I know, I know, a better late than never next installment of the strippy memoirs. If you want to get caught up, read this....
When I first started stripping at FlashDancers, that fall of 1993, my excrement had no odor. My excrement was blindingly white hot. My excrement was, in the words of Gwen Stefani, bananas.
I was all that and a bag of steaming excrement.
In short, I worked my ass off at Flash. Literally. I had been losing weight pretty steadily since buying my boobs that previous July; I’d been working out steadily and I’d been increasing my addiction to Marlboros, moving through the fine, fine Philip Morris nicotine pantheon, graduating Marlboro Lights to take up Marlboro Mediums (the Clinton Democrat of cigarettes), coming to rest on the very cowboy, very John Wayne, traditional Marlboro Red.
Let no one say that smoking doesn’t give you a killer body. It does. It curbed my appetite and it increased my metabolism, and what with all the working out and all the dancing, I was looking fine, mighty mighty fine.
So fine, in fact, that I was approached by photographers. I nearly, almost, nearly ended up posing for German Playboy. I wish I had. I didn’t. But that really is part of another, larger story. I was asked, too, to pose for some of the lower tier mags, magazines that made no bones about not being read for the articles, magazines of unapologetic one-handed readers. I turned them down as well, although without regrets.
And here’s the point all of this mess is making: as I got better looking, I got commensurately stupid. I’d always said that I would gleefully trade twenty I.Q. points for another four inches of inseam (and sometimes I think I still would), but somehow, somewhat alchemically, I found as I got hotter I also got dumber.
It was a weird kind of cognitive dissonance.
I have written previously that I saw inhabiting the perfect body as a route to if not nirvana, a comfortable samsara, wherein I could just halt my incessant Habitrail of thought, wherein the little thinky hamsters could just stop their ceaseless ceaseless dancing around the wheelie-gigs of my mind.
And it almost happened.
At Flash I ruled. I was wanted. I saw my nightly income go from the lowly hundred or two that I had sporadically been making at Pure Gold and rise to a consistent $400-$600 a night. It wasn’t what many of my friends made, but I wasn’t going to argue with making a couple, three grand a week cash. And I wasn’t spending a whole lot of time talking with the guys, which was what made me really unhappy, frankly.
I just surfed the room, dancing. I went from table to table, and everywhere I went, another hand raised, another finger beckoned me, another twenty waved in the air. I rarely had to ask or answer..anything. I just smiled, said my name, and began my slow disrobing and airfucking for their hard-earned cash. I liked the lack of talk.
I didn’t like the having to lie. I made up a persona for my CeeCee: she was 27, she was going back to school. She was from Chicago, and she had a boyfriend who was studying to be a veterinarian. Her tan was due to just having gotten back from Cozumel, Rincon, the Caymans. Some of these things were true, others were not, but having some kind of unified concept of stripper self helped me remember who I was: who I was within the walls of my subterranean club, who I was outside of them.
And often, that difference was hard to hold in my ever-dumbening pretty little head.
I experienced this weird cognitive lapse, you see, when I was me, when I was Chelsea (which, of course, is not my name, dragging us all, mostly me, into the heady pastry of more flaky meta-layers of self), and when I had to meet new people. I would extend my hand, smile, and nearly, almost, just about, introduce myself as CeeCee.
I forgot who I am, was, something, almost.
And I wanted to.
Desperately. I wanted something, anything to take me out of the prison of my identity and that was why I loved stripping so much, in part. When I was gliding through that smoky room, the bass of the DJ’s voice rumbling under/over whatever bad music (have you ever tried looking seductive to the Jackson 5? To the Macarena? To, gasp, Christmas music?) the DJ was playing, the palpable testosterone, the wafting of estrogen and a hundred fruity flavors of body lotion, my body surgically enhanced and artificially tanned and preternaturally toned and blessedly bleachingly blonde, when I inhabited CeeCee in her fantasy costumes and her fantasy life in this fantasy space, I lost myself.
And it was good. Addictive, really.
I seduced myself, I was that good.
I remember the exact moment when I had a moment sandwiched somewhere between epiphany and panic, that exact moment when I realized I was getting stupid, or how stupid I was getting. When I saw with perspective from on high the slow slide my mind was taking down down down into mindlessness.
It was a night like any other. I was dancing on the small stage to the left of Flash’s main room, and a table of men sat in front of me. They were African American, though their race really doesn’t play into this moment. They could have been IndianAsianLatinoEastIslanders. What is important is that they were all psychologists. All five or six of them.
I was dancing, smiling, exhibiting my fine mighty mighty fine body, setting up my next dance with them. Chatting them up.
Psychologists, I said to them, I’m thinking of studying psychology when I go back to school.
“Clinical or research?” asked the one on the end; he had a blinding and wicked smile.
Oh. I said. I don’t know, I really want to work with people.
That one dumb utterance: I saw his face change, somehow. “Clinical is working with people,” he said gently, and a bit sadly.
And I knew that. Of course I knew that. I had gotten an A in Abnormal Psych in college; my professor had told me that she averaged my grade as if I got a zero on my final, and I still would have gotten an A-.
In that one moment, I saw the price I was paying by letting myself become my own FrankenBarbie. I was losing myself, and I was losing it to a stupid bimbo.
Those men, those psychologists, I danced for them. Every single one. I made $150 off of them, maybe more. They liked me, they really, really liked me.
Let it never be said it’s not very hard to be a smart woman. Let it never be said it isn’t exponentially easier to be dumb. It is. As a dumb and beautiful woman the landscape of your life undulates in easy curvy hills, like some green and fertile valley. It’s a beautiful place, really. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived there, briefly, and it’s very pretty and easy.
But it’s not for me. Give me the points and spikes, the hard and brutal rocks of being a smart woman. I’d rather impale myself on my own thoughts than rest easy in the dirt of the dumb. This choice was one I made consciously, and it wasn’t a choice that was easy for me. At all.