Ohhh, where to start with this one. I tell this story a lot, because it's short and I can spit it out between drink orders at the bar. Also, my old-man regulars love to find out that I applied to be a stripper, although they're inevitably disappointed to hear it didn't work out. Anyway, so here's a quickie about the time I tried to become an exotic dancer. Also, an aside: Forgive any typos today. I have super long, glittery nails because it felt right for writing about stripping, amirite?But bummer cause it's hard to type. I know. It's dumb, but it's cuuuuute!
I was living in Chicago and I was not having a great time. I had been fired from my first awful, corporate job and then, when 2008 hit and the economy really ate shit, I was laid off from my subsequent start-up job. I was living alone, broke and lost in a freezing cold city I couldn’t stand. My neighbor Maya, who was beautiful, confident and happy stopped by one day to check on me as I wallowed in my unemployment. Maya had just gotten a breast augmentation and was off work for a week. Maya was a stripper.
We lamented over lost money; mine my paycheck, hers, her tips. Talking cash reminded me of a time before my corporate life. It was a better time, a reliable time when I worked for tips instead of the wildly unpredictable world of paychecks during a recession. It was funny. People were always asking me, when I was a bartender, when I would “get a real job.” I had now had two, and they left me more unstable than bartending for cash ever did.
“I’ll just go back to bartending,” I told Maya, “At least it’s reliable.”
“Or you could always strip,” she said, kissing me on the forehead as she picked up her thick faux fur coat from the sofa.
“Yeah right,” I replied.
“Seriously, let me know, I’ll vouch for you,” She opened the door, letting a gust of icy air in.
I hunkered down under my blankets on the couch. I had never really thought about stripping, before. But now? Why not? It’s not like I knew anyone in Chicago, really. No old acquaintance was going to saunter into a club where I was shaking my ass for tips. All the people I had met in Chicago were of little significance. I had one or two friends who wouldn’t judge me, and a bunch of random people whose opinions meant nothing to me. If my old bosses showed up, it would be funny. Like, 'You laid me off and now look what I have to do…' Plus, I was a little heavy. Dancing would be a great workout. I already hated my dad(s), so I had the prerequisite Daddy Issues to be good on a pole. My significant other didn’t treat me very significantly, so fuck him. What did I have holding me back? Worst case scenario, I’d have something new to write about.
So, I did it. Or at least I tried.
I dropped off a resume at VIPs in Lincoln Park on Thursday afternoon. I met with a manager there, Big Tony, and he told me to come back in on Monday night to audition. An audition in a strip club is what you’d imagine. You show up and you strip. If you don’t chicken out, barf, or forget to take your clothes off, you’re hired. I picked out a cute stripper-ish lingerie ensemble on Sunday afternoon, practiced a few moves in my highest heels in the mirror and mentally prepared myself for my new, cash career. I didn’t mention that I knew Maya, just in case I failed and couldn’t pull it off. She was so magnetic, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of her if I couldn’t keep up.
Monday night arrived. My friend Garin agreed to accompany me to the club. Garin is one of the friends in Chicago who did (and still does, Hey G!) matter, one of the non-judgey ones. We arrived around 10 pm. I brought another copy of my resume, because that’s what I always did when I wanted a bar job. It’s professional.
Tonight, Big Tony was distracted. The club was busy for a Monday. He took my resume, and looked it up and down.
“I’m here to audition,” I told him.
He looked at me. He looked at my resume. He looked at me again.
“Have a seat,” he said shaking his head, again looking at my resume.
My resume did not have any strip clubs on it. It had HR work for a major corporation and a small software company listed, under a bevy of computer skills and other professional attributes I thought were universally appealing. Who wouldn’t want a stripper who was timely, came highly recommended by corporate types AND knew how to program? It’s called layers, people.
Garin and I sat. We sat for a long time. The club got less busy. Tony walked by several times. He didn’t make eye contact with me once. After a few cocktails (2 drink minimum, guys) I left Garin at the table and approached Big Tony.
“So, should I audition now?” I asked him, my duffel bag full of panties and heels hanging off my shoulder.
“Kid…” he paused and took a breath, “You brought a fuckin’ resume.” He looked me in the eyes, “Get outta’ here, why dontcha’?”
I was mortified. Possibly even more mortified than if I had stripped. Who did this guy think he was? I was a woman, a full-grown woman. I brought a thong AND platforms. I practiced my sexy dance, for Chrissakes. And my resume was great, thankyouverymuch!
I returned to our table defeated and told Garin we could go. We entered the foyer of the club, and as we pulled a thick velvet curtain closed behind us, a short man with dark features and a furrowed brow ran up to me. His black eyes looked wild, desperate. He then asked me, in a thick Middle eastern accent,
“Please, can you take me to the mall?”
“What mall? It’s, like, midnight,” I replied, thrown off by such a random request.
“Please! Take me to the mall!” He repeated.
“Dude, what mall? You mean the Magnificent Mile?”
“Please, I’ll pay you! Just take me to the mall!” He was very animated now. I guess he really needed to do some shopping.
“Man, I don’t know where you’re gonna’ find a mall. There’s a CB2 over there,” I was so confused.
“I’ll give you 100 dollars. Just take me to the mall!” He said, his final offer.
“Jesus, WHAT MALL? Ugh, never mind, no, we aren’t gonna’ take you to the mall, excuse us,” I said, pushing past him. I was over it. The whole scene.
“Fine,” he said, only inches from my face, “Bitches,” he hissed and walked past the velvet rope, into the club.
Garin and I walked toward the exit. As we passed the cashier in the front lobby—a pretty young woman in a corset who had witnessed it all—she called out.
“He shoulda’ asked me,” she said getting our attention, “For a hundred bucks I woulda’ kicked him in the balls.”
Garin and I looked at each other in a fleeting moment of naivete, our mouths open in little O’s of understanding and shock.
“Kiiiick me innnn the ballllllls,” we mouthed simultaneously, dumbfounded, “Ohhh.”