I knew every bathroom in my hometown like the back of my hand. From the single stall Casey’s bathroom to the giant hole in the ground with a toilet on top at the state park that scared the shit out of me. Looking into nothing but a black abyss as I undid all the damage from lunch I wondered if I’d ever love myself. The self hatred I endured from puberty through my early twenties seemed infinite. I didn’t know it yet but years later I would be standing naked in front of a crowd owning my body and all its flaws, unapologetically, and banking off of it too.
“Don’t become a stripper if you have an eating disorder, you’ll only hate yourself more,” I read across Tumblr forums researching how to become an exotic dancer. I read this line over and over seriously considering if it was true. I had recovered from eating disordered habits for a few years before I wanted to become a dancer but as anyone with an eating disorder knows, that self deprecating inner monologue is never completely silenced. I wondered if comparing myself to other women with fake tits and liposuction every night would lead back to old habits. There was only one way to find out.
Overall I was very confident walking into the club for my audition. I was in the best shape of my life after the massive overhaul of my life a year prior. After high school I ballooned from an anorexic 90 pounds to 160 due to alcoholism and antidepressants. I eventually got off all my medications and lost 40 pounds. I was happy with my new body; strong, sober and sexy. The veterans hated me. I was that new girl with too much confidence and a wittled waist. Months later I eventually joined the post-work Dennys crew and did no exercise other than 7 hours of grinding on dudes in sweatpants. The unsnatching of my figure had commenced. What I didn’t expect was the outpour of self care and self love that followed.
While comparing yourself to others is something we all experience, the altruistic nature of body positivity grows when you become a stripper. You see women with all body types flourishing while simultaneously stacking cash. You encourage and congratulate each other. The locker room love is infectious. Eventually you have this epiphany that these magical mystical coveted strippers surrounding you are just normal people with stretch marks and bacne just like you. They don’t all have fake boobs or washboard abs. You no longer pick yourself apart in the mirror. You see yourself as a whole being: soft, feminine and beautiful. We learn that even on our worst days someone will pay us to dance for them. Developing a confidence under dark forgiving lights soon spills over into our daily lives and we’re able to carry ourselves with courage and conviction.
However, I would still recommend seeking professional help if you are in the throws of an eating disorder before becoming a dancer. There is no way I could have danced when I was existing on diet sunkist and adderall at 90 pounds. The physical labor of being a stripper is not something to be underestimated. Even today walking in 6-8 inch heels for 7 hours a night, giving lapdances and pole dancing every hour is incredibly hard for me. The taxing nature of our work will take a toll on you physically mentally and emotionally. You MUST take care of yourself respectively in this career.
While I’ve maintained a sense of peace with my self image I still struggle with the mental labor of my job as well as my mental illness. Borderline personality disorder is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Having severe mood swings daily is exhausting mentally emotionally and physically. While over the years I’ve learned coping skills to reduce my symptoms I know that getting sober was the best thing I could have ever done for my disorder. Being a stripper has granted me the luxury of taking time off work when I need it. No other job will allow you to call in and say “well I had a meltdown because I couldn’t get my eyebrows drawn on right so I’m not coming in today.” (That really happened.) Learning how to take a break and take care of myself has been one of the many blessings I’ve received through becoming a stripper. But the blessings really are endless.
Whether you struggle with an eating disorder or mental illness or disability, dancing will empower you. Stripping will test and try you and you will wonder what the fuck you were thinking ever doing it. But you will always come out on top and have an another amazing payday and all the bullshit will fade away. You will build lifelong friendships and aquire endless stories to tell to the little old lady in the rocking chair next to you in the nursing home. Dancing has opened my eyes to my own strength, resilience and overall badassery (come on, how many people do you know that can climb a pole upside down while simultaneously twerking and getting rained on!?) As a woman, loving yourself is the most righteous political act you’ll ever do and the ultimate middle finger to the man. So god dammit be you, own it and put ’em up! 🖕🖕🖕