I can’t remember his exact words, but my main funny-man Louis CK has this stand-up bit where he talks about aging. With his usual sarcasm, he goes on about how twenty-year-olds think they’re gonna live forever. They revel in the mystical idea of turning thirty.
“What’s it gonna be like when I’m THIRTY!?” (audience laughter fills the room).
I heard this bit in my car the other night (thanks, Louis CK Radio/Pandora) and couldn’t help slip back in time.
The thought of turning thirty was heavy on my mind and actually played a major role in what catapulted my walking away from the stripping life at 28. I talk about my last night in the strip club in Larry Smith’s book, THE MOMENT (Chapter titled Sunset Strip).
CK has it right. There’s a certain fearlessness in our 20s that navigates our choices. Stripper or not, the fuck ups can be epic. I just finished a chapter (trust me, I’m dying to finish my memoir and share it with you) that talks about this very thing. My fingers danced on the keys as my eyes were wide-eyed in amazement that I even survived. So many dangerous – ok, fine – stupid decisions that could have easily landed me in jail or worse, an early grave.
* * *
It was 1988 and I just celebrated my 20th birthday. Robert, a one-night-stand-turned live-in lover (ten years my senior) was one of the biggest coke dealers in town. He chose me!
An ex Chippendales dancer from Los Angeles with the face of a young Al Pacino, Robert made me weak in the vagina. It didn’t matter that he was using me for a place to crash, fucked around tirelessly and threw me across the room when I “gave him grief” – with Robert, I thought I hit the jackpot. Cocaine was the glamor drug and between the free supply and mind-blowing orgasms, I didn’t stand a chance.
A 500 square foot walk-up on the edge of Waikiki was my first apartment. All of my neighbors were in their 20s and loved to party as much as Robert and me. I used to joke that our little rock-and-roll apartment complex was like a college dorm, only instead of tearing through the study books, we snorted and drank our way through the days.
I didn’t care if I had to kill a couple of island roaches every now and then and I only had a thin piece of foam covering the concrete floor. At $400.00 a month, it was mine. And after Robert charmed his way in, refusing to leave – it was his now too. We’re living together!
We fucked like animals and fought just as hard. Having the cops show up at 4:00 am was typical. For us, chaos was foreplay. It was awesome in the most traumatic way.
After a couple of years, we fell into a dysfunctional groove. It was everything I thought I wanted, even though somewhere deep inside, the feeling of desperation and self-loathing for allowing myself to be treated like shit was suffocating. But that was normal. Everything was normal. Until the day it wasn’t.
Robert wasn’t just a coke dealer, he was a “mule.” Every few weeks, he flew from Honolulu to Los Angeles, then back home again with huge amounts of blow taped to his body under his clothes.
The day before Thanksgiving after boarding the plane home with four kilos in tow, Robert disappeared. He never landed in Honolulu, and his boss Rick was out for blood. I was the first person he interrogated.
In what could only be described as a scene from Miami Vice, my apartment was torn apart, my phone was bugged, and every step I took outside was followed by Rick’s shadow; he was convinced I was in on the heist. I wasn’t. After three years of abuse, the bullshit lying, cheating and ripping me off, Robert finally did me a solid. Maybe his guilt drove him to keep me out of his master plan. I’ll never know. But I’m grateful that in a very uncharacteristic way, Robert protected me from Rick and his men by keeping me completely in the dark.
Drug Lords always have men. Rick and his were yoked-up Samoan body-builders who never smiled and wore neon colored Gold’s Gym tank tops and weight lifting belts – even outside the gym.
“I know you know, Christine. Where the fuck is he?” Rick meant business.
“I promise you. I have no idea.” My voice was that of a tough little girl. I suppose in a way, I still was.
“Christine. You’re fucking lying. If you’re lying…” The veins in his forearms stretched with each breath.
“I have no reason to lie to you, Rick. He bailed. I swear, I have no idea where he went. If I had a Bible, I’d lay my hand on it right now. You can keep following me. I have nothing to hide.” My eyes were burning into his with fierce intensity. My hands were steady, as I pretended to hold a Bible. Any terror I should have been feeling eluded me, because for once in my young-adult, drug induced life, I was telling the truth.
I never did hear from Robert – and Rick finally backed off. Rumor has it he was killed in Mexico after Rick tracked his ass down, but who knows. What I do know is that I’m lucky I came out of that world in once piece.
* * *
I’ll be turning 46 in a few days.
I’m worlds away from the frightened girl who walked away from the stripping life. Instead of wondering what’s it gonna be like when I’m thirty, I find myself tapping on the window of fifty, sneaking a peek into a world I never knew I’d belong. Part of me still wonders if I do.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s, 30s or even in the thick of middle age (when the fuck did that happen?), we all have memories of being fearless.
So what happened?
Call it growing older and (hopefully) wiser, but it seems our proverbial balls somehow shrink with each birthday candle we add to the mix. Our priorities shift. We settle into our choices – stop taking chances. Or maybe we just have more to lose.
Sometimes it takes remembering how far we’ve come to realize the direction we want to go.
Still, it doesn’t mean we need to sleepwalk through the rest of our story. Every once in a while, it’s good to touch the wet paint next to the sign warning us not to.
Having balls doesn’t mean putting them up on the chopping block of recklessness. Being fearless isn’t synonymous with stupidity. If anything, our courage should be even greater as we age, not dissipated for simply knowing better. We don’t need to mirror our 20-something daredevil behavior to feel alive. We just need to give ourselves permission to make better mistakes.
7 thoughts on “Giving yourself permission”
Geez. Once again… timely. So timely. I’ll be 53 on November 8th. It just fucking FLEW. Here’s to this chapter of my life.
Nancy Kalina Gomez E.
My birthday is November 9! Happy BIRTHDAY, Scorpio Sister! 🙂
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My favorite, and advice well needed right now.
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Thanks Patrice. xxoo
Hello Christine! I must admit it has been three decades since I last saw you at The Wave Waikiki. You were always pleasant from a distance. We were never really friends but I remember you and your menagerie. You seemed to have been having the time of your life and despite the scars on your face I always thought you were beautiful. We are always our own worst critics. Times have changed and we all have changed as a matter of fact.
I vaguely remember the guys Robert and Rick in your story from back in the day as well. I too have a story of flirting with disaster per say. Back from 1989-1996 I was what one would call a Geisha for lack of a better description. I had recently come home for Summer from my first year as a Finance Major at an Ivy League college. I was transferring to Chaminade University in Honolulu for the Fall.
Bravely using our fake ID’s to go out “in town” my friends and I from my hometown Lanikai were out one Summer weekend night. That night I met a very dashing and well dressed forty-something Japanese gentlemen at Maharaja on the dance floor. He led me to the VIP room where he bought me the finest Champagne. Then he ordered Kirin Ichiban, sake and a very large sushi boat when I mentioned I was hungry. Which was more my style really. He had his “best friend” to whom he kept talking. Also with him was a group of well groomed very young gents to whom he never directly talked. He had his “best friend” talk to them. They followed him everywhere and never left his side which I thought was odd. He said he was a businessman and I believed him. We had an instant bond as we talked, laughed and danced. He loved that I spoke his language which I had learned while in High School. He also said he was complimented that I had extensive knowledge of Japanese culture and cuisine. He said most American girls had no clue about his home really.
It took no time for me to start dating him as the very next day he had me picked up by one of the young gents who just nodded at me but did not speak. I was taken to meet him for dinner at Michels. He was manically adamant from the start that we had to be exclusive and I liked his ownership. It turned me on despite our age difference. In time when I saw he was heavily tattooed it became apparent he was Yakuza but he was more than this. He was a Kumicho (Head Boss). His name I will not disclose for obvious reasons. He was handsome, articulate, well educated and I loved him. He had a wife and family in Japan who never came to Hawaii and I was his “brondu” (blonde) girl. I was put on a pedestal like some rare doll to be showcased. I was showered with money, jewelry and flowers. Every night we went out to dinner at the best restaurants (Nicolas Nicolas, La Mer, Michel’s, Roy’s). Afterwards we (including his crew) all would go sing karaoke at the sushi bar or the Japanese Hostess Bar. I was a regular with or without him at Chanel, Armani, Gucci and Christian Dior buying whatever I wanted. He was billed at these places. Never was money exchanged. I was moved into my own condo at Discovery Bay although I was at his Diamond Head Circle mansion most of the time and was driven everywhere. In a three year span I was taken on five star trips to Paris, Rio, NYC and of course to my favorite, Japan, just to name a few. The Scarab boats and the huge Yacht he had were amazing too. We went fishing pretty much every weekend. At the time my life was perfect or so I thought.
My world came crashing down one day as I came home from school to get ready for the evening. I was approached by a man with a badge in the lobby who said he was a DEA investigator and he wanted to talk to me privately. He asked a lot of nosy questions about my love but all I honestly knew was that I was his spoiled little Geisha. Business was never discussed in front of me. Japanese men are very cautious and honorable this way. Thank God! The guy gave me his card and told me I might be in danger. Obviously he knew very little about the way Japanese men treat their honorable women.
Well, I was taken to a Japanese restaurant that night and my love was not there. I was alarmed. I ate dinner alone and was taken to a Korean Hostess bar where he was in a back room with twenty giggly newly arrived oriental girls two of which were on his lap. They were cleared out of the room of course with a snap of his fingers. He then told me he was leaving the country that night and that I could go with him if I wanted to but it had to be tonight. I was shocked. I wanted to go with my love but I just couldn’t. What about my family? I had to stay. He left and I thought I would never see him again.
So I was lost. I started doing drugs and going out. I dropped out of school with two months left until graduation and ended up dancing. I was not good at it because I was quiet, really pale and had no tan lines even though I had a perfect petite (5’2″ 100lb 34C-23-34)figure. I thought the men to be rude and disgusting but that went with the territory. The other girls were not nice either. They were hard and bitter with their inflated boobs.
I danced for about four months and then went to work at the Japanese Hostess Bar. I was there for a month when a Yakuza who knew me saw me. One night shortly thereafter he showed up at my Kapahulu house in his Mercedes, told me I was requested and gave me a ticket. I was to leave in three days. I packed my things and apprehensively left leaving my family and Hawaii behind.
I lived with my love for two more years overseas but I wanted to finish school and get an MBA. I was sent back to the States where I attended Stanford traveling on occasion to see my tattooed love but when I was 26 he decided I needed to move on with my life, get married and have children. He wanted me to be a fulfilled woman and he said that was the one thing he could not do for me but that he would pay for my schooling until completion which was almost done. So we went our separate ways.
A year later I finished my MBA at Stanford. Shortly after I fell in love again and moved in with a German Movie Producer in Calabasas, This relationship lasted two years. He taught me so much invaluable knowledge about business and life. He helped me start a career in Artist Management in Hollywood but I wanted more. He was a confirmed bachelor so no marriage or children were in his future. Not with me anyway. So I moved on. He married a beauty queen later. Go figure!
I was living in Pacific Palisades working in Hollywood when out of nowhere the love of my life called me. He was my best friend at Stanford while I was there but as young girls do I did not see the value of him at the time. He was the one person who knew all about me and never once judged me for the things I had done. When I spilled my heart to him when I barely knew him in his very liberal way with a Massachusetts-Kennedy type accent he said: “Your past is what makes you the unique and informed person you are. Give yourself credit that the man(Yakuza) saw in you a very intelligent not just beautiful girl and that he loved you. He is a smart calculating man. He would not have made a mistake. He did not and neither did you.”
Now he was in his last year as a med student and he wanted to see me. A girl had broke his heart. So I went up to see him. Oh my God! He was a beautiful all American man now. His New England well bred roots were showing. We fell in love or maybe we had always been. I am not sure. I moved up to San Francisco to be near him and started working for a Marketing Firm in a multi-lingual position (Japanese. Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, et al) He graduated from Stanford med school that Spring and started his residency in San Francisco. I was thrilled and madly, truly in love. The kind of love that keeps you grounded and yet it tickles your tummy.
We were living together for less than three months when I found out I was pregnant. He was overjoyed and I was scared. We were not making a whole lot of money at the time but he assured me we would be alright. So our shotgun wedding happened that September up in Sequoia National Park under the world’s tallest trees. I was fourteen weeks at the time. I was shocked when I felt my daughter move for the first time under my Vera Wang gown right after the ceremony! It was as if in the time of my first quickening she and God were approving our marriage. It was magical! We now live in Bal Harbor, Florida. My husband has his own Plastic Surgery practice. We have two girls (15 and 11 ughh!), a son(9) and pair of Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I have my own Marketing/Trading company and life is great.
I have not seen my Yakuza love for eighteen years. Although if I know anything about him he is doing just fine. He set me free. I am now more fulfilled than I could ever be.
Do true, however it wasn’t until I was 45 when I stop playing someone I never really was. I took a huge step into the light and transformed. How says an old dog doesn’t have few more tricks up her sleeve.