That Friday night was tough. I felt so exposed.
In photographs, you are photo shopped to be untrue to your essence sometimes. All of your flaws are erased. All of your bad pictures can be erased. You are not live. You only need to interact with a camera. You do not need to entertain anyone.
I packed my 7 inch Black Stiletto heels and my best lingerie and lugged a huge rolling suitcase up a flight of stairs where the body guard just stared at me. "You must be the new girl, the dressing room is over there." When I entered, I closely examined the holes in the wall, the gum stuck to the floor and mirror, and the women in front of me. There was about 7 women in there. Mostly day-shift. Some older. Some drunk. Some just getting ready to head home. An older woman with an accent glanced over to me and said, "They’re not biting today. Good luck to you," as she clutched her cigarettes in hand and stormed out the door. I thought to myself, "not biting?" I sat in a chair and was greeted by a rude voice, "that’s Jenna’s chair, and she’s coming back you know?" The girl seemed to be stumbling on her words. I moved myself to the corner shyly and had to go pee. As I go into the small bathroom located inside of the dressing room, I walk in on a girl sitting on the toilet passed out. I mutter, "sorry," as I look away still in awe as the door was wide open.
I turn to one of the girls getting dressed and putting her clothes in her locker. "Is she OK in there?" Another girl getting dressed turns to me and says, "Carmen? She is always fucking passed out. I’ll go get her off the toilet though." It took two girls to carry out Carmen because she was mostly dead weight due to being passed out, and she was a heavier girl to begin with. Before I can go back into the bathroom, a girl beats me in there but again, fails to close the door. Before I can get in there, I hear my name called to be taken on stage. As I walk to the entrance of the stairs on the stage, I trip over one of my heels and nearly eat shit. After all, this is my first time in 7 inch Stilettos. The song playing is totally out of my element. It was Tupac, "Hail Mary." There is no one at the stage watching me. I am not sure who I am dancing for. It is still early, about 8PM. I am thankful no one is watching me. I do not know how to dance. I do not know what I am doing. I pray the 2 songs are over soon and I do not fall.
During the second set, a guy comes to my tip rail. I come down with my top off as this is a topless bar. I get yelled at by the body guard and manager that hired me. I let them know, I was not made aware of the rules here and apologize. Thank god the stage area is somewhat dark, because I am pretty sure I turned 50 shades of red.
Even off stage, I now realize what kind of person my manager is. Alfredo can be described at best as a heavy-set Hispanic guy who never smiles. He has deep forehead wrinkles which as I said earlier, he intimidates me. I rush to the dressing room to change into a different outfit. I can hear the girls whispering among themselves as I pass them to get to the room. I am positive they are talking about me and the topless "incident." I am mortified and mad I did not even make a dollar in tips. I am feeling discouraged as I sit in a chair with someone else’s sweater draped over the back.
I sit at the bar. This is out of my element. I am 22 years old but do not drink. Demons from my past tell me I really shouldn’t. The devil on my shoulder tells me, I really should. Recalling 30 minutes ago after walking in on that day-shift girl passed out of the bathroom, I ask the bartender for a Shirley Temple instead. She looks like a veteran of this club. She is older but has a very firm body and make up all over her face. She says, "You’re new in this neck of the woods, I’m Kelly. Do you not drink? Have a drink on me." "No, thank you. Just Sprite with cherry please, Kelly. I’m (insert pause here)... Alli." She kind of shrugs me off as she hands me the soda and it catches a guy’s attention sitting 3 chairs away from me with another dancer. He has his arm around her, and she’s smiling like she’s in love with him. He says to me "You new here?" "Yes, I am." The girl he has his arm wrapped around is staring at him cautiously to see his next move, and he unwraps his arm around her. I can tell she is annoyed. I can tell she is trying to gain his attention again. There is an awkward silence and the guy asks if I would like something to drink. After glazing over at her, I respond, "no thank you," and walk away. The last thing I want to do is compete with anyone.
Lexus, my friend who got me into this, calls me over and tells me to use being the new girl to my advantage. She is sitting with what appears to be a regular. She has her leg draped over his leg and he is giving her a foot massage. She is happy but can barely keep her eyes open. She takes a shot of tequila with him and bites into the lime wedge. Bob offers me a drink, and I tell him "no thank you. I’m Alli, nice to meet you." "You’re Lexus’ friend, huh? Hot." I sit awkwardly and he asks me what I do outside of this place. Do I lie? I stare at Lexus for help but she is already faded. "I’m in college and books aren’t cheap." Bob pauses, and asks "are you in that beauty school college shit like Mandi?" "No. I transferred from community college to a CSU recently."
"That’s hot. So you’re smart?"
I respond, "not really."
Its my turn on stage again, so I invited him to go on stage and him and Lexus follow. He stuffs a few dollars down my bikini and I ask him if he wants a dance under my breath. He says, "I don’t buy dances," and I go back on stage to finish the dance and roll my eyes but hope no one can see since I forgot I am in front of a mirror.
When I get off stage, I start to walk toward Bob. I get flagged down by an older Asian girl. She tells me, "Girl, don’t fuck with him. He won’t pay and you will waste your whole night. Also, what the fuck are you wearing?" I am dead in my tracks. "It doesn’t look good?" "No, it looks like grandma underwears. I will help you in the dressing room, OK?" She pulls my underwear inside my cheeks to accentuate some. "Don’t you have something sexier in that huge bag? Let me see." This is how I met China for the first time. Everyone knew and loved China. I had goals to be more like her and follow her every move but I still was unsure about her.
I finally get asked for a lap dance toward the end of the night. It is my first one and so many thoughts come across. Am I doing this right? Do I smell? Do I need deodorant? Did I shave? What do I talk about? Do I talk at all? Should I moan? Where do I put my hands?
The lack of comfort I have is off the charts. I am so uncomfortable.
The guy agrees to buy 4 more. Each time I pause and ask if he wants me to keep going. He is extremely handsy. He finally tells me that is all the money he brought. Its closing time and they yell for Alli to go the dressing room. I can’t until I get my money from the ATM. The guy’s card keeps getting declined. He owes me for 2 dances. Says he will be back, he is going to the gas station. I walk back to the dressing room.
China says, "You know hes not coming back, dont you?"
"Why wouldn’t he?"
"He scammed you, Alli."
Regardless of being scammed, at the end of the night, you have people expecting a payout from you. It is not free to work there.
You have your DJ and bouncer that walks you to your car expecting a tip.
You have the house you have to pay out and tip.
It is the end of the month. So maybe being Saturday is a first it will get better.
I stick through it.
Alli is exposed and my, there is so much I have to learn.