Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was a nude dancer. I loved it. I hated it. It has made all my other jobs, with their dress codes, conduct seminars, moral boosting platitudes and angry managers, feel like a poorly acted play, where no one wants to stay in character. I wasn’t a hustler. I preferred the comfort of peepshows and tiny dive bars to the lap dance emporiums.
I never lasted more than a few hours in those places where you had to ask the customer directly for money. One dismissive look and the rejection tore me back to being picked last for every team from Kindergarten until I dropped out of high school. It takes me back to the bland as oatmeal childhood that was my hell.
Standing in front of some dude and his mates who opt for the taller, blonder, hotter, dancer, I wanted to break a bottle, hold the broken glass to his jugular and ask “Am I pretty now, you dumb Bitch?” then take all the money from his wallet.
If I was going to do that, I shouldn’t have witnesses. I should wait in an alleyway. And I shouldn’t wear a bikini; I should wear some clothes and a ski mask. I realize that is an entirely different profession. I would be the only mugger to ask her victims if she was pretty. If you say yes, I give you back your credit cards. I’m not sure it would bother me that I took my compliments by force. My subconscious might give me justice points.
I worked at the Lusty Lady in Seattle. I was banned and hired back two or three times. My stripper name was Puddin’ Butt. Sometimes I went on stage in an old lady wig, horn-rimmed glasses, and a turtle neck with the boobs cut out. I looked like an X-rated Far Side Character. I was asked to shave my legs and I made a sweet checkerboard pattern.
A screaming, kicking outburst and series of questionable tattoos got me barred me for good. I found that so-called real jobs were not much better for me, they just paid less and I had to wear clothes.
I worked at the Magic a Go-Go in Portland while trying my hand at being a professional wrestler for Lady Hawk entertainment. It was there I fell for the photographer’s scam, “I’ll take your pictures and give you half the money when I sell them.”
As I said, I was plump, also slightly anemic and covered in bruises from wrestling. We were outdoors and I told the photographer, “Take my picture in the ditch. Get my bruises and stuff. I’ll look like I’m dead. We can sell them to True Detective Magazine.”
I was stoked. I really wanted to be a cold-case centerfold. I imagined the headline: “The Case of the Angry Plump Stripper. She Died Trying.”
The photographer paled visibly. He was hoping he could get me to finger myself and I was wondering how we could get some trained vultures to look like they were pecking my eyes. His fantasy photo shoot was taking a turn for the worse.
At 45 I still have anxiety dreams that I have to go on stage and I am too fat, too old. I can’t find my heels or makeup. I really want to go on stage. I just don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to be anyone’s fantasy. I want to take off my clothes, put on some sparkles, pin a Marshmallow peep on top of my hairdo while trained Vultures sing back-up to a Prince mix tape.
I want to be the evil clown of sex, mocking my confusion between degradation and procreation between Valentine’s Day and Halloween between love and torture.
Ted Bundy roamed my childhood followed by the Green River Killer, and a brief interlude from Kenneth Bianci. I have a friend who says we sexualize what we fear in order to gain control over it. Maybe I like the idea of flaunting the ditch, the bruises, the vultures. Maybe I think it is a good place to hide. As if the killers will pass me by because I am already dead.