Last song: true story from my stripper days (and a poem that was born)

It was roughly two o’clock in the morning and I was high on cocaine. I had just arrived home after working a double shift at the club. After twelve hours in my six-inch stilettos, I was a zombie on stage as the last song played. My feet throbbing and longing for a hot bath, I was in a trance with each flash of the stage lights. All I could think about was the cab ride home, a hot bath and my bed.

The cab arrived shortly after I shelled out my tips to the crew (bartenders, servers, door guy, bouncers) and I was on my way home.

Before long I was in a tub of steaming water and bubbles; I couldn’t help but shrug at the irony that was my life. Just a handful of years earlier I used to sit too close to the television watching my favorite dance program, Solid Gold, dreaming of strutting my stuff as one of their performers.

After drying off and tucking myself in to bed, the cocaine had run its course and my high was leveling. I grabbed a pen and notepad from my nightstand and began to write.

Last Song 

The music engulfs her
Her eyes begin to close
The beat goes boom bada boom
No one really knows

As she stands there, beside herself
Inside that fishbowl of smoke
She is just a ballerina
Trying not to choke

Her eyes gaze into the crowd
Beyond the blinking lights
Her body goes through the motions
It’s just another night

She’s just a ballerina
Tip-toeing through the show
An angel with a broken wing
Trying to make it through the snow

She dreams of the quiet ride home
The moment she slips into bed
Visions of Sugar Plum fairies
Still very much alive in her head

She’s just a ballerina
Trying to survive
With a blanket of hunger surrounding her
It’s a wonder she’s still alive

~ ~ ~

In reading this poem after so many years I still connect to the young woman who wrote it. I understand feeling amused by the irony that after dreaming of becoming a professional dancer on television shows like Solid Gold, I wound up working as a stripper.

I wasn’t so much sad as I was numb. There was a void in place of where my passion wanted to be, and I felt stuck. I was living in emotional cinder blocks, my choices being the cement.

I had yet to learn so many things about myself. If I could speak to my younger self, the gal who wrote this poem – I would tell her that changing the course of our life starts with deciding we are worth it.

And we are.

 

Christine Macdonald

Power Strip: An Adult Extertainer’s Backstory

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.

Holy shit.

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.

Christine Macdonald

I used to be hot: an ex-stripper appreciates her body (then and now).

 

The dressing room walls were vibrating with each thump of the baseline. After a quick garter and lipstick check in the mirror I pulled open the door and headed for the stage. As my eyes adjusted to the smoky darkness, my brain played catch-up to the sudden shift in volume while I sauntered past the customers. The audience would never know I wasn’t down with the DJ’s song choice because like every good sales pro, I worked the problem.

Trotting up the four steps to the stage, I navigated my six-inch stilettos onto the neon flashing Plexiglas. My hips curved around each thumping beat, and my smile served as a beautiful mask of my internal disdain. I was not a fan of 80s rap group 2 Live Crew, but no one would ever know. After the performance I gave, the crowd really did think: me so horny; me love you long time.

Stripping is the ultimate sales job.

“God, you’re such a bitch – you have zero cellulite.” Shayla whined as she spanked my ass at the bar. “Great set, doll.” She sized my body with her Cheshire gaze. “I hate you.” Her smile was wickedly salacious.

“What?” I laughed off Shayla’s digs in-between deep breaths, still recovering from my Oscar winning performance. I played along, pretending to understand. “Oh right, thanks!”

Strippers are sorority sisters without midterms. Instead of libraries and lecture halls, our campuses are cigarette smoke-filled bars with 2 for 1 shot nights, yoked-up bouncers and horny DJs with drug connections. But no matter the layout, we have each other’s backs – and never miss a chance to throw out a good dig in the name of envy. Shayla was in her late twenties and carried faint traces of cellulite around her hips, but to me – she was a Godddess.

Later that night and alone in my apartment, I broke out my mental measuring tape. I inspected each body part standing naked in front of the mirror. It was true. Unlike my face, my 22-year-old body was casualty-free; spared from the damage of the rare blood disease I was born with, leaving my face covered in deep-seeded crater-like acne scars. My stomach was toned and flat, my B cups were perky and my backside was solid and plump. I knew my body was ‘stripper worthy’, so why didn’t I feel beautiful? On the heels of being labeled Freddy Kruger in high school because of my scarred face, being envied was foreign to me. Anyone looking at me through a complimentary lens immediately tossed me in a sea of uncharted territory. I was desperate to catch Shayla’s life raft that night in the club, but there were too many leaks in my self-esteem to believe I could.

When you’re young and peppered with wisdom from anyone older, it serves up nothing but reminders that we still have time. The delicious irony is that nobody in their twenties truly understands the concept of youth being on our side until it’s gone.

It’s been twenty-five years since receiving Shayla’s cellulite-free comment, but far less time since I truly appreciated it. In the blink of an eye, my rock star life style of the rich and famous lost and shameless morphed into middle-aged responsibilities of the tired and gracious. Gone are the days of peeling off my day-glow lingerie for dollar bills and using my body as the ultimate entertainment sales tool. I can barely remember being cellulite-free and my fleshy stomach these days – it’s so lovely, it could give Buddha a run for his Rupee. But I’m happy. I feel beautiful.

The road to self-acceptance for everyone is as unique are their story. Paved with personal landmines and life rafts, it’s a wonder any of us make it through. My body has carried me, as I have her. We’ve made the trek to the other side of Victim; through childhood abuse, young adult disrespect and most recently, the Universe’s health tests. My body and me are still here. Bruised and scarred, tired yet strong. Weathered and full of stories. We are each other’s hero.

 

Christine Macdonald