Romance. I’m saturated in it. I have Captains of the British Army writing me letters and taking me for champagne caviar picnics, buying me cocktails and dancing with me to Edith Piaf. I have a boyfriend who loves me, who picks me up from work at 2am and wont sleep without me in his arms. We shower together and cry together and when he drives we hold hands. I have a beautiful man covered in tattoos who loves my body in ways I’ve never known, as though I am an extension of his own flesh, as though women are his favourite meal and I am the dessert. He used to sit at the side of the bath rubbing my back. I in turn have sent The Captain scented handkerchiefs, typed out poems on my typewriter and sent him poignant relevant Salinger stories. I have bought expensive dresses to accompany him to formal occasions and quietly held his arm as he networked. I have let my boyfriend explore fantasies that he’s never been able to talk about, I’ve held him and comforted him when he’s told me his secrets, I’ve washed him, cooked for him, made him mixtapes and rubbed his sore muscles. I’ve gone without sleep, working til 4am then driving to watch him race at 7am. I gave the beautiful man space to lose his mind with me and be vulnerable. I flew him to me several times because he was broke and tried to help him get his life on track.
But I do not stay awake at night longing for them. I do not feel my heart wretched and torn in it’s senseless throws of ecstacy and possession, I do not cry for them.
For years I tortured myself over a man. Over seven years. I thought I would never recover from the depths of hell and enlightenment we pushed each other to. I became insane, swaying between a new understanding of the world and a confusion as to how I could bear to remain part of it without the light of this man shining on it.
I sell false love at the weekend. I sell romance. I get them to pick me up and tell me secrets and buy me champagne. I take their money and sit on their laps and promise everything is real.
This is the difference. Romance is nothing without love. Trite cliché gestures are just distractions. Money, holidays, decadence, they are nothing without love. The question is whether love will ever come again. Do these men I know love me? They know I do not want a monogamous settled life and still they say they love me. I stay, because I believe that I will never again look into the face of another and think that life could never be richer, or more wonderous. I will never willingly prefer death to a life apart.
Perhaps this is just growing older. Perhaps I am jaded. Perhaps despite my honesty I’m abusing people who do feel like this about me.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a stripper.
Last night was pretty good. I made money, AND I had a good time – an unusual combination. Loved meeting Daddy Julian, a huge guy dressed in beautifully expensive clothes on a stag do for some Average Joe, who was wearing a short sleeved gingham shirt like a lost member of The Village People. Julian was covered in tattoos, the one on his back a massive piece he got done using the traditional Ta Moko chisel and mallet technique when in New Zealand. He seemed pretty nails. With his full lips and round face I would have believed he had Pacific Islander or Maori blood in him, but no. He’s from Worcester. Of course.
The night had a good start – I’d found some eyelashes with rhinestones earlier that day, so I mean, how bad can things be after that. My eyes were literally sparkling. I was dripping with vintage jewels and I’d pulled my blonde hair into a glamorous 40’s style chignon. Dressed in killer underwear with not a hair on my body, I was a cross between Barbie and Grace Kelly, ready to drink my weight in champagne, and charm my way to wealth. Or Oblivion. Or both.
I started the nightly slowly, chatting to the girls in the club and getting my mood right. Mina told me she got so drunk last night that as she sat straddling a customer in box splits she fell off the sofa onto the floor backwards, legs akimbo. I’d put it on a par with flashing my tampon string, she said, as we laughed. We’ve all been there. Another girl walks over and tells me between giggles and looks of disgust that as she danced for a guy earlier she felt a warm wetness spreading through the guys lap. Cum or urine, what’s worse? 15 minutes and a lot of showering, disinfecting and retching later, she was back on the floor in clean new underwear.
We all face trials when we work the weekend, it’s a tough crowd – less business men and old men in general, and more stag parties and boys out on the town. When feeling kind I dismiss it by saying they’re just being drunken idiots. When feeling less generous I equate them to the violators rapists and ill doers of modern society, the menace women face at home and on the street. If they’ll grope me in a club where it is strictly forbidden, and where bouncers abound, what will they do behind closed doors to women with no such power? In saying that, most of them are, as I usually acquiesce, just drunken lads, who think that being in a lap dancing bar gives them power. Speaking to four men alone in suits last night, I asked in my sweetest tone- “How come you well dressed guys are sitting alone when there’s so many women in the club?” Because the only two fit ones are in the toilet, one of them replied. “Oh,” I said. “They’re probably looking for some fit men.” I was about to walk away but what he’d said was just so fucking rude I changed my mind and turned around. “you,” I said, pointing my finger at him “are a cunt”. They left pretty soon after, I guess their chat wasn’t getting the hot girls they’d hoped for.
It is not the ones with shit quips and power issues who are truly difficult however, it’s the ones who break your heart. Men with paralysed wives, PTSD, men so desperate for love they believe they’ll find it in the world of sexual commerce. A broken man for a broken woman sounds like good old-fashioned compromise, but the reality is that in those situations only one of us is broken, and it’s not me. So around 1am some boys bought their friend a dance from me, and I led him into the dance room. Upon sitting down he moved into the corner of the sofa and asked me to sit next to him, telling me he didn’t want a dance. He was shy and wouldn’t look at me, fidgety and uncomfortable. I tried to ask him why not, and amongst all the false starts, stammering and catching of breath, all I caught was that he was “different”. I obviously presumed he was gay, but unable to tell the laddish friends he was with. Then he blurted out “I’ve got no hand”. Although surprising, this, to me, was inconsequential. What does one left hand matter? It’s nothing to be upset about! “Oh! But that doesn’t make a difference to me, silly! One hand and a cock is all any woman needs anyway!” I was being jocular in the hopes that it would relax him enough to let him have a good time. Instead he began to cry through harsh breaths and apologies, and I just thought Shit, this is serious. He told me it’s ruined his life. That he’s tried to kill himself. That no one will ever want him. I countered that a missing left hand is absolutely nothing to stop someone finding love, that he is a beautiful, sensitive person and if girls aren’t seeing that they are fannys who shouldn’t have time wasted on them anyway. He wouldn’t have it. I’ll be fine, he reassured me, as he kneaded his knuckles into his watering eyes, I’ll go home and call someone, and if worst comes to worst I’ll slash myself.
I’ll slash myself.
I walked out of the darkness of the dance room with a bright smile ready for the next stranger. I hoped he wouldn’t be one of the ones to say he wants to see me in a bath of blood, or marry me, or cry in my arms. I hoped he wouldn’t want to touch and lick my feet or talk dirty. For once, it would be nice if my job could just be about getting naked. You know, stripping.
I know this is very out of the blue, and i should probably have spent more
time thinking about exactly what to say, however, today at home i came
across a very old copy of “A Passage To India” and remembered what i had
forgotten. its been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and a lot has
happened for both of us I’m sure. D- the crux is, I’m writing because I’m
ashamed of the way i acted when we knew each other. i was troubled at the
time, and where men were concerned i was utterly lost for a multitude of
reasons, however i was also just young and feckless and ingracious and
didn’t appreciate any of the things you tried to do because i was so busy
looking in all the wrong places. Now i see that i was wrong, and I’m sorry.
This is so inelequent it’s a joke, though i hope you understand what it is
I’m trying to put across. I’ve been away from E- the past year or so
but I’ve come back and i see you around all the time. I’d really like it if
we could say hi again, I’d love to know how youre doing.
Precious, how are you feeling? I’m not sure how to go about writing this but I’ll just try to get down some things that ought to be said, notwithstanding any irrelevence after last night’s drama. Understand that I love you and think you’re the simply most elegant dream creature. Seeing you at home with your brothers and mother I was moved by the empathy and tolerance you have, never showing a hint of perturbance. Family can be revealing, bringing out the worst, and it made me glad to see your strength of character so deep set. It puts me to shame. I don’t know who I am to you, why you’ll be so vulnerable and trusting with me, why you ignored me the whole of last night between greeting and parting, why you’ll put up with so much from skin-crawl men when not all of us are that horrid really, or why my attempts to reach you seemingly bore you; but know that I’ll be here for you as friend or brother, whichever you feel the call for.