Most of the stories that make up the rather ‘colourful’ tapestry of my existence are things that I once wore as a heavy cloak of shame.
I spewed them all out in my first show. Aptly titled, A Storm In A D Cup, I got all my sordid secrets off of my chest, and watched from the stage as my loved ones learned – somewhat in horror – about the various escapades of my past.
Would I recommend such a public sharing as a vehicle for your own confessions?
Look, probably not, but it was the only way I knew how to express myself at the time. I found it infinitely easier to share such things through delicately crafted story and song (and to strangers, no less) than I did through simply, softly, and honestly sharing these things with any nearest and dearest.
I still find it challenging.
One of my greatest said escapades came in the form of a ‘dance gig’, at a certain Melbourne ‘establishment’.
The back story is important here.
All my life I’d wanted to be a Musical Theatre performer (ironic, as I never could/ still can’t execute a time step, let alone ANY step…doubly ironic once you read the rest of this story).
Anyway. I’d just completed my first year at the prestigious VCA, Musical Theatre course. I loved it. Days were spent practicing intricate Sondheim melodies, or face-to-face with fellow students in deeply felt (and likely, completely melodramatic) dialogue. And let’s not forget, trying – with all my might – to execute an aforementioned bloody time step.So when I got an invitation to return as a second year student, I was STOKED. It rendered me one step closer to ‘my big break’ (or just breaking my leg, given my capacity on the dance floor). I promptly jumped on the phone with Mum to share the news…and was ever-so-gently reminded that – as she had forked out the fees for the first year – I’d have to foot the (rather hefty) bill should I wish to return. It wasn’t a HECS covered course, and yes, I was insanely privileged to have a parent pay the load in the first place.
It was of course fair enough. Yet looking at my measly week-to-week bank balance, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to find the funds either.
There was no savings plan for this 20-Something Singing Wannabe. Any leftover cash per week went to a bottle of Oyster Bay Savvy B and a skinful of Vodka Lime and Soda’s over the bar of any on-trend Chapel St nightclub. They were good times, but definitely left me scratching my head as to how I might – in a matter of months – come up with the 10K needed to pay my way.
I believe this was the start of my entrepreneurial quest. I had to find the quickest way possible to earn the largest amount of cash.
(10 points to you, Reader, if you’ve worked out where this story is heading).
A friend of my housemates come round one day, and told me about this ‘new job’ she had in the ‘entrainment industry’. Making, I shit you not, a minimum of $800 CASH A NIGHT. I was enthralled. And..it gets better…they had ‘roles’ to fill!
I couldn’t get in there quick enough.
Cut to me, a blonde, bubbly 24 year old…driving her schleppy Mazda 626 down King St Melbourne, ready for her ‘interview’ at (drumroll please)….
Goldfingers Strip Club.
I don’t know what makes this story so compelling. Is it;
a) that the high-achieving, formally sensible Dux of St Joseph’s Catholic High School had resorted to taking her clothes off for a living and showing her mimsie to strangers?
b) the fact that I WAS THE WORLDS WORST POLE-DANCER? Dead set, I had about as much grace as one of those 20 ft blow-up inflatable wind dancers out the front of a car yard.
c) that by day, I’d sit at the front desk of a local production company as the smiley receptionist, and by night, I’d saunter down to ‘Da Clurb’, and parade around semi-clad as ROXY???? (Or Bambi, or Sasha…or whoever I felt like being that night).
It was quite a time.
The whole thing was complex and layered. On one level, I was totally mortified about what I was doing, and didn’t want a single soul to know. It felt like the lowest of the lows, and telling my parents – especially my Dad – was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
On the other hand, I found it thrilling, and exhilarating, and strangely liberating.
As a fairly buxom blonde (pre-breastfeeding days, gah), I’d spent much of my life being oggled by men. I’d also spent much of my life quantifying my worth by how much attention I got, if I ‘got the boy’, if they told me I was ‘insert physical compliment’ here, if they actually phoned me after I’d put out.
I’m sure many of you beautiful readers will relate to this. We hand all the power over.
Witnessing men hand over wads of cash just for a 5 minute lappy (or crappy-lappy as the case probably was with me….honestly, I’d try doing a sexy move and nearly lob them in the balls)…it was almost laughable. It felt so insanely easy. Too easy.
The layers go deeper still – I’d experienced some pretty profound sexual trauma when I was 18. It’s another story for another time, yet for some complex reason (which I’m sure psychologists would have a field day over) dancing like this made me feel like I was reclaiming my power. Every $50 bill felt like my dignity was slowly being ‘bought’ back.
I wasn’t there for long. I clocked up the 10K (in about 6 weeks, mind you) and got the hell out of there. Everyone in my family got really good Xmas presents that year too.
15 years on, I still don’t quite know how I feel about this experience.
If you look closely at this photo (taken around the time) there’s certainly a touch of sadness behind the eyes. And indeed, sometimes I do feel sad for 24 year old me. That I had to do this…based on a strange chain of events that led me there – -some which were very much within my control, some of which were not.
But on the whole, I’ve stopped trying to psychoanalyse my little stripping stint. Am I proud of it. Not really? But do I regret it? I actually don’t think I do. And look, if there was a niche market for slightly sagging, still lactating bosoms, I might even do it again if things got really dire.
But I’ve given up on judging it as good or bad, right or wrong, shameful or remorseful.
It just is.
Things are never really right or wrong. It’s only ever our judgement of them – based on our own individual, social, religious or cultural upbringing.
What one persons finds completely shocking, another will find totally liberating. What one person finds morally wrong, another will be entirely right.
Neither person is fundamentally right, or wrong. It just is.
Letting go of judgement has to be one of the most freeing things we can do…judgement of ourselves and each other. The load gets infinitely lighter, the laughter is easier to find, and the love flows far more freely.
And then, it feels less like a tragedy, and more like a triumph.