Thursday, May 14, 2009


There is a pause in the sound like a breath. I scan the crowd innocently, poised and waiting.

And I crack the belt down on his body.

A blast of cheers.

He struggles beneath me and I pull back with the belt.

Again, it flies through the air to scream like a shot against his skin.

The noise from the crowd makes the walls shake.

Unlike private shows, bachelor parties are usually a light-hearted affair. The nudity is entertaining and fun and distanced from any deeply repressed feelings about sexuality. We play games and tell jokes and above all it’s a party. An opportunity for a group of friends to reminisce and high-five and buy each other lapdances in celebration of one particular man’s good fortune.

My first few shows, I watched my stripper cohorts with an open mouth, trying to absorb the power of their performances. While I admired my coworkers’ dancing, it was the way a crowd of men would hang on a single word or a gesture that was most humbling. I’ve always been a good performer one-on-one, but this new rowdy, rough-and-tumble environment scared me to death. When it came my turn to dance, I quietly held on to whatever was close and tried my best not to fall down.

Now I can hold myself steady before a show, stepping out of my nerves and into my shiny black boots. I relax by rolling thigh highs over my knees. I’ve learned to trust the grace of the lines I create with my body, to thrust my small voice out into the room with enough confidence that they’ll have to listen to me.

During the show, I’m a cartoon version of myself, donning miniature lycra garments and then shedding them one at a time. I take refuge in the characters I play, and it becomes an easy thing to adapt to the crowd. I can chirp or giggle or shriek in delight. I can pout and persuade. When called for, I negotiate. I navigate unwanted hands or cranky asides and guide these men back into having a jolly time. For a fee.

It’s all in the script, this loose outline my coworkers and I have planned out in advance that makes it a comfortable thing to walk into a house full of strangers and be naked for money. We tailor our show to each crowd, and do our best to ensure the bachelor and his friends have the most fun and give us the most money in the shortest amount of time.

It can be a sweaty, grueling endeavor. Wet and pulse-quickening. My knees and lower back are often sore at the end of a long night, my skin sticky with remnants of whipped cream or booze. I ache from the constant attention and my persistent, exaggerated posture.

Honestly, I can take or leave the hustle. It’s not really my skill or my preference, though I’m better at it than I used to be. This is a job, and I do it for the money. For the tired, quick, satisfied sorting of cash after a show. We dig through bags of crumpled bills and deftly unfold and sort them face-up into piles. The satisfaction a stack of money brings after a good show is undeniable.

And yet.

It’s the moment with the belt that thrills me. While it’s just another recited line from our script, it’s in those few seconds when I hold their attention with the most authority.

I’ll straddle the guest of honor, belt thick and eager in my hands.

I'll cast my doe-eyed faux hesitation around the room and they'll scream for more. The crowd roars and guffaws as red welts start to emerge on the bachelor’s backside.

And again, one last stinging crack of the belt against his skin.