…Originally, Steph didn’t start out as a stripper girl – she started out as a cocktail waitress in the strip club. Weirdly, this was more freaky to me than when she actually became a stripper. As a cocktail waitress – this being the 1990s – her job was to walk around with a tray of “test tube”-looking shots of alcohol. Like, it was a tray of booze featuring Chemistry-class-looking test tubes, because this was what we thought was cool in the 90s. And when a dude bought a shot from her, she would stick the shot between her tits, and the guy would then lee-eeaaan down and grab it from between her tits with his mouth. Then, once the shot was in his mouth, she would put her mouth onto the shot glass in order to get the glass back. She would do this reverse blow-job sort of thing, where she would take the glass out of the random dude’s mouth that way.
This was all much freakier than when she eventually started stripping, because once she was stripping, she was at least separated from the guys by several feet, except for those intervals where she took tips that were shoved into her G-string. And once she was stripping, she was on a stage, and had sort of an elevated status, which was different from watching her do a reverse blow-job on Random Frat Boy’s mouth.
A lot of the girls started out as cocktail waitresses, in the same way that Steph did. Then, they would realize that they were already doing something quasi-nude that they didn’t like, so why not just be a real stripper instead, and make 20 times the money? 90% of the girls did drugs; coke, mostly. There were table dances, and there were lap dances. Real lap dances don’t actually resemble the ones that you see in the movies – the real dances were far more slutty and ornate, and would end in some absurd sexual position, with the girl upside down on top of the dude’s head, say, for instance.
Eventually, I had to move to a different town. Steph and I wept and fought, but then, less than a month after I left, she was already dating some dude from the club; a guy who had a ridiculous Celtic-thorn-pattern tattoo. She started going to swinger parties, and she dropped out of school, and everything got weird.
Thus, she became a cliche. But during this time, I became a cliche too. During the me-dating-a-stripper period, I became the guy who was dating a stripper, with all that that implied. I would get mad when Steph gained weight – everyone would see her! I developed crushes on other strippers, because that’s their job; to make sure you have crushes on them. I became petty and resentful, I was rude to her; I started thinking that I was “cool” – and here I was, still secretly a nerd who liked video games and baking! …We both took on a new life in the same way that Steph took on a new wardrobe, going from demure T-shirts to bikinis and and six-inch high heels.
It was a weird life for both of us; a life that we were unsuited for. I mean, come on – for her stripper name, Steph picked “Thisbe,” for chrissakes; a name from an ancient Roman play… what could be more pretentious? Stephanie was smart and artsy; and I hoped I was too. Before the job, I spent my days writing short stories; at night we would sit around and watch foreign movies. But once the job happened, we became different people.
Back then, Stephanie drank too much, and back then, I did too. …And in the end, after the stripper job was over, I randomly called her on the phone. We had both changed our lives by this point – and during the phone call, she told me that she was going to Alcoholics Anonymous every day. I thought that this was a good thing, but I asked her: Why? What was the thing that made her start going to A.A.?
And then Stephanie told me a story. She said that she had started drinking one night, and met some guy in a bar. The two of them began flirting, and they decided that – fuck it, why not, let’s just get on a plane and go to Miami? So they took a cab and a train and then got on a plane and flew to a hotel. Except that Steph was blacked out for all of this – so when she woke up the next day, she woke up with a jump. She awoke out of a dead sleep – and suddenly, there she was. In a bed. In a hotel room. In a city that she had never been to before, with a stranger lying by her side.
Things that you do can make you into a different person – and then you wake up, and realize that you’re in a different world. These same things have happened to me. But after hearing Stephanie’s story, I wondered what it was like for her – what it was like at that moment, rising from her bed in the hotel. To get out of the bed. To walk to the window of the room and open up the blinds, with the rude sunlight suddenly streaming in. …And there, in front of her, a new vista. A strange city with new houses. …And there, behind her, the old world gone.
image – Sonya