“So you want to be a stripper?”

“What do you mean I owe you $40 more??!!” She yelled to the tow lot attendant. She had experienced one of the most frustrating days of her life. Her car had been towed the night before at an apartment complex that she had parked for one of her clients hair appointments. She was dedicating herself to school full time and opted to doing hair on the side to hold her over in between a 9–5. This put a huge crash on all of her immediate plans, but she was determined that the bigger plan would be worth it. Life had definitely been no walk in the park. Everyday she battled between her daily struggles, working hard and the presumable option to take the easy way out. “Yes mam! You come after 12:00 pm; parking rates go up by day! We take your car 12:00 am mam! $40 more!” The parking lot attendant demanded. He was this rude, arrogant little Arab man. They had already had a rough start with each other. She had previously called in with a sob story about how she was a pregnant woman with really bad gas and diarrhea from her pregnancy symptoms. She had continued on about her whole bathroom ordeal until she was interrupted. The little man wasn’t having it. He had heard every story in the book. She continued to yell in his ear over how merciless the apartment owner and towing company were to pregnant women and threatened to be suing for pregnant women’s rights. Unfortunately she was neither pregnant, nor did she have a lawyer to counsel her for these imaginary claims she was so rightfully demanding justice for. It was something to think about though. This further perpetuated the wrongful treatment she was receiving from the parking lot attendant, once she arrived to the location, as he saw no belly to support her previous claim and lecture. “$40 more mam!!” He yelled. “No!” She yelled back. “I asked you what my total was before I commuted here and you said $243.00 earlier, now you’re trying to rip me off by teaching me a crash course in addition?!!…listen buddy, I need to get home! I’m stranded on the other side of town, took countless and costly cab rides to get here, haven’t even showered and almost got raped and kidnapped seconds before being dropped off at your lot! Now please! I am someone’s daughter, sister and in the future hope to be someone’s mother! Now you’re gonna take my money because this is all I have!” she exclaimed. She slammed her Drivers license and the cash she had stuffed in her bra into the receiving cash bin under the glass window barrier. Her potential rapist was waiting around the corner for her as he tuned in to the commotion. The little Arab man and her began to settle into this stare down until someone gave into the others request. “Oh and btw, there’s a guy trying to rape me just outside this little corner you call an office…” she said. “Now I know what you’re gonna say, you’re clothing choice, your problem. But wouldn’t it be good to know that you were a prime witness/suspect in my rape and eventual death, should you let me leave here today without my vehicle?!…Oh how your conscience will eat you?!…” she exclaimed. “Alright, alright!!” He yelled. “You’re so dramatic” he said. Let me go talk to management about this. He had left her to wait over thirty minutes before coming back and finally returning her keys to her. “THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!!!” She yelled. “Oh and btw I lied, my rapist drove off a long time ago!” She arrogantly yelled. “See you…. Never! You over zealous bastard!!” She playfully pulled one of her eyes down and stuck her tongue out. He began to bang on his window, cursing her in his language. “Yeah, yeah…Eff you too!!” She yelled, as she followed up with the Shakespearean bird flip to show him that they could both curse each other in a different language. Now this is what you call sophisticated ignorance, she thought. As she ran to her car covered in sweat, she quickly hopped in and sped out of the lot relieved that her persuasion and good faith had saved her from a potentially dangerous situation. As she was driving, she began to think of all the different encounters she had faced that day where in which she was coerced for sexual contact. “All these perverse regulars…” she thought. If I had a dollar for all the harassment and degradation I face on the daily, I would be a million…” her mind began to drift. Her eyes widened as she began to have an epiphany. She couldn’t believe where her thoughts were traveling. People casually joked about it plenty of times, but in her confusion and newly emptied pockets, she began actualizing the idea. “….how much do strippers actually make?…” she thought. “ I get sexualized friggin’ every day of my life…either for free or at a cheaper rate anyway… might as well really charge them for it…” she contemplated. She was conflicted, frustrated and playing devils advocate towards an occupation she once criticized. She began to immediately research the popular clubs in her area where celebs were prone to frequent. She began to also distinguish the “white” clubs from the “black or urban” clubs. She wasn’t sure if there was a correct way to go about this whole agenda, but she figured in her heap of desperation, there was indeed no sane way to approach something so crazy. She had spent the rest of her night looking up regular earnings for strippers on amateur night and decided that if she never went back ever again, amateur night would either be a one time venture on her bucket list and a subtle “yes” on a crazy night of “Never have I ever” with her girlfriends. Plus, she had always been told that she had a nicely proportioned…body. “Why the heck not?!!” She thought. Talk about positive reinforcement. The next day she ventured on a journey to a popular urban strip club that she had seen was a regular for celebrities. She was trying to get paid. She convinced herself that if she stuck to the plan and remembered that money was the motive, she wouldn’t fall victim to any of the nuances in the strip club. “Was it possible to come to work, strip and mind your business?” She thought. Upon pulling in to park, her nerves were taking away from the supposed excitement into the unknown. She treated all of her experiences the same. Another chapter in her collage of craziness. The area looked sketchy and when she saw the male attendants in the back, she realized that she didn’t come prepared. The confused look on the security guards face said it all. “Excuse me mam, are you lost?!” He asked. She felt like little red riding hood, and one of the big bad wolves were trying to toss her a bone. “No sir, I just wanted to know if you guys were…er…uh…hiring?” She asked nervously. The security guard gave her a blank look after scaling her up and down. “Are you sure you’re at the right place young woman?” He inquired. “I mean, I’m not the owner, but I’m telling you, if you’re here for what I’m thinking… you don’t exactly fit the bill.” He said. She interrupted really quickly. “I’m open to any form of employment where I do…uh…fit the bill. She understood where he was coming from. Without really saying much, the tone of his voice came across like a scolding from a concerned father. She didn’t come dressed for the job she was looking for. He didn’t see how any one would have her show her…skills… in a t-shirt and biker shorts. “May I ask what kind of employment you’re specifically looking for?” He asked. “Nothing specific” she answered. He could see she herself was not confident about the trip she had made. “Well alright mam, can I see a form of ID?” Her anxiety had built up so much that she forgot that she was still standing in front of a club. “Oh yes that’s right, my ID…” she nervously murmured. “Alright, you’re good…Good luck” he said, as the door behind her closed shut. She had never been to a strip club before and she began to wonder if this first encounter was a bit drastic. Upon walking in, the darkness of the entrance was alluring. She didn’t make it all the way inside before she came across another man. “Excuse me miss, can I help you?!” He exclaimed. He looked at her confused, but still admiring her assets. “Uhm… can I speak to the manager? She asked. She didn’t understand why she put on her most professional voice. In the moment before she uttered another word, she remembered where she was. “Is you tryna strip?!” He asked. He continued on with the concern and intrigue with her reasoning for being there. “Uh…” she quickly thought about saying yes to the question, and what she stood to face, once she walked to the other side. “Uhm, I’m open to any bottle girl or waitressing positions the club maybe hiring for…” she nervously responded. “Oh ok… so you sure you ain’t tryna strip?!” He asked again. “Cause I was gonna say the manager for the waitressing position is out right now and won’t be back till Monday, but if you’re looking to strip, the manager for that is in the back, but you still gotta come back on Monday to audition…” An immediate sigh of relief came over her as she realized that she wasn’t ready for what she was about to sign up for. “Oh my god, thank you!” She said. She had yelled that out by accident. “Uh, I’m sorry I’m just relieved that I get another do over…” she lied. “He looked at her like strange fruit. Ok mam, whatever you say…” He spoke through a walkie to the manager. “Someone would like to talk to you sir” he said. “Bring her back” the manager responded. “Alright, you good; you can go through.” She was overcome with immediate anxiety and disappointment. When he told her that auditions were held on Mondays, she took that as an out. She began to stare at the entrance as a gateway to hell. “Mam, are you good?! He asked concerned. “I said you’re good, you can head on back. You’ve been staring at the velvet rope for 2 minutes.” He said. “Yeah, my bad I’m good.” She said. She took a large gulp of her spit to alleviate her dry throat, wiped her clammy hands on her shirt and took a deep breath. “Uhm…Thank you” she said to the guy, as she reluctantly walked to the back. “In order to become a stripper, ironically the first thing you need are enough balls to actually do it…I’m a punk, I’m a punk, I’m a punk…” she mentally ranted on. She began to fully understand what it meant to feed into hypocrisy. She never judged anyone’s occupation, but the idea of intentionally stripping off her clothes to feed the eyes of the many chauvinists that plagued the club made her skin itch. All in good fun, but at what cost? She had been sexually abused before, and the idea of exposing her body to that potential risk and nightmare terrified her. “What if I leave this place and get followed?!” She thought. How will they relay my missing persons report on the news?!” Her mind became plagued with the possibility. “A young African American woman residing in ******* was found missing on the ** side after auditioning at **** nightclub yesterday. A missing persons report has been filed, but if you see any suspicious activity, please call crime stoppers at 1–800…” she imagined that her body would never be found because of several defeating factors, but the most obvious was that she was black, a woman and presumably ranked as one of the lesser concerns on a white police officers missing persons list — a potential stripper. “Hey pretty lady; My name is Marcus Zimmerman. I heard you were looking to audition with us today?” He said. He was the owner she had been instructed to meet with. “ Uhm, any available openings for bottle girls or waitressing would suffice…” she nervously responded. He didn’t look like what she expected. She was expecting a chocolate man with a suit twice his size, a pimp hat, pimp shoes, a pimp stick, a gold tooth or teeth and other ensembles. She then realized that she wasn’t at “The Players Club” and he wasn’t Bernie Mac. “Oh ok, well I’m the mgmt for the dancers. What were you looking to achieve today? He asked. “ I see you didn’t come prepared either” he playfully scoffed. “Uh, yeah I didn’t realize there were uh… rules to these sort of things.” She said. “Oh ok…” he said. Well while you’re here, I want to test your patience. You stand to carry a lot of roles beyond your role as a dancer and your endurance for bullsh-t has to be at an all time high. Do you dig the play I’m putting down?” He asked. “Uhm, I’m not sure, but to be honest I’m not sure why I’m here in the first place…” she responded. Well, we’ll see if that changes by the time we’re done with this…meeting” he responded. He walked over to the other side of the room to go play some music. “Any song in particular?” He asked. “Pick a song that you’re comfortable with” he said. she stood in contemplation actualizing her semi-prudent nature. “F-ck, am I really about to undress for absolutely no reason right now? She thought. “Where’s the cash?!…uhm, can I just wait for my audition on Monday?” She asked. He looked at her like a shriveled peeling of a fruit he was intending to eat, but had lost its zest and flavor. “I don’t know if I’ll be this responsive to you on Monday as I am right now… You’re gonna have to show me what you got. Now I don’t care how you show me, that’s your prerogative, I just need you to show me something” he said. She began to question what she had gotten herself into, but she was curious herself of what skills she was packing. She took her hair clip out and started shaking her hair loose. “Invite me” by Brent Faiyez…” she forwardly requested. He could see that she was still prepping herself. She quickly ran to the bar and asked for someone to cook up a shot for her. After one dose of liquid courage, she got on stage and began shaking her hair and body to the rhythm of the music. This wasn’t in response to him or his attempt at preying on her financial desperation. As crazy as the idea was, she had convinced herself that there was a solid point behind all of this. She was dancing all of her power back. She could see how attuned and merciful this man was to her every move. She was going to woo him, with her clothes on and swore never to return again. This wasn’t personal. She just wanted to introduce him to the person he didn’t get to meet when she first walked into that club. She showed all her tricks and came full of surprises. By the time she was done, she walked off the stage over to this formerly powerful individual that she met 4 minutes ago and was now introduced to this weak person who allowed her to wrap his tie around his neck like a dunce and couldn’t keep his legs closed. He was mesmerized, now a slave to his own proposition. “Hey, where are you going?!” He asked. He jumped up from his chair to gather himself. He was moving at her pace. “The song is over…songs only run for 4 minutes…remember? She sarcastically said. She began gathering her things and walking off. “ You can start Saturday night…” he said. The octaves in his voice became deep again. He wanted her to remember that he would be her boss as he wiped his forehead with his tie. “I’ll think about it.” She said. “What?!” He exclaimed. “I thought you came for an audition?! You can’t do that!! What was the point of that?!” He was outraged. He felt like 4 minutes of his time and money were wasted. He didn’t even charge her the regular dancing fee required of every one that gets on stage. She looked at him blankly… like a child crying because his candy got taken away. “Because I can…and because I did..” she exclaimed. She took one last good look at him, and power walked out of that door. She decided that she would take this lesson and actualize it in her real life. Never let people underestimate your ability to do whatever you want… even in doubt or experimentation. She came in lost — challenging her values, & left astonished by the rush that overcame her. The awareness of self. She referenced all the times in her life where she was alive, but not really living. She was glad that she didn’t allow for this new feeling to be exploited. There was rebirth, there was power. She was all that she needed… and that was enough.

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