Saturday, December 29, 2007


I'm not at work. I'm not even in Texas. I'm holed up under a feather comforter in my brother's new house in the bleak mid-western city where he lives with his wife and eleven-month-old daughter.

The house is huge, swank, and located in an exclusive neighborhood of old trees and other nearly identical huge, swank houses. I don't think any member of my family as ever lived in a house and neighborhood like this before, ever. But we have always wanted to.

His wife is a doctor, see. She works in adult medicine at a city hospital, which has got to be one of the most thankless jobs in the profession. Her patients are all sicker than sick, most of them with chronic illnesses that only get worse. They might live relatively pain-free, she says, if they would take a modicum of responsibility for their own health, but they don't, so they end up in the hospital. Lots of them die, essentially of laziness and stupidity. That's her take on it anyway.

But, she makes a lot of money and has a really nice house and a semi-psychotic trophy husband to stay home and take care of the baby, cook her nice meals, and clean his guns. So somebody in my family married money, after all.

My brother. The handsome one. He got the blue eyes and the ash-blond hair and the eyebrows arched like one clean stroke of ink. He got the brains, too, and he got something else. I don't know what to call it. Men in my family are cursed, and I was supposed to be a man, but I'm not. I only felt the shadow of it but my brother got the full dose of doom. I always wanted him to love me, but I see now that he couldn't.

I recognize little things. Like yesterday I was looking for coffee in the pantry and found the half-eaten bar of chocolate wrapped up and hidden in an old canister. Food hoarding. Weird, residual instinct. I've done it, too, but not in years. Only in times of stress. Food under the bed. Food in the top left drawer of the dresser where no one can see it, no one can find it. Just in case. It's not the food you need as much as the secret.

When my brother and I were small, I didn't know we were poor. Life on the farm was pretty idyllic, in a Tom Sawyer way, if you filtered out my mom's trips to the hospital and my dad's rare but terrifying outburts. My brother was the one who taught me we were poor. He taught me not to ask for toys or treats or second helpings at dinner. He taught me that having things is a zero sum game and every bite you swallow comes from someone else's mouth.

And now he lives in this house, this enormous house. This house with rooms that they don't even use. He is making himself ugly, bit by bit. He fights, MMA, and his ear is permanently fucked. He shaves his head and tries not to be the handsome one.

He's sweet with the baby, though. Plays peekaboo and tosses her in the air and spoons mush expertly into her tiny mouth, like dads are supposed to do.

She's a pretty cool baby. She learned to walk about a month ago. She takes a lot of face plants, but gets up without a tear and keeps trying. I could watch her fall down and get back up all day.

I haven't thought about whether I'll be dancing in the future, and I won't bore you or myself with the details of the last couple of weeks. Well, just this: my last night, an occasional customer of mine I call John the Gimp paid me again to flick ash and spit loogies in his beer and "make" him drink it. When John the Gimp started coming to see me, I had to fake a lot of the agression. But over the nearly a year I've known him, I've come to hate him nearly as much as he wants me to. I wish he wouldn't come to see me, but he does. I tell him to give me the money and shut the fuck up.

He shuts up, but only for a little at a time. Then he's sniveling again. "Could you please -- oh, mistress, could you please -- could you blow your nose on this napkin and feed it to me?"

"Shut up," I say. "You're disgusting, you know that? I mean it. You make me sick."

"Oh, yes. Oh, yes."

I blow my nose and push the napkin into his loser mouth. He waits til he thinks I'm not looking and then quietly takes the napkin out and puts it in his pocket. I wonder, not for the first time, which of us is really being degraded.

So anyway, maybe I'll dance again and maybe I won't. I'm not deciding right now. I'm just enjoying this feather comforter for all that it's worth. Which, given how my bro lives now, is probably a lot.


Avalon said...

Sometimes I wonder...where do guys like John the Gimp develop their fetishes?

Anonymous said...

one of your irregular regular readers here... I've spent the past four months working as an over-the-road truck driver... being treated as subhuman by shippers and consignees, eating fast food and canned food, urinating wherever... Now I'm ensconed in my parents upper middle class home overlooking the Pacific Ocean, enjoying the sunshine and watching the leaves fall off the two old apricot trees. I can't go back to truck driving. I'm such a loser. But at least I know what I need... loogie in my beer.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog on tonight after a difficult night. Thank you for it. I identify with you immensely--as I'm also 27 and a scorpio, but I've been dancing seven years, unlike you. I can hardly believe myself how long I've been doing this. All I've got to show for it all is a Bachelor's--in sociology--and a tiny bank account that would be gone in a year if I quit and didn't go get another job, and immense, complex baggage that I will have to work like stink to get rid of. This work tears into me and causes me pain similar to that you've described before, and ways you haven't, even though I love it for some of the same reasons you do. I've become accustomed to "a certain lifestyle", which will be hard to give up (I'm sure you understand). I'm probably going to get married and quit forever myself...but also, I wonder if it's possible for someone who loves this "job" to just stop what? What do you think? I would like to see a future blog from you on this topic if you care to address it--do you think it would be too difficult to quit? Why or why not? Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your candor on a night when I really needed something. You are incredibly honest about what you do and how you feel about it, no matter who is reading. You don't give a fuck, but yet you do--exactly how I feel. I love it. I wish I worked with more girls like you--I don't. In fact, all of the strippers I've ever befriended are real snakes-in-the-grass, shitty people, insincere, incapable of true friendship. It's scary, isn't it, and makes you want to stop if you've seen the same things I have and that you have. I can tell you want to too, and part of you knows how difficult it would be to have a real schedule with real hours, not getting smoke breaks whenever the fuck you want (if you smoke), no longer being able to drink at work, no longer able to so simply sell yourself, no longer able to reap the psychological benefits (there are) of talking to wealthy, attractive men who pay for your time and attention and find you sexy. Will you stop? Will you not? For sure I am coming back to read your blog. I know this sounds strange, but your story will help me negotiate my own decision/justifications/etc. on continuing to strip or not.

Anonymous said...

Feather comforters and babies can both be good therapy. Enjoy.

Chalcedony said...

This blog is breathtaking. I'll be reading it more, but your words read like an emotional punch to the gut. Kudos and a sense of direction in the new year! <3

Anonymous said...

enjoy the change of scenery and your family.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, babe.


Clea Summers said...

Ah, retirement. I feel good about it, myself, even though in some ways I've gone deeper into "the life." In most ways, though, stripping feels far far away and though I think with nostalgia very occasionally about working a night or two with a friend, I never really mean it.

I hope however long your retirement is, you enjoy it and feel the same way.