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What It's Really Like To Be A Stripper In Reno, Nevada

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My Life in Mirrors: Avoiding Eye Contact with Strippers Who Cry in the Dressing Room
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Self, Sex

As written by one.

My name was Violet. I was a professional liar. 

I stripped at every strip club in Reno, Nevada from ages 20-27. You could call it my night job while I was trying not to pass out in the University of Nevada-Reno Student Union every morning, pouring over my pills and Starbucks that kept my secrets in.

On that morning, I was just Cat: late to class and underachieving on the academic scale I would attach myself to. I fit the profile of 'artsy girl with unrealistic expectation of student living.' So I found a new ego to feed. 

I took too many selfies in the strip club dressing room and filled too many diaries with stranger-than-fiction tales. I had an identity crisis every night. I went through phases of feminist thought, drugs, fashion, and men.

Upon closer evalutaion, you'll see an unlikely, and truly bizarre, feminist bravado unfold: House moms with hard accents. Strippers who cried too much.  My life was mirrors and femme rage. I raged on and on and on and on. I breathed in way too much secondhand smoke.

RELATED: 5 Strippers Reveal The Craziest Things They've Seen At The Club

One time I saw a ghost in the Fantasy Girls dressing room. For an entire month, I only stripped to Rage Against the Machine. Ah, to be 23 years old without a care in the world while prancing around to protest music. I thought I was so edgy. 

Sometimes I miss stripping. Sometimes. Not so much the hauntings that occurred but the shadiness of the whole ordeal. I miss the part-time comedian DJ who went to community college all day. And falling in love with the bartender. I miss working on Christmas. And Thanksgiving. I miss my iPhone camera, my most loyal companion, always right next to the stripper who always cried. (And don't ever make eye contact or she'll unfold her troubles onto you.)

I lived a life that was honest yet severely alienating. I wanted to be super-human in the club. And of course, druges helped.

I was so many girls at once. The selfies I took expressed a millennial attitude of fuckable arrogance. It said: I like my face, but not enough to smile with teeth. Me: a tall, pixie brunette looks at her reflection with her best Playboy centerfold: "You wanna f***? Well, yeah.”

A picture says a thousand words. One of the other stripper's gold hoops is missing. She doesn't notice, too busy dipping into nachos and asking the house mom — a well-intentioned woman who babysits dancers in the dressing room, often with a maternal ruling that sustains order and comfort). The crumbs on the velvet carpet. Evidence of cupcakes in the fridge suggests another dancer turned 22. Ripped magazines on a broken loveseat couch. Cigarette burns on the maroon comforter.

RELATED: 5 Ways Being A Stripper Made Me A 1,000X Better Lover

My favorite thing at the end of the night? The leftovers. No, I'm not talking about Dominos from house mommy. The end of the night meant freedom, even if we all hated each other. Strip sisters  bond through vulnerability and then dismantle the moment the next night when you wave hello and they ask for a line or a Red Bull. I never took it personally. Some girls called it grooming or cruelty or abuse by dancers who worked there the longest. 

Even I was guilty of being hot and cold to new, novice strippers. Especially when I was the alpha stripper because ike any employee who stays with the company for ten years, you start earning respect and perks. The unspoken rule: you can be a bitch to beta strippers if you busted your ass for management the past 6 years. 

Such a good rule. But absolutely disappointing as a policy. Girls hate girls sometimees. I had to get past the passive-aggressiveness.

Ivy: “I love you, but I will talk shit on your gold choker all night, Violet! You from the future? Girl, you a mess.” 

Ouch. And to think, last night we shared an expensive pizza and tried on the other’s heels. There was such a mess of female competition, combined with mood disorders and substance abuse problems; it unhinged us. We were all frenemies, thick as thieves and eager to show both the love and hate we carried for each other day in and day out. We never got attached, though. That’s a rule we never broke. 

I lived in the utopia of abandonment. Energy belonged to girls who aged into ghosts of themselves. I like to think they wandered off into the Nevada desert and make art with rough pastels now. It's one of my favorite denial fantasies, of which I have many. 

And then there's the men who frequent the clubs. The tourists who lie about their names more often than we do. The men who become combative with alcohol and can’t decide if they want the VIP experience. The ones who can't pay. The regulars who came just for you: for support, money, love. Or to make sure your night is going okay, to refill your Red Bull, read their poem.  The novelty of the obsessive type gets old fast. I didn’t get into this business to be preyed on; I do the preying. The fanatics are just therapy cases with quick expiration dates and on to the next. I get enough personal time with my shrink every other Monday at 3pm. 

I learned not to bother with questions and explanations. A bouncer hides his sneer when Romeo flashes roses and hugs you for three minutes longer than necessary. This place never made sense in the first place. 

A faulty work place can’t be good for the soul. You’re lonely but hey, you’ll never truly be alone in a place charged with so much personality. Soak it in. Help Destiny shave her legs and show Cassidy that song she asked about last night, then fight about the name of the band for five minutes. 

One day, you'll wake up with your mind closed. You're jaded. Your heart is frozen. You’re higher than the heels you wore last night. Or perhaps your mind is open and you feel like forgiving your sworn enemy or calling your mom. Look in the mirror. Allow your complexity to suggest you’re more than just a a “ good girl” or “bad girl.” Because you're both. How many names do you have? Who are you today?

RELATED: What Strippers Get About Men That Their Wives Don't Understand


Cat Thomas is a freelance writer and singer. Follow her music at Band Camp.