What’s that little handkerchief for?

By now, I hope you’re really intrigued.  I certainly was.  If you’re the type of person who enjoys people-watching at the mall, you would be in heaven in a strip club dressing room.  This particular one would become the scene for fights, girls passed out, bitch sessions, managerial meetings and I’m sure a line or two.  For my innocent readers, a line refers to cocaine.  Don’t feel bad.  I was so naive that girls were probably doing it next to me and I hadn’t the faintest clue.  I thought they just had the sniffles.  It took years for me to see the signs of drug use, deals or mules.  Yeah, I know.  It’s a scary thought.  Luckily, I never got into the drug scene personally, but it was definitely circulating around me, oblivious or not.  There is some truth to stereotypes, especially in strip clubs.

I had a lot to learn.  And I’m not talking about how to booty-shake.  Although, once I saw girls doing that I was very eager to add it to my repertoire.  My first task: stay out of the way.  We chose an area of the dressing room that was an addendum to the larger main room.  I thought it would be safer.  I had no interest in heading into the melee.  There was skin everywhere.  Black, white, asian, hispanic, indian, tan, too tan, not tan enough, cellulite-y, stretch-marked, stretched too tight, pock-marked, wounded, etc.  I couldn’t help but stare.  There were some really hot girls, some not so hot, others were in-between.  By the way: Never date a stripper.  That’s a lesson I will explain in detail much later but I thought I would share it with you now.  To save you the trouble.  You’re welcome.

By the time I could focus on myself, my hands were shaking, heart was pumping.  I almost stabbed myself in the eye with my eyeliner pencil.  It was like the first time I had sex: “I can’t believe I’m here right now.  I’m really doing it!”  I did have help getting into the mood.  Not for sex, for dancing.  Focus.  We had drinks before we got there.  Not a lot, but enough to at least help me relax.  Back then I was still a lightweight, so two drinks and I was a grinning fool.  But at that moment, I was just in a daze.  What would my parents think?  What would my friends back home think?  Then…why the hell would I tell them?  While all of this was going on in my head, I’m trying to do my hair.  And it’s looking like crap.  No weave, just past my shoulders, no real style.  At least not compared to everyone else.  My wardrobe?  I had plenty of stripper clothes.  All through college I worked in a lingerie/clubwear boutique.  No there was no modeling!  Sorry, flashback.  We got that question everyday.  But I got great discounts on everything as a co-buyer so I bought stuff just because it was cute, not because I ever thought I’d use it.  I even had stilettos.  Who could’ve predicted this?  I still felt incredibly inadequate, ill-prepared and as if there were a huge tattoo on my forehead: AMATEUR!

Just when I thought I was ready, my friend hands me a handkerchief, the kind bikers wear.  I’m instantly confused.  But I don’t say anything because there are other girls around me and I may have looked like a newbie, but I damn sure didn’t want to sound like one.  So we head to the office.

As we hit the main floor, the music is pounding, it’s even more crowded and I just went into panic mode.  Maybe I wouldn’t even get hired.  I’d be okay with that.  Then I could just sit and watch without any worries.  Would my feelings have been hurt?  Maybe.  Would I have been heartbroken?  Absolutely not.  At least I got to see Tampa.

Into the office and I was hired.  Damn!  Ten hours of ballet, jazz, rehearsals etc. a day and yeah, I knew I looked good.  Now I have to go through with it.  Maybe just one night and I’d go back home knowing that at least I gave it a shot.  A few dollars richer would be worth the trip.  Right?

Back through the crowd and to the dj booth.  In a strip club, the dj is like God and the songs are angels.  They can be used for good or evil.  Depending on the tip.  Meeting any dj I always got a sense of conceit mixed with sweat, mixed with more conceit.  And they always act like they’re in a hurry or stressed out.  I mean, hit play, right?  I figured my best bet was to always be courteous and respectful, even if he didn’t deserve it.  I bet correctly.

My first experience working on the floor was a disaster.  Seriously.  I didn’t know what to say, how to ask it and why the hell am I carrying around this handkerchief?  I mean, I saw that everyone was carrying one, but why?  I kept leaving it everywhere: on tables, on chairs, on the bar, on the floor.  It was frustrating and I had exhausted my friends with questions already so I didn’t want to bother them with more.  Plus, they were working.  All of the dances in this club were semi-private.  There were open booths in back rooms where dances were happening.  Without me and I was okay with that.  I saw them walking over to the back room, checking in with the security guy and going in.  It was weird to watch.  I mean, the whole ritual of getting up from a table with a guy following behind you staring at your ass, walking up to a big security guy who takes money from the customer as a ‘booth rental.’  He opens the door, ushering the pair through, all the while this handkerchief is in her hand and a tiny purse under her arm.  It just looked bad, like something more sinister was going on behind closed doors.  So, it wasn’t like I could watch to see what to do and part of me didn’t want to know.  I’ll just make money on stage.  I’m not greedy.  I had never given anyone a lapdance before and I decided that then wasn’t the time to learn.  I had danced in bikinis before in a local contest.  I came in second to a gay guy.  Not exactly confident standing in the midst of this crowd.

And the stage shows.  Girls were doing things up there that I would never have imagined in a million years.  On a pole for crying out loud.  Spins, flips, upside down, hanging from the ceiling, butt crawling on the floor, crotches open and out…it was insane.  And then I noticed this taped off area in the back of the stage.  Apparently, at the time Florida was under the 6 ft rule, which meant once a dancer was fully nude she had to be a minimum of 6 feet away from the nearest customer.  Um, huh?  Guys were allowed to crumple up money and throw it at the square where the girl was dancing.  It wasn’t degrading enough to be naked in front of strangers, but now they get to play basket toss too?  And I could tell that some of them were aiming for particular spots.  I don’t have to spell it out.  You get the picture.  No one liked it, but what could you do?  I thought of pointing out the advantages of the locked front door, but who was I to point out the obvious?

And then God spoke to me.  He said, “We’ll have our newest addition, (&*^%$#), on in one.”  Holy crap.  I was up next.  You know that age-old theater advice given to someone who’s experiencing stage fright?  No, not break a leg.  Don’t ever say that to a stripper.  In 6, 7 and 8 inch stilettos, it’s way more possible than you’d imagine.  It’s the other one.  ‘Imagine everyone is naked.’  How is that supposed to relax the person who is about to be naked?  It doesn’t.  I tried to relax and not think too hard about what could go wrong.  But I did anyway.  And I just knew I was gonna bust. my. ass.

Up next: Why would they put a step there?

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