My friend Bubbles Burbujas, also known as the amazing StripperTweets on Twitter, wrote a post about my joining the My Name Is Me campaign for her communal blog Tits and Sass, a website devoted to the intelligent, often funny, always real, voices of sex-workers. Bubbles says:
Google is becoming like that irritating customer who thinks he’s so clever for figuring out that stripper probably really isn’t named Fantasia, what with asking people, “No, really, what’s your real name?” Welcome to our world, online handle users! Choosing a work name is one of the first things nearly every sex worker does when entering the business. My name isn’t really Bubbles, Kat’s driver’s license says something else, and Charlotte wasn’t given that name at birth. We all have different reasons for using other identities online from the frivolous (to bitch about work without trouble) to the very serious (malevolent stalkers).
As a former stripper, I'm fascinated with identity--the ones we choose for ourselves, the ones we find society pastes upon us like so many adverts for Mila Kunis rom-coms, the ones that chafe, the ones towards which we aspire. A rose by any other name may still be a rose, but I'm fairly certain that the Society of American Florists would rebrand it if its name were stinkweed. Stripping for six years, I saw many dancers change their names when they realized that no one wanted to get a dance from Suede.
I've written often about identity; it's not just an idle concept for me. There was this post about navigating the choppy waters between my strip self and being in grad school. There was this post about choosing the strip name CeeCee, and this post about what it meant. And then there's the pice that I wrote for Tits and Sass on the weirdness of being a sex writer. I don't know if I became interested interested in the smoke and mirrors of identity because I was a stripper or if I became a stripper in part because identity was always smoke and mirrors.
"I am my mane, my mane is me," my friend Rita would say every night she geared up to swivel another shift at FlashDancers. And, really, it's as good a strip mantra as any I've heard. Flattening your self into glossy swinging strands can seem to work well in the ever-plastic world of a strip club. It's way more snarled in the world of the real, which if you're a stripper includes the plastic playland of silky Lycra, Lucite shoes and fake names.
Real, fake, digital, analog, call it what you will, it's always complicated.