"I'm just me, in sluttier clothes."

The Aussie and I are sitting at the front bar, enjoying a tasty adult beverage at the beginning of our shift. I rather like chatting with her, she's in the 99th percentile of exceptional women in that club. She's an incredibly serene and old soul, one of those people who has stories and wisdom that seem to surpass the years of her current lifespan. I like to talk with her about sex (she's got similar predilections to mine, and is never shocked by my stories, just happy for me), work (she's been doing this longer, and is far more skilled than I will probably ever become), and sex work (wicked smart, this woman can wax theory and keep up with my ivory-tower-educated ass). On this particular evening, we're discussing our strategies for relating to customers. We're both very similar in that we find it downright impossible to employ personae; instead, we feel as though we simply highlight and/or suppress certain aspects of ourselves in order to form emotional/intellectual/sexualized connections with various clients. Actually, those are my words, which makes sense, because that's basically half of my master's thesis topic in a nutshell. What she said was this:

“When I'm connecting, I truly believe in people, like I am giving, and that people are truly good. If I can project and make it a better day for them, then fine. My kindness isn't only presented to people who will pay. Other girls reserve that kindness for the paying customers, and that's why you and I aren't starving to death.”

She's touched on a few issues that are absolutely central to our work: the ability to relate to almost anyone, and the ability to give (or sell) love. She and I have similar strategies for interacting with customers and potentially extracting money from their wallets: we just talk. If I don't feel a connection with someone, if the conversation doesn't flow smoothly, I don't ask them if they'd like a dance; if the chemistry isn't there, I tell them to have fun and I leave. You'd be amazed at the random shit you learn from people with this kind of game plan. Last night I learned about golf. And how walmart killed a small town in Oklahoma. Four nights ago, I learned that a married man desperately wanted to be fucked in the ass, but had never told his wife (definitely not the first time I've heard that one).

But the Aussie's point is that we don't have to be paid in order to listen, at least at first. Our job is to connect, relate, engage. We'll do that for a moment for free before we decide we need to move on (a classic rookie mistake is to do this for too long and then lose insurmountable sums of cash along the way), we don't simply walk up and ask someone if they'd like a dance. I absolutely have to feel like I could sit down for a meal with someone before I'll offer them my more corporeal services. My rules become even stricter with potential “regulars.” The Aussie and I are of the opinion that this makes us highly exceptional at what we do; there are always bits and pieces of our “real” selves included in the relationships we form with customers, no matter if that relationship lasts for five minutes, five hours, or five months. Even years. We sell companionship. We are Texas courtesans in trashy outfits. We are ourselves, only in sluttier clothes.

Case in point: the other night I was very mentally distracted by the awesomeness that had just transpired in my bed with a darling new boy. I couldn't really engage, I was lost in my own head. Sometimes after a vacation or a particularly-entralling break from work, it can be very difficult to “fake it” after being so “real.” Sometimes realness can't be suppressed for the sake of show. On nights like this, I prefer to do a dance here, a dance there, not converse a whole lot, to sell more of my body than my personality. So I'm wandering around playing the who's-going-to-make-and-hold-eye-contact game, and I happen across a Pakistani gentleman in a corner. He seems interested, and I wait <1 song to ask, “So, would you like me to dance for you?” Two things are of note here: First: I normally don't approach middle eastern men, because I generally find them to be both handsy and cheap. They'll grope the shit out of me for a song or two but not plunk down enough cash for subsequent dances to make my efforts worthwhile. Also, usually they either smell bad and/or wear too much cologne. (Yes, I know, that's racist. But we're strippers. We profile. Deal with it). But in my distracted state, I hadn't made much, and I was getting kindof desperate, and he held my gaze, so I approached. Second: the manner in which I transitioned from smalltalk into dancing was a bit odd for me. As aforementioned, I normally wait until I have a mental/emotional connection with a customer before moving into money-extraction mode. But I didn't have a connection with him, rather, I didn't have a connection with anyone that night because I was so distracted, so I figured I'd just play it simple and go for dances right off the bat. Also, the way in which I asked, would he like me to dance for him, was rather submissive, which I also figured (in my racist profiling mindset) would play into his culturally-imbibed patriarchal tendencies.

I got what I asked for. I got approximately three and a half minutes of groping in exchange for $20. I felt like a cheap whore. Then I left. Normally I leave a customer feeling as though I've actually made a difference in their day, their mood, or perhaps (and ideally) changed their mind about what they consider a stereotypical stripper. I didn't feel anything but dirty when I walked away from Pakistani dude.

The Aussie says that my “truth” shines through in a more effortless way than hers, that she has to work at it more. Maybe that's why she makes more money than I do, because it's easier for her to hide.

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