An excerpt from the new memoir, Spent.
"How are you getting by, honey?” Mom asked. I hadn’t called her since my stunt at the hospital. I could tell she wanted to come visit and see for herself that I was still sober. I could picture her sitting by the phone, thinking about what I’d looked like last time she’d seen me, obsessively cutting her toenails. I hadn’t told her about stripping at The Lusty Lady yet.
“I’m dancing at a really safe and clean place,” I said.
“Go-go dancing?” She asked.
“Nude dancing. Behind glass.”
“Huh,” she said. It was the kind of huh that could be disgusted or curious, depending on what facial expression came with it, but I couldn’t see her face.
After a long pause, I got my answer. “Is this something you plan to do forever?” I don’t know if she felt conviction in her disapproval or if she thought it was one of those things moms are supposed to say. Regardless, I wanted her to come visit to make sure things were okay between us again.
Mom showed up a couple weeks later, so I brought her to The Lusty so she could check it out, herself. She’d never been to a strip club in her life. I wondered how she would feel there, surrounded by young, naked girls, knowing I wiggled in my birthday suit onstage instead of working a respectable nine to five in an office. She sent me to the liquor store on the corner for rum and coke. I mixed her a drink. She guzzled it.
“Don’t worry, Mom. The girls I work with are in college,” I said, selling her on the idea.
“Hmm,” she said and raised her eyebrows.
The women in my family were not promiscuous show ponies. The women in my family grew vegetables, sold houses, rode horses, knew shorthand, and typed sixty words a minute. They didn’t talk about sex. They married the first man who fucked them. They were presidents of women’s organizations and chain-smoked cigarettes. They drank rum and coke and got loud and demanding. They snorted when they laughed, held college degrees, were cheerleaders and Valedictorians in high school, had kids by the time they were twenty-five and knew how to shovel dirt, fish, can peaches, and bake rhubarb pie. They had spectacular legs, big noses, and preferred angry men over gentle ones. They collected local pottery, took out the trash, and wore hippie jewelry.
The women in my family were not bisexual strippers with a tendency to cut and an appetite for speed.
Mom and I locked arms and walked past the blue-haired punk security guard, through the dark skinny hallway to a large corner booth. I chose a booth where the dancers could see us, too, and slid some wrinkled dollar bills into the machine. Mom flashed her Dentyne smile at Star and Decadence who waved their lotioned limbs at us. I mouthed the word “Mom” at them and they gave me a knowing look that meant “We’ll keep it tame.” I waited for her to be shocked and appalled. I was ready for her quick disapproval—which is why I always hesitated to tell her when I dated girls. She just walked in one day and found me curled around Bianca and later, threw her arms around her and sipped her whiskey rocks. Mom’s flexibility with regard to me was special. Others fit into two categories: winners or losers; I somehow skated on the perimeter of her harsh judgment. It was the same with stripping. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I didn’t want to lie to her either.
I tried not to stare while Mom watched tall, goth, Decadence grin and play with her nipple ring. Certain things I didn’t mention. I didn’t tell her about my regular customers in the Private Pleasures Booth down the hall where I gave private dildo shows to guys by request. I didn’t tell her about the full contact clubs I’d worked at before, or the S & M relationship I had with my girlfriend, Marya.
Years later, I wouldn’t tell her about Rob, who’d drugged me, or the couple who paid my rent in Los Angeles for years. I didn’t mention the boob job or tattoos. It’s not that she didn’t notice any of those things or that they didn’t disturb her — they just didn’t matter because her love was more vast than that. Her love was not contingent on my activities or hobbies. It was like floating in a maternal galaxy of warm stardust.
Mom’s bright blue eyes darted around the mirrored stage. “It’s silly,” she said, chuckling bit. “And, it looks like fun.”
She was right, and she was wrong.
Antonia Crane is an adult dancer and performer whose work has been published in The Rumpus, Black Clock, ZYZZYVA, Slake, Smith Magazine, and The Los Angeles Review. She received her MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University and currently lives in Los Angeles.
Image via Jennifer Rogers