My Strip Club Christmas Miracle, Part 2

One of the best things about being my roommate is that when I record a new song, you get to hear it 153 million times. It’s a good thing Jesse LOVES it. I’ve got another song coming out soon, and Jesse has already said he wants to hear it 154 million times.

NARRATOR VOICEOVER: Actually, Jesse didn’t have the foggiest notion what was going on in Circus’ life and mostly just cares about when she’s gonna clean up the paint she spilled in the garage three months ago.


(Sorry, I’m not sure how to turn it into a link that you can add to your Spotify playlists. I’m technologically challenged because whenever I wiggle my eyebrows, some nerd will offer to do complicated nerd things for me. If one of you nerds wants to figure out how to make this a downloadable file, let me know.)

It is, like my child, full of flaws that get on my nerves, but still, it’s my firstborn, ya’ll.

I mean, other than my *actual* firstborn.

Okay, enough with the shameless self-promos and back to the story.

The second half of this story is about Genevieve. I knew who Genevieve was long before we became club buddies. I knew Luis, the coke dealer, was twisted over her, and I knew all his bodyguards and buddies had a deep amount of respect for her. Secretly, I drooled over her outfits, which were sexy as hell and flawlessly accented with a long, slick ponytail and glittering jewels. Genevieve is a shining diamond in a club full of coal.

“I have a hot pink velvet tophat I think you’d like!” she told me one night where we both found ourselves at the same table. “I’mma bring it to you tomorrow!”

A hot pink velvet tophat sounded RIGHT up my alley, but I didn’t think much of her offer. People almost exclusively say things at a strip club that they don’t mean.

Much to my complete shock, Genevieve did, however, bring the hat to me the next night. It remains one of my favorite possessions, and we’ve been friends ever since. I absolutely adore people who stand by their word because it’s so goddamn rare.

I suppose a Christmas present from her should not have come as another complete shock, but it did. Not only that, but she completely nailed my goth aesthetic. I don’t think I’ve ever received such a thoughtful present before. At the club, I’m a bit of a closed book. I get my job done, I don’t make drama, I don’t make friends (usually), and I go home alone at the end of my shift. Somehow, Genevieve had managed to pierce my psyche, read me accurately and go on the hunt all over town for a gift guaranteed to bring me delight.

Her gift gave me a new perception that I’ve been pondering ever since. I’m an introvert with anxiety. I manage it well, so if you know me in person, you probably can’t tell. I assure you it’s there, however! Something I’m learning about anxiety is that it increases feeling of narcissism and decreases feelings of compassion, both of which can be incredibly alienating. I want to connect deeply with people in ways that are real, but I don’t really know how, so I don’t do it easily. The deep connections I wind up are with those who were consistent and persistent. With everyone else, I generally assume, without even really thinking about it, that most people have no interest in forming connections with me.

On the other hand, Genevieve showed up, she saw me, and she reached out to me with an open hand and a generosity of spirit that left me choking back tears. She didn’t assume I wouldn’t want to be her friend; she saw that I needed one and chose to befriend me. I want to be like that. I want to live my life with a radar for good people whose souls may be just a little bit lost or floundering and let them know that I see them.

In social gatherings, I generally feel like a moth among glittering social butterflies, but I think now it’s time to be neither. I want to be the light for both of them, the way that Genevieve was, this Christmas, for me.

My Strip Club Christmas Miracle, Part 1

I almost didn’t write this story. The day before Christmas break, one of my co-workers told me that she was drunk-texting her ex the evening prior, and the next thing she knew, he was making plans to whisk her off to Breckenridge, CO for Christmas. They made love in a hot tub as a blizzard howled outside.

GODDAMMIT. I never drunk text anyone! Perhaps I should reconsider all of my excellent life choices and engage in some dumb ideas instead.

So, yeah, my story is not miraculous like THAT. Nevertheless, when Hallmark or Lifetime makes a movie about my life, today’s story will feature prominently towards the dramatic climax.

HAHAHAHA. I’m kidding. We all know that’s never gonna happen. No one’s making a movie about my life unless it’s Wes Craven, it’s been such a shitshow.

What happened on Friday night was pretty great, though. Not monetarily of course. The club has been in such decline that I really haven’t been making good money. No, this is one of those stories Hollywood loves to make about how love is so much better than money and then goes off to make gobs of money and marry trophy wives, as if their own goddamn movies taught them nothing.

Heartwarming movies with wholesome messages about love > money are only for the poors, apparently. Maybe it’s a conspiracy to tamp down our ambitions so they can hog more money for themselves. Maybe they just want us to feel better about being poors as they take our money. Anyway, I digress . . .

I was standing at the front desk clocking in when I heard my first and only original single ring out over the speakers. (You may remember that song from my last post.) I immediately proceeded to freak out the front desk girl and then rushed into the deejay booth to hug DJ Rob, who laughed with sheer joy and immediately proceeded to grab my butt.

Rob had added some rap lyrics from a local rapper named Chiclopz and mastered it. My voice streamed through the speakers like silk. Onstage, a dancer twirled gracefully around the pole LIKE IT WAS A REAL SONG OH MY GOD.

Another dancer bounced into the booth, singing my lyrics back to me. She lives with DJ Rob, who is always taking in stray dancers, and had heard my lyrics a million times, bless her heart.

(Still, it’s an amazing feeling to hear someone sing your own lyrics back to you.)

I apologized profusely. “No, no, no, it’s okay!” she exclaimed. “I love this song so much!

Then she bought me a drink and told me that her boyfriend had recently landed in prison. She drove eight hours round-trip once a week to see him. A few months in, he called her to ask her to make a special trip, only to break up with her when she arrived. She cried all the way back home.

DAMN. Who makes a girl drive eight hours just so he can dump her? I mean, if there’s ever a justifiable reason to break up over text, being in jail four hours away would definitely be the right situation for that.

“Your song helped me so much,” she said in that super cute earnest way that only 20somethings can pull off. “I listened to it over and over because I needed to hear it. I knew you had gone through something similar and you understood how I felt. Please keep doing what you’re doing because you’re a real person, and you can help a lot of people.”

Say it with me: AWWWWWWW. I’m sure every singer/songwriter who’s written anything even remotely inspirational has heard those exact same words, but it’s a pretty damn good feeling to hear them said TO YOUR OWN STUPID FACE.

This night at the club was starting to feel more like being at home for Christmas with my family than the real thing. My real family is kind but also super unimpressed with me.

You kind of don’t expect this sort of thing to happen at a strip club. I mean, let me be real: Strip clubs are the IHOPs of the entertainment world. You only come to us when all your better options are unavailable. You don’t expect to find something special like love or family at such a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Just as I was still glowing from DJ Rob’s surprise, my girl Genevieve texted me.

To be continued . . .

Where is Magic Born?

On the night that I met one of the magical men I know, he told me one of the darkest, most horrifying true stories I have ever heard: a tale of fame, of abuse, of love, of a suicide attempt, a rape, an abandonment, a rescue, a missed shot at redemption and a headlong dive back down into a spiral of abuse and darkness. I can’t give you the details, my friends, because it’s not my story to tell, but it did not have a happy ending.

“She left me to die in a basement,” he told me, “I wanted to die. I spent the next month sitting in that basement while my friends set up a schedule to be with me around the clock to keep me from killing myself. My best friend slept at the foot of my bed every night.”

He looked at me, his beautiful blue eyes bleak with the recollection. “I felt like all my magic had died.”

And yet, here he was, three months later, utterly entrancing me.

At one point during our whirlwind of a first date, he mentioned “. . . the man who taught me how to hurt myself.”

Before I could ask what he meant, he began banging himself in the face with a metal cup he had pulled from his backpack. I watched in astonishment as he set the cup down and removed a long nail from his nose.

“I’m into weird shit,” he said with a grin. It grossed me out, but not enough to keep me from fucking him that night. Mostly because, well, he quoted poetry to me before going down on me, and what red-blooded American female can resist that?”

On our third date, he wanted to go to Museum of the Weird downtown. Remembering his antics on our first date, I looked around thoughtfully. “You should work here,” I suggested.

“No way could I ever work at a place this awesome.”

“I think you’d be great!” I said. “Ask them if they’re hiring.”

He suddenly became shy. “Circus! I can’t do that!” he exclaimed.

“Hey!” I called over to the cashier behind the counter at the gift shop. “Are ya’ll hiring?”

“As a matter of fact, we are,” the cashier responded.

You’ve never seen a man remove a business card from his wallet so fast before. He whipped it past my ear with a whoosh and slammed it on the counter. “Hi, I’m Tim,” he said, shaking the cashier’s other hand with a smartly executed flourish, “and I’d like to be your new tour guide.”

The Museum of the Weird hired him a week later. He became one of the best tour guides they’d ever had, making nothing but tips but raking in more than I earned a stripper. In a few months, he quit his first job at a smoke shop and paid all of his bills by working at the museum a few days a week.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat this: A man fresh off a suicide attempt is not a healthy person, and he put me through hell. We broke up, drifted apart and recently reconciled as friends. A year of consistent therapy had helped him a lot. He told me he had started a traveling sideshow, working numerous gigs around Austin each month. They were about to go on tour on the west coast, and once that wrapped, he planned to settle in LA and pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. I think he’ll be a resounding success.

Tim told me his magic died in a basement after his lover left him, but I think that is where it was actually born. If we let it, magic is always birthed in the silence and darkness of our pain, in the tumult of our despair and the exquisite torture of our regrets.

A few weeks ago, I was in my usual perch in the deejay booth prior to my shift, pouring my heart out to DJ Rob. He turned from his mixer and looked me dead in the eyes, his usually jovial face entirely solemn. “Wendy,” he said quietly. “You need to be writing right now.”

He was right. When the pain is nipping at your heels, let it propel you forward.

The next day, the lyrics to a song I entitled “Where the Magic’s Born” poured out onto my paper. I took them to DJ Rob. He read them and nodded. “This is good,” he said.

DJ Rob knows a thing or two about magic. He broke his leg recently, but he hasn’t skipped a beat. Instead, he’s been using the time he’s been laid up to write another shit ton of music. I watched, flabbergasted, as he switched the hook and the first verse and wrapped one of his melodies around my lyrics. I’ll be damned if they weren’t a perfect fit.

In four hours, we had a rough cut of the first version, AND HERE IT IS, YOU GUYS. I am so nervous/excited to share it with ya’ll. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress.

I’m not confident enough in my vocal abilities to say with certainty that I’ll be performing this song with the band, but it’s definitely going into my musical, for which I promised to blog about the unfolding creative process. I think I’m gonna call the main character MAGIC.

I hope you like it.

Here’s the link to the song:

An Unhappy Ending for a Sad Little Man

Do ya’ll remember George? It’s a toss-up between him and Jim Bob as to who is The Worst Client Ever, but George is definitely a strong contender.

Or was, because George is no longer a client. I grew tired of dealing with his racism, misogyny, homophobia, and childishness, not to mention his absolute refusal to respect my boundaries, so I stopped dancing for him. I decided his drama dollars weren’t worth the Irritable Bowel Syndrome he was giving me every weekend.

This doesn’t mean the drama stopped entirely. Being racist, shallow and very entitled, George only likes skinny white girls with large breasts who will spend a lot of time cooing over him at the poker tables. Whenever George has felt he has received sufficient attention, he will “reward” the dancer with a few dances, subject to her to whatever excrement is floating through his stinking swamp of a mind at the moment, promise her more dances later and head back to the poker tables. This leaves the poor girl with no choice but to spend almost all her time fawning all over him in the hopes of receiving more dances and making it worth her time. And fuck your life if you’ve got more than one regular client in the club that night; one of them is gonna end up mad at you because George hates competition.

There are two flaws in George’s otherwise perfect strategy for extracting maximum attention from gorgeous women. First, the amount of money that he spends on dancers is not proportional to the level of bullshit he dishes out, so dancers will not tolerate him for very long. Instead, George must constantly cycle through an endless stream of new dancers who don’t know any better, training and retraining them to his preferences.

Second, almost none of the dancers check all of George’s boxes. There’s me and one other regular dancer, who also refuses to play George’s game, so George must settle for less than everything he wants. He is clearly unhappy about this, because lately he has taken to tipping me every time I’m onstage and telling me how “fucking hot” I am every time I walk past him. I know he’s hoping to lure me back to the poker tables, but if I had to stroke his back and coo at him one more time, I’d probably just vomit into his ear.

George had a pacemaker put in a few months before I stopped dancing for him, and I’ve watched over the past year and a half as he’s grown ever more frail and rickety. Nevertheless he has doubled down on his club attendance, drinking himself into a stupor every weekend and requiring an escort just to leave the club. I suspect George has become an alcoholic if he wasn’t already. All of the other regulars at the poker table are united in their belief that George is a Grade A asshole.

I am skeptical that karma comes for all of us in the end. Wealth and power seem to provide an excellent shield, and even if it does, the punishment rarely fits the crime. Nevertheless, karma came for George last Saturday night.

I don’t know how it happened. Perhaps George fell and hit his head. Perhaps someone hit him with a car. Perhaps someone punched him in the face. All I know is that when I was leaving the club last Sunday morning, George was limping between two men who were supporting his weight. The left side of his face was unrecognizable, crumpled like a bloody napkin, most likely requiring facial reconstruction surgery. It was extremely disturbing to see.

Watching him as I walked to my car, I wished I could have felt feelings of glee, the sweet satisfaction of vindication. Instead, I felt nothing but pity. I suspect we’ll be seeing very little of George from now on. His life will likely end the way most lives spent indulging in vainglory and selfishness usually end: quietly, without fanfare and with no one there to mourn his passing. In fact, everyone at the poker table may buy a round of drinks to celebrate.

Tales from Da Dead

We interrupt these tales of one side hustle to bring you tales of another: this one night that I worked at House of Torment here in town. For confidentiality purposes, I had to wait until the season was over (or nearly over) to tell this story.

I promise you right now that most of you won’t believe this story. That’s okay, though, because I swear every word is true.

For my first and only assignment, I was put (alone) in one section of a charnel house. Across from me were two bloody men in a bathtub, one headless and hanging from severed wrists over a disemboweled man below him. The scene was horrific, and in the dark, the blood gleamed as though it were real.

When patrons rounded the corner and observed this scene, I lurked, unbeknownst to them, dressed in full zombie makeup and costume, in a curtained bathroom stall right behind them. A few seconds after they arrived, I would stomp on a button on the floor that activated a loud noise and a strobe light, pull back the curtain and scream. It was a jump scare, but a very satisfying one.

Everyone reacted differently. Some people would scream and run, and those were the best; others would stand and laugh, and those were the worst. The best scare of the night, however, came from another actor, who walked in during a lull in customers to fix her hair in the mirror. In the silence of my bathroom stall, I watched her for a minute through a hole in the curtain, thinking two things: 1) “Bitch, you’re a zombie. Your hair doesn’t need to look good!” and 2) “Do you think I’m NOT gonna scare you?”

She was admiring her reflection when I activated the strobe, and at its loudest BOOM, I burst from the stall. Zombie Girl screamed and whirled around, her eyes wide with disbelief, staring at me as though I had just murdered her puppy. She put a hand on her chest and bent double, heaving, and backed into a wall to support her wobbly knees. I stood there laughing as she regained her composure, yelled, “Aw, HELL naw!” and stomped out.

She reached the door frame and just beyond, another actor lurched from the shadows and screamed directly into one of her ears. She jumped, screamed again and bolted. Poor Zombie Girl was NOT having a good night.

The other actor chuckled and turned towards me. My stomach twisted as I looked at him. While my zombie makeup had been airbrushed on, his looked real, with chunks of flesh falling from his skull to expose the bone underneath. One eye popped out of an empty socket and bounced on his cheek as he walked towards me, his shabby clothing dragging along the floor. I backed away as he approached. “Great makeup, dude,” I said. He smiled menacingly and disappeared around a corner.

I saw him several times that night, following unsuspecting groups through the charnel house and screaming into the ears of the unfortunate souls stuck at the back. He scared one girl so badly she jumped onto the back of the fellow in front of her and latched on hard. That fellow shook her off and turned around to shake her hand. “Hi, I’m Dave,” he said. “What’s your name?”

Throughout the night, two scene leads named Boo and AnnaBelle came by frequently to check on me and make sure I was doing okay and had enough water. They also came to fetch me at the end of the night when it was time to go home. “Who was that guy walking around screaming in everyone’s ears?” I asked, walking with them through the long maze outside the scenes, full of spooky props and piles of dead, fake bodies.

“What?” said Boo.

“That zombie guy!” I said. “The one with the really good makeup following groups around and screaming at them! His makeup was really good!”

AnnaBelle frowned. “There’s no like that here tonight,” she said. “We’re short-staffed, so we couldn’t spare any actors from the scenes to be roaming actors.”

We rounded the corner into the main staging area for all the actors. “There he is!” I exclaimed. “Right outside the make-up rooms.”

AnnaBelle and Boo craned their necks. “There’s nobody over there,” Boo said.

How could they not see him? Leaning against the wall outside the makeup rooms, Zombie Boy pulled the eyeball away from his face and licked it. I wondered what it was made of. Silicone? Or perhaps one of those candy eyeballs you could buy at the store during Halloween season?

“Yes, he is,” I insisted. “The one with the eyeball falling out of the socket.”

AnnaBelle and Boo looked at each other. “Hey,” AnnaBelle suggested, “why don’t you grab your things and I’ll walk you out?”

I looked back at the makeup rooms. Zombie Boy was gone. They probably thought I was crazy.

I sighed, feeling embarrassed. “Sure.”

My stuff was stored in the cubbies outside of the break room. “We’ll wait for you in here,” AnnaBelle and Boo said, disappearing behind a metal swinging door.

My stuff had been pushed deep into the back of the cubby. I had to step on tip-toe and push past someone’s else backpack to reach it.

Through the metal door, I could hear AnnaBelle and Boo talking about me. I don’t think they realized the metal door was thin enough to hear through.

“You know she’s describing Russell, right?” I heard one of them say.

“Who’s Russell?” I heard a third voice say.

“He was the son of one of the scene leads who worked here a few years ago. He was a bit autistic, so we couldn’t get him to stay in a scene, but he loved running around and scaring random customers. He was so good at it that they just let him do it.”

“So . . . what about him?”

“Well, there’s a new actor out there claiming she’s seen him.”


“Well, Russell is dead.”

“What? How?”

I had found my purse at this point, but I just stood there, listening.

“It didn’t happen here. He died at his school.”


“I’m not sure exactly, but what I heard afterwards was that there was a bunch of students dressed up as Harry Potter and Hermione and all that, and they were horsing around. One of them started chasing the Harry Potter character and Harry rounded the corner just as Russell was headed around the same corner the opposite way and Harry’s wand went straight into Russell’s eye. The guy pulled it out really quickly, but Russell’s eyeball popped out with it. He died on the way to the hospital. Freak accident.”

The third voice gasped. “So you think this new actor’s seeing the ghost of Russell?”

“That doesn’t make sense,” another voice countered. “If Russell died in an ambulance, why would she see him here?”

“Russell really loved this place,” another voice said flatly.

“We aren’t that far from the old hospital either,” someone else said softly.

WHAT. THE. FUCK. Had I really seen a ghost?

I’ll probably never know. I quit after that night and never went back.

But if you go to the House of Torment tonight, and someone screams into your unsuspecting ear, tell Russell I said hello.

The Things This Tat Can Do

I have a tattoo written in Latin on my upper thigh. I am disappointed that it has yet to summon any demons.

My tattoo means, roughly translated, “Where there is love, God is there.” Hardly a quote from The Lesser Key of Solomon, but still.

I get asked a lot of questions about it, and then the topic often turns spiritual. Oddly enough, people wanna talk about God a lot in the club.

Probably the weirdest incidence of this nature occurred a few weeks ago when some of my best clients took me to VIP.

They are a husband/wife team looking to spice up their sex life and also to psych themselves up for a shit ton of plastic surgery on her. She is getting a mommy makeover, and he can’t wait.

Anyhow, this one particular evening, they were feeling especially frisky. He requested that I masturbate for them while she went down on him. This is not the usual shit that goes down in VIP, but since they are excellent clients, I acquiesced. Besides, I love watching a woman pleasure her man. I usually pick up a new technique or two, and this instance was no different.

Afterwards, they asked about my tattoo, I told them, and then we all sat around in VIP, stinking of sex and sweat, and had a very stimulating theological conversation.

Other than this one time a client asked me my favorite football team, and I told him “The Astros,” I pride myself on my ability to accommodate any topic of conversation my clients can throw at me.

Wanna do blowjobs and talk about Jesus? Weird, but yes, for enough money, we can do that.

This is Jim Bob. Don’t Be Like Jim Bob.

My clients continue to be the absolute worst.

Take Jim Bob, for instance. Jim Bob is a slow-moving, slow-talking non-cowboy with a penchant for wearing cowboy hats and large belt buckles. I met Jim Bob back in December during a conversation in which it became obvious that he had no idea the difference between polyamory and swinging. It was just all wild, crazy sex to him, and Jim Bob is all about wild, crazy sex.

He never shuts up about it. The whole time I spend perched on his lap at the club, Jim Bob details exactly what he’d like to do to me. He also dissects every other woman in the club and shares his fantasies about what he’d like the three of us to do together.

The minute Jim Bob found out that I am open to polyamory, he decided that I am the woman for him. He has not yet clued into the fact a) That’s not how being poly works and b) “Not Yet” is actually a “Big, Hard NO.” I rarely tell my clients I won’t date them, because then I lose them as clients. My job is to dangle that pussy on a string as long as possible until they spend themselves broke. Most clients figure out after a few ignored texts that I will not be dating them anytime soon, but Jim Bob is a slow learner.

“I’m willing to wait until whenever you’re ready,” Jim Bob, “Because I know a lady as special as you is worth the wait.”

Well, fuck.

I’ve probably got at least a few more months of smiling and lying through my tightly gritted teeth before he either gives up or does something terrible.

Jim Bob thinks he is a nice guy, because most fantasies end with him saying something like, “And you’ll feel comfortable having all that wild, crazy sex with the three gnomes pounding your pussy while you ride a Sybian up your ass because afterwards, I’ll take you back to my bed where we can be alone, and I’ll tell you how special you are to me.”

“How was the steak?” I asked him brightly, trying to change the subject. Jim Bob nodded approvingly. “It was good,” he said, “but not as good as I’m betting that pussy tastes.” I wanted to throat punch him. CAN HE NOT HAVE AN ACTUAL CONVERSATION LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING JUST ONCE?

“Oh, my gosh, look at that girl onstage!” I exclaimed. “She is such a bitch! I once asked if I could borrow her deodorant, and she was straight up, like, no, but guess who she came to when she needed a hairbrush? Me! And I said yes, she could borrow my hairbrush, because I’m not a bitch! Can you believe her?”

“She’s clearly a stuck up bitch,” Jim Bob laughed. “I’ve seen her walking around here like her pussy don’t stink. She looks like she needs to be hate fucked with a piece of rebar.” I cringed and immediately regretted my conversational choices.

Jim Bob is a teacher, ya’ll. This man is teaching your children. This man is shaping the future. Are you horrified yet?

I am gonna assume that being hate fucked with a piece of rebar would be my fate as well, were I to anger Jim Bob at some point down the road if I were to date him. This is what ladies think to themselves when you say awful things about other women.

When I’m dancing for him, Jim Bob asks me what I like about him, and I have to think hard and fast to come up with some redeemable quality, of which he has a dearth, that I can make sound believable.

“I love how sincere you are,” I cooed, feeling incredibly insincere.

“Have you ever thought about me naked?” he asked.


This is where my skills as an actor fail me. I am a mediocre actor at best anyway.

“Uh, I’m really more into your intellect. That is the first thing that turns me on about a person.”

I dodged that question better than Joe Biden! Jim Bob was pleased. I was proud of myself for that one.

To think I got into stripping because I thought it would be easy money! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

“I’d love to take you out to dinner and a movie sometime. And then maybe some making out. I know you can’t kiss me here at the club, but I can tell you want to. And we will, if you’ll let me take you somewhere nice and quiet.”

“I’d love that,” I cooed again, batting my eyelashes and wondering what the fuck I did to make him think I wanted to kiss him. Damn, maybe I’m better than I thought.

I’d rather remove my eyeballs with a spoon.

The Stripper Goes to Therapy

I have mentioned a few times on this blog that I was raised in a cult, but I haven’t really said much about how terrifying it actually was. Listening to someone yammer on about their horrible childhoods is boring to most people, and besides, who among us didn’t have a horrific childhood? From what I’ve heard from a lot of you, most of yours were far more fucked up than my own.

Nevertheless, my therapist suggested that writing about my experience might better help me process it, so here goes, for the two of you who still read this thing 😉

If you looked at my childhood from the outside in, it would have appeared idyllic. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in the same house for over 20 years. My dad worked in the oil refineries, and my mom stayed home, sewing all of our clothes and baking cookies. They were devoted and attentive. I had an older brother and a younger sister, a cat and a dog. We played in a fort in the backyard and rode our bikes all over the neighborhood.

I’ll never forget the day the fear set in.

I was eight years old. It was twilight. I had been playing with some friends down the street and arrived back at home in time for dinner. Instead, I found an inexplicably empty house. Both of my parents’ cars were in the driveway. A pot of potatoes boiled on the stove. There was chicken in the oven. The telephone dangled off the base by the cord, as though it had been dropped mid-call. My mother, father, sister and brother were nowhere in sight.

And then it hit me. My family had been taken. Raptured.

If you were raised an evangelical Christian, the doctrine of the rapture won’t be unfamiliar to you. It’s the Christian belief that one day Jesus will return to Earth, like “a thief in the night” and, in an instant, remove all the saved Christians off the planet and whisk them away to live with him in heaven forever. Furthermore, we were taught that the Rapture would signal the beginning of “The Great Tribulation,” aka Armageddon, in which Satan, whose evil forces were no longer held in check by the prayers of the saints on earth, would release all his hatred of humanity by raining down war, plague, famine and all sorts of other horrors. Finally, as if that weren’t enough, we were taught that once you failed to make the Rapture, you were doomed. Following these seven years of tribulation, the earth would be destroyed, you would die and then you’d spend a never-ending eternity in hell, being burnt alive over and over and over again.


I’m not even kidding in the slightest. We were taught these things in Sunday School, during the same class where we sang, “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Jesus loves the little children of the world!” (It was eventually this sort of cognitive dissonance that caused me to begin questioning this doctrine.) My family and our lives revolved around the church. We were there at least four times a week, if not more. This belief was drilled into our heads every day. I believed it with all my heart.

My parents eventually returned home that night, but the fear never left. I developed what my therapist refers to as “hypervigilance disorder,” which is a common symptom of PTSD. I was constantly checking on my parents and other adults in the church whom I deemed “rapture-worthy” to make sure they were still there. I only allowed them out of my sight long enough to go to school. Otherwise, I had to check in every few hours or so.

For example, if my dad stayed up reading on the couch past my bedtime, I couldn’t go to sleep until he did. I would lie awake in my bed for hours, straining my ears to hear him turn the page of his book. If several minutes went by and I heard nothing, I’d tiptoe to the living room to make sure he was still there. It wasn’t until I saw the light go out that I could finally relax and sleep.

For over a decade, this fear haunted every step that I took. When I was 12, I remember believing I’d never see the other side of 17. I didn’t plan to go to college. I never planned a dream wedding in my head because I was convinced I’d never marry. I never thought about the kids I might have one day.

Instead, I tried to be as perfect as I could. I read three chapters of my Bible every day. Following that, I knelt beside my bed and prayed for at least fifteen minutes. Anytime there was a particularly moving church service, I wrote about it in my diary. I followed all the rules they threw at me. I never wore make-up to cover my horrible cystic acne. I never cut my hair, instead wearing it in a bun every single day of high school. If I curled my hair at all, it was eight curls only and they had to be pinned because loose curls were too sexy. I wore my sleeves six inches below the bottom of my elbows and my skirts six inches below the bottom of my knees. I memorized all the verses they required us to learn in Sunday School. I came up with interesting and inspiring testimonies to share during the Young People’s Service. I wore pantyhose to every church service, even on Sunday afternoons in the hottest part of the summer. I didn’t watch TV. I didn’t go bowling. I didn’t participate in theater or show choir. The list of rules was long, the list was exhausting and, since the pastor, who was likely a misogynist and had ultimate authority over our lives, could tack on a new rule anytime he liked, the list was endless.

No matter how hard I tried, however, I never felt worthy to go in the Rapture myself. If I happened to wear some article of clothing that clung too tightly to what my family dubbed, “the Bolgiano buns,” since we were sort of notorious for having sizeable booties, the pastor’s wife would call me into her office and tell me that I disgusted her. She especially hated me for asking questions in Sunday School that made her uncomfortable. I was often admonished not to question the pastor. We were told that if the pastor was angry with us, we could be assured that God was also angry with us. And trust me, the pastor was often angry with me about something.

The fear of inevitable abandonment was relentless.

Over time the neurological pathways in my brain solidified into the belief that the ones I cared about most would one day leave me, leaving me with complex PTSD of Abandonment. I had no idea. I thought that since I had escaped, I was fine. Nevertheless, my PTSD coupled with my utter cluelessness about its existence, has destroyed nearly every romantic relationship I’ve ever had.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat my experience: What I was taught as a child was ABUSIVE. The doctrine of the Rapture is ABUSIVE. Nonetheless, I have forgiven my parents. They were extremely flawed and broken people dealing with their crap the best way they knew how. I truly believe they did their best with the limited resources they had. I hold the church responsible. I will never forgive them unless they retract their abusive teachings because they are still there, abusing more kids, every day.

It’s a story too long to tell here, but I eventually left the cult in my early 20s. I left my hometown entirely when I was 25. It isn’t until now, however, at nearly 39, that I’m finally beginning to understand the extent of the damage that was done to me, the damage that my friends and family who remain in the cult are still enduring, to this day.

In therapy, I’m learning a lot about how to rewire the neurological pathways in my brain via exercises like mindful meditation and reparenting my inner child. It sounds a little wonky, but it’s working. I have hope that, nearly 20 years later, I can finally begin to heal.

Giving God Chicken

According to the National Institute of Health, over seven million of American adults suffer from PTSD and a related mix of anxiety disorders each year.

I recently joined those ranks. I am now a statistic.


As someone who has always considered herself relatively mentally stable, it’s been a humbling blow. I have issues.

Who knew being raised in a cult and suffering from a string of abusive and narcissistic romantic relationships would do that to me? NOT ME. I thought I was fine.

Until I wasn’t.

Of course I’m in therapy now, but working at the club has been therapy of sorts as well lately.

When you’re feeling super unattractive and struggling with feelings of low self worth, it helps to have half a dozen people a night tell you how beautiful you are and throw a bunch of money at you just for the pleasure of your company.

When your job requires your absolute best and your highest level of focus, it definitely takes your mind off dwelling on your shortcomings and regrets and stupid mistakes.

Nevertheless, the club can offer other gifts as well. Namely, people. There aren’t really any other kinds of gifts.

DJ Rob dropped by for a bit last night. “I’ve never seen you this sad,” he said, and I poured my heart out.

“I don’t know what to tell you about that,” he said, “but I can tell you this: You are such an amazing person. You have no idea how much I need you in my life. You are my RIB. You are my other half.”


That is the kind of Biblical stuff people say at weddings. I was now looking at Rob with new eyes. Somehow Rob saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself, and for a half second there, I caught a glimpse of what he saw.

It gave me hope. I began to feel a measure of peace.

Climbing down off the stage after my last dance of the evening, I caught a glimpse of an extraordinarily well- dressed gentleman. Men like that are rare in this club. I scooped him up immediately.

Our conversation was sexy, flirty, deep and real. After I danced for him, he told me he had only come for food.

“You’re too late,” I informed him. “The kitchen is closed. I have some chicken in my locker, though! You can totally have it.”

He assessed me with knowing eyes. “I’d rather talk about why you’re hurting.”

I lowered my eyes. “How can you tell?”

“Girl, your eyes are pools of misery. I’ve been swimming in them since you walked over.”

I curled up next to him in the cabana and told him everything. He listened with strength and gentleness.

Afterwards, he handed me his card. “Let me take you out for coffee or tea sometime,” he said. “I just wanna be your friend and talk.”

I looked at his card. His name was Emmanuel.

The name Emanuel means “God is with us.”

I started to cry. “Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Why would you offer to give me chicken?” he retorted.

I still have his card. I wanna be careful. I don’t trust my feelings these days. I’ve hurt people. I don’t wanna hurt anyone else.

But truth be told, I’m probably gonna call him.

How to Make DJ Rob Fuck Up

DJ Rob was finishing up his daytime shift when I arrived at the club on Friday night. I went in to say hello.

Rob’s usual greeting for me involves some some boyish squealing, a bear hug and a very thorough butt squeeze.

Not everyone is allowed to squeeze my butt every time they greet me, but I like Rob so much that he is one of the few exceptions. This is how DJ Rob greets most of the dancers, really. The club pays their deejays so little that Rob is basically being paid in butt squeezes.

“You have the best ass in this club,” Rob informed me.

“Really?” I asked, very skeptical. He probably tells this to all the dancers. “I’m surprised you think that because there’s a lot of good booty in this club.”

“It’s more about the way it feels,” he said. “A lot of the butts that look good in here don’t feel the way yours does.”

That made more sense. You know those balls you squeeze when you get stressed and they feel like they are full of jello or slime or something? My butt is basically a giant version of one of those balls.

Just then, a beautiful, dimpled daytime dancer named Angelica entered the booth.

“Have you felt her ass?” Rob asked her.

I stuck my butt in her direction and wiggled it. “Feel it, feel it!” I squealed.

Angelica began massaging my butt and did not stop.

“Can I just be real honest wit chall, and ya’ll won’t judge me?” she asked. “I would like to have a dick for, like, half a day.”

“Isn’t that what a strap-on is for?” I wondered.

“No, like a real dick. I stuck my finger in a pussy for the first time a few months ago, and it felt so good. I cannot imagine how much better a dick, which has hundreds more nerve endings than a finger, must feel.”

She was enjoying my butt a lot. On the other side of me, I saw Rob begin to sweat.

Angelica grabbed my butt and began dry humping me. “I just don’t know how you men get anything done at all! I would never get anything done! I’d just be fucking all day! I’d be such a man whore!”

Rob wiped his brow and tugged on the collar of his shirt.

Angelica began flicking my butt cheeks back and forth with her long, spiked thumbs. “Look! You could just put a dick right here and it would feel so good!”

Rob began unbuttoning his shirt and melting into his stool.

All of a sudden, the door burst open and Darren, the night shift deejay, burst into the booth.

“Rob,” he shouted, “there haven’t been any girls onstage for the past three songs! You can’t go that long without a girl onstage. Call somebody up there now!”

Angelica and I left the booth laughing. Darren was pissed. The night shift manager was pissed. But for me, it was the beginning of a great night.