Humans are pack animals, but strippers are so often lone wolves, darting through life avoiding . “Isolating” is probably the leading term I hear when discussing sex work, “crazy” being second. Of course some of us have a little crew that we hang with, and some always go to work with our BFF , but the advice we hear most often is “don’t get too close to the other dancers,” as if these women are bad or tainted, the mainstream view is that it’s best not to get too close to the “crazy.”
But what if the crazy is sort of relatable? Strippers ARE a little crazy, but isn’t every single person you have ever met? CEO or high school teacher or escort, crazy is a term that has been overused and shoved down our throats, and now it has effectively made us feel ashamed of ourselves and afraid of others.
Most of my friends are dancers from one place or another, or they are people trying to learn how to strip or how to quit stripping, and they have become like a motley adopted family to me when I sometimes can’t find anyone else who understands. All of them are unique and all of them have their own personal weaknesses. Some of them work hard at those weaknesses until they become strengths, and those people are my heroes. (Thank you, you know who you are.)
My personal struggles in this industry have been real and the lessons have been intense. Why would I ever want to avoid the other women who are experiencing or will experience or have experienced a similar struggle? I don’t. I want to hug them and show them that if they follow their dreams and refuse to go down the dark path and stay diligent, that they can build an empire and make amazing things happen.
I want each person who walked that rocky path to get here to know that there is always balance in the world. If it has been cold for you, it doesn’t always have to be that way. The warm world is welcoming, it just takes work to change the cycle. You’ve got it in you.
I know the struggle has been hard, and I know many of you still have much more climbing to do before you reach the top of the mountain, but those of you who have figured it out, please pass it on. If you have recovered from addiction, if you have learned to deal with your family issues, walked away from an abusive relationship, or survived losing people you love, or even if you recently learned to budget and save, pay your taxes, or raise a child with morals, ethics and boundaries, pass that information on to someone who needs it. Listen when people talk to you and help a sister out. Remind one another that you are all important. Remember what you needed when you were down and give it to someone, even if no one gave it to you.
I know for a fact that a person with a very impoverished and abusive past can take what they learn in this industry, invest what they make, and completely change their lives. I also know that the bumps in the road are sometimes bigger than we expect, and they end up killing some of us. Hold your hand out, a candle loses no light by igniting another.
*all photos by Annett Turki