When I was a kid things were really simple. People with running water and jobs were Stupid Rich People, and you felt a little disdainful of them because they were stupid enough to spend their lives working so that they could spend their money like sheep. Running water, junk food, new clothes. We didn’t need any of that stuff, and so my dad didn’t have to have a job and we got to be one big happy family (not) with all the time in the world to spend together. Poor Stupid Rich People didn’t know any better. They needed to read Thoreau and learn how to really live.
Things got a little more complex when I went south. Even more so when I started working with “poor families.” These poor families had running water, and spent their hard earned money and welfare checks on potato chips and K-Mart clothes. They were Stupid Rich People! I was very confused. I was even more confused about the things they didn’t have access to. Girl scouts and band and counseling and safe places. But most especially there was the way people treated them. People mostly did not treat each other that way where I came from, or else I wasn’t sophisticated enough to recognize it. Probably I was too busy thinking that I was better than everyone else because I didn’t buy things.
So I’ve come to think of class as something apart from money, something more to do with the way you have been treated, the way you expect to be treated, and the world you live in. Some people have worlds full of fancy dishes and dinner parties where they discuss the latest greatest way to kill bugs and rodents, and other people’s worlds are full of broken teeth and hopeless afternoons smoking weed and talking about who’s in jail lately. The thing is, you get money, and this doesn’t change.
You don’t quit your McDonalds job, start making hundreds of dollars a night stripping, and suddenly gain a bunch of fancy assed dishes and friends who are concerned with killing rodents. You just have more money.
In stripping, reality is what you make it and people pay you according to that reality. If you’re reality came from a trailer park, it’s a hard sell. But those Ivy League girls who talk like they’ve got a bunch of fancy assed dishes and act like they’re entitled to the whole damn world on a silver platter? They bank. The difference between a five dollar coke whore and a thousand dollar an hour stripper is a rhinestone necklace and a good vocabulary.
It’s the craziest thing to start to understand, that if you just start to act rich people will treat you like you are and then you will be (I mean, if you worked all the time and saved your money you would be). That’s why I always say that stripping is like a practicing ground for life. In the “real world” sure, you could start acting like you had money and visualizing having money and some would probably come to you, and maybe in a few years or a decade of focusing very hard you would be rich. In stripping, it happens right away. Put on that necklace, hold your head up and smile like the world is yours on a silver platter, and the money is yours. Not next week or next year, but the very next guy you sit down with.
Unlike in the dominant culture, though, strippers don’t have to go through long periods of re-socialization to get money. We don’t have to go to fancy colleges and learn how to act professional and care about fancy plates. We don’t have to work in offices with people who are concerned with killing rodents. We take our clothes off, wiggle in peoples laps, and, often, drink.
In any dressing room there is at least one stripper who has fancy dishes, at least one stripper who just got off the phone with her boyfriend in jail, at least one stripper whose in graduate school, at least one stripper who just got back into dancing and is worried about her kids who she left with her abusive boyfriend because it’s the only way to make money to get them away from him, and at least one stripper who’s totally stressing out because she can’t decide if her kid should go to the Montgomery school or the Waldorf school this year. They’re all gonna make at least five hundred dollars tonight, although last night they might have made thirty dollars or two hundred dollars or a thousand dollars. And it won’t change their class a bit, unless they want it to.