I was barely sixteen years old the first day on the job as a stripper. The scene was so foreign and frightening to me at the time- and yet it wasn’t. There was certainly an ease with which I adapted myself to my new surroundings and by the end of that first day the other girls were referring to me as “a pro.”
On that first day I ventured into the seedy den alone. A man stood at the door- A man I didn’t realize I would come to knw so well. After checking my fake ID he looked up at me and said “It’s full nude.. You think you can handle that?” I took a deep breath, looked him in the eyes sharply and said, “Yep.” I didn’t seem to hesitate but he saw something in my eyes. I had just signed a contract with myself to shut own hope completely. This was the day that delusion began to leave me- and for that I will be forever grateful.
My therapist and I have since speculated the reasons why I walked into that place. I was convinced I was there because I needed money but she always says, “A lot of people need money and don’t end up stripping…” So together we concluded the only logical reason must be that had been molested somewhere between the ages of 0 and 16 and have been repressing it since. Most likely the perpetrator(s) space aliens who abducted me in my sleep, took me aboard their ship and flashed laser beams into my eyes to erode my memory…. Obvious.
That or I was conditioned somewhere along my journey in life that the capstone of female achievement is to look sexy to please men. It turns out that it makes for a very lucrative business actually— or in some cases a volunteer organization.
Nonetheless five years down the line at barely 21 I had run myself into the ground. My physical and mental health, my self-worth and my relationships were teetering the verge of permanent collapse. On top of that I had no sense of what “normal” was or what a normal life even looked like anymore. I felt so far out and detached from the real world and everyone in it that I couldn’t even comprehend the value or necessity of simple rituals and traditions of the culture that surrounded me. The only world I knew was the one in the club in which I worked. I lived in a sick male fantasy; A never ending re-play of those low-budget pornos that assimilate Animal Planet documentary footage of hyenas attacking the carcasses of zebras in Africa.
Often times during those years I dreamt of a better life in the outside world. One where I didn’t have to wear stilettos and cake my face with absurd amounts of make-up. A world where I could define myself in a real, meaningful way. I held the outside world upon a pedestal- a spiritual, emotional and intellectual pedestal. I dreamt that men and women came together in love and not to trade sex for money. I dreamt of a world where happiness was a matter of the spirit and not the end result of wealth. I dreamt of going to school and feeding my brain with all the wonderful things life had to offer- I dreamt of the excitement of this and fantasized about the likewise companionship I would find in those classrooms instead of the drug-addicted, self-centered, emotionally numb companions I had then. I dreamt of a world I never found.
I was 21 years old the summer that same door man that hired me, fired me. I felt chewed up and tired- tired into my bones. The first time I felt hope in years was the moment he fired me. I never had to return again- I was free at last to commence on living a normal life as a normal girl.
That was the year the platform stiletto came back into fashion and pasties were the choice swimwear of the season. That was a time when reality TV was reaching its height and the county in which I lived aired another season of an over-glamorized version of domestic house-wivery that bordered televised, institutionalized prostitution— one that my new-found companions couldn’t shut up about. That was the year that Maria Karilenko was featured in Sports Illustrated as a swimwear model, instead of for her long sought-after tennis career achievements.
I wondered if I had ever left the club at all…
Perhaps I’m still in some sort of lucid dream- where the real me is stuck in a comatose state while space aliens are currently molesting me. Or perhaps I’m the only one awake watching the rest of you getting f***ed in the ass.
In either case it is traumatizing