You can tell a lot about a person by what they say when you tell them you’re a stripper. They always ask. â€œWhat do you do for money, traveling around in that van.â€ Or even if they don’t know about the van dwelling, it’s â€œso, what do you do.â€ I used to tell people that I took my clothes off for money, or danced naked with the fairies, or whatever came to mind. Lately I just say, â€œI’m a stripper,â€ and try to play it off all smooth, like saying you’re an investment banker or a paralegal.
The best people will respond in the manner it’s spoken, and say, â€œoh, cool.â€ Or, â€œyou can do that wherever you go? Great.â€ They’re pretty rare.
Some people will look a little shocked for a second and then tell me that it’s okay. Like, â€œoh! Well. That’s… okay. I guess.â€ Really? Are you sure? Cause you know I could never live without the random approval of some stranger. Older men are usually conditional with their approval. As in, â€œwell, I guess that’s okay. As long as you’re being smart and saving money and not doing drugs.â€ I like how they think it’s any of their business, and sometimes I’ll ask them if they do their money, and if they find it hard, as an investment banker, to resist drugs?
Other people want to reassure themselves with their approval. â€œI guess that’s okay, if you’re just doing it to put yourself through school/save money/feed your kids?â€ Or, the ever so common sympathetic middle aged woman: â€œI had friends who did that! You can just make some money and then stop.â€ I used to feel guilty about smashing their stripper fantasies, but now I take a certain kind of delight in it. â€œOh, no, there’s no chance of me stopping. I’m a stripper for life.â€ â€œNo, I’m not going to school. Why, are you?â€ The worst, but most hilarious, is when they totally miss the irony.
Then there are cute, sweet people. Once a friend of a friend’s husband was under the bus with me, looking at rusted out brake lines, when it occurred to him to ask how I made money.
â€œI’m a stripper,â€ I told him, just as I rolled into a puddle of brake fluid.
â€œOh, like in the oil fields?â€
â€œNo, like in the strip clubs.â€
â€œOh!â€ This caused him to jump and bump his head on the rear axle. â€œYou don’t do it all the way, do you?â€
â€œAll the way what?â€ I asked, wondering if he was asking if I went â€œall the wayâ€ in the VIP room or something.
â€œAll the way naked!!!â€ he said, horrified.
Once, in the same town, I met a woman who was the director of an art center. The next day she introduced me to some of her possible investors as a girl who travels around in a van and â€œlives by her wits,â€ with a big wink and a nod at my tits.
Often people take my stripper-ness as an opportunity to unpack their favorite stereotypes or pop psych theories. Cause, you know, strippers are all victims, starlets, and bad poets. Oh, and how could I forget? There’s the whore with a heart of gold, too. Especially in Alaska, where whore’s actually funded much of the gold mining and provided most of the social assistance for years before government established itself and ran them off. Just the other day someone sent an email telling me that he doesn’t go to strip clubs because he can’t stand the vibe, the constant crushing of all these poor girls movie star aspirations. Wow, how did he know? That’s totally why we all decided to be strippers!
Once, my ex and I were selling her jewelry at a fair, and the woman in the next booth was having some fibromyalgia/MS problems with pain and moving her hands. She lived in a short bus, so we packed her stuff up for her and my girlfriend drove her bus to her parking spot. Before we left, she asked how we could afford gas, and I told her I was a stripper. â€œOh,â€ she pronounced, â€œyou poor thing. You’re going to have such self esteem problems.â€
â€œOh, yes, it happens to all strippers.â€
Wow, thanks for informing me.
The worst are the guys who try to prove how cool they are by bragging about what shitty customers they are. You know, they’re so cool they get free blow jobs whenever they go near a strip club. Or they’ve had six girlfriends who were strippers so they could teach me a lot about the business. Like, you should act really really slutty. I don’t even know what to say to these people, so I just walk away.
Or, as soon as they find out I’m a stripper they wanna buddy up with me and put their wives or girlfriends down. Like, strippers are so cool, and their wife won’t shave her pussy. Yeah, I wouldn’t shave my pussy for your fucked up free enjoyment either. What the hell? Or they explain to me how innocent and dowdy their girlfriend is, and then turn to her and explain that strip clubs are dens of sin, meat racks of naked women, full of the crushed dreams of aspiring starlets and bad poets.
Better than that, but just as frustrating, are the ones who try to correct me:
â€œI’m a stripper.â€
â€œNo, no. You’re an Exotic Dancer!â€
â€œI’m not a fucking ballerina,â€ I tell them, which I learned from this really awesome stripper in Indianapolis once, while having a conversation about this very thing. She said that people always tell her that she’s lying, and I’ve had that happen a couple times too:
â€œI’m a stripper.â€
â€œHaha, you’re not really.â€
â€œYeah. I am.â€
â€œNoooo,â€ they look you up and down and you can see them thinking you aren’t blond, you ain’t got fake tits, â€œyou don’t look like a stripper.â€
â€œUm, thanks. But I am.â€
â€œOmigod that’s so funny, but no your not.â€
Oh, yeah! I totally forgot! I’m not a stripper, I’m an exotic dancer.