Saturday, October 10, 2009

Piece by piece

I got into it for the right reason, if there is such a thing. It wasn’t for a lack of options. Well, I’ll admit- it was partly for a lack of other well-paying options. But it wasn’t for an inability to do anything else like some people say. I have lots of other skills, lots of other abilities. There's just nothing else that I know of which pays this well without the threat of jail time.

And it wasn’t because of all that psychobabble bullshit you hear on daytime talk shows. My father never abused me, my mother wasn’t one of those woman that feminists are so concerned with, I knew enough about ‘normal’ to know that this wasn’t really it. (Not that stripping is so abnormal, but it certainly is at least a slightly skewed view of normal sexuality.) And it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t know what I was getting into. At least, I thought I knew enough at the time. I thought my expectations were pretty realistic.

I expected to be ogled, I expected to be manhandled every now and again, I expected the requests for a “private show” and all the rest. I expected the objectification. The guys who see you as something to be owned or rented out instead of as a person. The ones that’ll go for that grab and then laugh with their friends over it. I always expected they’d be the ones to go home and beat their wives for not having dinner waiting for them.

I even expected that some of the guys wouldn’t be the run of the mill college co-eds or alcoholics or bachelor party participants or married dudes. The first fetishist I got wasn’t all that big of a shock. A little unnerving, sure, but not surprising.

I even, sadly, expected the lost boyfriends. The “nice guys” who’ll ask you out in the coffee shop or the bookstore, be all thrilled and attracted during those first few minutes of the date, talk about activities you might do together based on common hobbies. Then comes the inevitable question about what you do for a living and you lose any hope of getting the guy to look at you like a potential girlfriend again. I expected all that, on some level. And I was ok with it. Not happy, but ok.

What I didn’t expect, and what I couldn’t prepare for was the shift in world view. I don’t know if it’s cynicism or if I’m jaded. Or, on the other hand, if I’m seeing the world clearly for the first time and have simply lost my childhood fantasies about the good of mankind.

The world view I’m talking about is the one that lets you see, or at least hope to see the good in everybody. The one that lets you look past the bad behaviors and mistreatment of others and seemingly cruel dispositions to the wounded soul underneath. The one that says that the person drooling over you is still a real person and they’re just thinking with their junk instead of their brain. That’s the one I used to pride myself on having. That’s the one I’ve lost.

I used to feel bad that they weren’t getting laid at home. Wonder if their wives were the kind of women that took all the fun out of sex, made them feel guilty for wanting to tie you up or whip you or something. Wonder if they were a virgin and didn’t know any better. Pity the regulars who must’ve been stuck in two addictions at once. I used to think everyone had a story, even the assholes.

And when I say assholes I mean the ones that try to grab you despite the signs all over and the big, beefy security guards standing right next to them. Usually they’re just drunk, just stupid. And I used to think I could handle it just fine. The tough cookie, the girl who won’t let nobody touch her unless she wants to be touched. The girl you had to respect or at least treat like a human being because she forced you to. I used to defend myself, tell the security team I didn’t need an escort. They of course told me that I did, but I didn’t believe them. That was before the first attack.

I made out ok, altogether. The guys got him off me before he did any real damage, before he could get me into his car. But he would’ve if Bernie and Nate hadn’t been leaving right then. After that I got a little paranoid, or so I thought. Didn’t even try to walk through the floor alone. Even the grabs and the pinches were a threat then.

I used to wonder why some of these guys would look at me the way they do, why they’d stare right into my eyes and not seem to register anything. Cause the ones that avoid eye contact- that stare at your boobs or your ass or your legs but never look you in the eye- they’re no real threat. They’re either too horny to remember that there’s a real person under that body or they feel so guilty that they’re only seeing the body they can’t look you in the eyes and let you know that’s all they’re seeing. Harmless.

But the ones that look right at you and see nothing? They’re scary. Cause real people will look at you and see you. Maybe not notice, maybe not pay attention to you, but still see you. All those people walking down the crowded streets and not really registering that yes, you are a real person with hopes and dreams and a family and all the rest of it? They’re not really ignoring your existence, they’re just busy.

But these guys? The ones that see the body and the dancing and the rest of it and seem to be only registering body parts? The ones that can look right into your eyes and the only spark of recognition that registers is the fact that they are eyeballs as compared to ‘windows of the soul’? They’re the ones that’ll cut out those eyes, dismantle that body, kill that person the same way that some people slaughter cows or cut up prime rib. Whatever it is that connects the body to the person- whether it’s a soul or a spirit or something else entirely- they don’t see that. They see meat. Boobs, ass, hands, legs no different than breast meat or thigh meat or wings or whatever. Pieces of meat in a butcher store.

How do I know this? Because one of ‘em got my friend Keisha. It was, officially, the second attack. The cops claimed it was a serial killer, a really sick whacko that was unusual enough not to worry about. But I saw his eyes when he tried to get me. And I’ve seen those eyes since. Not frequently, not reliably, but I’ve seen them.

On the guy who sits in the corner watching from a distance. On the man who won’t talk, even when you ask his name. Then he’ll look at you and you know why. On the man who stops in just to grab a drink on his way home to his wife and family, he says. Then you see him peer over at you, and you see the eyes.

The cops called me paranoid when I kept calling to report the guys. They’d say “Oh, are you that stripper that keeps calling?” Like I wasn’t a witness or potential lead anymore, just “that stripper”. Objectified yet again. They’d tell me there were no news leads but sure, they’d take down the name of this guy that looked at me funny, have someone interview ‘em. Yeah, right. There were no interviews, no calls, just the cops getting the crazy stripper off the phone with false promises. They never caught the guy.

And now I see things differently. I see the potential fierceness behind the innocent flirting. I see the potential danger in the invite for a date. I see the way some guys look at you with those eyes. I don’t know what’s behind them. Maybe nothing, maybe that’s how they do it. No connection, no soul or whatever. Just a brain dismantling you piece by piece.

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