Tuesday, February 24, 2009

44 dollars. Part two.

I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to dwell on this story.

The night I was writing about, there were never more than 10 or 12 customers in the club at once, and there were, count 'em, 25 performers. On a Thursday night.

Maybe this is normal around here. I kind of got that impression. The men weren't buying, and the women were working pretty dang hard. There were more than a few women who left owing house that night. Sheesh. I can't think of many things that will fuck up your sense of self-worth more than working as hard as you can for 5, 6, 8 hours, and then actually owing money at the end of the night. And that's not even taking into account the constant rejection that you're dealing with while you're working. Fuck that.

I worked the next day as well, a Friday, from 2pm until around 11pm, and it was better because a peepshow regular came in to check it out. We had a lovely time together, and he paid me well enough to make my experiment in local clubs worthwhile. That said, after he left I stuck around for another 5 hours, seeing if I'd do any better than the evening before. I sold two dances. I left when I realized that there were 25 girls clocked on, and another 8-10 in the dressing room still getting ready. No thanks.

Anyway, let's just say I've figured out that the club scene here and my skill set don't mix. Maybe if I had more patience, I could learn to adapt. But my time is valuable, and I'm not interested in wasting it if I can help it.

So. Bachelor parties, private shows, the peeps. That's what work means for me at the moment. That's fine. I'm busy, and wasn't relishing the idea of keeping a 24/hr a week schedule at the club anyway. Too much commitment.

Say my name.

Oh honey, oh baby. Oh honey.

Oh sweetie.

Sugar.

Baby.

Honey.

* * * *

When I first started working as a stripper, I spent a week figuring out what I would call myself.

I made lists. I wrote down the names of family pets, alive and dead. I skimmed over baby books. I flipped through fairytales and my favorites books for inspiration. I asked my friends for advice, and gauged their reactions as I slowly sounded out each choice from my list. I tried names on like hats while I looked at myself in the mirror, seeing how they fit.

At the end of the week, through some complicated and now indecipherable process of elimination, I chose a name.

There came a point in those first few months of stripping when I started to realize that I used this new name far more than I used my own. Because how many times a day do you say your own name? When you’re a stripper, it can be almost constantly. Some days, I introduce myself 20 times in one hour. Of course, some days I only have to say it once.

That first year, it was confusing. I was still unpracticed at compartmentalizing between one identity and another. At parties, people would catch me off balance by asking me what my name was and I’d pause, blink, consider.

Now, eight years and several stage names later, I can slip like a cat in and out of different characters. I’m myself at school or the gym or taking my gramma to church. In between I’m [stage name], emailing a customer or dancing naked on stage. I’m [other stage name] on the phone with a bachelor party contact, or laughing with a coworker. And so on.

Still, I shouldn’t be surprised at the pleasure I take in hearing my real name spoken out loud.

Today, I was reminded of one of my bike-racer conquests (I have a thing for men in spandex). What I remember most about him is how he said my real name over and over again in hushed and awestruck tones while I moved over him in bed. Those whisperings, almost more than the act itself, drove me deeper and faster, desire catching on my breath.

How evocative, how intimate, it is when a person looks at you and says your name.

Say it to me and I feel seen, recognized. And if there’s something that I crave - as a person who works in an industry that demands disguise, in a job that requires I project someone who is not quite myself into the crowd – it is to be seen, to be recognized.

* * * *

My name is Honey. What’s your name?

I chose Honey for a reason. It’s absurd and stereotypical. It’s fake hair and nails and tits and all the things I’m not. It’s what you call me automatically when you forget my name.

You aren’t meant to believe me, and you often don’t. You’ll ask me again and again, “Tell me your name. Your real name,” And I’ll laugh or smile or bend closer to your ear and say my stage name again. “It’s a childhood nickname,” I’ll lie. “It’s for the color of my hair, the only blond in my family.” Not a lie, but close to it.

Or maybe you’ll hold my hand for a lingering second after I introduce myself, waiting for an explanation. “Honey, like honeysuckle,” I purr and laugh, and you’ll know that I’m not taking myself too seriously.

I understand why you want to know. As the naked one in the room, I already have an advantage. It’s not fair that you sit there exposed, the longing plain on your face, while I get to slink away anonymously.

A name is a powerful thing.

Your name in my mouth is like a promise. I’ll use it on you like a spell while I dance or move or twist in my chair. Whereas my name is my costume, yours is another revelation, another part of you laid bare.

So go ahead. Trust me. Tell me your name. Listen as I breathe it into your ear. If you’re patient, if you can wait, maybe I’ll even tell you mine.