Saturday, March 24, 2007

better living once more

My regular -- the one who used to sweep my off the VIP for hours at a time and pay the equivalent of my rent in a single evening -- has returned. I haven't seen him since January, when he e-mailed me to say that he was dating a lady and wouldn't be seeing me for a while. On Wednesday he e-mailed again: the lady in question had called things off, and would I be available some time in the near future?

I experienced a mild cringe. I mean, the misfortune of others being my fortune once again, and whatnot. Then again, how many women could you call you up after a dead silence of several weeks who would be not only delighted to hear from you but more than willing to get naked at the drop of a hat, no questions asked? The stripper/customer relationship is a beautiful one when everybody trusts the rules.

I exerted myself to give him the time of his life. For what he's paying me, I provide the full treatment: anticipation-stoking e-mail throughout the week, favorite outfit (he likes me in dresses as opposed to more "stripper" stuff), hours of scintilating conversation on a variety of light-hearted topics, and some very, very sexy dancing. It was a lovely evening. I'd forgotten how much I like the guy.

He does show some propensity to become dangerously attached to me, but for right now I'm not too worried. I think he more or less understands the parameters of the situation. I also take some reassurance from the fact that he comes to see another dancer at the club -- the Satanist's room-mate, Slayde. Somehow I figure him having another favorite stripper should insulate his feelings for me from being too serious. I also like the fact that he's still actively pursuing real-life romantic interests via flirting with girls on This seems healthy, and I'm all for it, although sooner or later it will presumably take him out of my orbit once more. As much as I'd like him to keep coming to the club and giving me crazy sums of money a few times a week for the rest of my dancing career, I'd feel some guilt if things really did work out that way. He's a sweet, sweet man and some girl should scoop him up and make him her goofy, World-of-Warcraft-playing own.

But for now, he's mine, and that's probably OK for all parties involved. After all, outside the club he's a socially inhibited, recently-dumped guy. Inside the club, he's a socially inhibited, recently dumped guy with naked girl straddling his thighs. The difference is simple, but -- don't you agree? -- profound.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

infinity's rash

The Wackos were in to see me the week before last -- Mr. and Mrs. Wacko. I'm crazy about them. An eccentric and well-shod couple whom I met for the first time on Valentine's Day. (Yeah, I was working on V-Day; spare me your pity.)They've been in a few times since -- actually, Mrs. said the other night that she's been in on her own to see me a time or two, but missed me. She's the weirder of the two for sure. Mr. is just a nice guy from Wisconsin with a few kinks in his attic. Mrs., for all her sweetness, seems like the single-white-female type who might decide she loves me too much to let me go and cut my head off and keep in in the freezer. They've invited me back to their house to hot-tub with them, and, uh, no.

But in the club, they're a treat. We convene in a corner of the couch-dance area and drink and dance and talk about sex for hours on end. The other night Mrs. comes up and announces their presence while I'm on stage, and by the time I get over there, they've got another dancer with them, sweet little Infinity who looks like a 13-year-old fashion model and can barely string words together. I don't know her well, but she's the kind of person you worry about. And tonight she is dead set on the subject of how much her skin itches.

"It's sooooooo iiiiiitchieeeeeee," she says, clawing frantically at her shoulder-blades with acrylic nails in her perch on Mrs.' lap. "I can't live like this no more. I can't think about nothing else."

"What do you think it could be, sweetie?" says Mrs. "Is your skin dry?"

"Nah," says Infinity. "I think it's from my man's dog? He was at my apartment and his dog was all like sick? I could see it's ribs like this--" she arches her back and indeed her ribs do stick out like xylophone. "And he was putting the dog in the bath-tub and I made him take it out so I could take a bath."

"Aww," Mrs. says absently. She continues softly petting Infinity between the shoulder-blades, which is more than I would do.

"Yeah, my boyfriend, he's real filthy. He brings home these other girls, like hookers, and I know he has them in my bed."

"Aww," say Mr. and Mrs. again. But I have to wonder if they are even hearing this, because they look so calm. And I for one, and squirming. I am sitting on Mr.'s knee, acutely aware of the fact that Infinity was sitting there a second ago and that potentially her boyfriend and his dying dog and the prostitutes he fucks in her bed are about to become my problem.

"So you think you can help me," Infinity asks Mrs. Her eyes are, seriously, huge. Too big for that pretty little face.

"Well, sure," says Mrs. all motherly and sweet. "I'll give you my number. You just give me a call tomorrow and I can recommend you a great dermotologist. I used to have dry skin, too. Aren't you just the cutest little thing, though? You know what I'd love to see is you and Gracie together. Gracie, don't you want to dance with Infinity?"

Um. Only if I can personally scrub her down with rubbing alchohol first, bless her heart. "I think I have to go on stage," I say.

"Yout just got off the stage," says Mrs.

Fuck. OK. Infinity flakes back on Mrs. in the posture of the Pieta, and I shimmy around in front of them. Infinity reaches out her long, skinny, soft arms and pulls me closer. Her skin doesn't feel dry; it feels clammy. After the dance, I go back in the dressing room and borrow baby-wipes to scrub myself down.

I wake up the next morning with my skin roiled and swollen from wrist to neck. I wake C. up to tell him I've brought home the pox. He patches me together and takes me to Pro-Med where the doctor tells me I've got contact dermatitis, probably poison ivy. I beg him to check again, but he just writes me a prescription for a two-week course of Cortisol, and, as it turns out, this has done the trick. So maybe it was poison ivy after all.

I didn't see Infinity again at work until last night. I asked her how her skin was going.

"Itchy," she says. "So itchy."

"Is it poison ivy?" I suggest. "That's what I had. It makes little blisters."

"No, I don't got blisters," she says. "I'm just itchy. Look." She turns around and the skin between her shoulderblades is flaking off like scales.

"You should go to a doctor," I say.

"Yeah, I just went." She points at a peach-colored band-aid just below her navel. "I ain't been to work for a while cause of my internals bleeding."

"What kind of bleeding?"

"My internals. They didn't tell me nothing about my skin, though."

"Are you OK, now?"

"Yeah," she says. "Sure."

Yeah. Sure. What can I say, I worry about people. Especially when they're strolling around my place of work, rubbing on the same people I rub on, with the bubonic plague.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

tick tock you don't stop

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
All night...

Thursday, March 08, 2007


There's two of them: Mimi and Mercedes. Two blonde babydoll strippers in frilly pink-and-white, pigtailed and beribboned within in an inch of their lives.

"All the guys who like me are perverts," Mimi told me cheerfully one night. "Dirty old fuckers like the little-girl thing. That's the only way I make my money."

Mimi is my age, or maybe a year or two younger. Tall and slim and graceful, with narrow hips and big fake tits. Nice ones, though. She wears her floppy blond pigtails way up high, right out on either side of her head in the style made popular by five-year-olds and Asian teenagers. Most nights she wears white booty shorts under her little pink dresses; when she strips down to them on stage they look for all the world like a pair of diapers. I can't really bring myself to look at her. But I saw her sitting at the bar the other night after work in her street clothes with her hair in a ponytail and she's really very pretty.

Mercedes I'd say is pushing forty, but she could be a hard-living thirty-two. She is pale as milk and the skin around her eyes is going to crepe. Still hot, but fading. She's not tall and her hips are spreading. Also, implants start to look weird as the skin around them softens with age.

Last night Mercedes and I sat at the same make-up counter at the beginning of the shift, getting dressed. I watched her curl her hair into tight ringlets and draw black circles around her eyes.

"I'm sad today," she told the waitress sitting on the other end of the counter, rolling silverware into napkins, and then she asked her to get her a Crown and Diet Coke from the bar.

The waitress, Amy, got up reluctantly. "You know Crown's not on the happy hour price, right?"

Mercedes grimaced. "I get four-dollar drinks. All my drinks are four dollars. You tell the bartender it's for Mercedes. Do I have to come out there myself?"

Amy left, and Mercedes snorted. She looked back at herself in the mirror, half her hair curled up tight, the other half limp as string. "She thinks I'm going out to the bar myself she can fuck herself," Mercedes said. "Takes me an hour to get my hair like this."

She pouted at herself, leaned her cheek into her hand. "I'm sad today," she said to nobody. "Today is a sad day."

I saw Mercedes again at the end of the night, after close. Her locker is near mine, one of the full-length lockers that mysteriously denote status. She's been at the club along time. She was changing into her street clothes -- jeans a T-shirt that said "Dior Addict."

"How'd you do tonight," she asked as I squeezed past her. Her voice wobbled up and down by full octaves, and the words came out in a sing-song snarl that might or might not be intentional. I said I did OK.

"Well, thaaat's niiiice," she said, same voice. I couldn't read her, didn't try.

She struggled to get out of her pink patent-leather heels without bending down. Her balance looked pretty shaky. She kicked one shoe off so hard it flew over and banged the locker next to mine. "Whoops," she said, unconvincingly. "Did you see that?"

The other shoe wouldn't come off, so she bent over further, and then she did fall. Collapsing onto her bottom, she sat there with the stuff spilling out of her locker around her like a frilly, pink-and-white tide. She looked lost.

The door to the dressing room swung open and Mimi wobbled by with a clutch of other girls who'd out on the floor dancing to the bitter end. Mimi was drunk -- shrieking and giggling and clutching fistfulls of money.

"I fucking hate everything," Mercedes said after they passed. She looked up at me pleadingly, and now I can't pretend I haven't seen her. "I hate this place and I hate all these fucking pervert men." She picked her other shoe up and chunked it at the wall, but it was a half-hearted effort and falls short.

"I'm not a bitch," she said. "I'm not a mean girl. Everybody thinks I'm a mean girl. I'm not. I'm a nice girl."

And you know, at that exact moment she really did look like a little girl. Just like a little old baby girl.

Monday, March 05, 2007

pay for play

My friend the Whoremonger was in town last week, which made things lively. He swings through town about once a month on some sort of business-related thingumy. The rest of the time he lives in some godforsaken, hardscrabble dry county of Arkansas. When he gets to town, he lives it up: whiskey, whores, and yours truly.

His favorite hooker is a young black or Hispanic girl. He doesn't like white girls, he says, and 21 is too old. Still, somehow he's taken a shine to my pasty white, past-date ass. Mostly, we just sit back in the VIP and drink Dewars while he regales me with his latest exploits. I do dance for him, once in a while; he is surprisingly gentle. Mostly we just talk, though. I egg him on, prod him for details. I'm not faking it, either; I've never met anyone else who was so openly, passionately into prostitutues. He knows a lot about it, too -- watches the message boards, follows the careers of all the top girls like some men follow professional athletes.

This time in town, he is full of the details of his last day or two in Dallas, where, if I can beleive him, he fucked three different prostitutes and, later that day, two strippers in the VIP room at a well-known Dallas strip club. "It was so hot doing it in the club," he says. "They said they were sisters."

I gently walk him through the story, drawing out the details of his favorite parts, and he gets excited like he's living through it all again. I sympathize. If he's like me, then doing things isn't nearly as exciting as thing talking about them afterwards.

Finally, though, I have to ask -- is he disappointed that I've never fucked him in VIP?

No, no, he protests. He looks almost hurt. "I know you don't like to play," he says. "It doesn't matter. If you ever do, though, you should let me know."

I try to imagine fucking this man with his twitchy mustache and retired-military bearing and skin like a boiled tomato, and can't. I wonder if getting paid for it would make it better or worse.

Out of curiosity, I ask him what the going rate is in this town. Not much, he says -- "I can get laid around here for a buck and a quarter." According to him, the most beautiful and highly sought-after escort in the city has recently raised her rates to $300 an hour.

That's not quite half what he pays me to sit and listen to him talk about fucking her. Of course, she's done in an hour. It took me all night to make that money. Then again, what else was I doing with my time?

If there's a discrepancy here, I'm not quite dumb enough to point it out, but he's no fool. "Hookers are cheap," he says, unprompted. "It's strippers that cost you."

"Is it worth it, though?"

"Oh, yes." He kisses me sedately on the forehead. "Oh, yes. I always have fun with you."