I started working in strip clubs when I was in University. A girl I knew was asked to be a shooter girl at a seedy place on Kipling Ave. I drove her to pick up an application and before you knew it we were both working. She was nineteen so it only took her a month or so to get fired for doing too much coke during business hours. Before you knew it we were both out of work.
The last time I talked to her she was trying to break up with her boyfriend that beat her and cheated on her repeatedly. He bought her really nice Christmas presents, though. I’ve never had a boyfriend give me a watch. I’ve never had a boyfriend during any major holiday.
A year later I started at another place way up on Dixie. Since I already didn’t feel like I belonged at University, I didn’t make a habit of telling people I worked at a peeler. But it was not an unhappy secret. I walked around amongst the stuffed shirts and future leaders of this nation with a certain smirk. I know a world that you don’t talk about…I know a world that you judge as worthless, but it’s not. It’s deep and filled with the most interesting characters and most importantly it’s honest.
I’ve had a lot of jobs but I never worked anywhere where the truth about sex is practically written on the walls. My whole adult life I had to ignore my bosses/ professors when they asked me for kisses or out for lunch when their wives were gone. There is no misconception about what is bought and sold once you walk through the doors of a Brampton strip joint. After I had worked there a couple of months, I realized that a couple of professors were probably regulars at their local strip clubs, too.
The strippers themselves are unremarkable. You can not look at these girls on the street and know that they are strippers. Very few are what you would call pretty. They are fat, thin, flat chested, implanted or blessed by God. They are short, tall, black, white, blonde, brunette and in one case redheaded. They dance because they want to, because they got kids, because they are uneducated without skills, because they love the money, because they need a vocation where they can be drunk and/or high or because they just arrived from Eastern Europe (they wander around asking customers “Vant dance?”).
A few are addicts but most are merely managing an addiction and, yes, there is a difference. Some create personas: the schoolgirl (complete with braces), the dominatrix, the blonde wig. One girl even got up on stage and stripped while floating around on roller-skates. They called her “Roller Girl” from the movie Boogie Nights. All her piercings, including those in her nipples and in her clit, glowed under the black light.
They are real women. They have stretch marks, bad teeth, wrinkles. The truth about sex is written on their faces. Despite the outfits, make-up, wigs or in spite of it, they are not selling a fantasy. They are not selling an ideal. They are real live women from Oshawa, North Bay and British Columbia. They are merely selling their time. It is not vacuous sex that brings most men through the doors; it’s the promise of female companionship.
Even as a waitress, every night one of my tables asks me to sit down and have a drink. At first I tried to keep up my end of the conversation but before long I realized that wasn’t required and somehow unpleasant for them. You just smile now and then and agree or disagree depending. You don’t even have to look them in the eye. They will tell you secrets because you are a stranger. They will tell you the truth. Invariably, they will tip me afterwards, pressing tens or twenties into my hand.
“What’s this for?”
“I just wanted to talk to you”, they’ll say.