The next tittilating installment of my stripmemoirs.
A tan body is a perfect body, at least in the misguided mind of a strip-professional. I bring you Six Self-Tanning Tips from an Ex-Ecdysiast:
- Apply self tanner before bed to wake up with toasted marshmallow skin. Just remember to wear dark pajamas (or pajamas at all, or dark sheets) to keep the tanner from staining.
- In a self-tanning hurry? Use your blowdryer to speed up the tanner’s drying, thereby allowing you to dress more quickly.
- Orange bendy parts are a self-tanning giveaway. To avoid marshmallow peanut knees, elbows and Achilles tendons, apply a thin layer of moisturizer on these areas before applying tanner.
- Ditto orange palms. Buy a box of latex gloves.
- When applying self tanner to your face, first lay down a goopy layer of Vaseline on eyebrows and lips to keep the tanner from congealing and giving you a weird old lady drawn-on brow look and (eek) tan lips.
- If you want to keep the all-important tanlines of “real” tanning, wear an old bikini when self tanning. Dudes dig tanlines, Babe.
About the time I got my boobs, I also got the physical perfection bug up my ass. All of a sudden, now that I had a silhouette wherein my bust was for the first time larger than my butt I was afflicted with the sudden epiphany that physical perfection was a possibility.
Nay, more than a possibility, it was a mandate. It was my mission, my being, my job. And I attacked this goal with the single-minded monomania usually attached to military conquests.
I too, I felt, could ascend to the ranks of Sheena. With just a bit of discipline.
I had a full-body memory flash this week of what I did each night before going to work. I somehow had blocked it all out of my mind—and I don’t mean the relentless working out, the professional tanning, the dumb blonde manna-making mantras I’ve written about in earlier portions of this strip memoir, but I mean my weekly and nightly rituals of hair/nails/make-up and attitude in preparation of embodying Candace.
First, I tanned two to three times a week. And I did the stupid-ass expensive tanning, believing the company’s hype that it wasn’t nearly as bad for my skin. Cost: $45-60/week depending on the number of sessions and the package I bought. Oh, and wrinkles, freckles, and potential skin cancer.
Second, I got my nails done every single week. I had acrylic tips and silk wraps—any kind of process that would make my recalcitrant short nails dragonlady long. If one broke, and one always did, I would go to the salon and get it redone before my standing weekly appointment. Cost of nail upkeep: $45-75/week, depending on how many nails I broke.
Third, I wore false eyelashes. Every night I worked. Cost: $6/set of eyelashes. And a lot of frustration.
Fourth, hair care. In addition to purchasing multiple fancy-assed shampoos, I had my hair cut and colored every other month by Randall, my hairstylist to this day. I love him. Randall being from Texas knows blonde, and I aspired to ultimate blonde. Cost: $140 every eight weeks.
Fifth, various and sundry cosmetics. These are the products I wore every single night I worked from top to bottom: hair spray, hair mousse (both Paul Mitchell); cover-up for zits, foundation, loose powder, eyeliner, eyeshadow (three shades or so), eyebrow color, blush, lip liner, lipstick, lipgloss (all Mac); false eyelashes (Maybelline); body make-up (Dermablend); body moisturizer (two kinds, both the post-shower Kiss My Face, and the pre-work Origins); deodorant (Secret); self-tanner (Lancome); perfume (Origins again); foot powder (Dr. Scholl’s). Cost: about $15-20/week.
Sixth, costumes and other strip necessities. Dresses averaged between $80 and $200. And we needed a lot of dresses, or so we told ourselves when we were bored, or boring, or not making any money. Of course, a new dress meant a new g-string. G-strings cost about $20. Garters, for money holding, around $8. Heels were the big expense, starting at around $100, but rising astronomically in price from that base. Plus there was upkeep for the heels—pads, re-soling, and so forth. Cost: let’s call it $30/week.
Each night, after my daily ritual of punishing exercise and perversely rewarding tanning, I performed a carefully choreographed ballet: anointing my body with self-tanner, twisting my hair around rollers, then while my skin was drying and my hair was baking, applying layer upon layer of make-up and lashes. Removing the rollers, I teased and sprayed my hair into puffy submission, moisturized my body, brushed my teeth and did my lips.
Then and only then could I go to work.
And I looked fabulous.
The job of being a stripper meant to me, at that point in my life, letting go of all critical and analytic thought and letting myself be the fetish object I so deeply wanted to be. I walked like an object, I talked like an object, I looked like an object, I thought like an object.
Which is to say I didn’t.
I think, looking back on it all now, that this part of my life, when I drank deep of the ecdysiast stream, I wanted to have these blonde lethean waters wash over me and make me blank as an unwritten diary. I just wanted not to think. At all. Possibly ever.
And let it not be misunderstood: I loved it. I loved being the object of desire. I had studied the women around me, and being a very apt pupil, I had learned how to look, act, and appear happy to be a fantasy. And the best way, it seemed to me, was to just be one. To embody it.
The money (and the time and the effort) I paid out, then, seemed like the reasonable price to be what I wanted to be, and what I wanted to be, I thought, was thought-free.
Thought-free and perfect.
There was a lot to stripping that really enabled thoughtlessness. The hours, for example. I was always just utterly exhausted. I slept on the average six hours a night, but these hours ran counter to natural diurnal rhythms, being usually from about 5:00 to 11:00 a.m. and punctuated by fitful dreams of having to table dance in my bed. In my bed and naked.
I remember dreams where I would tell men, No, I can’t dance for you. I’m sleeping.
On top of this sleep issue, I was working out about an hour to two every day. I spent hours on the cardio machines of hell, forcing myself to run, step, climb or bike through one more song; just one more, I would tell myself halfway through the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s BloodSugarSexMagic. I can still sing along to every word.
Stripping itself is hard work. And not just the dancing, though that is cruel to the feet, the heels, the long leg muscles, the hips and the back. But harder still is having to sparkle every minute of every hour for eight long hours. Having to be a bright, shiny object, bright, shiny and unattainably attainable. At 3:00 in the morning. Every morning.
And then, when I had time in between the work and the working out and the primping and the preening, I was too tired to read. Too stultified to watch a film. Too stupid with objectlust to think.
And it made me happy. I thought.
We are seeing the contradictions, are we not? We are playing spot the irony?
I thought, somehow, that if I could change what I could and mask the rest, then the pain I felt would just…poof…disappear. And I would be whole. And healed. Through the lovely lovely soft blonde lobotomy of embodying the object.