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Bearing teeth at questions about parents

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Justice

“I have a daughter your age and I would be horrified if she did something like this,” a female customer tells me while we’re sitting next to each other inside a strip club. About 6 feet away, a young stripper gyrates onstage in front of a very pleased older man. The female customer watches in disgust. “Are you paying for school or something?” I tell her I am. She’s glad I have something else going on besides degrading myself. I soon find out that her 18-year-old daughter is pregnant with a second child. For some reason, this female customer is completely proud of her daughter just for having children. Getting knocked up is not an accomplishment in my book, unless you have fertility issues. Some parents never have high expectations for their children, I suppose.

“What do your parents think of what you do?” she asks me, and there are infinite possibilities to answer this question. To nip the conversation in the bud, I say that they have no idea and they think I’m a good girl. They would be horrified to know the truth. They have a “get thee to a nunnery” kind of stance on the matter of stripping.

Another answer is that they know and don’t really mind. It’s a means to an end and they understand. They couldn’t afford to pay for college and they’re glad I have the opportunity.

Sometimes, my answer is way out of left field. “What does my mom think about this gig? Ask her yourself. She’s onstage right now,” and I point to a very old stripper.

My favorite answer, however, is that my parents were eaten by bears and I’m very sensitive about the matter. This story has a great deal of variation every time it’s told. They were hiking in the woods or attending a circus in a foreign country. It was a grizzly or a black bear. I never can keep a straight face telling the story. I have one friend in particular with whom I love to work because we tell the story together and change it each time. “Then the bear turned to me and was like, ‘You’re next!’ with my parents’ blood all over its face. I ‘BEAR’ly escaped!”

So what do my actual parents actually think of what I do? That’s another funny story. My dad is dead and no longer has opinions. He thought strippers were pretty magical, though. I told my mom that I was stripping. She is foreign and doesn’t really understand the inner workings of the Las Vegas strip club industry. Where we’re from, anything similar is all prostitution. Dancing is something different. She thinks I’m a showgirl or something with colorful ostrich feathers and the like. She understands that there is nudity, and men are paying to watch it. Her greatest concern is that there is way too much cigarette smoke at strip clubs. She’s right. It’s probably the worst part of the job. “Don’t start smoking cigarettes!” she advises. “It will make you look old.” If there is one thing I don’t do, it’s smoke cigarettes.

I never share the truth with customers on the topic of my parents. I did once and it nearly killed a sale for me. “Oh wow, that’s depressing.” It changed the mood of the situation completely. Pity money never amounts to much.

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