No matter what your job is in our economy driven society, it defines you-so when you become a stripper (or sex worker), that means something pretty serious. Everyone asks you what you do, and every time, you have to agonize over what to say, or choose to just blurt it out and take the social consequence (Read So, what do you do?). The worst part isn’t the strangers, though. It’s your friends, and sometimes even your family. The feeling of being a novelty to the people you love is really hard. I remember a conversation I had with an escort friend, in which she said she felt like a girl we both knew kept her around to be able to say, “This is my escort friend, ____.”
People have a bizarre curiosity when it comes to what we do for a living. It can make it really hard to feel cared about when you have a job like ours, the only people who understand are other girls who do what you do, which makes you feel crazy, because then all of your friends are strippers, and what does that say about you?! Being a social outcast is something that NO ONE wants to be, especially people who have never really felt “normal,” like us. Finding a balance between your identities can seem almost impossible sometimes. I have googled obsessively to figure out how to keep my professional and personal life separate, but like everything else, the results were aimed towards young professionals in an office setting. Being that we are a fringe tribe of people, most “stuff” won’t apply to us. We need to create it ourselves and embrace that we are a little bizarre, a little different, and beautifully unique. That’s what Survive the Club is.
So, all of your friends who “get you” are strippers, big deal! Strippers need to stop beating themselves up for liking each other. Somewhere along the way we were told, “Strippers are junkies and liars and thieves, and they will fuck you over, steal your customers, steal your boyfriend, and kick your dog,” and, “women never get along.” Despite being women and strippers OURSELVES, we still assign these qualities to others, thinking that we are the only ones who are cut from a different mold. This kind of “strippers suck” (or “sex workers suck”) (or “women suck!”) attitude just adds to our own self loathing and keeps us divided, and keeps us from making progress! I don’t know whose idea it was to make strong minded, empowered women hate each other, but it’s a bad idea. We, more than anyone else, need a little love. Maybe no one else can see it, but we can recognize in each other that strength and independence are born out of hardship and loss. More than anyone, we deserve a little tenderness, and there is no reason not to give it to one another. Of course, avoid the girls who are life sucking leeches. In this industry you need to learn who those girls are and recognize them (and be mature enough not to talk shit, just to ignore them!) and who can help you become the woman you want to be. This is a job that lacks mentorship, and that sucks. I would have done things SO MUCH differently if I had someone I could ask questions to, bounce ideas off of, and adjust my behavior to not repeat their mistakes.
Outside of work, explain to your friends that you don’t really want to talk to much about it. Tell them not to ask how much money you make, ask them not to probe about your customers and how they act. Encourage your family and civilian friends to treat you the same way they did before, do your best to act the same way you did before, and tell them that you’ll let them read your memoir after you write it. When you need to vent, know that there is a community here for you to do that to. You can email me anytime with your thoughts, concerns, questions, or ramblings and I promise to respond. Keep hobbies outside of work that you love, whether it’s learning a new language, going to school, making jewelry, painting, yoga, WHATEVER, but something else that has a community that you practice with. I am a loner, so many of my hobbies are “on my own” hobbies, but I have learned that the community ones really keep me much more grounded in reality. Thank you, girls, for being part of my community. I am SO lucky to have you.
**featured image by Lee Jinju