Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Place Where Beauty Is Regarded

There's so much we do, as women, to make ourselves beautiful. We shave our legs and armpits, we wax our bikini lines, we sometimes even remove the little tufts of hair growing on our toe tops or beneath our belly buttons. Anything to appear less beastial and "hairy." Primitive and Masculine. We grow our hair long or strategically cut it off, take enormous risks w/ our sanity dyeing it this colour or that, highlighting or low-lighting it to hopefully bring out our best features or negate our worst. We paint our faces, struggling to even out our skin tone and bring vivid colour to our cheeks and lips, all  so we can look like perfect, peaches-and-cream personifications of the still and quiet, smiling baby dolls we played with in our youth. We deny ourselves pieces of the birthday cakes we make for our children and lasganas we bake for our husbands so that we can be slender. We jog and run, aerobicize and stretch, do yoga push-ups and plyometric jumping jacks all in effort to remain comely and youthful, to stay  perpetual  adolescents-prom queens waiting for the football captain to ask us for that first dance. And these are just the MINOR efforts we go through, we're not even talking about those of us who are daring  (or desperate) enough and can afford surgical and chemical interventions. Botox. Laser hair removal. Nose jobs. Dental Veneers. Bio-identical hormones. Vitamins. Emollients. Contact lenses. Bleach.

Yet so many of these efforts go unrewarded. Unless you  have a partner who's a prince of a man  or a wonder of a woman, a caring friend  to recognize your efforts and say: "Hey, you look beautiful today," no one even notices. You put all this effort and energy into something that goes completely unacknowledged.  And you yourself  rarely recognize it when you look in the mirror,  the rewards of all your furitive striving, b/c of the endless, self-critical babbling going on inside your head -that tormenting daemon, forever wailing your way,  stubborn and stuck on repeat.

The strip club, ironically, is one of the few places where all this effort is, strangely , finally recognized. It's your job. Be attractive. Look good. Beckon. Bewitch. Spellbind. Seduce. All you have to do...is  show up, and be beautiful.

You can be beautiful in a million different ways; you can be a platinum blonde or a ravishing  redhead,  a  sweetly winsome brunette or a regally raven-haired royal queen. You can  have a  bouncing halo of wild curls or a hanging curtain of Peggy Lipton-style stick-straight tresses. You can have small breasts or giant implants, a badonkadonk or a badonka-DON'T,  velvety black  or smooth copper skin, Angie Everhart  freckles or Elizabeth Taylor moles. Lean, long runway model legs or shapely cheerleader thighs, a pale porcelain complexion  or  a deep Hawaiian wahini  tan... as long as you are beautiful, you make the cut.

And in this way, and just about ONLY in this way, especially if you grew up being bullied or extremely insecure about your looks, it is empowering. Not everybody who walks through the door gets hired. You have to be pretty; there has to be something about you that makes men feel they want to look at you. They must yearn to be by you and close to your aura.

It's a messed up thing to say and one that's hard to admit, especially if you pride yourself on not being petty or superficial, but it's  part of the allure. You're finally in a  place where you are, at last, regarded for your beauty. No matter how small or how twisted that beauty is, here at last someone is desiring you. Someone acknowledges you.  Somebody wants you. Here you seem real.

I can't really explain it any other way. It's a head trip.

Sometimes it gave you a little spring in your step or a steady assurance  to your gaze. "I am an object of beauty. I am an Objet D'Art. I am paid to be beautiful."

And as messed up as that is, sometimes it made  you feel better.

That's why I loved that song off the SINGLES soundtrack "Chloe Dancer." In the song, as sad and as melancholy as Chloe's is,  in her mind, she is lovely, and that is what is important. She is DESIRED.

As women, we are pretty much raised to believe that we are nothing if we cannot enchant the handsome prince or bewitch the questing hero.

Our worth and our value is in our appearance and how attractive we are. Isn't that an ass-kicker? We could have the purest hearts, most profound souls, the sharpest minds or most blazing talents, and if we aren't beautiful, well, then, who really cares? And what's  it all for?

  I feel "Chloe" found at the club  the place where others saw what she so sincerely wanted  to see,  that through the approval of others, she found  the self-worth she needed to survive. "I may be a lot of  despicable things, but i have this ONE THING that everybody wants, I have this one thing that everyone  needs- I have a gift  that hardly anyone gets- I have my beauty. And that, and perhaps than alone, makes me worthwhile."

Everyone wants to be the prettiest princess and the perfect child. The baby doll in her fluffy dress. The barbie in her box. The calendar queen, the pin-up girl, the fashion model, the movie star... "here she is, your ideal, Miss America."

These are the messages we send.

"Chloe's just like me, only beeeeyooootifuuuuuulllll. Chloe does the tables...

But I'll never forget, the time spent lying by her side."

Don't forget to tell someone you love how beautiful you think they are today.

Right or wrong, it might make all the difference in the world.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jealous. Jealous Again.


Billy's friend Marigold (I swear to God, nobody comes up with a better alias than an exotic dancer) had gotten me on at the Silver Fox, but I was still too chicken to get up and dance.  They let me be a "shooter girl," which meant I  reluctantly waltzed around in an eeny meeny G-string bikini  toting a tray of  liquor filled  day-glo test tubes, like some maniac hybrid baywatch- girl -cum -mad -scientist. You tipped the "shooter" (test tube) up to the patron's lips ( *sigh* can't men do anything for themselves?) while standing in front of them laying  backwards against their shoulders. It  gave them a good view of you in a virtual backbend and provided  them with a peek down your decolletage, as well as  some  flesh contact (unless you were like me and tried to keep your fingers  as low down on the tube and  far away from their mouths as humanly possible). As you arched  back your spine, you exposed your suppline neck and  torso, two of the most sensuous  errogenous zones. Then you got a tip. At the end of the night, management would count up how many shots you'd sold and then you'd get a "cut." So there was a profit motive! 20% commission on all shooters "shot!" Hey,  I'm an independent contractor! A small  business entrepreneur! Woo hoo!

  The Silver Fox was a step up from the other grungy places I'd been visiting, but it was still pretty small potatoes.  The stage was minuscule, there was tacky neon graffiti everywhere spelling out commands like  "SIZZLE" and "SEDUCE," black light, and all the waitresses and shooter girls had to wear styleless, chunky silver  fox  animal charms threaded through slinky chains slung around our waists. In a way, it was a weight-limit test. If you couldn't wear the chain, you couldn't work the job. Some girls cheated and added extenders if they put on a few after they'd been hired. And some just quit because they were tired of always having to be thin and not eat. I also think this is why a lot of them purposefully got pregnant.

Ah, the pregnant stripper. Why would a girl solely dependent on how good her body looks allow this to happen?

Well, first of all, it gives you an easy excuse to quit if you're tired of the business, but can't bring yourself to stop b/c your boyfriend or husband won't let you, b/c strangely enough, "sig othz" like the easy money, too. Sometimes they were also into  "showing you off"  or  enjoyed being cuckolded or were secret  voyeurs.

It was also hard to quit if you got  addicted to the attention, the druggy-drunky  lifestyle (if you need drugs, head to a strip club. Dealers enjoy having a harem of women and think it makes them look like a big shot. They dig playing "kingpin"),  or you were simply hooked on the  "rush" of participating in a taboo lifestyle.

So, since no one wants to see you in acrylic platforms past your 2nd trimester, being pregnant got you off the hook.

2nd of all, you're surrounded by beautiful, naked woman all day long. So you're always thinking abut sex, or at least always  in a piquant, heightened state of sensory arousal  and sensual awareness. Thus, you are generally  easier to get  "in the mood." Thus you are easier to knock up.

  When Marigold and Teena (that's TWO e's) both found themselves in the family way, they spent ages  lolling on the couch, indulging in tubes of chocolate chip cookie dough and tubs of rocky road ice cream, gleefully exclaiming "WE'RE PREGNANT!"  when somebody would ask them, "hey, what gives with the buffet?"

I tried to tell them that just b/c they were pregnant didn't mean they had to completely let themselves go, and that if they laid around and did nothing  active after having normally spent five to six hours a day dancing, they would REALLY be regretting it once their babies came, but they gave  me an icy glare, and stated that for once in their lives they did't have to work out or wear thongs or worry about what a scale said, so I  shut up.

 That's what I mean about sometimes girls getting  pregnant on purpose. They could finally climb down off the stage and eat.

   Before Teena stopped dancing she used to do this number with this enigmatic  girl  who called herself "Tank," after "Tank Girl," the comic book heroine. Teena and Tank, yes indeed. It involved a racy routine set to  "You Can Leave your Hat on," and featured ropes, a chair, and a vibrating strap-on. I guess you could leave that on, too. Anyway, this routine KILLED. Afterwards, Tank would get up and solo dance and men would grovel at her feet.

  I was stupefied. What on earth got them to do that? Tank had bad skin, a shaved head, tiny boobies, and big round pop eyes. But she always left that nightclub FLUSH.

One day I couldn't take it anymore and I demanded for  Marigold to tell me her secret.

"I don't get it. This girl isn't attractive. How does she make so much money? Her skin is always broken out and she's so skinny if she turns sideways and sticks her tongue out she looks like a zipper. She has a SHAVED HEAD for the love of Jesus, and I don't even think she can do any tricks or splits or aerial work or anything."

I don't know why but it INFURIATED me.

"Don't you get it, Evie?"

(I called myself "Evangeline." Always thought it was a beautiful name.)

"No. I guess I don't."

"She's SEXY."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Not all women have to be drop dead gorgeous to... have allure. She fulfills a  fantasy. She's got the androgyny thing,  she always wears black rubber and  leather,the spikes and pumps. It's a fetish. She fulfills very specific desires some people have. You can imagine her doing bondage, girl on girl, latex stuff. You know, that scene."

"No, I don't know that scene."

But...Hmmmm...thought I.

"Plus, she's a natural blonde," Maridold said.


"Yeah, but you can still tell. Everybody loves blondes."



   I took another look at Tank next time she went onstage. With a different lens to view her through, I started to see her appeal. Her lack of make up, flat chest, and shaved head (she did leave the bangs long, a la "the chelsea") gave her a slender  tomboy look. And Marigold was right, when you really looked, as shaved as her head was, you could tell she was a natural blonde. Since  people like to pet the downy stubbs of shorn scalps, and experience  that touch and texture, I could see how that might turn them on. Her bad skin made her more approachable, like she was less likely to turn her nose up at you and walk off. It took away the stuck-up princess vibe a lot of dancers had. Her legs, though  really skinny, were beautiful. Not a speck of cellulite or a bruise or wrinkle on them,  and they were tinged   a smooth, caramel colour,  she had an effortlessly natural tawny tan, like  she'd just spent a few breezy  months out in the  summer sun, maybe building a big fiberglass fishing boat or sodering a  huge metal sculpture together, cause  let me tell you, girlfriend looked TOUGH. But, if you could see through everything distracting you, the  patent leather spikes heels and the industrial-strength scary  piercings, she almost  looked a little wholesome, and she definitely was completely  unaffected by the environment we were  in.  Tank always acted the same, what you see is what you get. No small feat that.

   One day Tank caught me looking at her  and clicked over my way  in her spikes, stopping right in front of  me, taking my head gently  in  her hands. Up close, her bug eyes were perfect amber circles, her smile was  subtle, and  she radiated a pleasant, cool  vibe of confident sincerity and assurance.

"Oh Evangeline," she lazily  cooed,  "you're so beeeeaaaaauuuuuuutiful."  and she  kissed me, softly, on the lips.


"You." she said.

Then she clicked away, dollar bills rustling in her garter and drifting off  the sides of her T-Bar, loud wolf whistles begging her to come back on stage.

It was true. You didn't have to be beautiful to be sexy; beauty comes in all different forms.

I would rarely be jealous again.

It's such a crippled-ego, wasted emotion anyway.

 I started trying to not always look at people with my own eyes and my own plentiful  judgements and preconceptions. I tried to be more open to other interpretations and impressions.

'Cause just  the Butthole Surfers  say: "You never know just how you look through other people's eyes."


Are you ready for the sex, girls?

 Well I'd been working "hard" at my "job" and still hadn't seen it pay off -I wasn't making it rain like it says you can do  in the hip-hop songs;  I  was more like  making it drizzle.  Indeed,  the only bottles I was popping were ones of Tylenol PM to help go to bed at night and ease my achy feet.

  I wanted to figure out what I was doing wrong, so I asked my hot Bi friend Billy to come watch a show with me  at the club to observe and critique it.

Oh, was this boy hot. Leonardo Di Caprio before he got all bloated and fat  hot. Shirtless  Jim Morrison in leather pants  hot. Bleached shaggy hair. Big blue eyes. 6'2. Lean. Young. "Curious." Hot.

  Billy's most memorable moment,  for me, was the night he tried cocaine for the first time, then looked over  at me sitting  indian-style on our cheap oriental carpet,  pock-marked from  the cinging stubs  of 10,000 left and right handed cigarettes,  and boldly announced: "I've decided to become an addict."

Ha Ha. What did he say?

"I've tried this and it's how it's gonna be"

"That's not how it works." I giggled and groaned. What a Naiff.

"Addiction's  not really about choice..." I went  on, "Besides, why don't you stick with the weed?"  I felt somewhat maternal to him, being about four older, and didn't want to steer him towards street narcotics. They weren't really my thing anyway. I liked marijuana and hallucinogens. I'd do a little powder if it was around, but I didn't, you know, seek it out.  I didn't like how cringey it made me feel and how it kept me up all night.

  "No, I like cocaine. I think I love it."

"Well, then just say it's your 'drug of choice,' no one wants to hear you call yourself an addict.  For God's sakes, this is the first time you've ever done it. How can you love it so much?"

 But he was determined to become a "cokey monster" and plunged in head first. B/c he was Bi, he was already way  into the Rave and Underground scene and  went to all  the Gay Bars in the  area, where alas it was never too hard to find,  being associated  as it was with physical stamina, debauched pleasure enhancement, and (most importantly) exclusivity. He was a young enough (20)  that he still  had  plenty of friends who were in their late teens who'd been diagnosed  w/ ADD, so he could target  them for their Ritalin stashes  when ran out of the good stuff.  He gleefully referred to both  it and Adderall as "Diet Coke."  (I've never understood this mentality. To me, if you're going to do your drug , do your drug. Don't do what is ALMOST your drug. That's how you get yourself into trouble. Looking for synthetic substitutes. Why waste time and money on anything other than the real McCoy? But that's just me)

  Little did I know this new found affection for harder drugs would eventually lead to our being targeted by the piedmonst police for a truly terrfying early morning SWAT raid and  consequently  losing the  six bedroom mini-manse  us ten university  degenerates inhabited, but, there was probably little I could have done  about it even if I had  known. When people make up their mind about things it's hard to change it for them.

I digress.

I drug Billy to the club and he watched me do my two song sashay. The first song was about the "tease," where you got to strut around a little and maybe even throw in some quality moves, the second  was where you "dropped that top"  then went hunting for lotsa da casha.

Billy watched attentively. When  I went backstage to change he watched a few other girls so he could check out their moves & size up my "competition."

I came backout in sweats and sat with him and drank a freshly soda-gunned water with lemon and ice.

"Ok, so whadya think?

"That part where you crawled across the stage?

"Yeah, that was an improv"

"Always do that part when you're on."

"Oh yeah? If it was so great how come nobody came over and gave me any money?"

"Well, first of all, this place is a dive, you aren't going to make any money until you go to a classier joint."

"Classy." I mumbled. MMMhmmm,  this business is all about the "class."

 "Billy," I scolded,  "nothing gives your lack of class away faster than using the word 'classy.' You want to say 'sophisticated.' Say, 'I need to work in a more sophisticated establishment.' "

"Yeah, that too" he smirked.

"Oh , and another thing I noticed?" he continued  "You don't give lap dances. That's why you're so poor. Guys are only going to give you a few dollars while you're onstage; they're saving their money up so they can buy a lap dance."

"Lap dances are disgusting," I said, hypocrtically appalled.

"Elizabeth, WHERE are you? I mean, where do you think you are?"

I glumly cast my eyes down on the table. "I know, I know."  I  reluctantly admitted, shaking my head.

"So when you crawl across the stage also look the men directly  in their  eyes. b/c that makes it about a thousand times sexier. I couldn't believe how much that turned me on, and I never think of you that way."


"I  could only do that b/c it was you! I don't want to look some *stranger* in the eyes while I crawl towards him practically naked! Are you kidding me?"

"I'm telling you, it's the eye contact. That's what makes it good"

"Goddamnit. Okay"

"After you left, that really tall girl, the one with those catwalk stems, she actually put her hands together like she was praying and begged for one."

"I mean, she knelt down beside this guy and *begged* him to buy a lap dance from her. So maybe you should try that."

"That WORKED?"

"Yes. Sure did."

"Sooooooo basically the advice you're giving me is to do more crawling and begging."

"Hey, this ain't the Met."

"Oh God, let's just get out of here. I have class in the morning. Real Class. Company Ballet and I don't want to miss it. I need to get up early and stretch."

"You didn't get enough stretching in tonight?"

I eyeballed him with the cold, dead puplis of a shark. I wanted  to be heard and taken seriously.


I can't do this, I thought.  Recent cold dead eyes notwithstanding, I'm not enough of a predator. And I  certainly don't want to spend my life begging and crawling.

"Come on, let's go watch Marigold do her show over at the Silver Fox. Maybe she can get you on over there, You clearly aren't  making any money or having any fun here."

"You can say that again."

"Plus, she has better coke."


"Well she DOES."

"Not during the school week! You're gonna flunk out!"

"Just a little won't hurt me."

I sighed.

"I've created a monster.  Or  more specifically whoever bought you that first bag did. But, I  still shouldn't have done it with you...that's just as bad.  Now I'm offically a bad influence. IN SO MANY WAYS. Ok, yes. let's  leave. This place has lost it's luster. Like it ever had it. I'll go get my tip-out."

"Don't forget how CLASSY you are!"


 I  got my money and grabbed his hand as I ran out, and tried to pull us both out of oblivion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Don't Dance"

  Some of the best stripping advice I've ever been giving came from a 90 pound, B-Cup-at-Best-on-a-GOOD-day (like maybe pre-period or post-pregancy) white trash little honey named "Fantasie." With an "IE." Yep.

  Let me take that back.

Perhaps she wasn't "named" Fantasie. More likely she'd adopted the clever-come hither alias as a device to  better entice the ones and fives up  into her garter. Oh yes, ones and fives. The dump I was working in didn't get a lot of twenties. That would change after I began to learn the business; when you first start out you go whereever you can go. In this case, a delapitated roadhouse joint justoff the interstate with quite the colourful staff and clientel. The latter consisting mostly of lower-level drug dealers , thier customers, and the undercover cops chasing after them...maybe plus another couple of aspiring rap and country artists, local sports wash-ups, and more than a few of what I took to be recent parolees.  The former were a mixed race crew of truly scrary female individuals-lots of  hardcore ghetto bunnies (light and dark skinned black girls whith golden teeth grills and soft, ample bottoms) and many frizzy-haired puerto rican mamacitas, who penciled-in their thin eyebrows and let curly-scripted tattoos wind their way around their cellulite-spattered upper arms or flabby lower abdomens,  inking out their boyfriend's names or those of a long dead homie or neglected child,  fading from a dark charcoal colour to a murky off-green. Yet another reason why don't "do" tattoos. They might look great when you get them, but they don't usually stay that way.

And of course, there were the double-wide dwelling dixie chicks like "Fantasie."

Ah, the glamorous life!

Fantasie gave a lot of surprisingly astute advice, the most important being "don't dance."

"You dance around too much, you move too much, you don't gottta move like that. Stand still and make THEM want YOU. Just swivel your hips and roll your shoulders a little."

There went my dreams of re-enacting Fosse.

"I can tell you have training," Fantasie continued, crunching a lighter-than -air Muncho she'd delicately extracted from its greasy foil bag with two long, flamingo-pink acrylic nails---WOW! Fantasie had noticed me! Imagine, all those hours at the Civic Ballet weren't for naught!----"but that shit don't fly here, ok?" She relayed her next insight using the gravitas of an oncologist giving test results: "Out here all guys want to do is look at your stuff and imagine doing stuff to it"

WHAT? You mean the men who frequent "Babydolls" aren't refined connosieurs of "La Danse Erotique?"  I was hoping for some quality stage experience here. The female nude is to be savoured and appreciated!  All the great artists painted nudes! Picasso! Degas! Van Gogh! I am participating in an ancient art form!

Aren't I?

I remained silent and eagerly nodded. I think she sensed I needed all the help I could get.

"Yeah, so don't dance so much."

That was my first introduction to the world or exotic dance. Being told not to do it so much.

Once an overacheiver, always and overacheiver. I had made the fatal mistake of dancing at a dance club.

Well, I  wouldn't be making that mistake again.

Mold me, Fantasie! Teach me your dark secrets!

"Ok, yeah, and put some foundation on the pimples on your butt. Nobody wants to see those."

See, now it was just getting embarrassing. I paled in sudden humiliation.

"Hey, don't worry about it, nobody's butt is perfect."

But hers nearly was. She may have had a scrawny, overly-tanned, scrunched up  muskrat face but her derriere was TINY and ROUND. Downright delicious,  like two small, firm cantaloupes stiing atop a pair of wobbly stilts.

"Ok, well, um, thank you."

"Don't mention it. Us girls gotta stick together, ya know? It's us or them"

I didn't know if by "them" she meant the patrons, the other dancers, or the management, but I was just happy to finally have heard something else  besides "get out of my way, bitch!" or "bitch, you do not stand in my way when i am next on stage. GET OFF MY STAGE SORRY-ASS NEW BITCH...can't dance ...don't wear enough make-up there's too many girls working at this club anyhow.." etc

"yeah, I gotcha."

"Don't forget that, ok?"

"I won't forget"

"I mean it," she put her Munchos down and gingerly wiped the corners of her mouth with her fingertips.

She turned towards the mirror to do a final make-up check and spray up her bangs.

Hauntingly, back from the recesses of the silver glass, she stared deep into the eyes of my reflected image.

She repeated one last time, slowly:

"US or THEM"

I got it, Fantasie, us or them.

Isn't that how it always is?

Oedipus Rocks

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Nuthin' but the Shoes"

  Poverty and aimlessness will make you do desperate things. So will sinister  intoxicants like brown liquor and blind  love, but nothing brings out the desperation and stupidity quite like having no money and no place to go.

  I was living  on the streets of Atlanta, a few months after I had run away. Only in my late teens, I couldn't take all the drama and destruction back at my house and did not like the way my parents or anyone else treated me. "How could life be any worse?" I asked myself, before hitching  a ride with a touring industrial band out of NYC. "What have I got to lose?"

I lucked out and the first night I was in town hooked up with a sensitive soul named Ben, who's last girlfriend had also been named "Elizabeth."  I think that was my "in." We met each other at The Masquerade, a thumping  rock and dance club divided into three seperate levels: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Heaven had the rock, Hell had  house and disco. Purgatory was where you played if they didn't know what to do with you. That's where Ben and I met. I was doing kaeroke which I interspersed with acapella renditions of my favourite cowboy folk songs. You haven't lived 'til you've performed "Streets of Loredo" in front of a bunch of inebriated  indie nerds and  drunken rednecks.  I guess Ben liked what he saw because he took me home that night and me, not having any place to go, (the wanna-be Nine Inch Nailers had long hauled ass and left me to fend for myself)  well, I didn't put  up too much of a fight.

  Ben wore a wife beater and had a shaved head, which drew attention to his large, beautiful fawn-like eyes and flawless, ivory skin.  He was tall and lanky and had been pierced more times than a villian's Voo-Doo doll. Even his penis was pierced. Well, his scrotom. When people have had  extreme things like that done to their most private of parts they always want to show them off, whether you want to look at them or not, so I had actually gotten an eyeful before we left the club.

  "That's, uh, interesting." I said, glaring at the two tiny gold hoops threaded through his wrinkly nut sack. "God, didn't that hurt?"

  "Oh yeah, it hurt, but then the endorphins kick in and you're riding high."

  I thought to myself, I'd rather just ride "level," if genital  piercing is what it takes to "ride high,"  but I just nodded my head and smiled, knowing how much I needed him and not wanting to piss him off.

  We went back to his room and flopped down on his  twin mattress, laying directly on the floor next to a child's record player and a bunch of goodwill LP's.

  Ben played the "Little Girl's Are Fun" cut off of an anicent  Jimmy Osmond record. I'd taken it  he'd unearthed it from a 70's-era  Time Capsule buried somewhere underneath one of  Little Five Point's finer used vinyl stores.  I laughed heartily. Couldn't stop.   "What IS this?"  I screeched,  while Ben screamed along with  the lyrics,  bobbing his body rhythmically  and madly grinning from ear-to-ear  like a just-sprung Jack-in-the-Box.

  He let me stay with him for a few weeks and then he said his roommates were starting to get mad and that if I wanted to stay I had to get a job. He suggested I try lingerie modeling.

  "What the hell is lingerie modeling? I'm five-foot-six and one hundred and fifteen pounds. I have freckles, small eyes, a big nose, a prominent chin, and freaky little teeth. I'm not not exactly what you'd call  'lingerie model' material."

"Nah, you're gorgeous. All girls think they're ugly. This isn't print work. This is where you go to a guy's house and model lingerie for him privately."

  "That doesn't exactly sound 'safe.' "

  "You can also be a naked maid. That's where you clean guys' houses for them in a g-string and pumps."

  "WOW--so it's, like, TWO forms of  patriarchal subjugation and sexist oppression going on at once."

  "You can't look at it that way."

"How else am I supposed to look at it?"

"Well, not like THAT. It's just a way to make money."

"I don't know, it still doesn't sound very safe."

"I'll be right outside, unless, like,  I have to go to work or to band practice or something"

"Mmmmm hmmm. Gee, it's just sounding better and better all the time"

"Look, you have to do something, The other guys are jealous and they hate girls. They really don't want you staying here and mooching and they're going to kick you out if you don't start bringing home some cash."

The "other guys" consisted of a medieval jousting enthusiast who lived out of a step-van parked in the back yard and  a couple of thirty-nothing convienance store clerks who never bathed or wore deoderant and left their dirty clothes draped all over the bean bag chairs, milk crates, and inflatable rafts standing  in for furniture scattered throughout the house.

"You said you were a dancer,  you're feminine and you have a nice body, so why don't you dance?"

"I don't have a nice body! My breasts are small and my legs are heavy!"

"You're so cute when you talk that way," Ben said, grabbing my face and  kissing me aggressively. "Trust me, you're good enough. You can make money fast and not worry about working 'legit.' You don't want to be 'found,' do you?  WELL? DO YOU?  Then you need to do what I say."

  So that night I opened up the phone book and turned to the "Exotic Nightclubs" section. I picked one out that had the nicest, most-expensive looking ad, figuring that would be the place I could make the most money.

  We drove out there the next day. Ben stayed in the car to smoke a joint and write down  his punk rock group's set list for the night. They were called "Social Suicide," and sounded  like what you'd expect them to.

  "Aren't you gonna come in there with me?"

  "I gotta work on this set list, babe."


"Besides, they might charge me, I'm a guy, they don't want me oggling the merchandise for free."

"Well, ok, but if I'm not back in fifteen minutes I want you to come in after me."

Ben laughed and sparked his J. "No problem." he said, then he began attacking the back of a Social Suicide flyer with his Sharpie. "I think we should open with 'Eye Gouger,' that one always goes over with a crowd," he mumbled, nonchalantly puffing away.

"Hey give me a pull...I need some...Dutch courage."

"Heh heh heh... yeah, here ya go." I pulled on the joint and tasted its sticky sweet essence. Things started to slow down and  I started to feel more floaty and ethereal  so I knew it was good weed. I felt more and more like I could do this.

The club was a non-descript concrete and cinder block compound sitting behind a chain link fence; it looked like a little bit like a prison. It was windowless and intimidating, but I held my head high and pushed open the reinforced steel door defiantly. Show no fear. Fear is what knocks you off your game.

  I blinked, having gone from searing Hotlanta summer sun to shadowy strip club frozen air-conditioned  darkness.

  An overweight bespectacled balding man counting out fifty and one-hundred-dollar bills behind a plexiglass box grunted to greet me.

  "I'm hear, about the--ad?"

  "You eighteen?

"I'm nineteen," I lied. Maybe I shoud have gone for 21, but I didn't want to push it.

  "You ever danced before?"

"Sure." I lied again. I certainly had danced, but, not like this. This was not a land of pageant smiles and high-shoe taps and pulled-back buns and tour jetes.

"No drugs and no booze, and no boyfriends or babies allowed backstage."

I hadn't planned on taking any of those things in with me, so I nodded like I knew what  he was talking about and what I was doing.

"And this place..." he drew in a big drag off his stoogie and looked up and stopped counting; it was the first time he'd made eye contact with me. He had a lazy eye. I stared at his forehead, trying not to notice it. He exhaled and finished his sentence: "is ALL NUDE. You got that? ALL NUDE."

"All nude? You mean, I don't come out onstage in, like, a cute little cheerleader costume or  a sequined G-string or anything like that?"

"Uh-Uh." he laughed and shook his head side to side, amazed at my ignorance. "No way. Nuthin' but the shoes."

He looked at my feet. I was wearing Birkenstocks. Oops.

"And our girls wax or shave. No bush."

Did I give off a big, hairy bush vibe? I guess I did. Shows how much he knows. It was more like a medium one.

He chuckled another  phelgmy, throaty chortle and went back to counting his money. "Look around if you want," he called up, not taking his eyes off the cash. "See if you like it."

I peeked around the wall seperating the dance area from the lobby.  It was almost pitch black. A spotlight shown on the stage where a lone dancer eerily bathed in a spectral, smoky  light. Nirvana's "Come as You Are" played in the background. Yeah, talk about it. You got that right, Kurt. You can't get any more "as you are" than this.

  The dancer wandered over to a customer  seated at the lip off the stage. There was  one  plastic bottle of Schmirnoff and one of Tropicana grapefruit juice laid out on the table. Since this place was all nude, it couldn't legally serve alcohol. Don't ask me how this made sense. So, the bar would make its money by selling overpriced mixers like seven dollar grapefruit juices and twelve dollar cokes, and let the customers bring their own liquor in. Weird, but  a nice little dodge around the law. Hey, where there's a will, there's a way.

  She slid down in front of him into a full split, then rolled backwards onto her back, catching her ankles and spreading wide all that  mother nature had blessed her with. All  for the crumpled  Andrew Jacksons or Abraham Lincolns  burning a hole in his  dirty palms.

  It was like, an up close and personal view of a Hustler shot. Almost gynecological. I didn't see how that was "sexy," but who am I to judge?

  I ducked my head back around before either of the happy couple could see me spying. I turned towards the --What was he? A concierge?  Maitre D' ? Who knows? --I turned to the guy in the plexiglass box and said, "This is not for me."

"You sure? Young girl like you could make a lot of money"

"Yeah, thank you, but ...um, I think there are some other places I had in mind."

He chuckled again and a thin stream of tobacco-stained saliva ran down his chin.

"You'll be back," he said.

I was mad and thought about saying "Hey buddy! EFF YOU.  Don't be so sure about that!" but I just left. It's best not to "engage" when people are trying to get a rise out of you.

Ben was still in the car and the joint had almost run out. I grabbed the roach and said sarcastically, "Thanks for saving some for me."

 My sarcasm went unnoticed as Ben scribbled away, carefully selecting the encores to add to the end of what   I'm sure he was sure was to be his band's breakout blockbuster show.

"So did you get it?" he said, casually.


"NO? What? Why not?"

"I don't want to work at that place. I don't want to 'come as I am.' Or help anyone else out with 'coming as' they are, either."

"Huh?" Ben inquired, mildly confused.

"This place isn't for me; I'll find something else to do."

"Suit yourself, but you only have until Friday"

"Yeah. Great. Thanks for sticking up for me, BEN."

"Aw come on, you know I'm doing the best I can."

Yeah, thanks for giving me your "best" I thought. I'm about to be homeless because I don't want to bend over and  let some crusty old geezer take a  long, slow gander at my 'tang, but driving me here is the "best" you can do. MUCH OBLIGED.

I sucked on the roach and stared out the windshield. "What a wasted day," I thought, as the lyrics to the dreamy Nirvana song  drifted through my mind.

"Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be, as a friend, as a friend, as an old enemy...take your time,  hurry up, the choice is yours, don't be late... take a rest, as a friend, as an old memoryyyyyyyy--ee-ee-uh..."

I saw the dancer's long, slim legs gleaming  in the smoky spotlight's dim beam,  how they were  illuminated but for the briefest of moments, then  forever frozen  inside a mental picture  frame errected around  a distant, hazy  malaise,  protected by a nostalgic longing, surrounded by a  shameful guilt.

 I saw her crouch down, roll over, and pull her legs open.

"Come doused in mud, soaked in bleach, as I want you to be, as a trend, as a friend, as an old memory."


"Soaked in bleach, as you want us to be..."

"Our girls shave..."

"Nuthin' but the shoes..."

To this day, I can't hear that song without thinking of that afternoon and the faceless dancer on the big, empty stage. It's a vision that  fills me with both child-like wonder  and  adult sorrow, sorrow that is both bitter and sweet.

I think about how perfectly the song completes the scene.

We are all always "coming as we are."

But it is oh -so- rarely good enough.

"As an old enemy, as an old memory."

That pretty much said it all.

Thanks Kurt.

Guess I'll see  you on the other side...