Slow times. Without my regular customers I'd be lapping gruel in the poor house about now. Ah, regulars. My friend Scarlett used to call me spoiled. "It's easy money for you," she said. "The money's there waiting for you and all you have to do is show up and collect it." If only.
Not to say that I'm unappreciative. But the money isn't easy just because it's guaranteed. My favorite customer, bar none, is the anonymous out-of-town business guy for whom an evening spent with me on a couch in the Champ Room beats sitting in a hotel room watching Skinemax or drinking alone in the bar. We can get drunk and say all sorts of dumb shit to each other, exchange e-mails out of courtesy, and never think about each other again. It's easy to be the perfect woman if you only have to do it for an hour or two.
A step down in ease and convenience are the repeat out-of-towners like Sam, who works for some sort of mining consortium out west and comes to town once in a blue moon for reasons I've never bothered to understand, and drops a line to let me know he's in the neighborhood. We spend a lovely evening drinking and flirting and then he asks me back his hotel and I say no, and we wish each other happy trails.
Then there's the motley assortment of club regulars who pay no fealty to me in particular, but are more than happy to get a dance or ten from me if I happen to be around. They run the gamut from tolerable to highly tolerable. (I don't bother making regulars out of the customers I can't tolerate -- it wouldn't be a fun experience for anyone.) Mostly, they are geeks. RenFair/SCA/Ampgard, WoW-playing, Linux-programming, SciFi Channel watching flaming geeks. The affection is mutual.
Then there are the pseudo-boyfriend regulars, the ones who come in often enough and spend enough money and buy presents and remember birthdays, so that I end up with the distinct feeling that what they're purchasing from me is not a dance, or many dances, or even an evening of pleasant company, but an entire relationship.
And of course it is a relationship -- a professional one. I get quite fond of my regulars, the way you'd get fond of any valued client. I get to know them very well. Better than most of the women they date, probably, better than some of their friends. I care about them and want the best for them. Most of all, I want their time with me to be useful; I want them to get whatever sort of benefit an hour or two with a naked woman can give them. Still, I'm not a girlfriend to them. I'm not really even a friend. Some of them know that. Some of them get confused.
Soomer or later most of them get confused, actually. It gets ambigious in their minds who feels what about whom and why I'm taking my clothes off and why they're giving me money. The lines between fantasy and reality get blurred and this is the point where they want to take me to dinner. When I can't and won't go, they are sad.
I used to feel all torn up when they got sad. Still, if this job has taught me anything, it's that I can't take on the burden of other people's emotions. People have the kind of experience they want to have. If you want to have a good time, I'll help you have it. If you want to have a bad time, that's your perogative; I'll do times tables in my head until you stop talking about how you can't live without me and I've ruined your life. It used to hurt, but my mechanism of disassociation are stronger now, which is to say, my heart is harder. I think it's better for everyone that way.
So it isn't easy money, this regular business. But school's out and it's family vacation time and the out-of-town business travelers are few and far between, so thank God for the regulars. Thank you for your continued patronage. Thank you for liking whatever it is that you like about me enough to buy me drinks and spot me smokes and pay me money to sit around in my underwear discussing the rival advantages of zombies vs. vampires. Thanks for understanding the realities of our relationship. I love walking into the bar and seeing your friendly face and knowing that I'm going to have a good night. Peace.
(And then, of course, there's Joe. That's another story.)