I first came across Lane*’s writing on a popular women’s site. I instantly liked what she wrote, it was unapologetic, funny but not comedy: it was so thought-provoking and engaged, I kept coming for more. Soon she started writing elsewhere, and I only found out about her side-gig when I reached out to tell her about my blog. This feature differs from the ones previously published in the way Lane* was feeling ambivalent about her working situation. She actually has quit her stripping job the week after our conversation.
*not her real name.
What is your job, exactly? By day I’m a writer for hire doing both branded copy and editorial work. At night I work as a stripper at a strip-club.
Do you do both every day? In an earlier conversation you said you were sometimes only writing and a few days later going back to stripping. It’s really flexible, you can go a few weeks without stripping and then you go back. If I need the money I do that. I’ve worked in traditional strip clubs where you have an eight hours shift. More recently, I’ve worked at parties where they rent out a club. It’s a little more informal, the girls there are not professional strippers, they’re college girls trying to make money to make ends meet.
How long have you done it for? I’ve been writing full-time for about a year and a half, though I’ve been writing at previous jobs. I’ve been stripping for the past year but I’ve had different experiences in the sex industry since 2006. Parties for foot fetishists, or people into balloons. There’s all sorts of stuff you can do if you meet the right weirdos.
What was your first job? My first real job was as an executive assistant at a small charity. It was managing the life of this really brilliant but crazy guy. What I learned from it was that I am not an entrepreneur. I don’t really have this sort of vision to build something of my own, manage people and have all this responsibility on me. It also made me realise that assistants have it really hard so I’ve been really really kind to assistants ever since then.
What did you study? I studied history as an undergrad and I studied religion and international relations as a grad student.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a writer.
Well done! Is there anything you would have done differently, given the choice? I wish that I had the confidence to start writing earlier and got into media sooner. I was really self-conscious about it. I felt only really really talented people could write. So I’m sort of behind a lot of my peers who have been doing this for a long time. It’s been successful since I started doing it but if I had had those extra years doing it, I’d be a lot further along in my career than I am now.
Do you have a specific goal in terms of writing? I want to publish a book of essays on suicide and grief. And I would like to make a career out of long form essays, both on personal analysis and cultural phenomenon. I want to be an essayist.
Is there someone in particular whose career you admire? Yes! Her name is Leslie Jamison and she’s this incredible young writer.. She wrote a book called The Empathy Exams, it’s a collection of essays that are really powerful. It performed so well and she remains incredibly humble, kind, and just someone that you want to be around. Her big topic is empathy so it makes sense.
Are you good friends with your coworkers? Yes! As strippers we’re all dealing with the same assholes.
If you think that the customers are assholes, do you still enjoy it? I don’t enjoy it, I don’t dislike it, I’m really ambivalent to it. It’s not degrading, it’s not empowering, it’s just money. It’s so predictable that none of the stupid things they say can ever surprise you again. What makes them sort of douchey is when they play hard to get. They want to watch you earn it, and you know they do want a lap dance. Some of them are mean to the other girls. They think that we’re jealous of each other but we’re not. We all look so different that we’re not competitive. People have a certain thing they’re looking for. And if I’m not it, no hard feelings.
Do the people at your freelancing job know about your stripping? No, because it’s client-based and project-based, they sometimes don’t even meet me. Some people in previous jobs have known about it.
Do they have opinions about it? They’re curious, they don’t seem judgmental. But that sort of dissipates when they realise it’s kind of boring.
Have you ever been discriminated against at work? I’ve had gender language used against me when I had complaints. Things like “you’re being irrational”, “you need to calm down”, “this is all in your head”.
How did you deal with that? I usually just quit because I always had stripping to fall back on. I know I’ll make more money where they treat me with less dignity but during a shorter period of time.
What do you wear to work? I usually go to a café to do my work so I’ll wear a sundress and heels just to make sure I get up and get ready. If I’m working on site I’ll wear fitted black pants and a stylish shirt, not too buttoned-up. At the night job, I wear matching lingerie with a tight cocktail dress over it.
What is your work schedule? A typical day when doing both jobs, I get up at 7, write for 9 hours, go to the gym, and then go to the club for 5 hours.
Do you have time-management issues because you work for such long periods at a time? A lot of the time I’ll be able to stay up and it won’t bother me and suddenly I’ll crash. Then I’ll need a full day’s worth of sleep.
Do you have a pick-me-up thing that you do besides coffee? I have a prescription for Adderall that helps me to stay up. And to focus.
I remember reading articles about the negative effects of Adderall. When I was younger, during college, I used cocaine and the comedown was so hard. But with Adderall, because I actually need it, I’ll just stay focused during the day and when I feel the comedown coming it’s totally manageable.
Do you have any side projects? I have a few side projects. I do activism around legality of sex work and have some writing for the entertainment industry planned. My way of volunteering is to expose the police violence against sex workers and other people who are marginalised in NYC.