A couple weeks ago I wrote about facing my fear with the book read in Los Angeles. This was one of many book events promoting and celebrating The Moment, a book that I am thrilled to be a part of. Although I am no stranger to performing in public, my nerves were still off the charts.

Something about reading my personal story to a group of strangers in a book store seemed…unsettling. A curvy, middle-aged woman talking about stripping nude in her 20s just welcomes judgement and ridicule, I thought. Also, I was going to talk about my skin; the scars I’ve tried so long to ignore, my words now shining a light on them. I needed to remember to breathe.

And breathe, I did, having spent nearly three hours in traffic (gotta love LA). With each minute passing on my dashboard, I grew slightly more anxious.

I arrived at Chevalier’s Books fashionably late. The place was packed, but as soon as I saw my friends, I was bathed in relief. There’s nothing more reassuring than knowing you have the support and encouragement of your friends – especially in times of personal challenge. We exchanged kisses and hellos, and I soaked in every hug.

“You look beautiful, girl. Are you nervous?” Elly squeezed my arm.

“Sooooo much so. Thank you.” My knees were buckling with fear.

“When are you on? You’ll do great.”

“Soon, thank you…” God, I hoped she was right.

We listened and watched each writer share their essay, and my trembling only seemed to increase.

Fuck. Can I do this?

Then, the hostess read the next speaker’s introduction:

A self-proclaimed recovering narcissist, Honolulu native, Christine Macdonald has worked as an ice cream scooper, a stripper, and an advertising executive – not on the  same day. Her essay, Sunset Strip walks us through her final night at the strip bar, after a decade-long career working the pole in Waikiki. She is currently writing a memoir and you can learn more about her story through her website www.poletosoul.com.

Shit. That’s me.

The applause lifted my feet toward the stage and with every person I walked passed, I shared a grin underneath a veil of uncertainty and fear.

There I was. In front of a sea of faces, all waiting for me to speak. I froze, wondering if they realized I could pass out at any moment. Without thinking about it, I turned my thoughts inside-out and spoke.

“You know, it’s so funny to me. That I can be so nervous speaking in public, when I had no problem stripping on stage.”

Spontaneous laughter.

“It’s true.” I laughed along with the audience, opened the book to my page and began to read.

I made it through the part where I talked about my skin, and although I was still trembling, my breathing continued to save me. It came as no surprise I choked up on the same two lines that caused me to cry so many times in private. I forgave myself for taking pause to wipe my eyes and continued on.

As soon as I completed reading my story, the air filled with raw emotion. I smiled, walking back to my group of friends in the back, but this time, my pride was showing. I felt pats on my shoulders and heard a few cheers. As I collected congratulatory hugs from my loyal posse, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

After the event wrapped up, we started to mingle and I felt much more relaxed, although I was still not prepared for what happened next.

Countless strangers introduced themselves to me, opening their arms, letting our embraces linger in the envelope of gratitude. Some fought back tears. I was thanked over and over for sharing my story.

Wow. This shit is real.

When a fellow writer’s mother came up to me, I found myself a little embarrassed. This was someone’s mom – and I was talking about taking my clothes off for money. She intoduced herself and thanked me with a hug and spoke softly, holding my hands.

“You are a brave woman and I want to thank you. You helped me realize that every person has a story, and not to judge someone just because they are on a different path.”

My eyes welled up as I thanked her.

I’ve been so worried about people judging me – a middle-aged, curvy gal, talking about stripping in my 20s – that I forgot to welcome the idea that sharing my story may actually be a positive thing.

I am excited for the next two readings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I’m sure the trembling fear will return, but it’s okay. The fact I was able to help shift a mother’s perception after my first read, is enough to keep me going.

9 comments

  1. Christine, This is such a wonderful post, you captured the fear and uncertainty of the moment so well. It actually took me back to the first time I was asked to publicly speak about my recovery from alcoholism/addiction and healing from being raped as a 12 year old boy. I just knew these people wouldn't accept me….yet surprise, surprise…they did.And I love how you too discovered that sometimes by opening up that really vulnerable side of ourselves we can ourselves totally surprised to be embraced and loved..instead of ridiculed.I have so much respect for you and the fact that you have been able to overcome so much with the stripper lifestyle, the drugs and the very difficult and painful issues with your skin. You have expressed what living with those things is like so incredibly well. May this just be the first of MANY successful readings for you. I'm SO looking forward to the book.Peace and serenity to you always….Thom

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  2. Thormoo, thank you so much. I love that you understand exactly what I am talking about in this post. You always inspire. I have much respect for you too. We are survivors. Thank you for the kind words and always taking the time to read and comment. xxoo

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  3. I can remember a moment, in a class, role playing and selling and overcoming objections in front of a room of people. It felt very unnatural and very uncomfortable. My heart was pounding, I felt dizzy and had trouble talking and thinking. I wanted to walk away but couldn't. I felt like such an idiot. I asked someone after I was done, how did I do? Pretty good, I was told. If they only knew!You are never alone.I knew you could do it, my friend!ray

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  4. I can so relate to this. I hate public speaking but am the first to say things that "put me on stage" in social settings. Funny how that works.I'm sad your next reading is on a night I'm booked up. I would have loved to hear you read – I'm right down the road from Silverlake.

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  5. I have never had a fear of public speaking, but I'm terrified of taking my clothes off in public. Maybe there's a connection there? And goodness, Christine, could any two people be more different, come from more different backgrounds than you and I? And yet I adore you, admire you, and am thrilled with every success you experience. And there you are, cheering me on, too. Don't worry about those "moms" or anyone else you think is there to judge. Most of us are all in the same boat, doing the best we can to play the hand life has dealt us. I think you're wonderful.

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  6. Hi Christine~I just stopped by via one of my favorite blogs, Chrissy at I Shoulda Been A Stripper.What a wonderful post! I actually got emotional while reading it. And being an actor myself, I can so identify with your fear of performing in public because even though I enjoy it and have done it for so many years, it still gives me panic attacks every time I have to step out on a stage.Your book truly sounds awesome. And I applaud you for sharing your story.The best to you, Christine!

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