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Dear Chase Kelly,

Looking for some advice/ help discussing the potential dangers of cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery with my 22 year daughter working in ” the industry” My concern is her young age, addiction to procedures, permanent changes or damage to her face/ body and how to help her discontinue the practice of lip fillers ( I’m starting to notice the ” work done” look) etc that she’s been utilizing. 
Any advice on how to broach the subject, what to do or say would be very much appreciated. 

Love,
A very concerned mom

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Hey Mom,

 

What a ripe and beautiful age twenty two is.  Your big girl is experiencing big changes that are being shaped by so many things.  Your voice, which used to be gospel to her, is fading into the background and being overshadowed by culture, media, her social circle, and the people she is interested in dating and being friends with.  If you want her to listen to you and come to you for advice, first she needs to know that no matter what, you respect her.  This means that you not only respect her choices, but you trust her to make them for herself.  

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While there is a lot of shitty plastic surgery out there, none of it is SO bad that you need to stress about it and hurt your relationship with your daughter over it.  It’s just a physical thing.  The actual issue doesn’t seem to like your daughter is making decisions that will ruin her life forever, but that she’s making decisions that you don’t like.  If she was shopping for wedding dresses or Ivy League grad schools, you probably wouldn’t have an issue (or maybe you would, depending on where your desire for control in the relationship ends.)  You probably weren’t reading this site specifically because of her plastic surgery stuff, but because you want to know everything you can about her “lifestyle.”  You don’t need to know those things.  Prepare to read things you don’t like in this response, and trust that they will help you.  Lip fillers and the “work done” look are not hurting her, her future, or her relationships, and if they are, they will teach her valuable lessons.  The fillers will fade or she will have an actual issue, but it will be hers to deal with.  Changing her physical appearance isn’t changing who she is inside or making her someone different. To be fair, our physical bodies are transient no matter how you slice it.  Our appearance is not static, and playing with it can be undeniably freeing.

The best way to get your daughter to listen to you is to let go a little bit.  She is clearly craving change and freedom to define herself. Part of having adult children means to allow and encourage that independence.  You parented her already.  Twenty two isn’t that young.  She is a capable adult.  If you disagree, that really is your problem.  You can’t project a narrative onto a person you love that screams, “YOU SUCK AT DECISION MAKING.”  That’s awful.  The only way to actually solve your problem is to let go of micromanaging her decisions and learn to focus on yourself.

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Maybe you’re saying, “A mother’s job is never done.” “She needs me!”  “She can’t possibly know what’s right for her!” “I’m obviously right that she needs to stop this nonsense, and she is just a stubborn girl.” You’ve been literally obsessed with the development of this human since conception.  You did all the jobs.  If you progressed in a healthy manner, it looked like this:

0-4 years: Parent caters to each need, teaches basic ‘yes/no’ ‘right/wrong’

5-11 years: Parent encourages forward thinking, individualism, self esteem, teaches advanced moral development, judgement and decision making

12-18 years: Parent encourages emotional health and ‘supervised’ independence.  Allows child to contemplate complex ethical issues and become an individual with own thoughts and values.

19-forever: Parent becomes a confidante, shares wisdom when asked, leads by example, and provides a safety net (but only when it’s healthy for both parties and does not come with a price tag.)

If you have a hangup somewhere you get stuck at one stage of the development process. Parents everywhere are relying on the techniques that once worked, but that aren’t healthy to enforce on an adult.  Sometimes, if you stayed in one phase of development, you’ll want to sit down and lecture or at least lament about the blanks you left, feeling sad, guilty, robbed, or authoritarian.  If you failed to move past one of the stages, it’s too late to try and get to the rest.  You can’t go back in time.  All you can do is move to where you’re supposed to be, and learn to lead by example.  This will inadvertently teach the lessons you want to teach.  You will have to learn to trust that your daughter is wise enough to make her own decisions, and that her lessons are hers to learn.  From this point forward NOTHING SHE DOES IS A REFLECTION ON YOU, but a destination on her map towards self fulfillment.  If you refuse to recognize this, you are stuck in codependency, and no one grows.  You teach your daughter to be a rebellious jerk to everyone she loves.  Starting or continuing this cycle renders you and every involved incapable of having a healthy relationship.  This cycle gives everyone tiny martyr-like satisfactions from “wins” or the thrill of rebellion from “disobedience.”  Just enough satisfaction to keep you coming back, no matter how much it depletes your soul and energy.  Codepedency is an addiction in and of itself.  It looks like this:

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You need to let go of your habitual desire to control your daughter. You might be surprised at how much she actually follows your lead if you let go.  Worst case scenario, if you focus on yourself instead of her, she will at least be led by example into learning RIGHT/WRONG, JUDGEMENT/DECISION MAKING, EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT, SELF ESTEEM, and all the other developmental things her inner child may be craving a role model for.

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If she is stripping, she is a body language expert.  Be careful not to let your tightening lips and tensing shoulders show her how harshly you’re judging her.  This cuts her self esteem and gives her an opportunity to exploit an angsty teenage (underdeveloped) desire for rebellion.  Every time you let your “small reactionary self” win, you lose an opportunity for real emotional development and connection.  Move forward to the part of your development you’re meant to be in, and you will give her permission to do the same.

You certainly shouldn’t fuel or encourage her addiction at all, but you shouldn’t punish her for it either.  If she is addicted to changing her appearance on the outside, I’d venture to say she is feeling small and invalid on the inside.  Do not take any opportunity at all to encourage her self-doubt.  REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE SITUATION.  Don’t judge her, don’t parent her, don’t tell her what to do, don’t do ANYTHING that says, “I know what’s best for you, listen to me instead of yourself, because I am more capable than you.”  If you love your daughter, don’t undermine her.  It’s making her hate herself.  Go to therapy.  Get better as an individual.  Detach, and allow her to learn to mother herself.  That is when a girl becomes a woman.  When she can trust her own voice.  That is when you’ve become a successful mother.  When she can make the right choices without your input.  If you want her to recover from her addiction, if you want her to love herself, you need to end your enmeshed type of smothering love and learn to love while encouraging FREEDOM.  You need to take the addiction out of your relationship.

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You can’t tell her to stop getting work done, it isn’t your call, but you can tell her to upgrade.  Since you will be spending top dollar for your emotional upgrades in therapy, you may be able to use your wisdom and explain that self improvement is worth spending top dollar on.  If she is going to keep on going with it, ask her to see the best of the best.  Maybe you can help her come up with a plan to budget so that she doesn’t go broke on her quest for beauty.  Maybe you guys can get some facials together and just bond over wanting to feel pretty forever.  Maybe you will come to the realization that she is trying to make herself look and feel less like the family she comes from.  Maybe it will all hurt like hell, but maybe, you will all get to have healthy love if you face the music.  What bigger thing are you running from when you worry needlessly about things that don’t really matter?  If she is healthy and her soul is intact, a triple D and some botox really isn’t a problem.  If she is miserable and suicidal, her collagen addiction isn’t the source.  It’s a symptom.

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Learn about addiction and what role you could be playing in hers.  Addiction doesn’t just involve the addict, it involves everyone, especially the one googling about the other person’s behavior.  You, Mom, are the codependent matriarch here. You learned this somewhere.  You need to get to that core and work on it.  Stop it.  The cycle can end here. 

By removing yourself from her scenario and focusing on your relationship with yourself, you become a better mother, friend, grandparent, partner, and human.  You become more proactive and are a better confidante.  You cannot love in a healthy way if you are codependent on someone else’s addiction.  Whether it is a phase or a true addiction that your adult daughter is going through, if you want to guide her, you need to be centered and healthy yourself.  You cannot control, only share yourself.  The only thing more beautiful than a chick in a nest is a bird flying free.Free-Bird-700x393

Let it be her idea to improve herself, Mom, and in the meantime, focus on you.  If she thinks that physical perfection will bring her happiness, it’s you who can show her inner happiness takes work, time, discomfort, and the ability to take responsibility for our internal shortcomings.  It means working on our weaknesses until we become strong in those areas instead.  How can you show her?  Start the process yourself.

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Stripping into Luxury

Chase Kelly —  November 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

“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.”

Images of young girls accompanied by the words “Fuck it, I’ll be a stripper” have been littered all over the internet as of late. Our generation has adopted a belief system that says that women are too weak, stupid, unmotivated, or damaged to assimilate to modern society. The strip club offers a lucrative alternative in which financial planning isn’t necessary to immediate survival, so it’s expected that girls who have an underdeveloped sense of self-esteem, body issues, or a history of trauma will just “give up” and become strippers. They don’t know what else to do.  Although these women actually exist, there is a serious imbalance between the “stripper princess” and “lowlife stripper” ideals that are being portrayed in the media, and it’s up to us to set them straight. They are BOTH inaccurate.

For me, being a stripper does not mean giving up on life, but I also know that being pretty and getting paid for it doesn’t make me royalty. This industry is full of amazing, powerful women, many of whom have been soldiers from the day they sashayed out of the womb, all pink, bubbly, and ready to take on the world. They have done everything but given up, they have found a new model for success. However, despite the fact that being a dancer will not make you weak, pathetic, addicted, or ‘slutty,’ in large part, making this decision requires awareness that other people will see you in a negative light when they find out what you do, and if you are running the risk of becoming the girl who dances because she can’t do anything else; it’s time to change that.

The reality is that a lot of dancers do start to embody awful things, because they fail to plan, prepare, or take responsibility for their lives. Dancing is a cop out for a lot of people who can’t figure it out any other way. You need to make sure that it isn’t you who turns out badly, all while dealing with the fact that some people will always confuse you for those strippers who really can’t get it together.

Perhaps you are thinking, “I have already been labeled my entire life, I really don’t care if people think I’m a stripper whore or not,” and that is a realistic sentiment. Chances are, if you are beautiful, you have already been labeled a ‘slut’ or a ‘bitch’ for your entire existence, whether or not you’ve promiscuous or rude. You have learned to live with being judged, and in your short life you have grown accustomed and calloused to being hollered at, coveted, objectified, targeted, and dumbed down. It’s your right to do what ya wanna, and I hold the ability to customize my lifestyle very near and dear to my heart. I just wanted to remind you all that you are in charge of yours, and no matter what anyone thinks, if you’re setting proper goals and hitting them, it’s of no consequence what anyone else thinks.

Weigh in: CUSTOMER CONVOS

Chase Kelly —  February 27, 2015 — 6 Comments

Strippers deserve good customers, and today I received an email from a strip club regular asking what he can do to enhance his experience as well as yours.  While I am going to answer him personally, I also wanted to open up the comments section so you all can weigh in as well.  Below is the email I received from John.  You can view my response and leave your own in the comments.

Hi Chase;

I wandered in here through looking at strip club ettiquette because I quite enjoy it even if I don’t make enough to partake very often.  I found Mounting and Counting blog and then came here.  I like that you bring a healthy but safe veiw of stripping.  I share your thoughts that it shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed, insulted, or demonized.  I also appreciate that you take it realistically since it will affect ones position in society, no matter how wrong society’s position is.

After reading your post with the rape warning, I definately want to be as respectful as possible next time I go.  I didn’t see post with eittiqutte for guys so I’m asking here.  I’ve got the don’t stalk, ask them to come home with you, or calling out insults.

I’ve thought that maybe slacks would be politer to wear than jeans since the preformer will be rubbing against me.  Do you have a prefered outfit for your clients?  Slacks and polo for casual nice, but suit to indicate that one is there to spend lavishly and be treated the same?
Are there ways to know if your dancer is ok with touching or should I specifically wait for her to say so?
Do you have any other advice that would make the night more enjoyable for both parties?
Thanks!

John

Safety First

Chase Kelly —  August 1, 2014 — 4 Comments

Amidst all the glamorization and stigmatization of strip clubs, sometimes what gets glossed over are the the dangers of stripping, or more accurately, the violence that sometimes burdens strippers and the vice industry in general.  A few weeks ago nine people were shot on Bourbon Street a few blocks from where I work.  Last week one person was stabbed and 6 people were murdered overnight. In 2010 there was a shooting INSIDE a club I worked at, and a few years before that there was a drive by at my club in Connecticut.  I’ve seen entertainers decked in the face by grown men, subsequent stabbings, and heard more dancers confess to leaving the club with customers and then being raped or drugged than I’d like to really remember.

Some of us work in small suburban areas, but due to our desire for community and anonymity and to access a larger clientele, many strippers choose to live in cities, and with that comes violence, especially against women.

Despite the risks, most of us are still dancing, because we are either blind to the possibility of it happening at our club/to us or because we have consciously decided that it’s a risk we are willing to take.  With the rise of strip club culture, more and more young women are getting into the industry.  It’s our duty to be aware of the dangers that do lurk around and do what we can to keep ourselves safe and how to stay away from the drama.  More safety tips here.

 

 

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.

Stunning-Photography-by-Annett-TurkiMost 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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*all photos by Annett Turki