That first March weekend wasn’t cold. Still, the dancers would walk down King St in track pants with duffle bags, hair in ponytails, heads bowed if they wore full make-up, with false eyelashes fluttering against the breeze. They would slide through the club, sticking to side tables, not making eye-contact with customers, wallets held in one hand. In the downstairs dressing room they would pay house fee to the house mum on shift and put their name onto the table roster. Until we unwrapped ourselves from our cocoons of Nike tights and oversized hoodies, we would avoid pulling from the sway of our hips and thighs the body language that made us money.
‘How did you get into it?’ My friend asked one day at the beach, eight months later. We were chatting about sex work and fake tan, and her new boobs – she wasn’t a dancer though. She was a beauty and lifestyle blogger with a YouTube channel boasting half a million subscribers.
‘You know that’s so funny,’ I said. ‘People ask that all the time. Nobody realizes that you just call or email a club and ask if you can try out.’
The interview I had for The Club was the only strip club interview I had ever had that wasn’t at an actual club. I had met the house mum for a different club, the first club I ever worked at, in the office they had backstage where they created the table rosters. Two days later I was called to organize an appointment for an interview at the offices for The Club, a few blocks away from the venue. For the interview I wore false lashes, curled my bleached hair and wore a skirt and low-heeled boots. Underneath was black underwear and a blue bralette. I weighed forty-five kilograms and wore a size 4-6 Australian, despite my take-out addiction.
The woman who interviewed me danced into the room – no joke – she twirled in singing, with a contract held high in one hand the way servers brought out plates.
‘Hi sweetie! How are you!’ She said. ‘Christina’s gone home for the day, so you’ll be interviewing with me. I work for the sister club here.’
She led me into a room with no windows and a long walnut table. The walls were paneled with what appeared to be paintings and wooden scenes cut out reflecting horses and knights in battle. It looked like the kind of room in which King Henry would have ordered Anne Boleyn’s head to be cut off, where Cromwell and the Bishop might have conspired to swipe some off the top of the royal bank accounts.
‘So,’ she looked at me. ‘What made you want to start dancing?’
At that point my bank account reflected about ten dollars, every time I went to work at my office job I would come home with a back so sore I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to write, really. I wanted to help people, I wanted my life to reflect an attitude in which I had dared to at least try, rather than taken the same route as everyone else.
‘Oh well, I’ve always been interested in it.’ I said. ‘I did some nude modelling a couple of years ago and that was fun.’
‘So, you’re comfortable being naked?’
‘Yeah,’ I said.
‘Okay,’ she said. ‘So fill out this contract. It explains all the rules for the club, make sure to fill every page and the back of every page. Our club is a no-touching club, that means the customers cannot touch you, your bum, or boobs during a dance. They’ll train you, show you how to give a lap-dance, and everything.’
‘Okay,’ I said. I wrote my name down and listed my older sister as my emergency contact.
‘Right!’ she said taking the contract back. ‘I’ll go file this, now you get undressed, so I can take a couple of pictures to send over to Christina!’
When she left the room, I stripped down to my underwear and waited.
‘Smile!’ she said, snapping a photo on an iPhone. ‘Gorgeous!’
She stood back up.
‘Okay, so if you’re successful you’ll hear from us in a week or two.’
‘Awesome,’ I said, wondering what was next. I felt like I needed to say something to lock in a place at the club. ‘So, did you used to dance?’
‘I did sweetie,’ the woman said, leading me back into the foyer. ‘A long time ago, but never at this club.’
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