The other night I'm in the dressing room at the far back make-up counter, pasting eyelashes to my face; the DJ announces the first night-shift dancer to the stage and this familiar groove comes over the loudspeaker and next thing I know me and Charlie and Leilani are bobbing heads -- I wanna sex you up --
Charlie giggles. "Girl, I ain't heard this shit since junior high."
"No way" I say.
"No shit," says Leilani.
To me, this song is an instant flash of the schoolbus home from sixth grade, that long drive through the flat farm country and all the bad kids in the back would sing along --
Cuz the first time i saw ya I wanted to kick it to ya
Your body is slammin, so honey can i do ya
-- and I couldn't beleive they were saying S-E-X on the radio and adults were letting us hear it. We pulled the bus windows down and the wind smelled like corn.
-- Cuz you and i both know tricks are for kids
So get the Don Perignon outta the fridge--
That summer at camp I would be obsessed with sneaking in the bathroom while the older girls were changing so I could look at their weirdly sprouting breasts. Like bananas, I thought, or some other wobbly fruit. I didn't have much for breasts yet and, as it turns out, never really would.
Hey, beautiful lady, I need you tonight
Lovely, lovely lady, I wanna make you feel all right, yeah--
Charlie does the little shoulder shimmy that all the girls did to this song back then, sexy little chicken-head weave, and the syncopated hands, and we all start doing it --
Say do you feel lonely girl
Let me turn down the lights so I can hold you in the darkness--
A row of younger strippers freeze with lip-glosses halfway to their mouths and giggle. "This song is old school," says the one with the black hair. When this song came out she was three.
Charlie and Leilani and I exchange looks. We are old school. Late twenties, all of us. Old strippers. Not as old as the girls I secretly call the pros -- the 35+ crowd who still rock the stage and hustle the floor as hard as steel, out-lasting the fuck-ups and the burnouts and the crazies and the junkies, going strong like finely-maintained German automobiles. Chanel, the Russian, who wears the same damn orange-and-white bikini every night and dances like a spastic and can have any man she wants. Josie, who has at least one teenage son and off whose body you could bounce a quarter at any point. Shawna with her thin-lipped friendliness and head-banger music and legions of adoring regulars. The women we will be someday if we stick this game out long enough --
All I wanna do is--
It's hard to be a young stripper. Customers tell you that they love you. They dick you out of money. They insult your body. And while you know you shouldn't take it to heart, you take it to heart. The slings and arrows of all that caddishness pierce right through your baby-soft skin. Maybe it's just hard being young.
The pros, they keep moving no matter what. No crying in the dressing room for them. No night-long arguments with ex-boyfriend on borrowed cell phones, crouched down in the last stall of toilets. They are solid.
Charlie does her little bob and weave again. She looks happy, like somebody you could never fuck with. I hope I look the same.
Make sweet lovin' all night long
Feels so right it can't be wrong
Don't be shy girl come to me
Open up your heart and I'll set you free
I want to touch you all the right places, baby
I want to make love to you