Friday, December 10, 2010
Vanity Is Not Just a Nightclub In Vegas - Part Two
"So, tell me something interesting about yourself. Something that you don't normally tell people that you've just met."
For years after the fact, I didn't dare tell anyone that I used to be a stripper. I only worked at the club for about three and a half months, but it was all the time I needed to realize that there are stereotypes for a reason.
One of the worst things I ever did to my dad besides actually becoming a stripper was telling him that I had become a stripper. He wanted to throw me out of the house, but our family doesn't really handle things that way. So, after a lot of arguing and uncomfortable silences, we decided to implement more of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in regards to my stripping. In retrospect, I don't think any of us knew how to handle things. I had never done anything that crazy before. And I was so attached to "being right" about the fact that they should have helped me pay for school that I stuck with my plan, even after the first night where I realized I was in way over my head.
I worked a four hour shift Thursday through Monday. I started at 8pm and finished about midnight. Some days, I would open up Subway, work until about 3 or 4pm, head over to TCBY for a few hours and get them through the busy hours at night and then dart over to the club to dance until midnight. It made for an interesting summer and I rarely found myself at home except to sleep for a few hours and then start it all back up again.
In Washington, at least when I was dancing, there was a three foot law in effect. What this meant was that if a dancer was topless or completely nude, a patron couldn't be within three feet of them. So, stage dancing was anything goes and lap dances were clothed. It was also a non-alcoholic club which was why I was able to dance there at 18 years old. With both of these rules in place, it seemed as if things couldn't get too out of control.
And actually, it was pretty easy to keep things under control. The guys who worked security were no joke and the club didn't have a reputation of being overly seedy. In fact, it was known for being a fairly popular and fun place to go if you wanted to chill out and look at naked girls. I've been to a few of the strip clubs in Las Vegas and found that the vibe is completely different than what I experienced in the club I danced at.
However, no matter how "nice" things can sound, it was a dark place with no windows where women took their clothes off for money. A place like that doesn't come without it's own problems.
I did my best to keep to myself. Making friends with the other girls was not high on my priority list. I remember only one girl that I used to actually get along with and she had drama written all over her. However, it's nice to have at least one person to partner up with so we became friendly and watched each other's back. She was crazy. I don't remember her name, only her piercings in very uncomfortable places and the fact that she had moved from Utah in search for a life that wasn't so rigid. I guess she found it.
I remember a lot of the other girls, too. I would see them in the locker room before and after my shift. Most of them were really mean and a few I didn't dare make eye contact with. One in particular would go into the bathroom before her shift and I would hear her opening cans as quietly as possible. Afterwards, I would use the restroom and find an entire six pack of Budweiser cans smashed up and stuffed into the trash can that was supposed to be reserved for feminine items. I heard a few of the girls partaking in cocaine in the bathroom as well.
I can recall thinking, "How sad that these girls have to be so wasted in order to do what they are doing?" But then… was it sad that I didn't have to be?
Again, to me it was harmless. On stage, I didn't really see faces. I just got into the music and pretended like I was dancing for my boyfriend or was by myself in my room. My biggest challenge was the lap dancing. Well, not the lap dances themselves but soliciting for the dances. I hated walking around asking guys if I could give them a twenty dollar dance. I would usually try to find a younger, nice looking guy and then spend as much of my shift as possible just talking to him and having a good laugh. I hated hitting on the older men. And I avoided the dark corners of the club where the "no touch" rule was being severely broken.
I remember for a few days, this one guy kept coming in. He and I hit it off and talked about sports a lot. We laughed and joked and he bought a dance or two each time. It was cool - I felt like I had a "regular". A few nights went by and I didn't see him. The following week, he came in with a group of friends. I immediately went up to him to say hello and he acted like he had never seen me before in his life. This was when I really started to see how worthless I appeared to these men. I mean, who cares about my intentions and the fact that I was legitimately trying to make money for school. I was a stripper. I didn't matter.
One time, this man came in and stopped me as I walked by. "You're new", he stated. I said yes and asked if he wanted a dance. He said yes. So, I danced for him. Afterwards, he threw twenty bucks at me and said "Eh, hopefully you get better." That twenty dollars was all I made the entire night as I sat in the corner feeling sick.
Another night, a group of ten or fifteen guys from my school came in. I was horrified. I was already on stage when they walked in the door so there was no hiding from them. One of the guys was someone I considered to be a close friend. I approached him when I was done on stage and jokingly asked if he wanted a dance. He said yes. It was uncomfortable and awkward. He held his breath the entire time. Afterwards, we never hung out again.
This was how the money worked. I was basically a contract employee. I had to get my own business license and everything. I would pay the "house" a rental fee of seventy dollars per night. The rest of the money I kept. Many of the nights, I would barely make enough to pay the house. A few times, I got requested for bachelor parties and made enough money to think it was worth it.
In the end, I worked at the club for just over three months and only put about $4,500 in the bank. I watched some girls make over half that in a weekend. I wasn't a very good saleswoman. Plus, the dark corners were where most of the money was made. I saw a lot of girls meet customers down the street after their shift as well. I suppose I could've made a lot more money if I was willing to "get out of my comfort zone". Which, I wasn't.
When I moved to California, I swore to myself that I would never tell anyone what I did. I would never bring it up with the people that already knew and I would never, ever do anything like that for the rest of my life. It's been about twelve and a half years. I've done some crazy things since then, but my days of working in a strip club ended when I left for college. And I didn't talk about it for a very long time. I was embarrassed, ashamed and felt like less of a person whenever someone reminded me of what I had done.
It's different now. For those of you who read my blogs regularly, you know that there isn't much I'm not willing to discuss. The more I talk, the more I see that I'm not alone. This helps with the painful memories.
I don't think less of strippers. I think there are enough out there doing it for the same reasons I was to know that not all of them are up to no good. Unfortunately, I've met many who are wrapped up in the world of drugs and prostitution and stripping is just their marquee. It's unfortunate that some women think this is the only way they can get what they want out of life. Then again, I've met strippers who really enjoy what they are doing and take it very seriously. Not to mention, they make enough money to support their family and live a modest life outside of those black walls.
In Las Vegas, if you are good enough as a stripper, you could even land a respectable job working for one of the topless shows on the strip. It's a strange industry and one that I will never truly understand, even after living it for a short period of time.
If you've already scrolled this blog for the pictures, I'm sorry to disappoint - ha!!
I do consider my time as "Vanity" to be a life lived very, very long ago. And again, while it is not something I am proud to say I've done, I have gotten to the point in my life where I am happy to have an interesting story to tell when someone asks me that question. The way I see it, what we've done makes us who we are. There really isn't much to be ashamed about - just life lessons to be learned.
In closing, though… there is something I would like to say that I have never said before in regards to this choice I made so many years ago…
I'm sorry, Daddy. This was a very immature way of making my point and I hope that you have forgiven me for my very poor judgment. All I ever wanted to do was make you and Mom proud. I have not always taken you guys on a fun ride and yet you have always gotten back in line. I love you both for supporting me at times when my righteousness clouded my good intentions. For the rest of my life, the choices I make will be ones that I can't wait to tell you about, instead of those that I am trying to keep hidden in a closet.
Because as I've discovered, those kind of choices make pretty good stories as well.
Posted by Tina V at 3:40 PM