The First One

25 Jan

“You know, you’re not like the other girls.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes.  It’s barely midnight on my first night of work; I’ve only been dancing for three hours.  And already I’ve heard some variation of that statement at least half a dozen times.

“Thank you.”  A vaguely familiar pop song comes on, and I stand up, ready to take off my clothes.  But he takes my wrist and pulls me gently back onto the sofa.

“I still want to talk to you.  Here -” he fishes a $20 bill out of his wallet and hands it to me – “Let’s just talk.”

“You… you don’t want me to take my clothes off?”

He ignores me.  He asks about my life, my past, and I answer honestly: from the West Coast.  Senior at NYU.  Yes, I use my real name here.

Another song starts up, and before I can ask he produces another $20 and, without missing a beat, keeps talking.

When he asks where I hope I’ll be in five years, I tell him I don’t know.  He frowns; this seems to worry him.  “In an ideal world,” he presses.  “Answer instinctively.”

Okay: in five years, I hope I’ll be creating work – writing?  Acting?  I’m not sure – that I find emotionally and artistically (and, in an “ideal world,” financially) fulfilling.  Marriage.  Babies.  “I want everything,” I say earnestly.

He seems pleased.  A third song starts; another $20.  “Now you can take your clothes off.”

“I knew it; you’re stunning,” he tells me as I stand before him wearing nothing but an absurdly insubstantial thong.  But as I move to climb onto his lap, he stops me.  “No, I’m sorry.  I can’t.  You’re too real.”

As I pull on the black dress I had been wearing, he asks what time I get off work.  “Three,” I answer.

“Would you like to grab a cup of coffee afterwards?”

I can’t believe this.  In the three hours I’ve been working, a shocking number of men have produced their business cards – after I had been writhing almost completely naked on them – and requested expressly that I call them should I ever want to hang out.  As in, outside of work.  Clothed.

Maybe even more bizarre is the fact that most of these men are young, attractive, and seem perfectly normal.  This guy is no exception: tall.  Blonde.  Charming British accent.  Had I met him in, say, a normal bar, I wouldn’t think twice about giving him my number.

But I just shrug.  “I can’t.”

We get up and start to make our way back into the main room when he takes me by the shoulders and gives me a meaningful look.  “Please, promise me that you won’t do this for too long.  Okay?  I understand it; if I were a girl and I looked like you, I’d do it too.  But I’d hate to see you become hardened.”

“Okay.  I promise.”

I ended up dancing for six months.  And it’s true – I was different from a lot of the other girls.  Not because I was intelligent or articulate or motivated – I met plenty of strippers who were these things – but because, at 22, my sexual history consisted of one awkward blow-job.  I was a virgin.

Working in such a hyper-sexualized environment with my hymen intact was a dichotomous experience.  On one hand, the sharp contrast between my personal and “professional” lives created a disconnect that probably made it possible for me  to dance naked for money in the first place (well, that and a lot of alcohol).  And most customers assumed I was very sexually experienced, so working was a lot like playing a role.  But on the other hand… while I don’t think stripping did any irreparable damage to my psyche or anything, it did ultimately make me loathe being treated as a sex object.  Particularly when sex wasn’t a part of my “real” life.

The reason why I quit is also atypical: I fell in love… with someone I met at work.  Yes, I fell in love with a customer.

I’ve had some unusual experiences in my 22 years, and I’ve belonged to a couple very distinct subcultures: evangelical Christian.  Sex worker.  And now?  I’m pretty happy and normal.  But I’m ready to share some of my stories – not only because few people have experienced what I have, but also because I’d really like to figure out how I went from handing out pamphlets about Jesus in Bryant Park to grinding naked on men who could be my father in a few short years.

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One Response to “The First One”

  1. Lindsay January 26, 2010 at 5:41 am #

    Since you constantly show your curiosity and support for so many other artists’ writing, I knew you had a masterpiece brewing inside you. This is the beginning of an amazing story!

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