#sirsasana #headstand #yoga #stripper #yogastripper #strippertricks #boredatwork
I wear many hats. I spin many plates. Not only am I a standup comic, occasional burlesque performer, brand new yoga teacher and lazily irregular blogger, I’m also a dirty stripper. I guess the technical term for my job is “private dancer”, you know, “a dancer for money, do what you want me to do”, as Tina Turner sang. Sometimes it’s called “lingerie modeling”, but I don’t see any reason to afford the job that much class. I’m a stripper, and I work at a jackshack. I do private, fully-nude, 1-on-1 shows for masturbating men in an 8x8 room with a non-ironic red light.
I was working a few weeks ago, and around midnight, a customer came in. He looked like every other customer. Thinning hair, khakis, stupid-ass polo shirt, reeking of defeat. I asked if he wanted a show, and he said..
“Well yes, but…ummm…I want to try something…weird…”
How adorable, he thinks he’s into something “weird”. Everyone thinks they’re into something weird, and the truth is, none of it shocks me anymore. I’ve had a customer who just looked inside my vagina with a flashlight for 20 minutes. I made a nail appointment while giving a golden shower. My eyebrows have not raised incredulously since the 90’s. Before you bother calling something weird, know your audience.
"What would you like to try, sweetie?"
"…a strap-on…”, he whispered, looking around embarrassed-like, as though there was someone else in this ghost town of a jackshack that might have the nerve to judge him. We’re standing in a grimy facility that hosts alternatively-niched sex parties every weekend, and hasn’t been deep-cleaned since business was good. The place is so thickly layered in dirty energy that I’m convinced the floor has AIDS. No one’s looking down their nose at a strap-on.
I said “You buy it, we’ll do it.”, and directed him to the sex shop in front. I went back to the dressing room and began to get comfy again, because usually, when you tell a customer that they have to buy accessories for their kink, they leave instead. Not in anger, they’re just cheap. They pretend to look at the merchandise, making their way around the store, from the stockings to the dildos to the vibrators to the bondage gear, to the strap-ons, to the butt plugs, and right out the front door.
So when the customer signal light came back on, I was more than surprised. Holy shit, this motherfucker was calling my bluff. See, I’d never fucked a man’s ass before. I stay away from man-ass, it’s just not where I want to be. I’m not judging those who adore man-ass, but ever since I opened my eyes in the bottom position of an unfortunate daylight 69-ing with an unhygienic 1-man band, I stay far away from man-ass. I have long nails that have no place in man-ass. I will not give you a rim job, no matter how of my pictures you like on FB..
So there he stood in the lobby area, with a bright blue dildo (not a strap-on) in his shaking hands. I took him to my room to get comfortable. I myself was a little shaky too, because I know that this is a situation where the blind should not be leading the blind. I could’ve given the show to my more-seasoned co-worker, but with business being so slow, I have to grab every dollar I see, and not let go. So I went back to the dressing room, and asked her for a quick primer on what to do and how to do it. She waved her hand dismissively and said “You just…do it.”
Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? You just put peg A in slot B. So simple.
I returned to my room, and asked him to tell me exactly what he wanted. Turns out, he wanted spanking and humiliation, in addition to the dildo-play, so I thought, “Awesome! I’ll just make him suck it while I spank him and tell him what a little bitch he is, and he’ll be so into the sensory overload, that he won’t even notice that I don’t fuck his ass.”
And that’s the plan I put into effect, which worked beautifully, me hissing at him “suck that rubber dick, you little bitch-boy” while spanking the fuck out of his ass. And I mean, I was spanking like my life depended on it, using my hands, as well as a thick leather strap that was left in the room by the girl working before me. I really put some shoulder into it, raising welts very quickly. Things were going along swimmingly, and then he looked up at me and asked “Are you gonna…use it on me?”
“Umm…do you really want me to?”
He nodded enthusiastically.
More nodding, so I took a deep breath, steeled myself, picked up the dildo in one hand, and a bottle of lube in the other. Now he was already down on the ground in Child’s Pose, ass exposed, and slightly spread, so I poured lube down his crack, and all over the dildo as well. I began to softly prod the target, and noticed how slippery the dildo was. I could see this causing some sort of mishap, probably resulting in me breaking a nail, so I grabbed a clean jizz-towel, wrapped the base of the dildo with it for a secure grip, and headed back to work in the saltmines. I dicked around with it (pardon the expression), teasing his asshole, pushing really gently at first. The head popped in, and I took that as the green light to follow my co-workers advice, and I just DID IT. I shoved it in all the way, all at once, and with a little bit of force.
He made a noise that blended a whimper and a not-so-sexy moan, and as I began pulling out, it became very clear that he was not lying about his inexperience as part of the fantasy, this was indeed his first time. He hadn’t yet learned about preparations one must make for such an intrusive event.
I “stuck in my thumb, and pulled out a plum”. And then some. The towel looked like a Jackson Pollack, if he worked in the medium of shit. I pulled my hand away, jumped back and tried to figure out what the fuck to do. I stood with my arms spread in a “whatthefuckdoIdonow” position, my eyes stretched open as wide as they’d go, scanning the tiny, slightly humid room for something -anything- to fix the situation, but saw no button or dial to turn back time. After a fraction of a second, which felt like a fucking decade, I regained as much composure as I could while gagging from the smell, thought quick, and told him to reach back and do it himself, that he needed to fuck his own man-pussy like the little bitch-boy that he is. I didn’t want him to feel bad or ashamed for his beginner’s ignorance, so I just tried to make it part of the game.
He sat back onto it, quickly finished, cleaned up, and as I walked him to the door he said “You know, you really do provide a valuable service”…and goes on and on about the psychological, physiological, sociological, and therapeutic benefits and gifts that I give through my job. All the same justifications that I used on myself to soften the sting of paying bills through handjobs, not jokes. THIS is the guy who gets it. Of course. The man whose ass I just turned into an actively erupting volcano is the one that gets it.
As I opened the door*, he turned to me for a hug and said, “Well, I guess I can check that off my bucket list”.
All I could do was give him a high-five, and send him back into the world, to cry in his mini-van for 20 minutes before going home to his wife.
* I was going to say, “I popped open the back door for him”, but then realized how redundant that would be…
This was taken at the peepshow early in 2013. The name of this yoga pose is Sirsasana A, or headstand, in English.
I first did this move/pose on the pole at the strip club I worked at previous to the peepshow. Once I was upside-down, I’d use the sharp heels of my shoes to drag my fishnet stockings down my legs (right foot took down left stocking, left foot/right stocking). It was the only thing I did at the stripclub that came close to being special (or at least it felt special to me, no one else did it). It seems like nothing, compared to the ridicu-mazing things I’ve seen done on the pole, but this was the move that got me hired at the peepshow. The manager was so impressed with it that he didn’t even notice that I forgot to take off my top. I was so nervous, that I forgot to strip during my audition to be a stripper. Yoga to the rescue. Again. And not for the last time, unbeknownst to me.
Yoga has been with me for a long time, and tonight I took my RYT-200 certification exam (Registered Yoga Teacher, 200 hours). I feel pretty conflicted about the whole thing. Please don’t confuse what I say in this blog with me being unhappy about completing a super-intense training program, I’m the opposite. I’m proud of myself for completing it, and happy to give my mother something to be proud of me for, after so long without anything that didn’t require explaining/justifying/qualifying/searching for the goodness. I also understand the nature of change, and grief, and how difficult it is. I am currently in the upset resistance phase, not the content acceptance one.
I love yoga, both for body and mind benefits, and am looking forward to teaching, but I have a backup plan now, which I never wanted. It means something terribly shameful to me, it says that I’m aware and accepting of the very real possibility that things won’t work out the way I want in my chosen profession, largely due to my own fear of failure/success, I’m sure. I’m having trouble with that. I’ve always taken solace in my potential as a comic, or the illusion of it. Now I’m stagnant from fear of rejection, the fear that all the bookers who didn’t think I was good enough in 1999 still won’t. I’m better, but they won’t see it, because I’ve changed, I’ve grown, but they haven’t. I guess I felt like having to hustle at shitty throwaway side jobs would somehow help me get my “comedy career” (yep, it’s sunk to the low point of using quotation marks) back on track by creating enough discomfort to dislodge me from the fear-paralysis, into action. It worked once while I was waitressing in Kansas City, but it hasn’t worked with stripping, and I can list a million reasons why, most of which would make you roll your eyes right out of your head.
For me, there’s a certain amount of fantasy involved in “making it” (after being discovered at a Woolworth’s soda counter after taking a time-machine back to 1957, I must assume, bc I have no other leads on being seen by anyone who could/would help me) and having the triumphant “you can do it, too!” tale to tell of stripper-to-success, of making terrible decisions from the heart, not the head, leading to horrible outcomes and still turning it all around to end up on top, beloved, smiling and paying my bills fully and on-time. Contrived to inspire, that’s me. A life made difficult for the story, perhaps.
I look at this photo, and I remember how happy I was that day. I remember how oddly content I was at the peepshow, the first year (though I’d have protested that statement at the time). It was easy, it was distracting, it was a security blanket, but like the ones that the Pilgrims gave the Indians. Functional for wrapping up in to keep warm, but full of sickness that is contagious as fuck. That’s the blanket I’ve used as my fort for a lifetime, which is frustrating, because my logical brain knows better. Unfortunately, my fantastical brain, that romantic daydream imagination space found inside the fort, always feels like a less confrontational place to hang-out. It really grew out of control, like killer ivy in a horror movie that hasn’t been made yet. It developed big muscles from all the exercise it got. It grew much more dominant than the cold, minimalist prison-cell-esque room where logic lives. That big asshole imagination of mine was impressionable and grew up big and strong and delusional from watching too many movies with victorious music during the credits. It imprinted on my soul the belief that fictional happy endings are possible in reality. That breakdancing really can save the rec center. That Samantha could really end up kissing Jake over a birthday cake, that Blaine would actually find Andie special/unique/unforgettable enough to stand up to his rich teenage dickhole social group for her love. It’s always about Molly Ringwald or breakdancing with me, I can’t explain it, sorry, just another character flaw…
One of my favorite quotes ever is from Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”. Those stars are mermaids, luring my boat onto the rocks with songs of being important, significant, recognized for contributing something that will outlast my corporeal body. I made an effort to do more than look, to make something impactful out of it, to share my human experience, and all my effort sits in hard drives collecting dust, while I try to avoid doing the same, because what I have in unique ideas, I lack in tangible resources. When I first moved to LA, my friend Tim told me that success comes when you’ve given up on it. He said that “Flo” from the Progressive commercials had her car packed to move back to wherever she came from, and at that moment of letting go of her dream, she got the part.
Not much disgusts me with myself more than my own inability to kill the little bean in my head that believes in these fairy tales, in happy endings. It’s what we all want, I think, it’s just that “happy” is such a subjective word. Personally, I want my motherfucking fantastical happy ending, not just an acceptable one patched together from all these goddamned silver linings.And to quote Shakespeare, like assholes always do, “Aye, there’s the rub”
I had a rather unpleasant experience over the weekend involving a few ignorant motherfuckers who don’t understand the concept of boundaries, and it made me think about the multitudinous times that I’ve fallen prey to (and perhaps, myself, even violated) the blurry, blurry lines of what’s acceptable, and what’s intrusional in the erotic performing arts (burlesque, mostly). I don’t like feeling as though I’m not allowed to not want to see everyone-under-the-sun’s full moon. I don’t like feeling as though I’m a prude, or a fun-spoiler, just because I don’t like letting some asshole that I have no familiarity with pawing at me, touching me, grabbing me, showing me things I didn’t ask to see, and generally making me feel gropey-grandpa-gross.
Recently, on Facebook, I received a message from some guy I don’t know in the tactile world, but am friends with on FB. [Sometimes, I will accept requests from people I don’t know, based on two things we have in common: performance genres and mutual friends. I used to use cities as a qualifier as well, and I don’t recommend that.] So this very-near stranger sends me a private message. The preview lines show lovely sentiments about how much the guy enjoyed my video clips and blog, so I open this fucking thing, and am smacked in the eyeballs with a picture of this idiot’s furry ass, one cheek partially spread. First thing in the morning. Landed right on a landmine with my first step out of the tent…
Now, this wasn’t the first time some random dude has sent me an unwanted picture of some body part in various states of undress, but this was the first time I decided not to gracefully ignore it. I posted a status about it, calling out this guy, as well as the last douchebag that did it (using first names only). What followed was a long thread of logic and common sense vs ignorance, with the douchebag guy, and some other random dickhole proving themselves to be willfully fuckbrained, one arguing that I have to expect this sort of thing, and accept it, because I am a stripper. The other saying that he wasn’t sorry because he likes his ass and thinks he has the right to show it to whomever he pleases. So allow me to expound upon why both of these arguments are flawed piles of steaming shit.
To the jackass who feels he has the right to expose himself to whomever he chooses, in whatever manner he chooses: It is not your right to force me to see you naked. It is my right to not have to see you naked, or to define the acceptable terms under which you get the privilege of my viewing. If you post any sort of pictures on your own FB timeline, and they come up in my newsfeed because we are friends online, I have consented through the approval of your friend request, and can handle it by hiding your posts if I don’t want to see them. BUT - Sending pictures directly to me, unsolicited, is bullshit. If we’ve never shaken hands, why the fuck would you think, in all honesty, that it’s a good idea? Are you offering yourself to me? Why the fuck would I take you up on that? Has that ever worked in the past? If so, there’s a million reasons why it did, and none of them involve respect. I have no idea of any other specific goal you have with this action, beyond the usual pathological motivations of a flasher. Because without consent, that’s all you are. A creature in an internet overcoat, exposing yourself to joggers in the park.
Now, if I buy a ticket to a show in which you are appearing naked, I have given my consent, my approval, my enthusiasm. I love appreciating good, quality erotic entertainment. I like performing it, as well.
I like stripping for an audience, most of the time. I am an exhibitionist, but a respectful one. To quote from my own work: “I’m not a pervert, flashing kids my bits. I DO IT RIGHT, I’M HERE ONSTAGE, JIGGLING MY TITS…”. It’s not just a cute rhyming of words, I really mean it. If you need to expose yourself, do it the right way, the respectful way. It’s very easy to find entire enclaves of willing, consensual voyeurs, either in audiences, or in internet groups, or on Craigslist.
Linking being an erotic performer with being obligated to see whatever someone wants to show me is bullshit. Same goes for being okay with anyone touching me or talking to me however they’d like. I am a human performer, not a blow-up doll, or a picture in a magazine. Those are the eroticities that need not consent. Make note of the difference: if it has a pulse, it must consent. [Necros, I won’t even fuck with you, do your thing and clean up afterwards.] I might give you the boner, but doing or knowing anything about it isn’t my obligation. What we do onstage does not equal consent offstage. I will continue to reiterate that, because I don’t think it can be said enough.
It’s even worse when the aggressor is one of our own.
I once did a series of gigs far away from home, with a group of performers whom I love very much, and consider to be very trusted friends. Shortly after our arrival, we got settled in our first hotel, and gathered together in the room I was in to discuss our evening plans. The man who was our host, one of the people in charge of the series of gigs we were doing, had met me in person maybe twice, and Skyped with me to discuss terms of the gig once. My point being, we were not close friends. I was in my bed, miserable from a long flight with sinus and allergy problems. He came into the room, and layed down on top of me, on my bed. Go ahead, read that shit again. Over the next several days, he continued to behave this way, groping and grabbing, and telling me things such as “I punish my dick in the shower while thinking of you.”. I was a good sport for as long as I could stomach it, and then I shut down and began avoiding him. If I didn’t look at him, or talk to him, or put myself in grab-able proximity, he couldn’t fuck with me, and I could just finish this miserable trip and go home where I felt safe. At one point, when confronted, I lied and said that I had recently been assaulted at work, and didn’t want to be touched. I guess, since I was getting paid for these gigs, it was actually technically the truth. I just needed to have a reason, and because this guy wasn’t professional enough to treat me with dignity, I couldn’t be comfortable assuming that he could be told to keep his hands and personal shower practices to himself without it somehow having negative consequences for me. See, he refused to recognize himself as the problem, hiding under the flawed logic of “hey, this is burlesque, this is how we treat each other” (familiarity does change boundaries, but again, we were not well-enough acquainted for that to be the case), and bitched to his wife about my attitude. She came and pulled me away from the group to speak with me, like a fucking schoolteacher. Now, the wife, I adore. I empathize with her situation. But it infuriated me to have to dance on the uncomfortable line of telling her exactly why I didn’t want to be around this guy, and just being vague enough to get through the experience and express my feelings via a blog in the future. The situation created tension, and made me feel really uncomfortably vulnerable for far too long. I was in a place where I knew virtually no one locally, and had only inconsistent communication with people back at home. I felt endangered and unable to take care of myself, should my hosts decide to ditch me because I wasn’t the fun punching bag of dirty jokes that they expected. I’ve felt the after-effects of this shit since then, and have pulled back on traveling, which used to be my greatest performer’s joy. Since 1996, I’ve loved working the road, now I love being wherever I’m assured of being able to control my environment enough to feel safe.
I see it all the time, though. People taking advantage of their involvement with the erotic arts to get their disrespectful rocks off (for free by creeping out on people who deserve respect for their talent and hard work instead), and those people so damaged and desperate to feel wanted that they eat up any ANY sexualized attention as good attention. It’s a shittily perfect pairing, unfortunately, and one that I know I’ve bought into at certain points in my life and career. But not anymore, and it makes me so sad now, to see other people enmeshed in that dynamic, but also hopeful that one day they’ll hit their wall too, and start demanding the respect that their artistic commitment deserves.
This doesn’t mean that the world should be a no-fun-zone, I’m not saying that I don’t laugh and love it when one of my friends grabs my ass, or sexts me, but that’s because when my friends do it, it doesn’t feel icky. There’s different boundaries and comfort levels with different people, depending on closeness. To me, It feels like the imposing assholes don’t know that, or ignore the nagging suspicion of it, and are taking advantage of their backstage pass, reinforcing the bullshit notion that burlesque is just another way for a human to parade themselves as an object for a theater full of your-daddy-with-a-different-faces to “validate” however they want. Stop it. We are artists, not objects. We are onstage for our own reasons, not theirs. Don’t let the few bad apples that made their way into the Waldorf salad of burlesque (or any other erotic performance art) devalue your sexuality instead of empowering it. People that are not in your comfort zone should not grope you without asking (or for free, in my opinion), or do anything that shows you less respect than you truly deserve, which sadly, is more than many of us think we do. and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, that we do onstage, or off, nullifies our right to have, and hold firm, our boundaries.
Tomorrow is my 3-year anniversary as a resident of Los Angeles.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for mere months, but then there’s those other times, when it feels like it’s been longer than anyone should be forced to exist. I’m losing steam, I’m feeling raw, sad, and disgustingly vulnerable, which is my least favorite position. Like, I hate it more than face-to-face-on-the-side (I like the face-to-face part, but the on-the-side fucks everything up geometrically).
My life in LA started off strong. I hear that happens a lot. I was full of energy and believed in every possibility. I got auditions for non-porn stuff on Craigslist, was on a couple tv shows (Brides of Beverly Hills, America’s Court), and thought it meant I was something special, someone who could fast-track my success in this loving, flattering, friendly, insincere town. I hadn’t even fully unpacked from my move, and a goddamn fine-art photographer approached me while I was smoking outside of a restaurant, asking me if she could please do a shoot with me, for fuck’s sake. Talk about suckering me into the illusion. My need to believe that I could still be someone and do big somethings, and LA’s need to deceive made a zygote of delusion, that is now walking without holding onto furniture, and starting to potty-train. I might as well have been a fresh-off-the-bus girl sitting at a soda counter, sucking down a strawful of stupid.
This year, I did a bunch of shit I don’t remember. Lost friends, made friends, lost money, made money, lost love, made love, et cetera. I filmed a series of interviews in the peepshow where I was working, exposing myself completely to a bunch of comics (a few of whom didn’t recognize me with my clothes on, the next time we met) in exchange for their stories and experiences and opinions. It has been a much longer and more involved process than I expected, but it’s a quality product. Also, it gave me something to pretentiously refer to in conversation as “my project”.
It’s true that you start over when you get here. See, here in Oz, they don’t give a shit how much hay you baled in Kansas. I was an idiot for waiting so long to come here. I should’ve packed my bags the minute I had an inkling that I’d have to have some serious accomplishments to thrive on roadwork. Or when a big time manager (who has long-forgotten me, to my chagrin) told me I should’ve (I was 24). I’ve thought that it was good that I waited to come here until I’d found my “voice”, now I’m not so sure. I see the merit in coming out here before you’re fully ripened, toughening the skin during my formative comedy years would’ve been really helpful (at least in getting used to open-mics when I wasn’t so scared of the scathing judgment of the other comics). And maybe, when I was younger, I didn’t really know who I was, but at least back then, I was so full of hubris-fueled bravado, that I could convincingly pretend that I did. enough so to even believe my own bullshit, which might just be where self-confidence comes from, but that also might just be my theory. Today, I still don’t know who I am, but at least now I’m horribly aware of that fact.
If hope was a beautiful birthday cake, you’d be able to see plenty of the bottom of the plate where mine sits. The plate wouldn’t be totally empty, but the icing rosettes would be gone, and there’d be handfuls of cake missing (as though cutting slices was too civilized a manner in which to take it), with crumbs everywhere, and 3 burned out trick candles sitting in a cup of water a few inches away.
If overuse of metaphors and depression were currency, I’d own this fucking town.
As a phone sex operator, my name was Cherry, and I loved my regulars.
I had the wanna-be tranny, Miss S. Satin, who by day was a high-profile psychologist in a major metropolitan city (I wouldn’t want to be too specific, as she may be reading; we developed a friendship that extended beyond the phone.), and by night was a tortured soul in the suburbs, wearing the yoke of a bullshit marriage, instead of the cashmere sweater-dresses and knee-high Italian leather boots of which she dreamed of openly coveting. There was no graphic sex involved in her fantasies, it was mostly just domme girl-talk. I believe that the time I spent on the phone with her, which was always multiple hour stretches, is what led me to believe that what I was doing actually had some therapeutic benefit for the customers. I don’t think that’s entirely incorrect, either. But I do realize now that if you work with that altruistic attitude on your sleeve, it will be recognized and taken advantage of by even the sweetest of regular customer. One must never forget that everyone wants to get the most for their money, and in a business where so many lines are inconsistent and undefined, what the customer gets for the money he paid is always a game of tug-of-war.
There was Mark, who loved black women, and since Doreen hadn’t had any working on the day he first called, I was given the task of being not Cherry, but Cherita, a sassy mocha-skinned sexpot, who got into all sorts of sticky situations that allowed him to play the role of my savior. His favorite was when I’d get my toe stuck in the bathtub faucet during a bubble bath, and he, as my apartment superintendent, would hear my cries and come dislodge my toe, saving the day. Naturally, I’d be so grateful for his help, that I’d fuck him with wild African abandon, as a thank-you. Nevermind the fact that my “black woman” voice is about as convincing as Ann Coulter’s.
With phone sex, it isn’t about accuracy, it’s about enthusiasm.
That’s why Rick loved me. He liked to talk to Cherry, his teenage daughter who loved black men (seriously, there were a lot of customers that had race involved in their fantasties) and rebelling against her preacher daddy. I would take my boyfriend, whom he named “Malcom X” (Yes. He. Did.) into the church, and fuck him on the altar. The blasphemous banging would be SO hot, that it would bring to life the hanging statue of crucified Jesus, who would then pry himself free of his cross and join in the fun. Now, of course, Jesus doesn’t join a party without inviting his unlikely friend, the devil to take a turn as well. I spent countless afternoons squealing “Fuck me, Satan Daddy!” loudly enough for my neighbors to notice.
It takes A LOT to shake me from my comfort zone. It isn’t impossible though, and the few things that will achieve that are what ultimately cost me my sweet little side job. You see, Doreen was an animal lover, rescuing and fostering dogs, so she would not, under any circumstances, allow bestiality calls (I learned this after doing one, and requesting to not do any more.). However, she had no problem with the societal subset that she referred to as “Chesters”. As in Chester the Molester, an adorable term for monstrous men, who felt no compunction about describing, in vivid detail, all the things they loved about children. I tried to justify these calls as a healthier outlet for the illegal and illicit urges of men who knew the difference between right and wrong. I tried to convince myself that it was a radical coping mechanism, keeping real children safe from the beast that lurks within, but I always knew that was bullshit. Those calls drove me to tears every time, and eventually drove me away entirely. You’ve probably heard someone say, at some point, “there are things you see, that you can’t un-see” usually by some douchebag, hyperbolizing the trauma he suffered by seeing a fat woman in a thong bikini. Well, it also rings true that there are things you hear, that you can never un-hear, and the disembodied voices of the men who I had to doubt were just describing sick fantasies, were the gold watch I took with me when I retired. Because it’s true, that there really is no such thing as a free lunch.
After that, waiting tables wasn’t a punishment. Once I’d heard a man breathlessly describe his preschool dream date, bringing some bitch (You know the one, and you know she’ll find a reason not to tip.) extra lemons for her water didn’t seem so bad.
In August 2010, I ran away to join the circus.
More specifically, a sword-swallowing friend offered me the chance to work with the sideshow he was managing (World of Wonders) for a week at the Ohio State Fair, and I accepted without hesitation. What are the chances that this opportunity would present itself twice?
I was to be a bally girl, meaning I would be on the bally (the platform outside the tent where the barkers did their spieling to bring paying patrons in for the show), looking pretty, being eye-catching, wearing my sparkly/fringey things, waving at babies, doing a few simple escape tricks, smiling, and handling snakes.
"Handling", as in with my hands. "Snakes", as in very large legless reptiles. Pythons, to be exact, and five to eight feet of them at a time. Those slithery things that a ton of people are scared of, myself included. Snakes can kill full-grown humans, and they don’t even need legs to do it. Snakes are no fucking joke. Indiana Jones hates them, and he’s quite a rough-n-tumbler. Samuel L. Jackson hates them so much that he won’t even share a plane with them. I’m going to spend a week holding these motherfuckers and smiling while they wrap their creepy fucking legless bodies around mine.
My previous experience with snake handling was that once, when I was 8 years old, I touched a snake with my index finger. A wildlife lady brought one to my school, and let us touch it to see that it wasn’t slimy. I also saw a snake once, when I was a camp counselor. That’s it, that’s all. For a brief time (during my short-lived phase of thinking that my innate weirdness could maybe be based on the stuff I had, not the brain I have), I wanted a pet boa constrictor, but didn’t want to touch it, or feed it living things. There were never any vegetarian boa constrictors advertised in the pet section of the classified ads, much to my dismay.
I tried to prepare for my job. I read about snakes online, to put to rest my fears that they always attack when they smell fear. Didn’t help. So, a week before I was to arrive at the fair, I went to a pet store and explained the situation to the girl behind the counter, asking if there was any way she could help me get comfortable holding snakes. She was an angel, and led me to the reptile section. She reached into a waterless aquarium, and pulled out a teeny, tiny, eensie-weensie little baby ball python. Now, by nature, I am the type of female that makes extensive fussy noises at tiny baby animals, and this little shoelace of a snake was no exception. I cooed nonsense at it, and probably said something to the snake about being the teensiest little cutesy-bootsy baby snickety-snake in the whoooole wide world, and then she offered it to me to hold. I couldn’t make that happen. I would not take the snake from her. I tried to force my own hand, it would not cooperate. She suggested that perhaps I should just try to touch it first. Seemed like a good plan, but again, my hands just wouldn’t do it. I asked if perhaps I could just close my eyes, and have her place the snake on my hands. She agreed, and the plan went off without a hitch. I had the snake wrapped around my hands, and was starting to breathe again, when the snake twitched ever-so-slightly, and I came very close to hurling that adorable little baby off of my hands, and into the wall. I left the pet store defeated, convinced that I was going to have to give up my chance to have a teaspoon of sideshow street cred.
I was back home, pouting on my couch when I remembered: pills. I can’t think of a situation that calls more perfectly for anti-anxiety pills. I had just started seeing a new doctor, who really came through like a champ with a quick prescription when Planned Parenthood of Kansas City wouldn’t, so I went to see her a few days later, and explained the situation, she took out her prescription pad and gave me the gift of Xanax, with refills! I’m not sure if she actually believed me, or just thought, “If she went to all the trouble of concocting that creative of a bullshit story, involving snakes and sideshows and Ohio, she’s earned it.”.
My new plan was this: Get to the fair, take a Xanax, tell them to just put the fucking snake on me, and go from there; hoping that showmanship would override fear, and that’s exactly what happened. This feels like it should be a more interesting story, and I used to think the whole week with the sideshow would make for some fine writing, but it bores the shit out of me now. Not even the choosing of the words interests me. Nothing that I did before moving to LA feels like it matters at all, not in a pretentious way, but in a holy-shit-I’m-living-in-constant-fight-or-flight-mode-and-the-only-shit-that-matters-is-more-immediate-and-everything-that-came-before-doesn’t-matter-anymore-even-though-it-felt-like-it-did way. Frustrating. Frustrated.Addendum: I think that what I’ve realized from writing this is that if what I thought anxiety was pre-LA were to meet what I think anxiety is now, it would avoid eye-contact and sneak out the back door to avoid further embarrassment.
My high school reunion was this past weekend. Everyone was smiling and laughing, hugging, drinking, having the grandest of times.
At least that’s what I gathered from the pictures I saw on Facebook.
I skipped that bullshit. I’m still in touch (mostly via Facebook) with the people who are worth my time and friendship. I am lucky, by profession, to have the ability to see these people, to book myself in their towns, do a show and have a little visit as well. So why pretend that I’m cool with the assholes that helped form the most toxic parts of me? Why clink cocktails with the douchebags who were never held accountable for the cruelty of their ways?
I know, I know…it was the inconsideration, the insensitivity of children. I shouldn’t hold the past against these people who have clearly grown up. They are bloated adults now, with families, luxury sedans or mini-vans, and cubicles. They have houses with beige carpeting and white walls, to match themselves. They are no longer the tormentors who called me names, who convinced me through relentless harassment that I was weird (as if that’s a bad thing), ugly, unwanted, unacceptable, unworthy. No, now they’re fully grown dicks with families of their own. They have children. I can’t help but hope that their children are all weirdos like me, out of rebellion. The darkest part of me wonders who among them are abusing their children. By all statistical likelihood, at least one of those jackass football-fuckers has to be diddling his daughter (or son).
But regardless of them (possibly) no longer being monsters, the damage they left remains. The feelings of rejection, of not being good enough/cool enough/pretty enough, are still all there. Are they as bad as they were twenty years ago? Fuck yes. Think I’m being dramatic, just to hold a grudge for fun? Go talk to my therapist about it. And then go suck a soft dick. The Shawnee Mission South class of ‘93 cruelty operated on a level beyond what’s thought of as “childish antics”. Pushing someone into a locker, knocking their books out of their hands, teasing with shitty nicknames? Amateur. I once watched a group of jocks jump on my friend Brett’s car, as he was driving, pounding on it with their fists as they shouted appallingly debasing things about his sexuality. If I remember correctly, one of the boys was sent away to military school as a result. But that was his parent’s idea and choice, not the schools (if I recall correctly, military school was already on the table as a parental threat, this was just the final nail in the coffin, following an accident resulting from that dumbshit’s fondness for huffing). I don’t remember any significant disciplinary consequence coming from the school administration. Maybe a detention was given, but probably not. After all, these boys were the power in our sports teams, and as we all know, high school sports are WAY more important than humanity.
In my entire history of education, I never once attended a game of any kind. Why would I? The school didn’t support me, the assholes on the field/court didn’t support me, why would I feel any allegiance to them? Shit, I graduated early just to get away from their daily dose, and skipped the walking ceremony. My sister gave me her old grad-cap as a joke.
The only time I felt anything resembling acceptance from the popular shitbirds is when I was selling acid. It was around the time that Grunge was trickling in, and the cheerleaders and drill team cunts were trading their white Keds for Doc Martens. One of them even got a peace-sign tattoo (scandalous!). Drinking and date-raping on the weekends was no longer enough, now they needed the drug experience. Maybe they wanted to know how the kids who smiled through their torment felt. Maybe they thought it would help them feel more comfortable in their flannel shirts (bought from the Gap, of course…thrift stores were still the distasteful domain of freaks like me). Maybe they just needed something stronger than wine coolers to keep at bay the whispers of worry that this suburban teenage Camelot wouldn’t last forever.
I learned a lot in high school, unfortunately very little came from the books. I was involved in a long-term teacher being fired for anti-semitism. I was one of 2 Jewish kids in class when the incident happened. It involved the teacher denying Passover, championing Easter, and drawing a timeline on the chalkboard, showing when, to quote directly, “the Jews killed Jesus”. Had this been in current times, phone-photos of that shit would’ve been all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and I wouldn’t have been ostracized, accused of lying, threatened and put through a hell that no 15-year old deserves (by teachers and other adult community members, as well as fellow students from past and present), just for telling the truth. Fucking assholes.
The pieces of shit that I sat in the midst of for the years of elementary, middle and high school are the reason I didn’t want to go to any college in the vicinity of my hometown. It was supposed to end with high school, I couldn’t fathom another 4 years with them. I was accepted by the Savannah College of Art & Design (the only place I wanted to go, the only place I applied), with scholarship offers based on my photography portfolio and SAT scores, but still couldn’t afford it. So I went to local community college, avoiding the assholes who didn’t have the grades (or parents with strong enough alumni status) to make it all the way to KU, until I escaped to Chicago, where I thought all the damage would magically disappear. As if it was merely the byproduct of vicinity, and not stuck like a burr in my skin to carry around place to place, year to year. You can’t blame a kid for naivete.
So yes, I skipped this reunion.
Maybe I’ll be free, or at least unencumbered, in time for the next one.
Go SMS Raiders!