Every stripper has their reasons for choosing that life. Here is a little bit of mine.
~ ~ ~
I’ve never been a rule person. Breaking any and all guidelines for being a good kid was my thing. Screw conformity. I’d scale the fence at the exact moment my brain registered the “No Trespassing” sign. If you told me I wasn’t allowed to go there, I’d shoot you an adorable smile, nod obediently, and then do everything in my power to defy you.
Things began innocently enough. As a mischievous pre-teen, my adventures in search of complacency weren’t very earth shattering. Days were spent dreaming of first kisses with Chachi Arcola from Happy Days and thoughts of navigating Rydell High School as both Sandy and Rizzo from my favorite movie, Grease. There were worse things I could do.
Every now and then my exploratory mind served me well. My impressionable brain was a delicious symphony of borderline dangerous adventure and idle curiosity. I possessed the perfect mindset to allow myself permission to experience things I never thought possible despite a brief church upbringing designed by our mother to keep my older sister and me in line. I don’t know where the idea of religion started with Mom. Maybe not having a father in the mix for her two girls swayed her thinking. Instead of one dad to help her raise us girls she’d get the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Not that we were strict Catholics; our occasional Sunday Mass attendance was peppered with the usual holiday events each year. But that was enough. An hour of Mass, complete with accepting the body of Christ on my tongue while being reminded that He watches my every move was all I need to be freaked out. The long drives home served up haunting views from the back seat of Mom’s station wagon. Hypnotized by the shimmering stain glass windows framing the entrance to the church, I always wrestled with the pockets inside my breath.
Church visits stopped shortly after my thirteenth birthday when, after my first and only Confession, I decided the feeling of being wrong all the time just wasn’t for me. Then there was the why. Why I felt the need to confess. And why I felt so guilty.
Even though I was unconscious when it happened, I still thought I needed forgiveness for losing my virginity that night on the beach. I don’t know what I expected to feel after releasing my truth bomb in the confessional, but it didn’t make me feel any better. If anything, the blanket of shame wrapped around my shoulders became heavier. After the priest shelled out my Hail Mary and Rosary penance to absolve me of my sin (and what a doozy, at just thirteen), I walked away and never looked back.
Ever since I learned the difference between pink and blue booties I’ve been curious about my body. As a freshman in high school and shortly after the beach incident, my curiosities about sex grew stronger. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I snuck downstairs to watch an R-Rated movie on cable. After getting lost in this new wonderland of nudity and pleasure, my hunger for knowing the whys exploded.
The next morning with the sun winking through the glass louvers in the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and opened my legs. Like a doctor asking me to say “Ah,” I began to explore myself with my fingers. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see myself, to visit the birthplace of the moans and pleasure scenes that had captured my attention the night before. So I ran to my bedroom, got my purse and scurried back to the toilet. I reached for the sliding door, ensuring that it was locked, and grabbed my compact mirror.
I was in awe of that place—that sacred part of womanhood I was taught to never discuss. I loved every inch and fold of her. She was soft, fragile and safely tucked away. But also, I knew she was a force. At some point, I moved from sitting on the toilet to lying naked on the floor. I opened my thighs and held the mirror with one hand, exploring myself freely with the other. My thoughts streamed together on a repeated loop of wow, this is you and a baby comes through here – you can create life! My very own No Trespassing sign.
The more I got to know myself, the more pissed off I became about that night on the beach at camp. I started to realize my virginity wasn’t lost at all, but that it was taken. At just thirteen years old, my No Trespassing sign was broken through without my permission. I wasn’t even conscious!
That’s it, I thought. Never again.
It makes perfect sense that I faked my orgasms during my twenties. With each lover I was an actress, making them think they rocked my world. Even if it wasn’t true, it was my lie and my body.
Stripping was another way I felt control with my body; I’ll show you my goods, on my terms, the way I want to – you give me your money.
It was years before I would confess my childhood secret to anyone but the priest. When I finally shared with Mom about the week I spent at camp and how her baby girl returned home a woman, she was mortified and I felt somehow she blamed me. The blanket of shame felt even heavier. I felt like that little girl being scolded in the Confessional all over again reaching for a life raft in her lungs, waiting for the stain glass on the windows to fade.
After much self-discovery I finally understood I was raped. It took a bit longer to truly believe it wasn’t my fault.
Feelings of somehow bringing it on myself— asking for it—suffocated my self-worth, serving as landmines along the way. But I worked through that wreckage and got out from under the cloak of self-blame.
After nearly ten years on the stripper stage I was done; burned out and ready to find a new life.
At twenty-eight, I moved away from the only world I knew, started regular therapy and began to delve into my own whys. Through much introspection and forgiveness (with myself and others), the blanket of personal shame I wore for so long eventually disappeared. It has been replaced with something much lighter – an extension of me. The new fabric is a delicate blend of strength and self-love. I’ve earned this survival cape and wear it with pride.
Every story inside us from our past is a piece of fabric that makes us who we are. Some parts are tattered and worn; frayed with struggle and defeat. Other patches are threaded so tightly and strong, it’s a wonder we ever survived without them. How cool is it, to know we have.