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

Dreaming is Free

48037634-cachedThis post title has ADHD written all over it, but stick with me. I’ll keep the loquaciousness to a minimum. If you’re Googling “Loquaciousness” don’t feel bad. I overheard that word at a party and couldn’t wait to use it in a sentence. Then I realized – I was that L Word. And hilarity ensued. You should’ve been there. I killed.

But back to this post.

When the hell did mid September happen? Shit. I have things to do. A book to finish. Power meetings with influential networking hipsters who can change my life by signing on the dotted line after accepting my hilarious pitch of my oh-so-fabulous story.

Dreaming is free, people. Just ask Debbie Harry. Please Google her too, kids. And do yourself a favor – dance naked to Heart of Glass at least once in your life. Alone in your room is fine. But not in front of any mirror. Just dance. And while you’re at it, blast “Dreaming.” Because it really is free.

What made me think of dreaming out loud tonight? I’m glad you asked.

A couple of hours ago I received a text message from an old sister-friend from our home town of O’ahu, Hawaii (let’s call her B). She and I both live in Southern California now, but have not seen one another in nearly 20 years, can you believe? We reconnected through the marvels of modern technology and plan to meet up soon for a long overdue brunch. But back to her text. I was matter of fact-ly very tongue-in-cheeky mentioning to her that I had a book to finish because I’m dreaming big – her reply was priceless and one I just had to share:

“Don’t stop until it’s done! Then dream up another dream – that way you’re always livin’ the dream.”

It’s been a while, but that quote is so her. Beautiful. Positive. Inspiring. The depression, diseased part of my brain thinks she’s a bitch. I happen to adore her. I win.

B has always been this stunningly beautiful light, and her energy is equally pure and real. Whatever she’s on, I want some. I kid. Those drugs days are over, kids. I know she’s high on life and love. B just reminded me I’ve gotta get me some of that – clinical depression be damned.

If only snapping out of a dark space of wanting to evaporate were as easy as reconnecting with a beautiful soul. Sometimes staying in touch with loved ones, even in the thick of isolation reminds us how much beauty there is in this world. The fact is, when wrestling with clinical depression some days that actually does work. Other days, not so much. Sure, there are medications that help kick-start our serotonin and dopamine receptors, but even that sometimes isn’t enough.

Today was hard. I mean really tough. Because of a morning trigger (something superfluous other than that it hit a button I’ve been trying to avoid), I found myself in a downward spiral of despair that only the fantasy of not wanting to live surrounded my psyche for the better part of the day. Was I ever in danger of taking my life? No. But here’s the thing about clinical depression. There’s a huge difference between not wanting to live and actually taking the steps to assure you don’t. One of my favorite authors, Auguesten Burroughs maps it perfectly:

“If you believe suicide will bring you peace, or at the very least just an end to everything you hate – you are displaying self-caring behavior. You are still able to actively seek solutions to your problems. You are willing to go to great lengths to provide what you believe will be soothing to yourself. This strikes me as optimistic.”

I cling to these words. They are my life raft even when I’m the one puncturing the holes and I feel myself sinking. I remember – most of us with depression don’t really want to die. We just don’t want the pain.

Dreaming is free.

 

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This is my blog. Please check out my website for book excerpts, old school stripping photos, press and more.

Christine Macdonald

Review: ‘Bare’ Took Me There

netflix-coverNetflix and me, we have an understanding. I’m never judged when I need my Jake Ryan fix and end up binge-watching 80’s classics all weekend instead of running errands. And I don’t think twice when indie film suggestions pop up on my video stream feed, based on my viewing history.

Indie and me go way back. Call it underdog kismet, or simply shared affinity for raw truth. I’m attracted to the underbelly of a story. Those dusty secrets that seem to only reveal themselves outside shadows of blockbuster hyperbole. Any “Feel Good Movie of the Summer”, “Gripping” or “Mind Blowing” promises served up on a marquee of bells and whistles, and my interest is a watered down cocktail during happy hour. I’ll enjoy the flavor, but the buzz just aint the same.

It’s been a while since I felt the warm embrace of indie. And like anything good that you haven’t had in a while, we forget just how much we enjoyed whatever it was that’s been missing – like with great sex or home-made lasagna.

After seeing writer/director Latalia Leite’s movie BARE, I realized just how hungry I’ve been.

It’s been twenty years since walking away from the stripper world, but I never tire of the stories. After reading the synopsis of BARE, I was intrigued:

“A young girl [Sara Barton] in Nevada becomes romantically involved with a female drifter who introduces her to a life of stripping, drugs, and metaphysical experiences that teach her what happens when real life catches up with dark fantasy.” – IMDB

Immediately, I wanted more. How young was she? Was she gay before she was a stripper? What kind of drugs did she take? Of course, I personalized the parallels. I was 19 when I stepped on stage for the first time. I slept with women after becoming a stripper. Cocaine and ecstasy were my drugs of choice.

Not only did BARE answer my questions about young Sara’s journey through the stripping world, it did something I wasn’t expecting. It drew me back into mine.

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There I was, tucked safely in bed – my laptop streaming – and bam! – it was 1987. As Sara (played by Glee’s Diana Agron) explored her new world, I was transported back to my old one.

So vividly, was my recollection. I remembered my hesitant but determined first steps on the flashing Plexiglas stage, the vibrating bass crackling through the speakers, my stage name being called as the DJ stretched out the vowels for emphasis: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give her a warm welcome! Give it up for the sensational, Stephaaaaaaaanieeeeee”. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke that needed multiple shampoos to get out of my Aqua Net sprayed, Bon Jovi look-alike hair.

I expected to feel a connection after watching BARE, but the intense emotions that flooded through me were a welcomed surprise.

Anyone can tell a story, great writers can make you feel it.

“One thing that I’ve learned, that’s true, is that if you don’t make your own choices in life, the world will make them for you.” – Pepper  (played by Paz de la Huerta)

Natalia’s script is beautifully written and her direction is spot on, bringing out amazing performances (most notably  Dianna Agron (Glee, FoxPaz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire, HBO) and Chris Zylka (The Leftovers, HBO). With a subject matter that can easily teeter on campy or trite, BARE’s language is refreshingly honest – never over the top.

In a world where most people throw opinions about sex workers into a pile labeled damaged goods, BARE helps us see things through a different lens. We know Sara. Some of us are her.

Whether you chose a life of g-strings and dollar bills or have been on the fast track in the corporate world since college – BARE’s story of introspection, personal choices and consequence is universal.

As the credits rolled, I took a moment to marinate in the story. My lips curved into a smile. Because of this random indie film choice on Netflix one night – I had come full circle in my journey to the past.

There’s nothing like a great movie to remind you how far you’ve come, help you decide where you want to go, and causes you to simply – think.

Everybody has a story. We are all capable of creating our own reality and looking beyond the horizon. Thanks to Natalia Leite, we know that we are not alone.

To watch the trailer click here:

 

 

BAREPurple Milk Productions – Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite

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Christine Macdonald