At 24 I was in a do or die situation. I was still living at home in what I referred to as “the Russian Peasant Room,” a basement-bedroom with flimsy drywall, pipes and wood beams for a ceiling, and a droopy little curtain separating my side of the room from my brother’s, who was also living down there at the time (see “Stay“). Among a slew of low paying, part-time jobs that weren’t even part-time (a waitress at a pizza place, youth advocate, ESL tutor), I hoped to add another more lucrative one to the list for the sake of getting my mother off my back. She was yelling at me daily to do something with my life and pay the rent. Imagine that. So I got desperate and decided that go-go dancing was the answer.
I mean, what the hell, right? I was 1.) sexy, 2.) a great dancer, 3.) bold, and 4.) desperate. How could I lose?
So, I answered an ad in the Courier Post for “Dancers: $1000 a week!” and showed up on a Tuesday at around noon at some go-go bar on the seedier side of Pennsauken, wearing little more than Daisy Dukes, a pair of biker boots and a black half shirt with the sparkly letters “Angel” written across my then perky double-Ds.
The place was dark and stale, and there were a few crusty old men sitting around the perimeter of the bar. The stage, with pole, was behind the bar. An older woman, the Madame, I guess, sat stage left. She was a rundown fifty-something with flaming, dyed red hair and a dress that looked like something Mrs. Roper would wear. I sat beside her, along with another young girl, and told her I wanted to audition. I told her I never did this before, and asked if the other girl wouldn’t mind going first. She said, no problem as she continually took deep drags off her cigarette.
My competition was a rather plain-faced girl with a great body. She had a shelf for an ass, B-cup tits and milky white skin. When she rounded the corner from some undisclosed room in the back she had on nothing more than a g-string, red heels and tassled pasties. No stripping involved. She hopped up on the stage as the bartender cued Alannah Myles’s Black Velvet and without any facial expression whatsoever and eyes averted to the floor, she swiveled her hips, slunk around the pole and shook her ass.
Despite the fact that I knew in my heart I could do better, what I couldn’t do was wear pasties or a g-string. Nor could I get up there and experience the dance separate from those who were watching me (pervy, crusty old men). I couldn’t even get into Black Velvet, for that matter. And so I said to Mrs. Roper, “this isn’t for me.” She took a long, slow drag from her brown cigarette and said, “Know thyself.”
It wasn’t long after that that I applied for student loans and went back to college.