I never was a Superstripper. I never had the strategy. I just smiled a lot and hoped that would take me where the money was. It often did.
I have a big smile, open and full of teeth like happy dog. My eyes crinkle shut when I smile, too, which according to some eastern diagnostic traditions means I am destined for a happy life. Here's hoping.
I still smile a lot now that I am cocktailing at my old strip club. I think it's the only reason I make money, not that I'm making that much. Note to self: working for tips during a recession is shit.
I smile all huge at the guy I'm talking to now. "Can I get you something?"
He's all sprawled out in his chair and now his eyes roll up at me like bloodshot eggs. He probably doesn't need another drink. I ask again if I can bring him something. Water, perhaps?
"Just bring me your tits."
"Okey doke," I say. I turn and walk away.
Why are you waitressing? All the waitresss ask me this. Like there's going to be some big dramatic reason. I tell them I just needed a break, but they look at me like they don't get it, so after a while I start making up stupid reasons. I tell them I was tired of shaving my pussy. I tell them I developed an allergy to men's pants.
The dancers don't ask me why I'm waitressing, not the ones I've known for a while anyway. They know dancing can get old.
"I wish I could be a fucking waitress," Ronnie says. "I can't do it though. I'm a horrible waitress."
Ronnie's been here longer than most of us, and yet she never quite looks like a stripper. Her hair and make-up are haphazard, as though she's never quite got the hang of them. Clumsy in her shoes, she sidles crab-wise across the club, awkward and stoop-shouldered. Her pupils are no bigger than a pencil-tip and when she talks to you she stares right through you. Drugs, maybe. Or she's really crazy. I really don't know.
My regular, B., told me she once offered to give him a blow-job after the club closed. She wanted a couple hundred dollars and she gave him her phone number and promised the meet up with him. He says he didn't call her. I can't think of any reason he would make this up.
Everyone sort of knows that Ronnie is a whore, but everyone lets it go. In theory, strippers hate girls like this because they drive up customer expectations and undermine the market for the dancing-only kind of entertainment. But it's hard to hate Ronnie. She isn't hurting anyone.
"I tried to be a waitress," Ronnie tells me, staring right through me at a spot six feet behind my face. "I couldn't do it. It's hard."
"I hope I make it," I say. "I'm sick of dancing."
"Right on," says Ronnie, nodding. "Right on, right on."
And she squirrels away. I'll see her later at the end of the night in the dressing room, where her locker is two down from mine. I'm supposed to use the waitress lockers in the waitress part of the dressing room now, but I don't. Waitresses here are as cut-throat and mean as dancers are sweet and laid-back.
Or maybe it's just a sign of the times. No one's making money any more, and for some obscure reason the club keeps hiring more girls. More dancers, more waitresses. Flooding the floor with girls even as the pool of customers shrinks till we are like angry sea-birds around a vanishing tide-pool. I did OK tonight, but barely, and only because I smiled at the right people at the right time.
Ronnie is cursing next to me and I don't want to know why. "She's so fucking stupid," she says. "She thinks she's all that, but she's not. That's the funny thing. She is not. She is NOT."
She's slurring. She might be a little drunk, but then again she always slurs. It's hard to tell. Maybe she's always drunk.
"You OK, baby?" I say, only because I feel like I have to say something.
"She is a fucking god-damned piece-of-shit cunt whore is what she is,"Ronnie says. "And she thinks she's so hot. Fuck her! Fuck her, right?"
"OK, baby. It'll be OK."
Not because it will be. Just for something to say.
She slams her open palm into the closed door of the locker next to her. And then she does it again, and again, and again. "Fucking fuckingfuckingFUCK!"
I stuff my things in their bag. I pull the zipper shut. I take another look at her, but I can't think of anything I'm supposed to do. I'd rather just not be involved. I imagine a lot of people feel this way about Ronnie. I wonder if anyone loves her.
I back away, and really I don't turn my back on her until I am at the dressing room door and then I go out. The last thing I see is her pitched forward, with her face not quite pressed against the locker door, not quite crying.