Ba da boom . . . ba da boom! Carrying the badge of former stripper is always a great conversation starter.
And as a writer, I've written extensively about my experiences working in the adult entertainment business. Overall, my reflections tend to focus on the negative aspects of the career because there certainly are a lot of reasons for a woman to not go into this line of work.
But what both men and women really want to know when my past comes up is — what did I enjoy about stripping? For men, it seems like they want to hear how hot and sexy my days were, so they can be reassured that a fantasy woman does exist. For women, it's a sense of adventure that they seem curious about, like they want to live vicariously through my past.
Focusing on the negatives has helped me to learn a lot about myself, my motivations, and my flaws, but I think refusing to admit that I did enjoy parts of my past life have taken a toll on my psyche. To look back and remember there were some aspects of the job that I enjoyed, regardless if most of my time was difficult, allows me to reclaim a part of my life that I'm usually busy disavowing . . .
- I experienced a sense of power.
Occasionally, I derived a sense of being in control and having power over the men and my real problems when I was on stage. If I was having a good day and feeling secure in myself, and if the men were polite and tipping well, I could feel powerful up there with the men looking up at me.
- I felt beautiful.
Sometimes, I did feel beautiful, and that is extraordinary when you usually suffer from low self-esteem. I got to dress up in outrageously sexy clothes like a music video vixen and not have anybody laugh at me. I would be up there on stage in my six-inch platforms, black leather miniskirt, and with my breasts and my hair pushed up big and I would feel hot and sexy while everybody fawned over me.
- Men desired me.
Men wanted me; they really wanted me. The sense of being a desirable woman grounded me in something immediate and empowering. It was something about me that I could feel special about during a time of my life when I was struggling to see myself as valuable.
- I embodied freedom.
I was 18 and I didn't have to go to a boring office job or go to college classes that I didn't want to take. I had the freedom to decide which days or nights I worked. I could choose which club, in which town, in which state I desired to work. I had the freedom to make choices. I even had the freedom to throw a drink in a customer's face if he was harassing me. If I felt the need to slap a guy or to reject him or tell him off? The club always backed me up.
- I was earning the money.
While the money wasn't as great as most people assume it was, I did make cash and quite a bit of it. This was back in the early '90s, so I wasn't making as much as strippers make now. I also worked mainly in small clubs in Connecticut during the day, but I was bringing home cash and it made me feel financially secure. My daily take-home was definitely more than I had been making selling shoes at the mall.
- I met a lot of unique people.
Many of the women that I met in the business were interesting characters, like the stripper with the curly blond wig who poured milk all over herself or the older woman who did a magic act. Many of the customers were good people, just like many of the strippers. We tended to be dark, somewhat troubled and intense also — now if that doesn't make for interesting stories, what does?
- I got to dance all day and get paid for it.
I mean, it doesn't get much better than that. I was paid to dress up, dance, and feel beautiful. It was like I was getting paid to exercise and people just got to sit in and watch me. I got to spin around and strut my stuff and feel like a beautiful woman. Dancing every day for seven hours was great exercise, so I was in great health and condition. My body looked fabulous. Nowadays, I sit a lot at a desk and type, so I no longer have a stripper body. I miss my stripper butt.
- I learned an incredible amount.
I learned about life: relationships, sex, power, intimacy, and the lack of it. I also realized a lot about the problems that we all have and that regardless of what side you're on — customer or dancer — there was knowledge and strength on both sides. I learned about business. I learned what mattered most in the world. I learned a lot about myself. Although, I think more questions were raised than answered in the long run.
- I found out what I was made of.
I discovered that I was courageous and that I could face the unthinkable and get myself to do it. There were reasons I believed that I had no choice of what I was doing and I proved myself strong when I faced embarrassing situations (like getting my period on stage once).
- Stripping was fun.
Such a simple statement and a silly thing to say about having been a stripper, but it was true — I did have fun sometimes. It was entertaining to dress up and make myself beautiful and have men compliment me and give me money. There was no brain power involved; I just had to dance and look pretty. So simplistic. And not something that I would want today but enjoyable at the time.
That's really what being a stripper is about: getting up there, having fun, looking like you are enjoying yourself, and making the customers happy. I got to celebrate my sexuality in a room full of people. If you haven't tried it, I've got to tell you, you can get a high when you are in the spotlight, rocking the song and the stilettos, and being admired. And if you are doing exactly what you want to do and having no pressure to do anything else? Bliss.
So that was harder than I thought it would be. I had to keep telling all the negative thoughts and remembrances to shut up for a couple of minutes to let me remember what was good, pleasurable, and joyful about that time in my life. It would obviously be easier for me to make a long list of all the negatives about stripping.
I think there's something to be said for being able to look for the good even in what overall may have been a negative experience. I guess it's kind of like looking for gratitude at the end of a really bad day; things may not have gone your way, but you can appreciate those highlights of the good points. Being able to recognize the good doesn't mean you're dismissing the bad or saying that all those bad things are not true; it's just saying it wasn't the whole picture. And that I can mine what I went through for the gems (or the rhinestones on my thong) that are worth holding onto.
There was a lot of freedom in being allowed to be as sexy as I wanted to be and not to have to worry about offending anyone. I didn't have to worry about other women's jealousies because we all were there to be beautiful and sexy and there was room enough for us all to be that in our own way. I wasn't judged for my sexuality; it was embraced for what it was, and that felt good. I could close my eyes, allow myself to connect to my deep, inner sensuality, and then experience how it expressed itself through my body on stage.