“Buy me a drink/ sing me a song/ take me as I come ’cause I can’t stay long.”
–Tom Petty, Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Of course I bought shit to wear in Paris. Jeez, Mom.
This one’s for dinner, because I hear they have that in France:
Then this one’s for New Years’ Eve. Except it fits me better. And my shoes are sluttier:
Now here’s a question for my readers: HOW DO I PACK THESE?
One look at his face and I knew the whole story before it even happened, but that’s not the kind of thing you can just walk up and say to some boy sitting in a coffee shop. What freaked my twenty-one year-old mind was that he felt the same way. When after months of stilted, difficult conversation we finally made the journey from my front porch to my twin bed, he said, “I have dreams about you.” And I knew exactly what he meant because of course I had dreams about him too. Looking back, only a complete dummy or the extremely arrogant would believe that things would just be that easy; that our commingled dreams would simply manifest themselves in our current reality as seamlessly as a bird landing on the tree branch its been thinking about all winter. But that’s not right, either–too cerebral, without allowances made for that mushy-headed side effect of constant, obsessive sex.
Back then I had this little blue plaid jumper that had once been part of someone else’s school uniform. It was a kid’s size 12. Let’s just say that I was always sure to wear nice underwear when I put it on with my black Doc Martens and stepped out into a spring so full of soft-focus life that I was petrified at the thought it would end. Had I been more Bridgitte Bardot than Jean Seberg, some stranger on the street would probably have called me a whore and put a stop to the dress much sooner. As it was, the draft felt good and my man had these big hands that would fit over my butt cheeks like they were baseballs every time I wore it. Plus, I was fairly certain that the world would end at any moment and in that case, I wanted to go out fucking. This certainty became more and more pathological as spring turned into summer. By July, I was as brittle as a cicada husk and the only time I felt safe was when I was snuggled against H’s enormous chest.
But listen, the spring will make anyone crazy. There’s a week every year, right when the city’s tame little treelets break into a wild froth of sperm-smelling white blossoms, that you start seeing dead baby birds on the sidewalk if you’re looking for them. Here’s the gentle sun making filigree of the cement through the flowers, here’s that sweet warm breeze tickling your legs, here’s the whisper-quiet rustling of new promises–oh, and down there? A fluffy little gray and yellow casualty, crushed by its own meager weight after a fall from a tree barely bigger than a grown man. That spring, I felt like the bird and the flowers and the sky as well as myself in a slutty school uniform dress trailing on legs shaky from all this shit behind a man who seemed, with his stooped shoulders and Brothers Grimm plaid, to be the only terra firma I’d ever known. And, well, we all know the one about the bird and the sidewalk.
All this has less to do with love and more to do with the excruciatingly beautiful torture-by-sweetness that is Provence Sante’s Tilleul Eau de Toilette. It’s all right there in the bottle: the dried-honey brittleness of hay, the startling lewdness of a lot of flowers blooming at the same time, the tender wafty kiss of a miniskirt draft, the comfortingly sad promise of the old story being told exactly as it was and exactly how it was always going to be. And thank God I found a new perfume to not wear in honor of my upcoming twenty-seventh birthday, upon which I am giving up tragedy forever.
Illustration from Stories and Fables: Childcraft #2: The How and Why Library. Maaaan, I was raised on this shit and had forgotten about it until just now. The next time I’m in my parents’ house, I’m taking all of them back with me.
Well, boys and girls, I’m back on the pole. Not everyone, it seems, is cut out for waiting tables, myself among them. I was in the tight spot of having quit a perfectly viable job that I hated a month and a half before an already-planned trip to Europe for the holidays. And a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, and this particular girl has a rather long and ornate history of doing just that.
I probably could have gone back to my last club, but the idea of looking whoever had to clean out my disgusting locker after I left in the eye was almost as unappealing as the idea of going back to the place that had finally burned me out. I’d been drunk and miserable at the Crazy Horse, and even the comparatively professional environment and potential to make a huge pile of hundreds without trying very hard were not enough to coax me into turning it around. Plus, I didn’t feel like seeing anyone I knew or answering any questions or facing up to any bad behavior I may have indulged in while drunk, miserable, and at the end of my rope. The idea was to find somewhere divey, get in, make some cash, get back out again, and go to Europe. I mean, that’s still the idea.
The place I ended up consists of one small room with a bar, a two-pole stage up against the back wall, and rows of tables and chairs set up facing the stage. This arrangement lends the place the not unpleasant vibe of an impromptu dirty movie theater set up in the basement of some other, more respectable establishment. The dressing room is downstairs, through a maze of cement-floored hallways. The floor is covered with scrap carpeting and there are a few unframed mirrors propped up along the walls, next to the lockers. On rainy days, one of the walls leaks rather spectacularly, calling to mind a Japanese water sculpture as it trickles through a hole in the wall onto a pile of construction scraps. My new club will not win any hospitality design awards, but it’s serviceable enough for my purposes. Divey strip clubs just make more sense to me than leopard-carpeted pretensions of luxury. Is the entire industry not built around an uncomplicated promise of boozy, slummy titillation?
Besides, the grit and grime are a necessary prop for me to do what I’ve come to think of as my thing. My blonde pageboy and proper English are as kinkily freakish in this setting as a long furry tail, turning my lapdances into magical souvenirs from the kind of place where some nice normal girl you might see in the supermarket or a bookstore will fall into your lap for the bargain price of all of your money. I play this up with minimal makeup, demure lingerie, and the unexpected four-syllable word. Lots of strippers do this, and do it really well. But at this club, I pretty much have the monopoly on this schtick. My first week back on the pole, unlike my entire stint as a waitress, has been full of all the attendant triumph of doing something one is good at. And I find myself profoundly grateful that I am still capable of not only stripping, but finding again the place where it is a powerful expression of myself in my element, full of all the crazy fuck-you sensual exuberance I was taught to keep under my shirt like a good girl.
The hardest thing about stripping, for my lazy ass, is that it’s completely chaotic. You show up when you want, or not, you only have a boss in the loosest possible sense of the word, and if you feel like sitting around getting drunk and not making a penny all night, no one’s even going to helpfully suggest that this behavior might be counterintuitive. I fell into the bad habit at my last stripping job of living wad-of-cash to wad-of-cash, going into work only when I was down to my last ten bucks in the world and then panicking when the money wasn’t coming in as easily as I would have liked. This time around, I needed a plan, an incentive, a system. First of all, I made a schedule that I’ve promised myself to stick to even when I am fully aware that nothing will happen if I don’t. Secondly, I bought myself a bottle of L’Occitane Eau de Miel and hid it in my locker so I can’t even get at it unless I’m working.
This has been working out well so far because the lighthearted lilac-honeysuckle-beeswax tease of Eau de Miel is something I fell in love with recently enough for its absence in my perfume cabinet to feel like a genuine loss. It’s amusing to me that I’ve become so proficient at bait-and-switch that I can even do it to myself, but Eau de Miel has proven itself quite the bait, enough to get me into work. Another unlikely point in Eau de Miel’s water-based favor is its fleetingness, something that would be a problem if I were not wearing it in a setting where skin proximity is of inevitable importance. But most importantly, Eau de Miel conjures up an olfactory springscape of hazy light filtered through treetops, virginal laughter, and bees buzzing drunkenly through an open bar of newly-opened blossoms. It’s far more maypole than stripper pole, which works in perfect harmony with my carefree college nymph alter-ego as well as reminding me not to take myself or my job so seriously. Eau de Miel is, for me, is about fun, not sex. But try to tell that to all the random men I’ve heard shamelessly snuffling at my neck during the dozens of lapdances I’ve performed in the past week. I suppose that could be, as most things are, more about context than content.