Read part 1 here.
I ordered a gin and tonic from the bar and nervously eyed the room. It seemed ridiculous to be spending money before I had even made anything, but I needed something to do with my hands and I also needed something to steady my nerves. Being early on a Wednesday night, it was quiet, and most of the other dancers were holed up together in corner booths or lounging around in the dressing room waiting until the night started to pick up. A few men started filing in, alone and quiet, each making their way to different parts of the club, beers in hand. Pop music blared over the speakers, played by a DJ who looked like an old uncle at the edge of a family get together. I watched a woman slowly revolve around a pole on the stage, looking bored out of her mind. It became apparent to me that the rule about “evening gowns and no g-strings” was either completely bullshit or just ignored, as I watched g-string after g-string file out of the dressing room. After a while I decided that I wasn’t going to get anywhere leaning against the bar so I walked over to a man sitting near the stage and sat down next to him. He was in his 60s, thin, with sparse grey hair and a downturned mouth. He wore a navy polo shirt and faded grey pants with trainers. I tossed my hair and introduced myself. “Hello, I’m Stephanie”. The name Stephanie seemed like a natural fit. My first name is Tiffany which is constantly mistaken for Stephanie, plus when I was in primary school the kids teased me with the nickname “Stiff-any”, which seemed like a good omen. I can’t remember his name now, so let’s call him Phil. I was so nervous but I tried not to show it. I didn’t really know what to say, but luckily I didn’t need to say much since he was more than happy to fill the silence.
I didn’t know how to act. Should I be flirty? Should I be innocent? Should I act like myself? It would take me a while to learn how to be, and to learn about the different kind of dancers any club contains. There’s the party girls who are constantly throwing their arms in the air and smacking guys on the ass. Some of them are real partiers – taking as many drinks from men as they can and getting completely wasted before the end of their shift. One such party girl got fired during my time there for throwing up during a lap dance. Classy. There were also the smarter party girls who had their wits about them. They knew to give the impression of drinking a lot without actually drinking. They were the ones who taught me to order a lime and soda from the bar and pretend it was vodka or gin. There were the aloof girls, who acted as if they didn’t need any man or their money. They leaned against the bar waiting for men to approach them with the utmost ease, dripping sex. Some of the girls, especially the young ones, could play the “I’m so innocent and naive” card. A lot of men loved the idea that they were helping these young whippersnappers through university. Then, there were the “girlfriend experience” girls, and this is where I ended up finding my place. The girlfriend experience was much more about conversation, cuddling, and building up the guy’s ego. I found a common theme with the men who would go for dances with me: lonely, shy and looking for a connection. It was a symbiotic relationship: I would prey on their need for someone to talk to, and they would prey on my need for money.
One of the most important skills a hustler needs to develop is the ability to pick out the men who are there to spend money and who won’t waste your time. Just as there are several types of dancers, there are many types of men. There are the aforementioned lonely hearts, dude-bros on a boys night out (their little brains exploded if AC/DC came on), the upstanding guys who are “just here for a drink” (they usually ended up being the most awful in the private rooms), the cynics who enjoy looking down on you and leading you on with the promise of cash, and business men with nowhere else to go. While I excelled performing on the main stage, I was pretty useless at picking out when a guy was leading me on, and so I would often get trapped in long conversations that left me with nothing and wasted my time. I always found it difficult to cut an interaction off.
There were not many women who visited the club: they were only allowed to enter if they were with a man. One woman who was a regular came because she enjoyed watching the women just as much as the men did, but she had to bring a male friend along with her, even though she dropped a lot of cash each visit. Sometimes couples would come and they were usually summarily ignored by the dancers, believing there was no point. I would always make a point of going over and talking to them though, specifically the woman in the relationship, because more often than not they would book a dance together. Couples were always my favourite, especially if they were in their 40s or 50s, because they were always polite, respectful and tipped well. I think I liked dancing for them because the experience was actually about how it made them feel towards each other, not necessarily about how they felt towards me. I probably would have kept up stripping longer if there were enough couples to pay me.
In the end I came to rely on my performances on the main stage to sell dances. I shone on stage and it was my favourite thing about working at the club – prancing about and whipping my hair around to Beyonce and JT. All the dancers are required to perform on the stage, but it is unpaid, so many of the women hated it. I tried to turn it to my advantage though, using it as a way to line up dances with the men seated along the edge. Eventually I started working as a feature so I could put on more elaborate shows and also get paid for them. I much preferred this to lap dances, but the money was nowhere near as good.
If I had known all of this on my first night, I would have known that Phil was a creepy lurker who wasn’t there to spend money. I would learn later that all of the girls avoided him as much as possible. As I listened to him drone on, I eventually worked up the courage to ask him if he wanted to go for a dance. “It’s my first night…” I purred as I twirled my hair around my fingers and leaned forward. “Won’t you pop my cherry?” He was in a good mood and he agreed, and I led him by the hand to the private rooms, to give my very first lap dance.
Stay tuned for the third and final part, out next week!