Thursday, July 24, 2008


Outside the window of the truck the night goes by in a flat plane of blue-black. Inside, the GPS unit lights the curve of Josh's cheekbone, a green crescent. The GPS says four hours to our motel room in the middle of Ass Nowhere Texas, where we can sleep until almost sun-up. Tomorrow will be a long, hard day.

Josh and I have history. We worked together on a different job one summer a long time ago, when I was twenty and he was 26 or so. I'd been there longer, which technically made me his supervisor. The job ended at the end of the summer, but we stayed in touch. The day after Halloween we kissed. By Thanksgiving we were lovers, although I had a boyfriend already, a sweet Catholic kid who cried and swore suicide any time I broached the possibility of breaking up.

Josh pulls the truck over at a gas station in the middle of darkness. We are nowhere near anything. I'm surprised the gas station is open, but it's not as late as it feels. Inside I pay for a tank of gas and a six-pack of Coors. Back in the cab I pop a cap. It's hot, even with the sun down. Sweat pricks along my hairline and my upper lip. The beer is just cool enough.

Josh and I haven't worked together since that first job. I didn't even know he was still in town til January, when I got stumped by a technical question in the Dayjob Project and sent a message to his old e-mail address. I didn't exactly expect to hear back.

Last I knew he was living in New York. He had called me three or four years ago, to ask if I'd been tested for AIDS lately. "I'm getting tested," he said. "The Health Department called and told me one of my previous partners tested HIV positive. I was hoping it was you, cause we always used condoms. I thought maybe you'd become some kind of junkie whore by now."

"Sorry. Can't help you."

"I'll be in Amarillo next month," he said. That's a really long way from here.

I asked him to call me back when he got the test results. He did. The test was negative. Congratulations, I said. We rang off. That was it.

But he did e-mail me back in January. "I'm in Texas again," he wrote back. "Call me. I'll help you any way I can."

We met for coffee. I saw him the second he walked in, and then he took his sunglasses off and I felt a pang, because he looked older, which he was. I am, too. He never was a handsome man, with that sullen, feral face and cheap swagger like a drugstore cowboy -- jaw a little too thick and mouth a little too tender, as though any second it might quiver like a child's.

I told him what I was doing and he offered himself to me, to work for free, even though he was busy. He's some kind of contractor now, working in the dirt and making all kinds of money. Guy knows how to hustle. I always liked that.

I said, "Are you sure?"

He said, "Sure I'm sure. I want to do it. You can make it up to me later, when you're big-time."

I was glad. When it comes to work, I trust him absolutely. He's good at what he does. So last week I called him up and he said yes and I told him what the score was: we leave at night, wake up at dawn, work an 18-hour day, drive home. And I needed him to drive. He said, "Kick me in the balls why don't you, while you're at it." But I knew he'd come.

The beer is just cool enough and the night goes past the window mile after mile of it, and it feels like we've been driving for days. The air inside the cab is soft with a humidity that the truck's old A/C barely dents and I can smell his sweat. He was the first man I ever loved to fuck. I remember it so well, in memories as precise and precious as souvenir postcards -- his hands around my waist, his sneer of concentration, his body between my legs like a furious machine. I could put my hand across the cab of the truck and it would be like eight years had never happened.

I shake my head to clear it and take another sip of beer. "Pass me one of those, would you?" he says.

I take a look at him and decide that it's OK, he's a big guy. One beer is OK. Or maybe not, but we've always brought out the stupid country kid in each other, the dumb and bored and desperate part that just wants to get fucked up and ruin something.

So much history. Before we ever met we had a history -- the history of Sunday mornings in little country churches in the summer, tiny wooden buildings with no air-conditioning so the sweat weeps down the backs of your knees and the crease of your neck, and someone saying something that's supposed to be important, but the words buzz around your heads like flies and out the open window. You smell the fields, hot dust and drying hay. Those who take pleasure in unrighteousness will be damned, and your ears prick then and you squirm your sweating thighs against the hard pew and you know they're talking now about you and all those unspeakable, exciting things you do, and want to do.

The history of bus-stops outside trailer parks, going to school every day in the wrong clothes, trying to make the walk to the cafeteria take all lunch period so you won't have to talk to anyone, so no one can look at you and there will be no name-calling, no shoving. A history of dads with angry hands, with hands like knots of oak, a history of lying in bed telling yourself you're the best, the best ever, you are fortune's only child and they are all fucking losers, all of them, you are getting out of here and you will show everyone you are the best, the best, the best. Because this is the only way you can go to sleep at night and the only way you can stand to wake up again.

I spent Christmas alone the day that I was 20, and I remember nothing about the day except gray light through the windoe and the absolute peace of absolute solitude, so light and free, like I could float away. Three days later, Josh and I caught the train to El Paso in the middle of an ice storm. We crossed the border in Juarez and spent the day drinking 25 cent beers, and the night in the Hotel Rio where for hours we lay awake and listened to women and children crying and laughing through the wooden walls. We took the bus down to Chihuahua and then the train again -- Divisidero, Bahuichivo, Creel. We were headed to the beach, La Paz, for New Years, but then some bad things happened. I fell off a horse and hit my head hard enough to forget where I was for thirty minutes, and spent the night drinking Mexican Benedryl in our bed in the hostel, praying that it would keep my brain from swelling up, praying that I would not die in this strange country with this strange man, so far from home and from anyone who loved me. Two days later we read the map wrong, got off the train at the wrong stop, and spent a lost few days hitch-hiking between tiny mountain towns with our high-school Spanish, two dumb-ass gringos on a half-doomed vision quests.

I pop the tab on another beer with a gentle hiss and hand it to him. "Beautiful," he says. "We should have gotten married."

That was never close to happening. I always knew when we got back to the border it was over. I figured he knew it, too. Once, as the bus drew back towards Juarez, I tried to bring it up. It was dark, like this, and we were almost sleeping. I turned my head towards him on the seat and he was watching me, his face inches from my face. He smiled at me, mouth drawn up sweet and wry. He said, "Your hair smells like cotton candy."

I said, "When we get back to town, it won't be like this. I still have a boyfriend. Of course. You know."

His face changed so fast it took my breath away. He looked at me with what seemed like the purest hate, eyes like two wide black holes. "Why did you say that?" His voice was a low hiss. "Everything was perfect for a minute and you ruined it. Why did you have to say anything?"

"I'm sorry," I said. I felt awful, and alone, the ruiner of perfect things. "Just stay with me to the border and you can leave. I can get the rest of the way by myself."

"What are you, retarded? Don't even say anything else, OK? Just shut up. Shut the fuck up."

Silence. Our history is the history of loneliness.

We got over it. By the time we crossed into El Paso we were compadres again. And for a few weeks after that everything was like it had been. We drove around in his truck, made up reasons to get out of the city and onto the back roads, like motion was our natural element.

But finally we stopped. Nothing happened. I just stopped calling him. We had plans to go to Galveston for Mardi Gras, but I never called. He left one message on my answering machine, annoyed and bitter and final. I wouldn't hear from again till he called me from New York.

I stayed absent-mindedly with the Catholic boy for another year. Josh turned out to be the first of the long, long line of boys I cheated with. It was like something had snapped in me, some component in the mechanism of my self-control. I lived in a universe of suspended consequences, until in the end I broke up with that sweet boy anyway, and told him everything, and saw his face smash like an egg.

History is collective. You have to share it with someone, or it's just a story. And that feeling, when someone knows your history, really knows it, that sense of being so instantly and so deeply recognized, is a lot like love, or maybe it is some kind of love.

That first time we kissed, I remember that as clear as anything I ever have remembered. Late on rainy afternoon, sitting on the bed in the bedroom that was also his kitchen, my cheek pressed against the window and the coolness of the drops running down. It was fall and in my memory everything smells like dark, wet leaves. His hand at my waist and his face so close to mine, I feel the heat from him, I smell him, and he says, "Let's just kiss. That's all I want. Just kiss me. Please. One time."

Liar. His lips tasted like salt.

Our history was the history of flight, from home and everything that felt like home. The history of love and hate and love that feels like hate, and pain squeezed down inside so tightly and so long that it becomes a diamond, hard and bright.

I could have left that Catholic boy for you. In the end I left him anyway, and in the end he didn't kill himself. It all still would have ended like it did. It never would have ended any other way. But I could reach my hand across the cab tonight, snake down between your thighs and it would be like eight years never happened, and like you never left and like I never found a better man, a man who is not a game I could never win.

I had to leave you to keep you. You know that.

We roll into the tiny town in the middle of nowhere, a little cluster of lights in the darkness. We pull into that motel parking lot. You kill the engine and for a second the silence is fierce, but I already know what will happen, which is nothing. We'll take turns undressing in the bathroom and lie down in the separate beds, turn the lights out and turn our backs on each other like two nuns. Our self-control is excellent these days. Congratulations.

You might as well be inside of me. You're in my skin as much as you ever were. For two or three mornings I will wake up twisted in my sheets and sick to the stomach, wanting your body like a drug. I will scrub you off my skin for days, the way I used to do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sun in cancer, moon in scorpio

It's m'birthday! My mom sent me this card, with a note that said, "This looks like your smile."

I am 28. If I were a Vulcan, I would have to mate, but instead I will celebrate the growing influence of Saturn by distributing prizes. I was recently given the Arte Y Pico Blogging Award, which looks like this:

The significance of the award isn't clear to me, except that (a) it was very nice of fellow Austinite mapelba , a fine writer in her own right, to give me an award, and (b) I am now empowered to give awards to other people and how fun is that? So, without further ado:

River City Kitty. Duh. As far as I'm concerned, this is where stripper blogging started, and it's still the premier online repository of photographs of weird-ass signs in strip-club dressing rooms.

Hobostripper. Double duh -- an unbeatable one-two punch of down-to-earth sultriness and over-the-top stripping stories worthy of passing into the cannon of club legends, alongside Girl Who Went Into Labor Onstage and Customer Who Named Stripper As Life Insurance Beneficiary and Died. If I were a junior executive passing through the midwest on an expense account, this van-dwelling siren is the one I'd pay by the hour to pet my hair and make me feel like a human-being.

Star Light Ministries. Among strippers I know, the mere mention of a "Christian outreach organization targeting exotic dancers" is enough to make us shit and run. The last thing I want when I'm naked and tired is to be judged by a fully clothed person waving a heavy-looking book. Lia Scholl of Star Light Ministries is a whole different breed, however. Her ministry emphasizes understanding and acceptance of exotic dancers as they are, an approach that demands at least as much change and growth from missionaries as it does from the natives Her post on "How to Pray for Women Who Are Exotic Dancers" is how I'd like to be prayed for by anyone who is thataway inclined. In fact, if you want to celebrate my birthday with me, maybe you could make a donation here to support her outreach efforts.

Boomtown Boudoir. This sometime fellow stripper ostensibly writes semi-autobiographically about perfume. In actuality, her blog is about everything that smell invokes -- sensuality, nostalgia, and gut-level experience. Somehow her writing manages to be about what it is like to be a girl, or at least to be the certain kind of girl that she is. I can't get enough and only wish that she would write more often.

Lord of the Barnyard. This one epitomizes everything I've ever liked about well-educated farm boys. Factual and tender, he writes about weather in a way that expresses hope and frustration and relief and despair with elegant economy. I guess the farm blog is dead and he lives in town these days. Still one to watch.

So there you have it. I would like to give out more awards to the many awesome bloggers out there, but I am limited to five. Now, if someone else will hurry up and give me an award, the distribution of favors can continue. (My foot is tapping.)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

how it ought to be

Mei the waitress has been at the club for 15 years. She is fifty, plain-faced and shrewd, with a me-love-you-long-time accent that 15 years in a titty bar have barely touched. She has a million regulars and probably makes as much money as anyone there. She is funny, too; her occasional dark asides can make me spit a drink, but it takes a long time for her to warm up to you. She sees so many dancers come and go.

One of my last nights waitressing, Mei and I are perched on an empty side stage looking over our shoulders at an empty club.

"Bad night tonight, baby," she says.

"Tell me about it."

"Even last year was not this bad. Last year, on a Thursday night we have customer at every table. Every table, baby."

"Things are tough all over, huh?"

"Bad time," she agrees. "We not going to make no money tonight. You should have keep dancing. Me, if i could dance right now, I do it."

She throws her hands in the air and does a little boob shimmy in my direction. I crack up.

She's not done with me, though. "Baby, why you stop dancing? You don't need money no more?"

"Something like that." I don't like this question. I don't like it from civilians, who like to assume that I've stopped dancing because I finally acknowledge that dancing was evil all along. I like it at work even less. But Mei is cool, so I clear my throat and give it a shot. "You know, my boyfriend's tuition is saved up, so I don't have that pressure anymore. I want to do other things. I guess I'm just done for a while, you know?"

Her eyes narrow. "You pay for boyfriend's school?"

Shit. "Um, yes."

She starts shaking her head, goes on shaking it. "Bad idea. Bad idea, baby. He get through school, he going to leave you. I know. I see it, so many times. Girl is helping man and man is just take, take, taking. Men don't care. They don't care about you."

"Well, uh, I've known C. for a while. We've been together for five years. I really trust him. He's a good guy."

She's still shaking her head. "Yeah, you say that. You think that now. Maybe you right. Maybe you will be lucky. Me, I have never been lucky, so now I don't trust no-one. I don't trust no man no more."

"Well, you can't be too be careful. But this guy is a good guy."

"OK," she says. "OK, you say so." She looks over the club and then back at me. "But you never know. It happen when you least expect it. He leave you, baby. I say this because I care. He leave you with nothing."

People say this kind of thing to me all the time. And other things. I've been told that I lack self-respect. People who don't know either of have called my boyfriend a pimp. I guess because I'm a girl and he's a boy, and probably because I'm a stripper.

I get it. I know where it's coming from. When you trade in affection as a commodity, your ideas shift. You see how money can tie a person to another person, how it creates complacency. You see how you can put a dollar value on every gesture, and how money can stand in for gratitude, for admiration, for approval, for joy, for love.

You can think that someone who isn't paying you doesn't really love you. You can think that giving something away means you must be one of those losers who has to pay for love.

I think this way only at my worst, my most frightened and desperate. And then I think: you don't deserve this. It will be taken from you. You are not loved. You never have been loved. Tricked again, stupid. He will use you up and leave you dry as a husk. He will leave you with nothing. He will leave you.

When I am well, medicated, rested, stable, I don't believe these things. I think: You love him. He loves you. You are lucky. You are a good judge of character. He will never let you down. He would rather die; you see it in the set of his shoulders, the set of his lips. You will never let him down, either. You would rather die, too. You will have a long and wonderful life together, with many adventures, and one of you will be next to the bed when the other one dies, telling them it's OK, go ahead, go, I'll catch up with you later.

This is not to say that we don't have our differences:

C. is optimistic to the point of insouciance. I am apprehensive to the point of madness. When I am in the grip of my worry and I look over and see him smiling, I think he doesn't care. I want to yell at him until he cares.

When I met him he lived in someone's basement and owned two pairs of jeans and several thousand dollars worth of musical equipment. He was the happiest person I had ever met. He has that rare quality -- yogis would call it santosha -- where whatever he has at the moment is always enough. He has never had a bank account.

I opened a bank account when I was eleven, after I made my first serious money selling my bottle-raised show-lamb to slaughter. I've always been a hustler. All the worry about having things, nice things, enough of things, those are all my worries. I am a predator. I love the chase. I love the kill. And I am afraid. I am so afraid of running out, so afraid of dying.

Be calm, C says. And I say, You don't care. You don't care about me. You don't care about anything.

We have argued and given up and tried again, and in the end we have compromised for each other like neither of us has ever compromised for anyone else.

But then the questions. I hear my own answers and I know how ignorant they sound-- I love him. He loves me -- like I don't even know that people who say "I love you" are fucking over the people they say it to left and right all over the world right now.

I know that. I do. It's just that I think I'm different. I am sheepish, but I can't budge. I wonder if other people are asked to explain their love as much as I am.

On a night like any other night, I am talking to a guy like every other guy. We are negotiating a business transaction.

"So," he says. "Married?"

"Silly. No one in here is married."


"Why, are you proposing?"

"You have a boyfriend though. Every girl in here has a boyfriend."

Shrug. "No one serious." I lie without a second thought. Not because I don't care about my boyfriend, lying in bed at home waiting to hear me pull into the driveway. Because I don't care about this guy. In fifteen minutes his face will be a blur. By the end of the night I won't remember his name.

"That's good," he says, approving of me. "I hate to think of all the girls here...supporting some man."


"If you were mine, I'd take care of you. You'd never have to work in here again. You could just stay home and take care of me."

Oh. Joy.

"A woman ought to be at home," he says. "A woman ought to have a man to look after her. I think that's right. I think that's how it ought to be."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

uncharted seas

C. doesn't bat an eyelash when I quit my third job in two months. I tell him, I tell myself, I'll find another job, pronto. Piece of cake. Nothing to worry about. And oddly, I don't worry.

Together, we went online and applied for a Pell Grant to pay the rest of his tuition, which would mean I could take the fat bankroll I've saved for that purpose and buy groceries. The application is so easy I'm shocked it took us this long. That was just two weeks ago and his college already contacted him and told him he should have money by the end of the month.

One morning I sit down and invent a resume that says I am bright shining star of the food service industry and the best damn waitress and/or cocktail server your upscale establishment could desire, and then I go downtown and paper all the nice restaurants and hotel bars. One bar manager tells me to come back after the 4th of July. Everyone else says they'll call me. I'm waiting.

Late one afternoon my phone rings with an out-of-town area code and I pick it up and the guy who introduced himself is the public face of the biggest and most elusive of the institutions whom I have contacted on behalf of Dayjob Project and importunately demanded money. I have been in and out of touch with this man for a year. He has requested documents. I have sent them. I have waited. I have called. I have talked to secretaries and interns. I have waited. I have called again. I have left messages. Now he is on the phone with me and he's using words like "awesome" and "perfect." He's telling me my project is great, and needs to be done, and he's saying "I think we have everything we need to move forward" and he's telling me about the Process. The Process is long, and involves a lot of other people doing things, while I just sit tight on my little ass and wait for a decision. This will take until, oh, say November.

At which time they might or might not send me what I've always wanted: a big bag of money.

A big bag of money means the project can go on. If there is no money, I do not know what I will do. I don't seem to be worried. The project will go on, or maybe it won't. But probably it will. It has momentum, now. A lot of people want to see it happen. I myself will go on, regardless. I always go on.

I find I'm not scared, not at all. This little boat is on the ocean now and the only thing to do is make for the far shore. There is no point in thinking about how deep the water is, or what might be down there. The water is deep and the monsters are down there whether you think about it or not.

I only worry because I am not alone. If it were just me I would have quit dancing a long time ago. I would sleep in someone's garage and live on tortillas like I did when I was twenty, and it would be OK. But C. didn't ask for anything of this, and he trusts me, and I don't want to let him down.

I tell him that we're going to be poor for a while. I tell him I'll do my best, but times are tight. Like he doesn't know already. He does the shopping; he knows the grocery budget is half what it was at the beginning of the year. But I want to know that he knows. I want him to tell me it's OK. I want that so much.

"So you get it, right?" I want to know. We are in the car on the way home from somewhere. C. is driving. I am talking. "You don't mind that we're going to be poor?"

We pull up at a red light, which is good because he can take his eyes off the road and look at me. "How poor?"


"Poor like 'I might have to drop out of school and sell a kidney so we can afford medicine' kind of poor?"

"Poor like 'we might have to eat a lot of beans' kind of poor."

The light turns green. He turns his eyes back to the road. Quietness. He smiles. He reaches over and gently squeezes my thigh.

"Baby, baby, baby," he says. "Baby, you know I love beans."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

ask an angry man-hating burnout retired stripper

Dear Grace,

Are there many customers who don't seem creepy?

I've only been to a strip club once. There were some things I liked about the experience, I'd like to go again, but if I'm going to be perceived as creepy, or if the experience is negative for them- I don't want that.

Are there 'good' clients, and if so, what does it take to be one?


Dear Mitch,

Excellent question. Yes, there are many, many pleasant, congenial, non-creepy strip-club customers. I could roughly break it down like this: 25% of guys were super-nice; 25% were various degrees of pain in the ass; 50% were pretty neutral. So, pretty much your normal bell curve.

How to be a good customer? I'm so glad you asked.

First of all, you should be prepared to have a good time. As an entertainer, my job is to facilitate that good time, but it helps if you give me something to work with. For one thing, if you do not feel like going to a strip club, please don't go. It is no fun as a dancer to run across someone who hates strip clubs, hates strippers, and is only there because he is afraid his friends will think he is a big old homo if he says no. You are not going to have fun. I am not going to have fun with you. You are going to open your big mouth and say something mean to me and I am going to give you a weird look and leave and you are going to be ever-more convinced that strippers are gold-digging harpies, while I am going to be ever more convinced that you are an asshole. So, just don't come.

If you DO want to go to a strip club, go ahead and go. Go ahead and check your judgements about sex and money and who is exploiting who at the door and just relax. It is OK to want to look at girls naked, and the girls at strip clubs are there for that exact purpose. If you were not there, they would be getting naked on stage for nothing. You are in one of the very few places in our culture where it is OK to start a conversation with a girl by telling her you love her ass. Enjoy!!

Secondly -- and this is very important -- you must choose your dancer well. Look for a Happy Dancer -- one who is standing up relatively straight, making eye contact, and smiling. This girl is having a good time, or is at least willing to evince good-will. Avoid Crazy Dancers, Sad Dancers, and Angry Dancers. They are not smiling, and often slouch. They will not make eye contact with you, or will lock eyes and refuse to let go. Basically, they will give you a weird feeling when you interact with them. When this happens, throw 'er back. (If you cannot tell a Happy Dancer from an Angry Dancer, you need practice. You should go to strip clubs more often.)

When you turn a girl loose, do it promptly, without wasting a lot of her time, because time is money to dancers. Do it politely, too, the way you would appreciate having it done to you. Tell her you are not interested in getting any dances at the moment, but you will let her know if you change your mind. Be courteous.

As long as you follow this formula of promptness plus tact, you are totally at liberty to refuse the advances of any dancer. However, you should be prepared to buy dances from a dancer who takes your fancy. It is NOT appreciated when customers claim to be in the club "just for a drink" or "just to watch the game." This is a lie, and we know it. Cover charge to the club is $10, and the drink prices are a gouge. You did not "just happen to stop in." You are here to peripherally ogle us while we work, and we hate you. You know it, and you don't care. You want to look at us naked anyway. There is nothing creepier than being ogled by someone who knows you hate it and does it anyway. If looks could kill, you are dead.

Also, do not come in with the plan of talking a dancer into going home with you so you can get her services for free. I can't say this will never work. I can only say that I have never, ever seen it work, and the shit talked about these guys amongst ourselves should make their ears burst into flames. Of course, you would never do this, but I state it for the record.

Now, assuming you have found a Happy Dancer whose looks and personality are to your liking, it is time to ask her if she would like to dance for you. Depending on the club you are at, there may be a variety of services for purchase, and a range of prices. Ask her to explain, if you are interested.

Different clubs have different rules, which may vary widely from the actual laws regulating clubs, and even from the rules at other clubs in the same city, let alone state to state. If you are unsure of the rules -- i.e. how much you get to touch her and where -- ask her. Different dancers also have different limits. Just because Chantal let you touch her wherever does not mean Crystal will be OK with it. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. You might not get to squeeze as much jellyroll this way, but you will not end up being the guy all the dancers talk about back in the dressing room for being such a gropy, annoying clueless butt-plug. Some guys don't care, but you do, or you wouldn't have asked the original question.

After the dance(s), thank her and pay her what you owe her, promptly. If you enjoy talking to a dancer and take up a lot of her time, consider tipping her. In most clubs it is not required, and a lot of guys don't do it. If you do, you will certainly set yourself apart. Should you return in the future, the dancers of your acquaintance will be more likely to remember you and make time for you.

In summation, the Golden Rule goes a long, long way in ensuring a happy strip-clubbing experience for everyone. Dancers are not really so different from other people. They are likely to be annoyed by things that most people would find annoying, like being condescended to, groped after repeated request to cease and desist, and cheated out of money. They are pleased by the things that please any vendor -- a simple, pleasant transaction and a fair price for services rendered.

So there you go. It is really pretty simple after all. Go forth and enjoy! We need more customers who WANT to be good customers, so get your asses in the seats.

Love, Grace

What do you like to read?

Dear Antonio,

It's hard for me to believe how little I read anymore. When I was a kid, I read all the time. All the time. I had this little set-up with the bath-caddy where I could read while I showered. These days I am lucky if I finish three or four complete books in a year. It is largely a factor of time. When I do have time to read, it tends to be non-fiction, and generally something practical. I like books about how to do things and make things. I also like books about the body and the brain.

One of my favorite books is "Listening to Prozac" about brain chemistry, depression, drugs, and the role of medication in the evolving definition of mental illness. The last novel I read was "Stardust." It's about faeries and stuff. Not necessarily my thing, but one of my customers gave it to me and I felt kinda obligated. I read it while I was in bed with a back injury in March. It was pleasant and escapist.

I'd like to think that at some point in my life I will have more time to read. If you think of a book or author I ought to know about, please suggest!


Dear Grace:
Quick question; When your satanist said

'"What are you doing?" he says. "Why do you do that? Why do you tell everybody what they want to hear? You're so transparent it's ridiculous."'

I felt really scared because I've heard a lot of people have that misconception about strippers, that everything they do it fake and that they are transparent. Have you found that happens a lot in your life?

Lucky Luxie

Dear Luxie:
Most of the people in my life know me as myself, not as " a stripper." So honestly, I don't deal with that issue a lot, except at work.

When a lot of people around you think you are full of shit, you start to wonder yourself. This is why I always found it really important to keep pretty strong boundaries between my life at work and my personal life, and I would urge anyone starting out in dancing to do the same. It's important to have some relationships around you that are based entirely on mutual appreciation, and not at all on an exchange for goods for services.

To this end, I gave my customers an only-for-work e-mail address, never a phone number. I did not encourage them to contact me too much, and never met up with them outside of the club. I never encouraged people I knew from my civilian life to come to the club, and didn't share the fact that I was a dancer with many people, either.

Now, if the question is, "do guys at the club think I'm full of shit", the answer is, Sometimes. Some of them are really insistent about it, too, which is annoying. I mean, gold star for figuring out that I'm not really in love with you, buddy. Now do you want a dance or not?

On the other hand, some of them believe you for the moment, just like you go to a movie and enjoy the plot without worrying about whether or not it actually happened.

Still others really, really believe you, which is actually a lot more stressful.

The guy I call here the Satanist is an exceptional case, in that he is one (of two) customers with whom I ever made the transition from stripper/customer to sorta kinda friends.

Both transitions were weird and involved many leaps of faith and unwarranted extensions of trust.

What I'm saying is, it's not easy.

Does that answer your question at all?