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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 and you will always be my little girl.”

Social Dynamics

Working in a strip club was like the best class I ever took. And the subject? Social dynamics.

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I learned more about people during work hours than I ever did in “real life.” Something about the dark lights and close capacity made people open up even if they weren’t intending to. Maybe it was the alcohol maybe it was the atmosphere.I was amazed at how money could change me and the people around me. Before I didn’t have the incentive to talk to someone, it became my lively hood to force myself out of my comfort zone and talk to complete strangers. And cash was the push I needed.

Going from a sheltered, lonely teen to an exposed young adult in the sex industry changes you in ways you sometimes wouldn’t want to admit.

I learned that I needed to have a drink to ease my nerves before I could start work. The more I drank, the better my job became. It wasn’t that I had this secret ability that I had hidden and it only took alcohol to awaken it, it was that I learned to adapt with my flaws. I had grown up bullied, awkward, pimple faced, outcast-ed and strange and alcohol made me forget this. I self medicated.

When I had a few drinks, I felt like I turned into a sex goddess.

In high-school and most other parts of my life I had been invisible suddenly people were looking at me and I needed to deal with this new attention. I didn’t really know how to.

Men liked to confide in me things that I’m sure few people in their real lives actually knew. They needed someone to listen and that became my job. Some of the men had poor conversation skills or were shy around women, but I knew that I could make people feel comfortable. I had clients who were recovering sex addicts, others who were weird enough that they brought in pictures of dead fish, or buy me new nylons to wear and rub my legs while we talked. I learned to prepare for whoever I was about to meet.

My best skill was that I could sit with them for hours and talk like a real person. I wasn’t acting because I couldn’t, I didn’t know how to be anyone but myself. Ironically, I had grown up desperately wanting to be anyone but. tumblr_nxu5cu4vVC1up2hhro1_500.gif

I could make connections. My first real regular was a man I’ll call G. He was an older man who owned his own Roofing company. He’d pay me to sit with him. He told me he loved my realism, he hadn’t met anyone like me before and he’d been coming to clubs before I was born. We’d go out and eat or go to different bars besides strip clubs and every time he wanted to give me money. I started to refuse and told him I just enjoyed his company and our hours of conversation.  It was true.

I soon learned he was married and despite our instant connection I knew we would never be anything more than stripper and client. He suddenly started to pull away from me and stopped coming into the club. The texts stopped and I was never allowed to text him first.

His friend would come into the club still and sat with my friend Mia. He told Mia G Was falling in love with me and had to cut it off, “That it was too hard to have 2 lives”. And just as soon as he came into my life, he disappeared. It hurt but it was reality.

It’s so easy to forget that the things that go on in a strip club are dealing with actual real people, with real lives that far from perfect but they are happening.

Own it

There is a certain self discovery that comes with being a stripper. I don’t care what anyone says all girls have fantasized about being a stripper at least once in their lives.

The idea of being so sexually comfortable with yourself that you can stand naked in front of complete strangers is invigorating. That you are arousing desire, so lust worthy that men will pay for your time and attention. Leaving them hoping maybe one day you will leave with them for free…You are creating a fantasy that is just within reach.

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There is something so liberating, so freeing to be in control of your own sexuality. I would turn myself on in the champagne room because I believed I had that power and the fact I was turning someone else on made it sexier.  I picked out outfits that were fun for me, that I felt sexy in to wear and the guys liked.

i knew that If I viewed it as a job and as long as I stayed “professional” I could get in and get out without being tainted by the darker side of the business. And to never forget my morals.

I never saw it like I was selling my self worth per say especially in the beginning when the attention was so new and exciting. I was getting something out of it and so were they. Right?

I viewed it as an art form which essentially what stripping was all about in the beginning.

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When I was on stage I treated it like a real show, not quite like being a Vegas show girl… but still a performance. It was my advertisement, after all. I felt confident… like a goddess when I could capture all the eyes in the room. Even sometimes I could catch the girls pausing to watch my shows.

I was in control of how far a man went with me in the champagne room and if he persisted all I needed to do was cut the dance short and tell the bouncer. I wasn’t at the mercy of someone else’s sexual attraction, I was owning the fact that I was a sexual creature and confident enough to display this sexuality in front of someone else.

Of course dancing offers “fast, easy” money but what so many people don’t talk about is the actual confidence and guts it takes. They just assume a stripper is there because she had no other choice. But it’s a tough job, one you are constantly balancing a tight rope between MONEY and more.

To be able to display your body in such a vulnerable way takes a certain self confidence that I don’t think I had before dancing.

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the first day

One of the first life lessons I learned in the industry was that men are driven by sex and power. They count their lives landmarks by their accomplishments. Women are driven by love, to give it and to receive it. It’s just how nature designed us.

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As women we tend to define our lives based on the relationship we were in at the time. If we thought more like men, we would probably be happier and less quick to jump into a relationship that wasn’t right for us. We would focus more on our goals, dreams and ambitions instead. But a lot of our actions are influenced by the latter, that is until we know better.

 

I didn’t grow up the pretty, popular girl with an army of friends and boyfriends. I was a bit of an outcast who only felt comfortable when I was doing sports.

Insult to injury, I was a really late bloomer who didn’t Feel comfortable in my own skin until the last year of high school.

It was one day out of nowhere that I noticed I had breasts, toned legs and a flat tummy. The pictures I would search of beautiful women didn’t seem like such a far cry now. I grabbed the first box of blonde hair dye I could find, practiced makeup in the mirror of my basement apartment for hours and traded my sweatshirts and pants for tank tops and short-shorts.

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Now My first introduction to the inside of a strip club was a little unusual. I had taken the bus and got off at the stop outside the club. Wearing a dark blue Lacey dress and misplaced confidence I strutted up to the front door where a big, black man was working. His  name was Q.

I announced that I wanted to dance. He looked me up and down, my confidence wavering a little but hoped that my push up bra, red lipstick and ridiculous high heels made me appear experienced, older and maybe sure of myself, which was all a complete lie.

“You ever dance before?” Q asked.

“In my mirror at home. I’m very good.”

“Have you ever even been in a strip club before?”

“No. Do I need a resume to apply?”

He bellowed with laughter then asked me, “How old are you?”

“I’m 18 but my birthday is in December.” It was September then. I was never a very good liar so I hardly bothered.

He pondered this information for a minute before deciding to let me in.

I followed him into the club, a place I had imagined what would look like from the outside since I was 12. A place I had been sheltered from.

I was disappointed…It was dark, dirty and seedy, the lights dim perhaps in favor of the girls and the stage was small with a mirror for a back drop. A skinny blonde girl was just walking onto the stage with a few customers sitting at the tables. Some men looked curiously over at me. I just remember thinking am I really here…

He led me through the club, past the bar into the back where the champagne rooms were. They looked liked bathroom stalls with no doors, just a black chair and a place for your drinks. Q explained this was where I would make my money, $20 a dance for 3 or so minutes. It was the customers decision how many dances he wanted and he was allowed to touch me everywhere except my pussy.

When he showed me the DJ booth next to the stage he told me I had to perform 3 songs, 2 fast paced and then I would get a break and complete my set with a slow and a change of clothes if I desired.

“Do I really have to get completely naked?” I nearly whispered.

He chuckled. “Everything comes off sweetheart.”

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He then showed me the kitchen, introducing me to the cook who had also been the local drug dealer. He took me down rickety stairs to the change room which looked just as worn and tired as the rest of the place. A black girl was changing with her boobs on full display. she hardly seemed bothered by my shyness and avoidance of staring at her but just smiled at Q when he greeted her.

Q then turned to me and told me he wanted to see just how good I was talking about. I felt shy but followed him into the men’s washroom where he sat down on the toilet seat and I began dancing for him. When I began undoing my dress and spun around to face Q, he stood up and picked me up like a porcelain doll and held me up against the wall, his arms wrapped under my legs.

“what are you doing?” I asked.

He told me he was going to have sex with me then. My heart had been racing but I wanted so badly to get in that for a moment I even considered it. But before anything could happen his name sounded from the speakers. 

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He told me if I wanted to dance he would let me start that night and he would take care of me. No problems..except I was suppose to be starting college…

“I’ll think about it.” I said.

Of course the next night I returned to stay.

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It was one night I was working at the Million Dollar Saloon, it was a Thursday and I was sitting at a table waiting for my turn on stage. This beautiful, vivacious blonde approached me coming out from the champagne room with her customer, her long bleached blonde hair touched her waist, she was tanned with an ass most girls envied. I had never seen her before even though the Saloon was a large enough club when a girl like her entered the bar people noticed.

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She was friendly with a magnetic aura that instantly made you like her. She took the seat across from me, setting down her double rum and coke, an array of pink, diamonds and perfectly french manicured hands. She smiled at me and said, “Hi I’m Kimberly. I have to ask what a girl like you is doing in a place like this? you’re too pretty for it.” I wanted to say the same thing to her but I was shy and only beginning to come into myself. Compliments made me uncomfortable.

I told her I was new and this was the only bar I knew of.

“You should work with me in Burnville. They have a really nice classy bar up there, no touch.”

No touch…

The thought was glorious. It would be a refreshing change from what I was used to being groped by dirty men all day, often having to tell a customer that I didn’t feel like having my asshole fingered, thank you. Something a lot of the men liked to try was brushing your pussy’s lips with the top of their knuckle while rubbing your thighs. As soon as you’d protest they would lie and say it was an accident all the while attempting it again. They also loved to try and “convince” me. They would suggest just letting them touch the outside “i won’t go in. It will feel good.” I would roll my eyes and slap their hand away from my crotch.

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This new club would mean they could only watch and sit on their hands and if they tried any funny business out they went.

So you could imagine it didn’t take much convincing although I should have been a little more cautious she was a mere stranger then, but I was only longing for a friend in such a scary, lonely place and something about her made me instantly trust her. Kim wasn’t like the other girls, she was real.

We left the next evening, her boyfriend driving us up there and dropping us off for a week. My trust in her proven right.

. We worked together always the same shift, creating a skit that we were sisters. Back then I had long bleached hair as well and we both had dirty blonde roots, green eyes and square faces. It was perfect and it worked. Men were intrigued by the two new blondes with bubbly personalities.

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I learned that she came from a hard life, something we both unfortunately had in common. Abuse and betrayal was something she knew all too well. She had been back stabbed by girlfriends and boyfriends a like and advised me to trust very little. 

I was in an emotionally abusive relationship when I met her. Every piece of advice she gave I tried to listen even when I would fall back to him. Disbelieving he was cheating but she was convinced and unfortunately turned out to be right. Kim sat me down in the kitchen of the Dancer house, explained the situation to me and in tears told me as gently but firmly as she could I deserved so much better. She saved me from a toxic relationship.

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Only 5 years my senior, but wise many years beyond her own, Kim taught me which customers were a waste of time and who would be interested, the girls to steer clear from and the girls you could “befriend”. 

Every time I did something to step on a girls toes, she had my back, her smooth way of diffusing a situation made her a god-send. She also taught me the most important thing about the club, money; how to save it, count it and spend it properly.

When we weren’t working we Did normal things all girlfriends do, tan, watch crime shows, go clubbing. We’d Grab the same blonde hair dye from the pharmacy and do each other’s nails while we waited for our hair to change colour. Since I spent so much time at her place I soon fell in love with her parents as they called me their adoptive daughter.

  
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I was lucky to have taken that leap of faith and trusted her because without that decision I may never have made such an amazing friend.That’s the thing about the strip club, although a lot of girls are there for the wrong reasons there are many who are only trying to make a decent living and if you’re willing to look hard enough you’ll find a gem amoung the rough.

7 years later, she is still my best friend.