“I’m thinking about moving into a loft,” my nineteen year old stripper consult confessed in our session this week. “I have been making a lot more since we started [our consultations], and I feel like I deserve it. My boyfriends house is so nice and I always feel like I’m slumming it around him.”
I was quiet for a second. I’ve heard this before. I’ve said this before. I traced my thoughts back to a time when my best stripper friend and I decided to move into a loft ourselves, one that lasted the full six month lease and was quickly abandoned for another massive mistake of a rental. “Twenty six hundred dollars!” we reasoned, “that’s only one good night of work each!” and in fact, it was. The elation of getting approved for such an incredible place made us feel rich and fabulous. We had made it. We had been dreaming of living somewhere so magnificent all of our lives. We moved in without hesitation.
Our loft was gorgeous, two beautiful stories of warehouse heaven, and inside of it sat five whole pieces of furniture: one brown Pottery Barn couch against the back wall, two ikea stools (where we ate the zero meals we had at home,) one mattress (with headboard) on the floor in her room, and one mattress (with box spring, no headboard) on my floor. We considered buying furniture, really, but we set our sights on chandeliers (10 nights work for a $10,000 piece of lighting heaven, plus our friend Riot had one! If she could do it so could we. Maybe even a customer would buy it for us!), a giant movie poster for Metropolis (neither of us had seen it, but it just looked so great. It was only $1,500. Easy!), Design Within Reach couches (starting at fifteen k,) and hand made coffee tables off of etsy, because we wanted it to have a personal touch. We never bought any of those things, though. It seemed actually a lot more difficult to come up with ten grand than we had originally anticipated! We had clothes to buy, manicures to get, lip glosses to collect! Plus bills, and starbucks, and food every day (we never really cooked). It was kind of seeming like we’d never decorate our loft. Three months later the lease was halfway up anyway. “Next time, we should get a house. This is too hard to manage!” we said, but mostly we were stoned so we didn’t really care.
Looking back into the past, I tried to think about what I would say to Clarissa (my client) to explain to her the mistake I had made. It really didn’t sound so bad when I looked back, but I knew it was and I searched for the words to say it. Instead, I pulled out my calculator. $18,700 in six months. Almost twenty THOUSAND dollars we spent so we could feel like a couple of boss bitches.
“Clarissa, I did that once. You shouldn’t do it, you know? If you’re comparing yourself to your boyfriend in a way that makes you feel inferior because of what you spend on housing, he probably isn’t right for you. Dating and friendship shouldn’t feel like a competition,” and she told me I was right, but I knew in her heart, she was still thinking LOFT. “Even if it was a competition, though, would spending rich person money really make you feel like you won? You’re not a rich person. You could break an ankle tomorrow and be screwed, but your boyfriend has job security and a wealthy family and a retirement plan! He is winning even if you live in a mansion. I mean as of right now, you have barely enough money in your savings for a security deposit on a loft and you’re already trying to spend it?!” I was starting to feel kind of guilty. I love Clarissa, and I wanted her to have everything she had ever dreamt of. I knew living in a beautiful home would increase her self esteem and make her feel more powerful, but I also knew that in six months my friend and I spent over eighteen thousand dollars on rent in an apartment we couldn’t even afford to furnish. I didn’t want Clarissa to make the mistake we had. There is so much we could have done with that money that we never had a chance to do. We could have put a generous downpayment on a house with that much, or we could have started a savings that would turn into a future investment plan down the road. We could have lived for a few solid years in Thailand. We could have opened a yoga studio and lived a zen lifestyle with real happiness and not the hollow kind that comes from twenty thousand dollar couches.
That loft was six years ago, and I still shake my head at my foolishness. I didn’t need to keep up with my rich friends. I didn’t need to prove that stripping was the right choice by flossing out of control. I needed to chill the fuck out. I needed to spend half that money and live in a cute apartment with my friend and decorate from thrift stores and cook at home. I needed to let myself be a kid. Instead, I made myself hard to relate to by my non-stripper friends, set myself back financially, and ended up ashamed of selling my sexuality for such a temporary thing. Women and children are literally sold at auction for a tiny fraction of that amount into sex slavery for their entire lives, and here I was spending it on six months of rent. I was not Paris Hilton, and I didn’t need to live like her.
“Clarissa.” I said sternly. “I know you are agreeing with me but still you have your heart set on that Miami Beach luxury lifestyle, but I need you to listen to me. This is serious. Please don’t strip so that you can impress people with all the shit you have. Be better than that. Stop caring what your boyfriend thinks. If he thinks you are anything less than a brilliant, beautiful young woman with a great head on her shoulders, he doesn’t deserve you. No one worth their salt would value a person who spends frivolously what they don’t actually have than one who saves and plans and lives beautifully within their means. Spend money on creating sanctuary in your home no matter the size. Spend money on giving what you can afford to charity and save the rest to support yourself or your family through sickness and tough times that inevitably impact all human lives. It won’t cost but a few hundred dollars to decorate with things that make you feel strong and proud. Flossing when you live a fast cash lifestyle is nothing less than stupid, and if your boyfriend knows anything about life on the planet, he knows that only a fool would give money away rather than paying ones self first.”