’t have the courage to. That was were I was weak.

My father was a different breed. You often hear about women having to take care of their children after the man leaves but it was my father who raised me, he was the one person in my life who I had known would never run out on me.

I don’t think we give  single fathers enough credit. My father held my broken family together alone and he did the best he could with all he had.

I never looked up to women as my mentors. I never had a celebrity that stuck out in my mind or famous athlete, or even my teachers or my coaches, it was always my father. He was always the person I wanted to be like.

When we did run into each other after I left home for good it was either by accident or sheer luck. It was never good as it always ended in tears or anger but I wasn’t going to give up.

After I bought my car and found my footing, we started to slowly find each other again. it was one day I surprised him at his shop and pulled into the drive way with my brand new sports car. He had come out of his store, shocked, his hands trembling.

We sat together and talked about everything. It was after closing hours and I had taken a seat in the front room and painfully watched as he kept turning away from me and leaving the room, hardly able to look at me for more than 10 minutes without breaking down.

I knew we would never be the same again but by this time in my life I was trying to learn to accept this.

When I was leaving, I was starting my car when my dad came out with a wad of money in his hand, yelling for me to wait. I began to do up my window. I watched as my dad tried stuffing the money through the shrinking space of the window with his face in tears.

“Dad, I don’t need your money,” I had protested. I hadn’t come for money I had come to show him that I was doing okay.

“Stevie just take the money. Remember that I will always be your father.”