Saturday, November 24, 2007

mcdonald's money

That's what we call it. It means that, in dollar-per-hour terms, you didn't make any more for dressing up and curling your hair and offering yourself to the general public for $20 a rub than you would have made deep-frying chicken mcnuggets for the drive-thru.

Usually when we say this we're exaggerating. Minimum wage being what it is, and taxes being what they are, you would be freaking lucky to leave the Fry Hut at the end of the shift netting $50. And it is darn, darn hard to make less than fifty bucks as a stripper most days, if you bother to leave the dressing room at all. Then again, having manned many a deep-fryer in my time, with the splattering of ancient grease-burn scars up my forearms to prove it, I might still rather dance.

It's been a long time since I've made McDonald's money, though it has happened before. My worst shift ever, I made $4. Actually, I'd paid the house $15 to work, so technically I left the club $11 in the red. It was a tough day.

This month I had two days under $100, which is worrisome. The first night, I failed to sous out and escape from a real vampire of a customer, the kind who just drains you of any will to live. Early in the night he told me he didn't buy dances, or if he did, he would only pay 2-4-1, because "really, they're not worth it. You know that right?" I should have walked away right then, but it was slow. Plus, he said he did give girls money to sit with him. "I want to be like your friend," he said. "Just come by and talk to me once in a while, and at the end of the evening, I'll give you whatever it takes to help make your night a good one."

Do I even have to tell you the rest? I sat with him periodically throughout the night, which continued to be slow, endured his jabs and put-downs, flattered his insufferable vanity, fed his self-obsession. At the end of the night he asked me how I'd done. "Not good," I said. "I could really use some of that help you mentioned."

He smirked. "I think I spent all the money I want to spend," he said. "You haven't really been coming by that much. And you haven't been that fun for the last hour or so. You must be tired."

"I am tired. I'm really, really tired, and I haven't made any money." I stretched my arms out on the table and folded forward onto them. I let my back and shoulders shield me from the room and the lights and the Top 40 rock and Mr. Whatsisname shifting around uncomfortably in his chair. Stillness came over me and I rested my head for a long time.

"I have to go," Whatsisname said. I heard him getting up and I felt a bundle of bills bounce next to my ear. I know the sound and smell and feel of money even in deep repose. When I sat up, with no idea how long I'd been down, I gathered the money up and took it back to the dressing room. Unfolded and smoothed out the crumpled bills and turned them all the same way up. It was $7.

People like that will ruin as much as you let them. Your coffee break, your evening, your best years, whatever you let them have. I can't remember the last time I felt so profoundly negative towards a customer, and in that way I gave him even more of my time. The next night was bad for me, and the next night, too.

But yesterday I said a prayer and put on my fightin' fishnets and had a decent afternoon. It was slow again. By five o'clock, the youngest girls were either drunk, crying, going home, or all of the above. I had no single good customer. The crying girls were right -- they were all cheap bastards with attitudes. But you hit it, and hit it, and hit it, and in the end it adds up.

The 19-year-old brunette with the glasses and the premature worry lines is crouched on the floor between two rows of lockers, whispering into her phone. "Forty dollars," she says. "Forty dollars, baby. I made forty dollars." I don't know why they all call their boyfriends when things go wrong. Like there's anything he can say or do.

She has her pants half on and the contents of her bag are spread across the floor. It's quitting time for this one. Times get lean enough, you don't even feel sorry. You just think "more for the rest of us" and you just keep walking.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

fucking off

Sunday night, $10 dance night, dead as a stone. Economic downturns hit the luxury market first, and leave us naked girls -- pneumatic, Lycra-clad little luxury objects that we are -- sitting at the bar with our chins in our hands.

Late night it picks up a bit. I got on stage for the umpteenth time and there's a lady in a T-shirt at my tip-rail. Lady customers in titty-bars are a questionable quantity. They hate their husband for bringing them, and me for being there. Or they've got something to prove and prove it by slapping my ass and biting my nipples just as mean and rude as the nastiest male customer ever born. Yeah, I'm real iffy about wimmins in clubs. But shut my mouth, this chick is into me. She's got her chin tilted up and her eyes all big like the cutest little stripling boy who ever lived. She positively glows. I do my thing and she tips me, and then she goes back to the table she's sitting with and gets a bunch more dollars and tips me some more and then I get off main stage and go to one of the satellites and she follows me, tipping, tipping, tipping.

I get off stage and go over to her table. "Hello, future wife," I say. She's a sweet little elfin Hispanic lady, probably pushing forty, classy vibe. Probably a professional of some kind. Smart. Her name is Veronica. She buys a dance, and dancing for her is so freaking fun. I am concious that I am letting her get away with a little too much, especially right out here on the main floor in front of the main stage. But I love the way she handles me. Her hands are confident and strong. I want to bite her. I restrain myself.

I sit with her too long after the dances are over. We drink a drink. She talks so dirty to me, I'm swooning. Finally I drag myself up and away. I've got to make money. It's been slow all week. I'm behind. A youngish man flags me down. I start to sit on his lap, but he waves me into the chair next to him. "My girlfriend's in the bathroom but she's been waiting for you all night," he says. "She really likes you."

Well, cool. It's nice to be liked by women. It doesn't surprise me anymore when guys want to nail me, but when women do, it's shocking and flattering and intimidating like I'm a teenager all over again. His girlfriend comes back and she's stunning, with eyes like Angelina Jolie. I know celebrity comparisons are lame, but serious, that's exactly what they look like. She's got on this little cashmere sweater and talks in a clipped, polished voice that I used to think was affected, but now know is just the way people with money talk when they're shy. "I saw you playing with that other girl," she says. "I wanted to come over and join you."

I talk her into a couch dance, which we end up doing a couple of, and then she excuses herself and tell me to wait right there. She comes back with my first friend by the hand. "I thought we could share a dance," she says. Veronica is giggling. Hell, yeah.

So they molest me for a couple of songs, and I am overcome with the visuals of it. They are both so pretty. Unfortunately, I can't really feel it, the way I can't really feel 80% of what happens in the club. Even if someone is nice, even if they're good-looking, even if they smell just right, I'm still at work.

I'm thinking about whether the next song has started yet and worrying about whether you are going to pay me, and making sure that everbody stays that critical inch or two away from the pink that is all the difference between everything being OK and getting clobbered with a shoe in the dressing room for being an extras girl. I'll be jilling myself for weeks on the memory of this encounter, but I'm sad to say that at the time I might as well have been being wrapped in a quilt and lightly pelted with small bean-bags for all the sexual impact of the experience.

I seem to feels things less and less. Not just at work, but everywhere. It's as though my senses were dimming one by one, leaving me in a world of numbness and fog and muffled sounds. It's not too noticeable, unless I'm doing something that requires my full physical presence, like conducting business on the dayjob, or fucking my boyfriend. Then it is sad and frustrating to know that I'm not really there. The rest of the time I drift.

Sometimes I have to think to know what room I'm in, and who is there with me. Sometimes I can't beleive that I'm awake. I need my meds, adjusted probably, because this is stage one. Stage two is sleeping all day long. Stage three is horrible.