For going on six weeks now this case of sniffles has dragged on -- bouts of what seem to be juniper allergies giving way to throat infections giving way to lingering coughs. Nobody wants a dance from the stripper with the lung cough. And then the whole thing starts over again. My lungs, full of puss, sit heavy on my heart.
However, there is a bright spot, to wit, I can't smoke at work anymore, because it gives me a tubercular death rattle that is pretty terrible for business. Oh, and also because apparently it's bad for my health. Who knew?
Fact is, I only smoke when I'm working. I haven't had a smoke outside of a strip club in years, but something about walking in the door at work makes me want a cigarette so bad I could cry. Sometimes I'll refuse to stop and buy a pack on the way work. Come one, I tell myself, this is silly. You know better. You're a yoga teacher, for crying out loud. Then I get to the club and within ten minutes I am so frantic I'll pay the club's insanely inflated $8 for a lousy pack of Camel's because I can't even get my make-up on straight until I've had a mouthful of ash.
It's worse when it's slow. When I've asked every trick in the place if they wouldn't like little ole me to keep them company a spell and they've all looked at me like I have two heads and there's basically nothing to do but go back the dressing room and re-apply lip gloss for the fifth time and limp out and sit at the bar with my favorite bartender and talk about sex and smoke-ity smoke-smokesmoke. Makes me look busy, right? Makes me look cool, no?
So Sunday night was my first night back at work since the last bout of tonsilitis, and my first night without a cigarette in who-knows-how-long. I did it, though. Huzzah for me. It was surprisingly easy, but probably only because none of my customers that night happened to be smokers. That'll be the real test.
I don't mind canning the smokes if I'm sitting with a non-smoker, but if the customer is lighting up, I want one too. Especially if he's not a big talker. Smoking takes the place of conversation. It's something companionable we can do together without actually having to interact. It gives the whole transaction a leisurely rhythm: we dance, we smoke, we ash, we dance again.
I'm a shy person, actually, and nervous, a bit of a fidgeter. Smoking gives me something to do with my hands. Otherwise I'll sit and do weird, distracting things, like play with my hair or, worse, knit my fingers and wring my hands together in unconscious displays of desperation.
I guess I smoke at work these days for the same reasons I started smoked in high school and college -- to have something to do with my hands, to look busy, not lonely. But I'm a big girl now, in most other facets of my life, not so concerned with the things people who don't know might think about the way I look. Thing is, of course, being a stripper is all about being concerned with what people who don't know you think about the way you look. Nothing like being naked and for sale to bring the good old insecurities all back up again.