Sunday, February 24, 2019

Barefoot in the Dark

The levees broke today inside me.
“When you’re done with me, I see a negative space.”
James Blake. James Blake.

I started “feministripper” in February 2013, on Twitter.
Back then, the online sex work community was dramatically
smaller, and I joined it because sex work can be very isolating
due to the stigma. I wanted connection, not unlike the connections
forged backstage. And that’s exactly how it was.
I’m grateful that it’s bigger now. We are truly all we have.
A lot has happened since then, both online and in all of our lives.
I’ve been doxxed, in the press, and written for publications.
FOSTA/SESTA happened. So much has changed. So much.
My ankles are weaker now, and my knees are damaged,
but I wouldn’t trade this community or this life for anything.
Twitter took me down first. Then Instagram, but I got that back and just
got past 10,000 followers, which is surreal. Tinder came next, and if we are
being persnickety, technically PayPal and Venmo came for me first.
Working in the sex industry just trying to EXIST is trying, most of the time.
“feministripper” as a space, specifically a space to
educate on issues, destigmatize my world and THE world,
& to uplift the voices and experiences of others, means so much to me.
Radical vulnerability. Change via softness.
Thank you, to everyone who’s ever and continues to support me. Thank you
so much for seeing me. Thank you for believing in me.
I love you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Magical Realism

TW: violence
Note: this is fictional

That sound. What was it? A box fan? The blades of a helicopter? She was disoriented.
The dust. The taste of the dust was in her mouth in her nose. Angrily, she inhaled and exhaled heavily. Spat on the ground. The drive had been long. There was muttering between them, The Men, indiscernible to her.
Have I slept? She thought.
Have I eaten?
Who cares, was her final thought then.

They slipped another of those dissolving pills into a bottle. Blue. It was blue. Against the neutral landscape surrounding her, all the darkness, the blue stood out, glistening in a beam of light. She collapsed. Her jean shorts were soiled, and her knees buckled. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her neck could no longer support the head. One of The Men knelt next to her, plugging her nose and opening her mouth, and emptying the contents of the bottle. She sputtered, and lost consciousness again.

Time and space was nebulous now, devoid of meaning at this point. The differentiation between captor and liberator, something that would be stark to others, was one she couldn't make anymore. These men, with their faces covered, didn't stir fear in her. She'd lost everyone. The first one to go was herself. Being in this dusty ass basement with these strangers... nothing mattered. She found solace in her numbness and indifference, because of course the lack of feeling was better than the alternative. She vowed to never feel again. She would become one of them. They already had her uniform waiting.

Give You the World if it Was Mine

I’m still coming back to myself. 
A lot of spiritual teachers will say that the deeper you go, there’s always new depths, and that’s true.
The last.... while has been nothing short of transformative.

I’m still not ready to lay it out brick by brick, because I eventually plan to write a book, but I’m getting my feet wet. Did you know an abortion attempt can fail? Did you know you have to do it again then? 
Remember when I fell in love and almost moved across the country because we “were going to get married and have kids” mere months ago? I would have been moving there in less than two months.
Me too.

A lot more has happened between then and now, but the termination is the freshest. Let’s just say 2 (two) rounds of pills in one weekend was... ummm... a lot. A hormonal Aries Moon during an Aries Moon AND Mars transit??? (To those who have no idea wtf I’m talking about let me just use one word: explosive.)
Like I said, I’m coming back to myself. And not “Feministripper,” me, ME at my core and who I am and what that looks like. Shifts. Big shifts. Gratitude, always.

I think I’m gonna fly to my favorite city next month. I need to be loved on by my people there. I need to smell its smells, feel its magic. My future home. 

I’m letting this blank canvas on my easel speak to me. I’m feeling called to do a surrealist piece centered around hydrotherapy, and maybe expand it to a series of pieces around archaic medical treatments that are now considered barbaric (and absolutely are.) 
The creative life force that’s always been in me but has been dormant for years has finally woken back up. I’m excited beyond words. It’s go time.

“Oooohh, what a life.” -Sade

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Jeff. His name was Jeff, and I was sitting on his lap and it was maybe five hours ago. He had glasses, and when I asked where he was from, I noted that it's quite a distance from the club. "Yeah, I take the bus. It's about two hours each way. I do it everyday." To work at a pizza place. I was horrified. This dude takes the fucking BUS in insane Minnesota weather to work at a pizza place in a suburb so far away it takes four hours out of his daily existence just to get there and back. I imagined him last winter, the "polar vortex" winter, freezing his ass off making multiple transfers and standing outside in -45 degree wind chill. I was halted, and felt something I usually don't feel this strongly (or sometimes ever,) for customers, this thing called "human empathy." I looked in his face and he was genuinely proud of his job ("I'm the cook!") and he was earnest and sweet and a fucking nerd. I wondered what he was doing there, at my strip club on a Monday night, alone. He wasn't old, 24 maybe. Did he need me? Us? Someone to pretend they care, and smile when he makes jokes? He didn't shudder with pleasure at the simple touch of my fingertips on his arm, like some customers have. I asked him for a second dance, and The Feelings drained away when he said no, when on Mondays dances are only 10 dollars instead of 20. The Feelings returned when he tipped me $5. I wondered how much he made, thanked him, and walked away.

I stormed down the flight of stairs, flung open the curtain, and marched up to their table. My last customers of the night. The one who had visible cocaine in his nostril and a gigantic wad of cash. Hundreds.
"Is this ten dollars?"
"Count it out." I handed him 10 one dollar bills gingerly, fuming. "Count. It. Out." I tapped my acrylic nail on the table with each word for emphasis. 
"Wait, come ba-" he slurred to my back as I walked away. 
Flash forward hours later, after Jeff the Nerdy Pizza Cook to closing time. I was called back downstairs to give this motherfucker his change he (I thought) had forgotten about, and didn't care about at the time. I had already stepped down from my 7" stilettos in the dressing room. I was removing my stripper jewlery that I put on piece by piece nightly, like "pieces of flair" in Office Space. It was time to call this, like all Mondays I've ever worked, a failure and go home. But no. Not yet. My manager was mad too, not even subtle with the notion that I was scheming, and cheating this lowlife out of his tengoddamndollars. 

There's a point in your life when you've been dancing so long that parts of your body that start to wear down in old age are doing so before you hit 30. My body is betraying me. My joints ache, the bruises on my knees never go away, and my back kills. I fall asleep on an ice pack when I can. At least once a week, I make less than $150 (like tonight,) and that is completely unacceptable. I care not for protestations of "but lots of people make that in a paycheck/week/whateverthefuck imaginary amount of time." Those people aren't getting on their literal knees, naked or nearly naked, dancing in a room full of people, and made to remain there onstage, even if no one gives them one measly dollar, multiple times a night. Those people aren't sitting on laps of men who aren't paying them, because that's where you sit where I work when you're still just in the "asking/negotiating" phase of getting a lap dance. "You girls make SO much money!" an extremely wealthy club regular told me tonight, knowing full well that at that moment, I had $60. I reminded him that not only are we not paid hourly, I still had to pay for the house fee, valet, and tip out. "Yeah, but you girls make a TON of money." I wonder where this money is, that money he must think I had stashed away, in addition to the pitiful $60 in my garter belt after midnight. Incredible.

I'm very ready to be done.

I find myself far angrier at my demographic working at an "upscale" topless bar than I ever was at some of the more blue collar nude clubs I've worked at before. These white men who wear cashmere sweaters in winter, boat shoes in the summer, and suits year-round. I hate them. Sometimes it consumes me. Trust fund twentysomethings with various vague titles like "financial manager." Yeah OK, breh. Whatever.
The bachelor parties who vomit on the carpet. The dudes that put the money in their mouth like an animal doing a trick in the circus, expecting me to take it with mine. Men with the million yard stare of someone blacked out, and completely incoherent. If I'm lucky and they're not too handsy, this moment is usually when it's easiest to take advantage of them. And I never feel bad. If you're a man and walked into a place where women make a living off of you and your arousal, and then proceeded to get so drunk you can hardly walk, those things were your choice and doings, not mine. I never, ever feel bad when I imagine their shock in the morning, looking at their bank accounts or credit card receipts. I feel great, actually.

Of course I'll remember fondly times laughing in various dressing rooms until I was doubled over, abs aching. I'll remember the North Dakota farm boy named Jimmy who adored everything about me, and told me he wished he could take me home to "ma." I will remember the many nights spent sleeping in other strippers' beds or on their couches, and the bonds I formed with them. I can't forget the regular I've met across years and three clubs who is morbidly obese, smells strongly of urine, and tells me about his suicidal ideations. His name is Charlie. I'll also remember the countless men who've used my body on a stage as target practice with crumpled ones. I don't tolerate that. I'll remember the man who bit my breast when I was 19 so hard that it left a mark that stayed for days. I hold on to all of these stories, good and bad, amassed over eight years and eight clubs that bob to the surface unexpectedly, like debris in the ocean of my mind. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tic Douloureux

The electric kettle is going, and even my cat looks tired.
"Get the water as hot as you can," my dad said.
Soaking a washcloth in hot water and draping it across your face is one of my father's remedies for congestion.
He was a Special Forces medic in Vietnam, so that fact, coupled with my unyielding admiration for him as a human being, makes his medical advice hold more weight in my book, even if it's simple or folksy.
I'm breathing clearly now, thanks to the Sudafed, the kind you have to show your drivers license to obtain, the good stuff; but the pain in the left side of my face is drumming, constant, and overpowering my fatigue, that for once is coming at the right time.
I massage my face, I drape the towel, I ice it, nothing works.
I'm watching a show on Netflix, "House of Cards."
I read a tweet from a stripper in Philly that it'll really get you in your money-making, take-no-prisoners zone.
I still can't figure out how this show could be advantageous for me at work.
I need to watch "Wolf of Wall Street" again, be reminded of how to be a ruthless salesperson.
I don't know if I'm burning out, not adjusting well to the new club, or simply not handling the fact that I just went through January, the hardest month of the year for sales.
I'm in a slump. This has been a brutally cold, snow-filled month.
I want out. I want out of dancing, and out of this state.
My face hurts so much, it's distracting. When the pain goes into my teeth, it reminds me, terrifies me. It reminds me of when I had trigeminal neuralgia, a rare nerve disorder that I learned from Wikipedia is nicknamed "the suicide disease" because it's so excruciating lots of people kill themselves before they find relief. It went undiagnosed for months and months, getting worse and worse. That time in my life, screaming on my studio apartment floor downtown, screaming until I passed out, fantasizing about knocking my teeth out with a hammer because maybe that would fix it, made me realize I could definitely deliver a child without drugs. Famous last words, right? But no for real, that shit fucking sucked. The neurologist who finally figured out my problem gave me Dilaudid and Klonopin. I knew Dilaudid was serious shit, because that's what was being administered to my brother through a drip when he was dying of cancer. The Klonopin was so I didn't have seizures.
That was a messy time, a blurry time.
I think the most often times one has conversations they remember, or conversations that lead to kisses they don't forget, is on the floor.
I've lived through a lot of things. Much more than I will list here.
My cat Amadeus is sleeping next to my leg while my "Cold Season" Yogi brand tea cools in the other room. He was sleeping on my belly earlier. I'm convinced he knows I don't feel well.
Amadeus is a big cat, and he whines all the time, because he used to have a backyard with woods to run and play and hunt in. Now he's just stuck in this apartment, and can't go outside. I wish he knew how much I empathize with his plight.
I have wanderlust as well.
I hope to return to being an ESL teacher in another country this fall, but this time I'll bring one pair of stripper shoes with me, because I didn't last time, and I missed it.
Dancing, the lifestyle, the money, the women, the stories, the friendships, the betrayals, everything I've learned, it's all with me and it will stay with me always.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

These Days

I drive up, hand my keys to the confused-looking valet, heft my giant bag over my shoulder.  I have no makeup on, and my car is a more or less a POS.  "I'm Nico, I'm still new, I've worked here two times."  I'm continually testing out the new name on my tongue, and I've actually worked at this establishment briefly before, but I digress.  I breeze through the door, so happy to be there, convinced I will make money.  It's the place I've been hearing the money is at for the last 6-9 months.  There's a home basketball game and the stadium is kitty-corner.  It's a Saturday night.  The front is held open for me by another valet.  I'm delighted by the gesture.  I say "hi" to the guy who re-hired me with a genuine chipper tone to my voice.  I walk farther into the club, smile and wave at Cage Matt* (he works in a part of the office they call "the cage," you talk to him through a little hole like at the movies and he orders food for you and sells you thongs.)  He's a delightful man with a Southern accent and he's extremely charming without being flirtatious.  I adored him immediately.  I walk up the long staircase to the dressing room, telling myself over and over "this is your home now," because it's been a rough departure from the club I've been at for the last year.

My heart ached to leave my former club, but I wasn't making much money anymore, my rights and freedoms were being flagrantly shat upon (see prior blog entry) so I chucked up the deuces and tried not to miss my friends too much.  But I did.  So I came back on the Thursday night prior to this story.  I was overjoyed when I got in the dressing room I knew so well, jumping around and hugging my girls.  I spent an entire hour between my stage sets just catching up.  One girl in particular was back from Florida after being gone almost a year.  I wanted to hear all about it. 

Something was amiss.  As I checked the bulletin board backstage, I noticed two troubling notes. 

Note #1 claimed the crowd preferred modern and/or classic rock, and hip-hop and rap (you know, the music that's written usually ABOUT strip clubs and strip club culture?) was almost completely banned.  This was already almost the case when I left, but it hadn't been finalized in writing.  This was a crock, shrouded in the racism on the part of the family that owns the club.  I was told by the DJ once, "They don't want to attract 'that kind of clientele,'" when I asked for something like Missy Elliott.  I almost exclusively worked night shift, and the patrons weren't the day shift variety: old and/or blue collar rock fans.  Night shift crowd repeatedly had asked me personally for more rap and hip hop.  Therefore, their argument that "we need to play what the customer wants" was fallacious entirely.  The night of my return, I had a customer actually ask my coworker, "Could you guys please play something one of you wants to hear so I can finally see someone smile?"  Girls were turned down for dances because the customers disliked the music that much.  Also, as I mentioned in my previous blog, creative freedoms like being able to choose your own music are extremely important.  I simply cannot and will not twerk with a smile to "Pornstar Dancing" or whatever that godawful Nickelback song is called. In "real life," I alternate between college station indie music and rap and hip hop of all eras and varieties.  Rap is for stripping.  The dirtier, the better.  I want to hear the voice through the speakers talking about stripper poles and pussies, or something pretty close to it.  I want the voice through the speakers to be talking about sex acts as I do tricks with my butt, and in an ideal scenario, people throw money at it.

Note #2 was far worse.  It was basically written panhandling, authored by the club owner, a manager, and a dancer.  It was asking us dancers to help fund two bouncers' trips to Vegas. Yes. You read that correctly.  The argument was that the one had just left the company after many years of loyal service (this is true, and I am grateful;) and that the other hadn't taken a vacation in four years.  Oh really?  So.... the fact that you somehow apparently worked constantly for four years, salaried, with tips from us  nightly on top.... but can't afford a trip is somehow our problem?  When airfare right now is less than 200 bucks? My head is spinning from the logic.  It mentioned that their airfare and hotel had already been paid for, and that there was a donation envelope at the bar.  Was I reading this correctly?!?! You want me, the person who is not only rubbing my body on gross strangers for your establishment but tipping you both nightly to throw you some extra spending money?! I absolutely adore those men, and realize it wasn't written by them, but FUCK. THAT.  I made a manager aware of this blog today, and so if by chance either of these two men reads this, please know that you both meant a lot to me, and I used to love and value the club to a degree you probably never knew. I *loved* it there.

The nail in the coffin wasn't reading those notes, or making $80 that night.  It was the text from my former manager trying to get girls to work, and opened with "Happy Popsicle Day!" This text was asking girls to come in on the day during the "polar vortex" that the temp, with wind chill, was -50 degrees where I live.  New club, and all other clubs, were closed that day because OF COURSE.  Because exposed skin can freeze in 5 minutes or less in those temperatures.  FROZEN. FLESH, YOU GUYS.  After I saw online that they were running a no-cover special for customers that day, but weren't cutting deals for dancers (well actually, the owner was graciously offering a "BOGO"- pay for day or night shift and work the other one free. How nice of them!!! Just wonderful.)  Goodbye.  We are done here.

I'm starting to settle in more to the new place, reuniting with strippers from years and clubs past.  I'm getting along with the staff, especially the nice kitchen guy who saves me soup at the end of the night.  It's just so MFing taxing to be on my feet in the shoes, never taking them off, giving semi-hover dances (basically a continuous squat;) meandering through the large, multileveled club in my 7" stilettos. There's also no pole there, which I miss very much.  I've been wearing a back brace ice pack thing that a physical therapist gave my mom.  It looks like one of those belt things that guys whose necks are wider than their heads wear when they're lifting an absurd amount of weight. I'm starting to look forward to retirement this fall, even though it scares and saddens me to say that.

Final note: I hope the squid ink-based shampoo and conditioner the stripper/contortionist/hair stylist I've reunited with got me from her special store works the magic she promises, because right now my $170 cut/color is looking a little momish or even Hannah Horvath circa mental breakdown, and we can't have that now, can we?

*name has been changed