Beggin' and Barterin'

Rachel Jackson

© Copyright 2012 by  Rachel Jackson



Photo of a woman dancing in corset.

This is a story from a period of time during my mid-twenties. I was coming into my own, learning about the world around me and what my role was in it. It might shock some and annoy others, but I'm sure it will provoke a little laughter too. It certainly is one of the lenses through which I see the world and it's given me a lot to laugh about myself.

Here I am on my knees again. It seems that no matter where I go, beggin’ is always the same. Whether it’s pleadin’ to Jesus to take me back again or kneelin’ in submission to the man whose hand holds the long, folded dollar bill, beggin’ is always done the same way – on your knees.

I was living in Nashville and I was twenty-five years old with long, soft, curly brown hair, a ripe, round ass, and young, perky breasts. For fourteen months I practiced the sin of begging with my clothes mostly off, the shoes usually on, and liquor always, always inside.

You can’t seem too needy, though. They can smell the stench of late rent and electric bills the minute they lay eyes on ya’. When you’re beggin’ with your clothes off, you have to be indifferent about their money. They really need to believe that you’re doin’ it ‘cause you just love the job. Bend down low so you can get to that tip just barely sticking out of the waist of their pants. Take way, way, way too long wrestling it out with your teeth. Then, when you come up, spit it out behind you like it was just a stupid formality, like it’s dirty and nasty, like all you want is to get back to that belt and what’s underneath it.

Incidentally, while you’re down there gagging on the thought of all of the disgusting places that dollar has been, smell the belt and check the shoes. If the belt is real leather and the shoes look high-end and well-polished, go to his table after you leave the stage and work to get the private dance. If the shoes are ragged and the belt is old and creased, go get the next tip. That’s not to say that the guys with the old belt and shoes won’t spend a lot, but it’s less likely. I’ve found that if they do, it’s often their whole paycheck and I just found that too sad to take, at first anyway.

How is it that in a town like Nashville with has more church pews per capita than any other city in the United States that a girl like me could earn a decent living sinning? It’s the churches, I think, and the money that runs around in that town. The place where I danced was directly across the street from a Christian supply store and just up the street from a Christian book publishing company, not to mention it’s the home of country and gospel music. The puritanical, Calvinistic, ideology suffocated mankind in that town and those of us who helped it breathe were the bearers of its secrets and the mockers of its need.

Who would think that a good time to work in a strip club would be from noon to six pm? Oh, it was, though. That’s when the businessmen had an alibi. Their wives would call and they would not answer directly, choosing to go outside to return the call and tell her that he’d been in a meeting. Yeah, with my tits!

Oh! I have some favorite stories. There was the banker, “Dave” we’ll call him. He had a thing for the hairy-armed women. He was well-dressed, laconic, and always brought gin. He’d order a tonic water to mix with his gin and generously buy the gal a Coke. He scoped me out for months. He’d leave great tips at the stage and almost never get a dance. One day, though, he finally sprang the plan he’d been plotting in all of his afternoons of investigations of the naked female form. He arranged for Alizay and me to meet him for a private dance at a hotel nearby. He promised at least $250 apiece for each of us.

The next day we met as planned at a trashy hotel just off of Interstate 65. My hair was big and fluffy and my legs were shaven. Alizay pulled up in an old Trans Am and we talked while we waited to see if he was going to show. After a short while, he parked his luxury sedan several spaces away from our working class transports and we walked up to the room he had rented. He made us a round of gin and tonics and we found some music on the old digital clock radio. We stripped down to our g-strings, but he didn’t want us to dance. Instead, he pulled us close and grabbed us each of us by our hairy arms. He sat in a chair and moved my arm against hers, making the hair growth on mine move opposite the direction of hers. As my downy covering mingled with hers, it lifted both of our pelts off of our arms and he had a quick intake of breath. He made us repeat it over and over until he almost wiggled out of his skin in excitement. Naturally, the two of us avoided looking at each other, knowing that it would end up in laughter if we did. After more "hair-raising adventures" and naughty showers, having never touched him, we left the hotel room with five hundred dollars each.

Sometimes the money was horrible, especially considering what we were doing to try to make it. After a while, a girl learns to bring her own alcohol to work just to start the day. Usually the customers bring the drinks; but, after a while, the pump needs to be primed just to begin working. Crown Royal is the gentleman’s club drink of choice by patrons and dancers alike and I, for one, had my share of it, but I let the boys be the ones who paid for it. My starter drink was a pint of vodka in half and hour while I put on my make-up. I was drunk when I hit the floor of the club.

All of the girls had our rotations dancing on the main stage, followed by a song on the second stage set in the middle of the club. Our dressing room was upstairs, as was the entrance to the stage. It was a grand staircase encircled with mirrors and brass. It took a long time to learn to walk down over a dozen stairs in those ridiculous shoes, especially when intoxicated. I was one of the girls who could not do the job while sober and was also one of those who could not hold my liquor.

One day, I had already had my pint of vodka and plenty of Crown. I was dancing on the main stage, going through the motions. I slammed to my knees in obvious delight and submission. Then, I began to crawl on my hands and knees in preparation to lie on my back and writhe with apparent spasms of orgasmic ecstasy when I realized that, if I did lie down in any way, I would pass out right there on the stage. So, right in the middle of my song, I grabbed my outfit and crawled to the exit stairs and walked straight to a private dance couch and lost consciousness on it. When I awoke, it was to a giant pair of triple-D, fake breasts in my face with the voice of another one of the dancers shaking me and saying, “Rachelle? Rachelle? Are you okay? You left in the middle of your dance.” I don’t remember what happened next.

Luckily, it was not that same day where the girl on the second stage was so inebriated that she was sobbing and shaking her money-maker at the same time. She was a weepy drunk and just started crying while she was dancing. To add to the drama, another of the girls came to the edge of the stage and did the hug and sway move with the topless dancer while she shed tears and mascara. After they released their embrace, the bawling girl continued to dance, shaking her booty and squeezing her own nipples while tears splashed on her breasts. It was sad and funny at the same time.

Strip clubs see all sorts of clientele, no matter what the upstanding citizens might want others to believe. I’ve danced for a state treasurer paying with his business credit card. There was the green country singer who thought he had found himself a stripper for a girlfriend. She would talk about him in the dressing room. She had secured for herself a goldmine. Men from all walks of life have seen me naked. There were those who, despite paying to see me nude, conducted themselves like gentlemen and there were those who wouldn’t even tip but would try to cop a feel. I got really good at blocking roaming hands from any direction.

The saddest and most common sight in the dark club was lonely men. I lost so much money because of them, but I would still sit and listen. These were the rich business men whose wives quit loving them long ago, but stayed for their money. There were the miserable boys who couldn’t find love. There was one who would pay a cover charge and the two-drink minimum just to come in and talk with me. He was sweet and way too earnest for his own good. He told me that he loved me so I had to tell him not to come back.

There was the guy who followed me home one night and who started leaving gifts on my car. I managed to sneak his license away and have the manager copy it. They used connections to get his address for me and I wrote a letter to his wife. He was scarce for a long time after that.

The saddest story I encountered in the club was that of a forty-something year old man named, “Lester”. He smelled awful and he had some sort of problem which made him sweat profusely. After he had gotten a lap dance, the bouncers would have to bring in a towel to wipe off the silhouette of sweat he left on the couch. He became one of my early Friday night regulars. He still lived at home with his mother and worked at a manufacturing plant just across the state line in Kentucky. He took to me like a puppy with a new tennis ball and learned quickly that if he brought whiskey, I’d sit with him longer and lose count of the number of dances I had given him. He said that he loved me and I would tell him that making him want me was my job; but, if he loved me, he should quit being a customer here. Instead he would just arrive the next time with a bigger bottle of whiskey. We were both the saddest thing in the club.

Finally, there was the kind of guy who came in to party. He would spend a fair amount of money and not complicate things. He would come to the front of the stage with his buddies and I would be “so overcome” with his sexual prowess that I would flail myself at him and tear his shirt down the middle to drag my hair over his chest. He never appreciated his shirt being ruined, but his buddies would freak out and throw money at me. Silly boys.

Like I said in the beginning, it was all begging. I just had to know my audience. Did they come for fun or did they come for a friend? In the end, a strip club is just a bunch of beggars bartering for what the other has. I’ve learned a lot about life from this. I’ve seen the underbelly of the society of men. Nothing really separates men when they are in this setting. They were all begging for a beautiful, naked woman to make them feel like strong, powerful, desirable conquerors. The dancers were all begging for money and liquor. It seemed like a fair trade.

I am now in my mid-thirties and work and live in Vermont.  I've recently started back to school.  In addition I have gotten  a license in air conditioning and drive a Zamboni for night ice rink maintenance.  When last seen I had a field recorder and headphones and was making recordings of river sounds.

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