A former adult entertainer's tale of love, sex and abstinence.
"So let me get this straight. You've been a stripper for the past eight years, and you've never slept with anyone during that entire time?" asked Blair, my co-worker at the strip club.
"I know, it sounds really weird," I said. "I just haven't. Maybe its guilt from my Italian Catholic upbringing."
"Kiersten, how is that possible? Come on, that can't be true," she said.
I was embarrassed that at 30 years old I wasn't having sex with anyone. "It's just that … I've kind of been saving myself for Ryan. Just because I'm a dancer doesn't mean I should give it away to anyone. I mean I've only been with like four guys and they were all serious relationships," I said.
We were sitting around the dressing room on a slow Saturday night, legs wrapped around bar stools, swapping sex stories. Almost every steel locker exhibited a bottle of inexpensive champagne or vodka. Blair, a preppy blonde, looked more Park Avenue, than Los Angeles strip joint.
"Ryan's that guy from Malibu?" she asked.
"Yeah, that one," I said. "He says we'll sleep together when the time is right."
"What do you guys do then?" Blair asked.
"We do other things," I replied, as the DJ announced: "Next up we have the lusciooous, gorgeooous Kieeersten!"
It was time to become Kiersten, my alter ego. She could handle anything, she was fearless. I liked Kiersten, because I could turn her into anyone I wanted to be. I took half of a Xanax out of my tiny antique pill box and washed it down with cheap bubbly.
I (Thought I) Needed Someone To Take Care Of Me
As I swayed my hips on stage my thoughts drifted to Ryan. In addition to gorgeous models, he loved racing cars and riding one of his many Harleys. He was raised by his late Hollywood-legend daddy.
He was 33, and I was 22 when we met at a hole in the wall gym in Malibu. Sweating it out on the elliptical machine, I noticed this hot guy in Devo sunglasses on the treadmill behind me. He looked like a young, tanned George Clooney crossed with a sexy tattooed surfer. He had ultra white teeth and dark hair cropped close to his head. He oozed bad boy sex appeal.
"Where did you get that tan?" he asked as he looked me up and down.
"At the beach," I responded.
As I was leaving the gym, he invited me to his place over the weekend. I took his number and said I'd call him. We were soon hanging out at his house in Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We sipped white Russian tequila, snorted pink cocaine and talked about everything until dawn. We bonded instantly when we learned that both our fathers had died of cancer 16 years earlier.
"When I lost my dad, I lost my best friend," he said. Since our mothers were unavailable, we were like two kids no one came to pick up after school. I was out in L.A., on my own, estranged from my family in Boston. They didn't approve of my lifestyle.
More than I wanted love, I needed someone to take care of me. Ryan acted like a protective father figure. He reminded me of my dad.
There was only one problem. He had two small children out of wedlock with his live-in girlfriend. She was away with the kids the weekend we had our get-together.
The (Romantic?) Whirlwind
Two months later, I ran into Ryan at a car show on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. That day, at the auto show, he paid attention to everything I worked so hard on: my tan, my breasts and my body.
He said, "I keep thinking of you. Have you been thinking of me?" He was still living with his girlfriend and kids. He said, "If you can handle that, let's hang out. I really want to see you again."
"What does your girlfriend think about you seeing other people?" I asked
"She's OK with it as long as I don't flaunt it in her face. We only stay together for the sake of the kids. So am I gonna see you again?"
"I don't know. I want to, but I don't think it's a good idea," I told him.
"Come on, please, please!" he begged.
When we met the following week at a park in Beverly Hills, he was sitting on the grass stoned out of his mind, unable to string a sentence together. It disgusted me that my savior was completely incoherent.
"What the hell is wrong with you?! You can't even get up off the ground!" I stormed off to sit on a near by park bench. My rational side told me to walk away from Ryan that day and never look back. But the abandoned little girl, whose dad died when she was 7, was having a meltdown. She needed to stay more than I wanted to leave.
A few minutes later, Ryan dragged himself over to me, lay his head on my lap and said, "Why are you freaking out on me?"
"I'm not," I answered. All of a sudden he perked up and announced he wanted to go for a drive. It was like someone had given him a shot of adrenaline.
"Can you even drive?" I asked.
Life As The Side-Piece
He drove his black Mercedes down a Beverly Hills alley and pulled over. In the front seat of his car, in broad daylight, we engaged in our first make-out session.
For the remainder of my eight years as an exotic dancer, Ryan and I would meet up every few months. We would go for a spin in his Benz, park and fool around, but we never slept together. I wanted to. He'd promise to take me to some posh hotel for the weekend, where we would consummate our affair.
He never did. But his promises gave me hope that our car dates would evolve into something deeper. I was convinced once I bedded Ryan, I would cast a magic spell over him, and he would leave his girlfriend for me.
According to all the psychics I consulted, not only would he make me his main girl, he would marry me. So I was celibate the whole time I was involved with him.
At the same time, I wanted out of my life as an exotic dancer. Because it was how I paid my bills and my family was no support, I felt stuck. After eight years in the adult entertainment industry, I had been so degraded. I didn't believe I was capable of doing anything else. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make it at a regular job.
I was making $1,500 a week for my performance as Kiersten, the exotic dancer. Without a college degree, it would be hard to match that salary. All I wanted to do was numb out. As a result, I began popping prescription pills to dull the pain. Then I added daily drinking to the mix.
One night I stared at the empty Merlot bottles lined in a row on the shelf in my kitchen. It hit me, between the pills, the booze, the stripping and Ryan, I was slowly killing myself. I knew I needed to get out of Los Angeles.
Two days later I boarded a plane for the Midwest. In Michigan, I went to a treatment facility for drug and alcohol abuse. It was tough leaving Kiersten behind, but the only way I knew to get rid of her was to abruptly cut her off.
Breaking My Celibacy
When I was a dancer, Ryan's unavailability was perfect for me. He would string me along on vague promises, but the burden was taken off me entirely. I was saving myself for someone who would never come through.
On some level I didn't really want him to. This arrangement was the safest one I could manage to counterbalance the self destructive, intrusive world of showing my body to men for money.
The last time I spoke to Ryan on the phone, he'd been in a horrible car accident. He was in coma for almost a month. When we spoke, his voice was barely above a whisper from his emergency tracheotomy. The man I wanted to take care of me for so many years was no longer capable of looking after himself.
After a decade of celibacy, I finally slept with a man whom I met online and was 23 years sober in AA. As I lay with him in the dark, I felt vulnerable. His approval was much more important to me than any of the guys I used to dance for. Being sober, it was a lot scarier to take off my clothes for one man than hundreds.
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