When I first started stripping, I had short hair –it was a boy-cut, really. I wouldn’t even say it was an attractive haircut, not like some of these avant-garde, cool cuts that other girls get. And definitely not a haircut a stripper would or even should have. Mine was the result of an end of the semester breakdown. With the female dorm empting out, much like my college funds, I slipped into the bathroom, tied my long hair into a ponytail and chopped it all off. The scissors were my roommate’s who was studying fashion design; they were big and chunky and not for cutting hair. What I was left with was something that looked and felt like my reality; chaotic and unfinished. I was in a panic. How would I pay for college? And how would I fix this hair of mine?
No one tells you that there are actual try-outs for a stripping position. I thought that it went something like this: you just go in and if you’re a girl or girlish, then you’re hired. But no, it doesn’t work like that. And I was as surprised as you. They want to see your body, first. And they want to see how you move your body, how comfortable you are with others looking at your body. I cannot recall feeling unready –as cliché as it sounds– I was born ready. I might have been more ready than most because something told me to do this. Plus, I had the pressure of education weighting down on me like the Codex Seraphinianus.
Without any clue what stripping involved, I brought in a bag with some gowns saved from my high school proms, I had attended three, and one pair of thongs, wine colored and lacey. Once I scanned the room and studied the girl’s outfits, I realized that what I had brought was the stuff I thought stripping was. Stripping was none of those things. It was not any item of clothing that fit into regular life –not at all. Women were in bodysuits, thigh highs, short tube dresses, skinny thongs, corsets, and some strange stringy things I had never before seen in my life. Later I would try to wear all of these and would settle on the bra and panty set –a real classic look. But it was clear that all of their clothing had been cut from the same cloth, some lycra-blend that clung to the body like plastic wrap, preserving them for as long as possible. I wanted to be cut from a timeless cloth; well, maybe not I, per se, but Marlowe. It took me a few months to learn my stripper style, but experimentation was all part of it. I tried men’s shirts with ties, I tried body stockings, I tried floor length gowns. It all felt too contrived, too of them and not of me. What I was looking for was a style that glorified Marlowe. And I knew Marlowe well. I had known her all my life. We had danced together in my adolescent mirror, we had studied our bodies under blankets at night, we had committed mutual masturbation.
Marlowe was a girl of very few frills, simple even. But what carried her through a shift would be her attitude not the pieces of fabric on her body. No one would fuck with Marlowe –that’s the standard she set for herself. And it worked. She was made up of one part sass, one part frankness, and one part focus –the rest legs, milkshake thick legs. Her decision to rarely smile was part of her character, too. She was the serious stripper, the one who sat in the corner away from the other girls. She was the one who decided that drinking or drugs on the job was a no-no. She was the one who was very particular about her music and make-up. She was the one that never smoked in front of customers. Marlowe wanted to get in and get out –all the while counting stacks. I had already planned this out in my head, way before I knew the try-out existed; Marlowe and I conspiring in the all-female dorm room back at university.
My try-out was, I’m sure, like any other try-out; however, I doubt any girl felt as comfortable as I did. Or maybe they did, what did I know. It’s possible that there were hundreds of Marlowe-esque types roaming the world on a hustle for study flow. But I was ready to take it all off for strangers. And in that moment, I came to understand myself more. I understood how sure of myself I had become even at a young tender age of 19. Years in the business would rip that to shreds and I would have to rebuild myself from the ground up once the stripping stopped.
I vaguely remember the shoes I wore, but they were not the platforms of the other strippers. I think I even wore my glasses on stage. I’m sure the perverts were into that nerd-chick thing. I didn’t get to pick the music, so the DJ somehow thought that ACDC would do the trick. The guys lined up around the stage once they heard I was a newbie. I was ready to fill my thong with dirty dollar bills; I was ready to rob people in a very legal way.
Looking back, it doesn’t even seem like my story –it’s a scene from a decent B-horror film. Later, I would get chopped up in one of the private champagne rooms, but not before grinding my way to an orgasm on top of a stranger who would be my lover slash killer. Something like that.
It never occurred to me that having short hair would make for a less than desirable stripper. I was so removed from the world of standard sexiness; I was a bubble-girl who had only known sex and sexy through my own experiences and not those of the outside world. That same year I had lost my virginity. But I quickly realized that short hair would not get me the paper I needed; I was on a mission to stack. So I went to a beauty supply store and bought a wig.
My wig, in a few words, was the replica of Cleopatra’s style, less black and more chestnut, reddish even. When I put on the wig and looked at myself in the mirror I felt a history of myself looking back –I was certain I had been this person before. And as quickly as I took to my new identity, I knew it had to be true. No one could tell me otherwise. It was a face I had seen but not seen –it was a face that had remained unseen until that moment. Somehow, I was following the footsteps of my past lives. Marlowe was just another name I attributed to a spirit I had known so well.
WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela