If you go into a strip club without money, leave your ego with it. Better yet, just stay home.
In the book, Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams, there was a character who was an old rich white woman who had abandoned a son back in Africa because her powerful, politically – connected playboy, savior and sugar daddy would not allow his prize possession, a son, a rightful heir to his kingdom of power to, to, with her after she banished her. They had meant in a bar where she entertained people. Now he scowled and looked at her asking her how she planned to support herself. “Do you think you can just live off your wit?” The question stung me, echoing over and over in my mind. I immediately welled up at the thought of my relationship with my son being contingent upon me being able to procure sufficient income to support the two of us and a lifestyle which no one would need rescuing from.
I will never know if my life almost went that same way. The timing of shifts of income influenced the timing of such behavior and, processes in my relationship. During this time in my life when I heard this story, I have recently discovered standup comedy and wondered if it was something worth throwing my all into doing. I wanted to be a student of comedy. I wrote and recorded random ideas to reflect on in the way comediennes did. I tried to perform standup in spring 2011. I was nervous as I pulled up to Cloud Nine Restaurant. I had not heard the portion of the story that question one’s ability to survive on which yet but reflected on my already deflated feeling about how my performance went when I did hear the story.
I would have to practice really hard or do something else. I did know something but I had gone as far as I could in that world. After doing something for 12 years off and on, you should be somewhere near mastery. The art of booty shake is dying. But so am I. I give all I have to and unappreciative public who was more interested in how my but would feel against his plastic gym pants. The only way to “graduate out” of the dance came is to find some rich guy to support you while you lived the life. Maybe you would go to school, go to lunch with the neighbors, or maybe even have some babies. Anything but dance again, right? Well, I did experience a miracle when God sent my child stated to me to of allow me a chance to breathe the cool clean air of life, free from pressure of bills and pressing deadline sand quotas.
Shake dancing for money becomes the battle of deadlines and quotas. Some girls put pressure on themselves to produce a certain amount of money in the beginning of the night based on a deadline that lay ahead. “Girl, I got to make $300 today! Such and such is due tomorrow!” That kind of pressure and responsibility has scared most girls into going lower and lower in their job as shake dancers by functioning differently than a regular dancer would. It was to the point that people didn’t expect to look at a dancer and she performed. The customer wanted a chance to touch a girl; beautiful or no, skills or no. they were not interested in watching a dance performance.
That was literally my freaking cue…
So here I am, writing about my life as a dancer whose body tricks people. My pain is invisible but ever present. My tolerance for that pain, in addition to mothering and energetic five-year-old son loves to jump and climb on me like a tiger cub has slowly diminished along with the love of the dance game. I had always imagined getting too old to keep up with the young girls who simply out danced me. I imagined leaving dancing in my past hoping that the end wasn’t too bitter, hoping to remember the sweet beginning without regret or embarrassment.
My spine is shaped like an S, diagnosed with idiopathic adolescent scoliosis in the spring of 1994. I discovered a lump in my right breast in 1997, in which the biopsy came back negative for cancer. I was diagnosed with arthritis in my neck in the fall of 2001. Needless to say, walking around and dancing in the required 6-inch, high heels is a tad uncomfortable. It is no longer tolerable to endure the pain that radiates up my ankles and legs, up my back and blasts from inside my ears where there is also loud music pumping demanding and degrading words into my ears. I sweat profusely under my long, curly wigs. The wigs shelter my hair, keeping my pillows safe from the scent of cigarettes and strip club funk.
I hurt myself to perform for customers. All the moves I do put stress and strain on my already aching joints and muscles. My legs and hips ache due to the uneven pressure I apply to my feet, creating a stiff right leg. While I work at the club, I sometimes take my prescribed medication. Half first, wait 30 min. then the other half.
I listened to different stories on tape or I listen to my iPod while I ride home. Sometimes I pulled off my wig and peeled off my eyelashes. Upon returning home, I peel off my club-contaminated clothing, take a hot shower, moisturize and massage my aching legs, lie down and pray for rest to settle over me.
It has become obvious that dancing is no longer for me so I will see if writing is. I hope so not only because I have some good stories to tell, I simply can’t stand in those tall shoes anymore…
A.stray is a story about Teresa, who starts dancing in order to rescue her ailing grandmother. Her boyfriend, Greg, seems understanding but has his own struggles as he tries to rebuild his life after being wrongfully jailed for not paying child support. Teresa meets Cheyenne, a New York transplant, who comes down to Atlanta to restart her life as she flees from her painful past. Titus who is in an unhappy marriage falls for Teresa but Cheyenne has fallen for Titus.
A.stray will be the first of many novels from Sayuri Smith, a former adult-entertainer from Atlanta, GA.