Sunday, December 30, 2007

Burnout.

I am burned out.

People talk a lot about sex worker burnout.

You may have read all about it, just like me. How to recognize it, what to do about it, and how to prevent it from happening to you in the first place; those kinds of things. I won’t rehash it right now, I’m just saying that I hear that. Really.

And over the years I’ve had touches of stripper burnout, and I’ve made adjustments in my schedule and customer base accordingly. But for the most part, I’ve mangagd to steer clear of it. There are many reasons for this.

For one, I (on a whole) like my job.

It’s a fascinating thing, to be exposed to people’s desires. I enjoy these men and their secrets, their vulnerability. I enjoy the acting, the role play, the power dynamics. I enjoy the movement. The dance. The relationship I have with my body. I get to revel in my own sex and skin. Plus I’m privy to that warm and elusive place, that community of strong, smart, sexy, mouthy women that is The Dressing Room. Practically speaking, the schedule is flexible and under my control.

Add that I get paid to play dress up (I love sparkly shit, but I my own life does not call for such extravagance), and man, no wonder I’m hooked.

Oh, and did I mention the money?

So, job satisfaction aside, I’ve also been very careful to always have a backup straight job my entire career as a stripper. This is a handy thing (no holes in my resume, for one). If and when I’ve ever needed to take a break or cut back on my stripping hours, I’m not completely without a way of supporting myself. Not only that, but these jobs -- mostly customer service, mostly low paying -- make me appreciate stripping even more. I find retail and food service work to be much more demeaning than taking my clothes off has ever been.

That’s huge. I do this by choice, not because I feel financially trapped or desperate. Don’t get me wrong – there are things about being a stripper that can drive me crazy. But for the most part, I feel lucky that I was born into this female body and blessed with a certain amount of moral flexibility, patience, and nerve. That and a genuine interest in people. I’m grateful. When I take long breaks from stripping, I miss it. I’ll be sad when I hang up my plastic platforms for good.

But I was talking about burnout.

I should clarify. I’m not burned out on stripping, per say. I’m burned out on taking care of people.

A friend of mine observed that all of my jobs (actual or dream) are about taking care of people. Stripper, Caregiver, Firefighter. You may think that’s a stretch, but I understand how she’d come to this conclusion. Especially lately.

I.
Am.
So.
Sick.
Of.
Taking.
Care.
Of.
People.

To be fair, what I’m really burned out on is taking care of my Gramma.

I spent 11 hours with her today. And in less than seven hours, I’ll be on my two hour commute to pick her up for church.

I love my Gramma. That’s one of the reasons I hate feeling like this. But spending so much time with her is not only a lot of work (cleaning, feeding her, planning activities) but it’s just emotionally exhausting. And sad. Sometimes I think she’s doing alright, but then she’ll ask the same question 15 times in 30 minutes. Or I’ll find used depends stashed in her dresser, puddles of urine on the floor.

Lately I’ve been feeling lonely.

It’s a hard thing to spend so much time with someone yet feel completely isolated. I think it’s the repetition that’s getting to me. My patience is wearing thin, and I hate that I’m not doing a better job. I hate that I’m starting to dread going there. And I really, really don’t want to go to church tomorrow.

Shit. Which reminds me. I was supposed to fill her pillbox today. That just means I have to get there even earlier. And that I should really go to bed right now.

Don’t feel sorry for me.

In less than a week, I’ll be in Maui. My little sister and I are taking our first adult vacation together. It's been months and months since I've had a real break. I can't freaking wait.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A present.

Even I have moments where I think my job is weird.

The white cotton underwear I've got on under my jeans is what I'm giving Ben for Christmas. When I called him today to confirm our appointment for tomorrow, he told me a long story about his dentist and the size of his gums and an expensive surgery to clean them that he apparently doesn't need.

He beams at me over the phone. "Your Christmas present is going to be even better that you thought!"

Hell. I figure a pair of worn panties is the least I can do.

Sick.

From the second week of October: My second private show with Ben.

The same glass of water he pulls out of the freezer for me. The same just-cleaned apartment with too many vanilla candles. Same high-strung, sweet, repetitive Ben.

It was the same deal: A one hour ‘show’, then one hour of pictures. Give or take. Just my luck, at the end of the show, post nipple-rubbing, post orgasm. After he tells me stories about the whores in Singapore when he was on leave from Vietnam. After the head rub I give him as he's lying on the floor with his feet up. In fact, I’m trying on different outfits so he can decide what he wants to photograph me in when -

I start to feel sick.

I mean hit by a truck with the flu sick. Chills, aches, fever (101.5 when I got home) sick. Oh, and I started to be completely unintelligible, thanks to whatever God there may be filling my nasal passages with cement.

But hell, I was halfway done, and he’d already paid me. And, really, who am I to complain (okay, I mean to a customer)?

So I spent the next hour I fighting the urge to cover myself with the heavy wool blankets sitting on his couch and smiled prettily, pulling my white cotton underwear to the side while he struggled with his digital point and shoot.

Man, that sucked. I remember one night of waiting tables sick as a dog when the owner wouldn’t let me go home. Who knows why not. Serving people food when you’re ill is flat out disgusting. If I hadn’t been cracked out with fever, I probably would’ve quit. Anyway.

Working while sick sucks. Working with little to no clothes on and smiling continuously while sick sucks balls. It became extremely difficult for me to maintain the ever-encouraging and sweet persona he’s so taken with. You know, Ben actually told me he loved me as I was leaving. But in such a way as to not freak me out. He knows this is a business transaction for me. Yes, I may be fond of him, but it’s still about getting paid. And he knows it and apparently values my services enough to drops wads of cash into my hand. Damn.

Now I’m laying miserably in bed, ansty from the medication so that, despite my exhaustion, I can’t sleep. It’s not so bad, I’m just letting my crankiness get the best of me. I should be excited – I made a fuckload of money for two and half hours of work. Go me.

I suppose things could be worse. My cat seems to sense my distress and has spent most of the evening wedged up against my leg, purring. Plus I still have an appetite, which means that I won’t necessarily lose all that preciously cultivated weight (last night: 137lbs – progress!).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The first couple of months.

“I live here now?”

I nod, slipping a hanger into one of her turtlenecks.

“Because the doctor says I can’t live alone?” She is, as ever, uncertain.

I nod again. We’ve had this conversation three times already today.

I don’t know if she understands me when I tell her about Alzheimer’s. About her memory not being as good as it used to be. I’m smiling and light but I can see the defeat in her face.

I tell her it’s okay. She accepts this and helps me fold.

It’s okay, Gramma. Because I’m here and I love you and I can be your memory.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Taking Gramma to work.

From the first week of October, part 1.

So this is what I mean when I say that sometimes the roles I've taken on can get confusing.

Without really going into how it happened, I'll just say that today I had a scheduling conflict. I was on my peepshow's schedule to work a short private booth in the late morning. And last night, I got a call putting me in charge of Gramma all day today. Normally when I get double booked like this, it's pretty easy for me to sacrifice my dancing shift and find someone else who will work it for me. Unfortunately, it was too last minute this time. After an hour of phone calls, I couldn't find anyone to work my private booth.

Oh crap.

Something I want to explain, since I realize a lot of clubs and peepshows have different ways of scheduling performers, and varied levels of accountability that managers hold them to. At the peepshow I'm currently working at, the schedule is highly precise, and the consequences for lateness, let alone not showing up, are severe. This is job that I value, so I am never late, and always find someone to take my shift if necessary. I would like to add that the schedule is also exceptionally flexible. Dancers have control over their availability, and can give away or trade shifts as much as they’d like. And of course, managers make exceptions for emergencies or illness, and help people cover their shifts if asked. In my case, it wasn't truly an emergency. Especially when I realized that if the timing worked out, I could do both.

Which leads me to my morning.

As I might have mentioned before, my Gramma lives about an hour outside the city, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The peepshow and my home are both located in the city (actually only about 15 minutes away from each other.). So I book it out to the woods, get Gramma up, in and out of the shower, and dressed, then feed her breakfast and her pills in the car on the way back to the city. Feeling guilty the entire time. Thank god I didn’t have to explain my absurd rush to A., because she left for a meeting as soon as I got to the house. She works from home, so that was beyond lucky.

After an extremely stressful drive and the subsequent hunt for parking, I leave Gramma sitting in the car with the doors locked, happily listening to Frank Sinatra and drinking vitamin water.

I realize that this sounds awful, but my shift was only an hour long, and Gramma isn’t a wanderer. She actually prefers sitting in the car and people-watching to doing errands with me. Plus D. has made a weekly habit of leaving her in the car with NPR and a book of large print crosswords while he goes on bike rides. I know, still kind of awful. But I was desperate.

Anyway, as I’m running through the peepshow’s front door, stripper gear in hand, I remember that I forgot to pay for parking.

Shit, shit, shit.

I look at the clock as I dash past the front desk and down the hall. I have four minutes. Not enough time to change and primp, let alone run back to the car. Fuck it. If I get a ticket, so be it. At least I’m on time.

* * * *

The customers.

Ben. First time I’ve seen him since his private show. He brings flowers for the front desk. Just wants to tell me how great it had been. We chat about yoga, massage, my recent training. Every time he comes in, Ben can’t help but talk the whole time, getting distracted now and then by my hands moving up and down my body, my slow undulations. I place my face near the hand he lays flat against the glass and his fingers stretch out, reaching for me. He wants another private show next week. No pictures, but I think the other things. Less money but still worth my while. I tell him I'll call him on Friday to schedule it. I can't think of a reason not to do it.

Next, the tall British slightly pedophiliac man who keeps asking me if I've been naughty or if I want to be spanked. Eyes slightly hazy with desire. He thinks I’m 18. I lie and say 22, thinking I should tell him I’m 30. I like the idea of disappointing them, but don't do it very often. Saying I'm younger than I am is a reflex. Only a couple of my customers know my real age.

One of them comes in next. I’ll call him the Hippie, even though he’s not. He’s dubbed me his Aquarian love goddess and talks about taking me to India. I’m not sure what he does, though I gather it’s hard work from the boots and plaster stains. I also feel like he has money, so what – construction? Maybe stone masonry? He has a good energy, crooked teeth but an easy smile.

“Oh, baby, honey, baby. You are so hot. I am so happy to see you. Yum. I’d just take those legs and split you open. Hold down your arms, tongue your clit, pull that sweet hair of yours. Oh baby. Oh honey. Let’s get a little bit of that Chi going.”

He’s been asking me for at least a year to do a private show, and because I genuinely like him, I entertain the idea. I used to worry about expectations and boundaries and, until I started working bachelor parties, had no idea how to go about private shows in the first place. Today, I give him my company’s website, though I play shy, say that I’m not sure I’m comfortable doing a one-on-one show just yet. He seems to sense my concerns. I know he wants to just fuck the hell out of me. While I enjoy the way he talks about it, I’m wary of how his desires would translate to reality, to me standing naked in his living room.

“I know what I’d like. I’d like to just put my hands on your legs and split you open. But I understand. Boundaries.”

And I realize that he does and that if I decide to do a private show for him in the future, it would be okay.

“Hell, I’d pay you just to have dinner with me Just to be seen with you. We could run into a couple of my friends. You’re so good-looking, that’d be enough.”

We’re both laughing.

I wonder about these compliments later on.

There were other customers that I've already forgotten. One was named Bruce, but who knows what he looked like or what he wanted.

I think I ended up faking 4 orgasms. Busy damn shift. $125 take-home for a full yet easy hour of work. For some perspective, my average is around $60/hr, with the company average being closer to $35/hr.

If only getting there on time, Gramma in tow, hadn’t been so stressful. Or if I’d remembered to put money in the meter. My whole booth, I was filled with anxiety over the possibility of parking enforcement getting Gramma to roll down the window and realizing that she didn’t know where she was or when I would be back. I had visions of the accusation ‘abandonment,’ of CFPS getting called in to take her away. Of them not letting her go. Jesus.

Of course, Gramma was fine. After I rushed back to the car, she waved, happily bobbing along to Fly Me to the Moon. I didn’t even get a ticket.

Even though it all worked out, I feel slightly sordid about the whole thing. After I described my morning to him, my friend N. told me I'm going straight to hell. It's hard to disagree on this one.

So help me.

Starting yesterday, I moved up to my Gramma's house for ten days while D. and A. are vacationing in the tropics.

Ten days.

Ten days out in the woods with an Alzheimer's patient. I can't even think about how long that's going to feel.

At least it'll give me time to reflect on all of my recent booth shifts and bachelor parties. That and my social life. Lots of stories there. I imagine I'll be doing some of that 'recap' stuff I was planning on getting done over Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe I'll even crochet a scarf or something.

I love my Gramma, so I'm going to try really hard not to complain. Plus it's not that bad. Tomorrow I have a work party of sorts, and M. has generously offered to hang out with Gramma for most of the day so I can participate.

Nothing like being around a bunch of naked chicks in lucite shoes to make me feel more normal.