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Out of the Ashes

A Wounded Daughter's Diary (Book 1)

Tyra Hodge

Deanna Wilson





Copyright © 2017 Deanna Wilson

For more information, go to https://tyradhodge.blogspot.com/

Version: 2.0.0 (Read more). Published by Hodge Publishing Press (Conroe, Texas). 17615 Linda Lane Conroe, Texas 77306

No part of this e-book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means including mechanical or electronic without prior written permission from the author.

While the author has made every effort to ensure that the ideas, statistics, and information presented in this eBook are accurate to the best of his/her abilities, any implications direct, derived, or perceived, should only be used at the reader’s discretion. The author cannot be held responsible for any personal or commercial damage arising from communication, application, or misinterpretation of information presented herein.





Out of the Ashes

Table of Contents


Introduction: Purpose of Writing this Book


And the Winner of the Pity Party Award is

Daddy Issues: What It Really Means

Club Life: When Partying All Night Long Seemed like a Good Idea

What You Need to Know about Strippers

Once Bitten, but Never Shy

Missing All the Turns

Walking Dead

The Baby Blues: What It's Really Like Being Pregnant

Next Stop: Wichita Falls

The Call

Back to School, Back to Life

The Turning Point

The Gruesome Twosome

Job Hunt vs. Husband Hunt

A Marriage Made in Hell

God's Purpose: What He Really Wanted from Me

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Best Job Ever

The Birth of Some New Ideas

The Second-Best Year Ever

Epilogue

About the Author

About This Edition









Introduction: Purpose of Writing this Book



Have you ever watched a horror movie and felt as though you could see the villain lurking behind the door or outside the window? You probably found yourself yelling at the screen, “Get away from the door!” as you tried to warn the person of the danger that awaits them. You can clearly see that – if only the damsel would have picked up the bat she just tripped over, she would have an adequate chance of defending herself.

Instead, she walks right through that door unarmed and unprepared. As I look back on my life to write this book, I feel as though I am in a similar kind of movie. This time though, the foolish movie character walking unarmed and unprepared into one perilous situation after another is … ME! All the pain I went through, the people that I hurt and the pain that I caused … looking back, now I can clearly see how the dangers approached. I was often unequipped to deal with these situations, but at other times, I simply did not use the tools and training that I had. Either way, I fell right into the traps set for me by the most dangerous of all villains, Satan.

However, as I look back and see myself walking into those traps, I realize now that I was not alone: the loving hand of my heavenly Father was guiding me back to Him throughout my long and difficult journey. It can be distressing to retell the story of how my life went up in flames, but I hope that sharing it will help the others who are struggling with their own path. Perhaps, my story inspires you to rise from the ashes – stronger and wiser. Perhaps, my story will be just the thing that helps them rise from the ashes – stronger and wiser.













1. And the Winner of the Pity Party Award is …



In senior year of high school, I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. From the moment I met the book's main character, Hester Prynne, I felt connected – both to her and her story. If you recall, her punishment for committing adultery was to wear a scarlet “A” on her outfits. I felt that our stories began to intertwine like yarn being handled by a toddler. As her fate was branded, so was the visualization of my own future. Despite the fact that our sins had engulfed us, our struggles will forever be remembered as strength.

Hawthorne could have never known that Hester Prynne would be a premonition of the corporeal depravity of a young girl's indiscretions. My own indiscretions. Everyone has been a victim of their own thoughtless actions now and then, however, one mishap in our existence can adjust or readjust the treads of our timeline and our existence.

For as long as I can remember, my life has been nothing but strenuous. Have you ever felt as if, right from the beginning, someone was purposely setting you up for the worst day of your life? That no matter how hard you try, nothing goes right, and everything that seems bad just keeps getting worse? Now imagine feeling that way not just for a couple of days, but for thirty years!

The first memory I have is about living in the beautiful state of New Jersey. I was born in Vineland, New Jersey with my pleasantly plump caregiver. We lived in a townhome – perfect for running up and down the stairs. The townhome was yellow on the outside with a playground right in the middle of the cul-de-sac. My mom had four boys and me. We were a handful. We were always running in and out of the house until my mom just left us outside until dinner time. My mom was an even-tempered woman who did her best to take care of us all by herself. We were as happy as could be, not knowing the difference between rich and poor. We did not get hugs and kisses, but we did get a couple of swats every now and then for running inside the house. Well, not everybody got swats. Usually, just the boys, for setting such a bad example for me. My out was my “yes momma” and a smile.

I was three years old when I was taken from my house in the middle of the night. It was a man and a woman. A black woman and a white man. At the age of three, I did not understand anything about kidnapping, but I knew what these strangers were doing was a scary thing. I should have screamed when I felt someone grab me from my crib. The townhouse had only a couple of bedrooms, so I slept in a white baby crib in the small downstairs kitchen. The room had no windows, so it was usually dark; my crib sat across the stove by the back door.

What were they doing? And why? I was too afraid to scream. And it took me even longer to understand their motive.

On the drive (which seemed to take forever), I asked, “Where is my mom?” My face scrunched up in my frustration. The couple looked at each other and then, the white man spoke: “Deanna, this is your mother.” The two of them looked convinced they were doing the right thing.

I was caught off guard by the fact that the man with the long hair even knew my name.

“Where is my mom? Take me back to my mom!” I decided it was time to use my bratty voice. Many years later, I realize that I must have sounded like a brat.

“Deanna, this is your mom”, the man repeated. He didn't get frustrated with me even when I started to cry. His voice was almost soothing.

“Tell her,” the man directed the lady kidnapper.

The woman turned to look at me in the back seat. “Deanna, my name is Anna Mae, I'm your mother. The lady you were living with is your aunt, my sister. She was taking care of you. I'm home now and I came to get you.”

The official story was that my mother had gotten pregnant with me in her senior year of high school. She was without direction and alone. After some guidance from her sister, she finished high school and then, she was forcibly conscripted into the navy. Her sister assured her that I would be completely taken care of.

God has a way of always being right on time. If my mother would have left me where I was, my life would have taken a different course, and many things would have been different – most likely, things would have been worse. God saw fit to redeem me out of a bad situation by moving me back with my mother and saving me from additional abuse.

Later, when I was five, I visited my aunt's house again, but I dreaded it. I could not face being teased and humiliated by the boys again. I did not want to have to explain. But my mother wanted me to show her exactly what the boys had done. All I could manage to say was, “The boys were trying to make me have a baby.”

I could not explain it right, probably because I did not want to have to explain what was happening to me. And besides, I was just five. Was it any surprise that a 5-year-old child would have trouble explaining that she had been put through inappropriate sexual situations? I was humiliated and embarrassed. I wished there was a way to take back my disclosure because I was just sent back over to my aunt's house. There were times I hated the other children. At just five years old, I knew hate. To not feel nasty and gross, I wanted them to care for me like friends, and I hated them for failing to be my protectors and not becoming my predators.

Growing up, I was afraid of hell and of God. I felt he was merciless and unforgiving. I spent a lot of time alone, talking to myself. This habit of conversing with myself is something I kept doing even as an adult. When I felt alone, I would escape into my own imaginary world, a place within my own self, so I did not have to feel and be alone. In this world which I created for myself, I was the center of attention. This world – my world – was perfect; everyone in it loved and cared for me.

2. Daddy Issues: What It Really Means



Daddy issues … daddy issues. It's all over the talk shows and regularly appears in pop culture. Lawyers use this as an excuse to try to get criminals off. The problem with daddy issues is that they can sometimes give people a warped image of our one true father: God.

My own father situation left me with quite a few Daddy Issues, and they, in turn, affected my relationship with God. I have a biological father who chose not to make himself available to me as I grew up. This hurt a lot, especially as a teenager. But, when I was little, I did have a stepdad, and he was proud of me. He loved to take me everywhere. He would take me along to get his hair cut, to the park, to hang out with his friends, and even to strip clubs.

At the strip clubs, the women seemed to know him. I did think it was strange that he took me there to hang out. It was called a Go-Go Bar. If my mother had known this was where he spent his time, and that he had taken his 5-year-old daughter along, she would have certainly been angry. In retrospect, I realize that he used me as an excuse to get out of the house. He didn't want my mom to interrogate him about where he was going. So, he took me to help his cover story. He took me everywhere. Whatever his reasoning, the fact that he was not ashamed of me despite him being a white, made me proud. Strip clubs aren't the best place for a father-daughter quality time, but I was just happy to be getting his attention.

Although certain things about my stepfather were normal and positive, there was another side to him that was not so fun. Nearly every weekend, he would get drunk and get angry about something. Sometimes, he became so angry that he ripped apart things in our Virginia apartment. When he acted like this, my mother and I had little choice but to leave, and after he apologized, we would inevitably return.

One night, he had come home drunk and my mother wanted to leave. He then picked me up by the throat and told her that if she left, he would slit my throat. He had a pocketknife to the tender part of my throat; I could feel the sharp blade pricking at my neck. The sharp blade was bad enough, but I was also losing consciousness from the way he had me suspending in the air, his hand crushing my throat. Hanging there on the wall, I tried to squeeze out, “Daddy, please.” I was so scared that he would cut me. I wasn't really afraid of dying – just of being stabbed. I was imagining the bloody mess that would have been everywhere.

“Leon, don't!” my mom screamed. “Please put her down!”

Weeping, my mother fell to her knees in complete surrender. Tears were also streaming down my face. “I won't leave. I won't leave!” my mother cried. “Just put her down.”

After he finally let me down, I crumpled to the floor, light-headed, bruised, and gasping for air.

After that, my stepdad continued to drink and smoke his marijuana. He only seemed to get wasted on Fridays, probably because it was payday. He would always come home late, and if my mom was upset, he would hit a wall, break a door, smash a chair … something. This was always his response to my mom's confrontations. He wasn't a cruel man by nature though. The alcohol just turned him either into an abusive person or a playful one. I never knew which one we would get.

There was another time I had gotten in trouble for something (I do not remember for what exactly). I was six years old. Whatever it was, my crying irritated my stepdad. He yelled at me to shut up, but I couldn't. I was too upset. He began to pace beside me whispering “shut up, shut up.” My inability to stop only aggravated him more. His pacing grew faster as he grabbed the roots of his hair. In a sequenced swoop, he picked me up and threw me to the floor. He took the sharp tip of his boot and jammed it into my side. I screamed out in pain. He screamed out of shock too, as he just started to realize the pain he had just inflicted. My dad fell to his knees beside me and pleaded for forgiveness. “I'm so sorry, I am sorry.” I knew he was sorry, but that didn't change the pain I felt in my ribcage for weeks. I never told my mom only because he begged me not to tell her, and his apology seemed very earnest as he began to cradle and rock me in his arms.

Even now, I wonder why I have never told my mom about this episode. At that moment, I had decided that I so wanted my stepdad to love me and knew this could be a secret we could share.

One night, I stayed up with my dad all night while he was drinking. We pretended that we were taking the Lord's supper. I broke up the little pieces of white bread and placed everything onto my little china set plates which I had laid out on the coffee table. In lieu of wine, my dad provided the beer. I was enjoying his company that night. We had pulled all-nighters before together. I did not seem to mind his drinking. He was always fun when it was just the two of us. Suddenly, my dad fell back into his favorite reclining chair. I thought he was fooling around, but he just lay on the chair with his eyes rolled back. I took the beer out of his hand and laid it on the table because it was spilling. The can was almost empty when I set it on the table. He had gone quiet. It was as if all the sound had escaped the room. I knew something was wrong. “Daddy,” I said, shaking him gently. “Wake up, wake up.” All I could see were the whites in his eyes and an almost ghostly look of shock. When I could not wake him, I went to get my mother.

“Mom, wake up!”

“Deanna go back to bed,” my mother groaned, waving her hand in the air as if shooing away a fly.

“Mommy, Daddy won't wake up. He fell back in his chair and won't wake up. His eyes are open.”

It was an unwritten rule that I never woke my parents, especially on weekends. I stood there for a moment until my mother finally realized that my persistence was out of character. She hurried to the next room and started shaking my stepdad.

“Leon, Leon!” she started crying, and her voice became unstable. “Baby please, don't do this”. As her fear began to unravel, all I could do was – back away into the closest corner and squat. But he would not wake. My mom called the hospital. But by the time the ambulance arrived, my dad was already dead. The time on the clock had not changed; had all the clocks in the house stopped working, or had time stopped?

Although my stepdad wasn't perfect, I still loved him so much. His death was difficult for me. After he died, I always imagined that he was not really gone. I hoped that it was just a government conspiracy and that one day, he would show up in our lives. But he was dead, dead, dead … and what little attention he had given me also died with him. I loved my stepfather, and I believe he loved me back in his own way.

My stepdad's funeral was held at the Arlington National Cemetery, however, his body was eventually buried in Indiana in a separate funeral arranged by his family. For days after my dad's death, the stopped clocks in the house remained unfixed. On that second night, I could have sworn I saw his shadow lingering next to my bedroom closet. I could not explain such a phenomenon, but this would not be the only time such mysteries had occurred to me.

After my stepdad died, my mom began to go to church. Also, she chose to stay single. There would be no more abusive men in her life. Still, after seeing what my mother had gone through, I had unconsciously absorbed and internalized the pattern that abusive relationships tended to have: the vicissitudes of disappointment and pain and forgiveness.

Various studies in journals which conclude that parents are an important influence in their children's lives are no joke. They are preaching the truth. Having a good set of parents to look up to for morals and guidance is one of the biggest blessings anybody could ever wish for. I sometimes think of my mother and what she must have gone through, just for putting up with an abusive partner.

Not having a father figure in my life would sometimes make me think of Pearl, from The Scarlet Letter. Although I mainly identified with Hester, at times, I also identified with her illegitimate daughter Pearl. Neither Pearl nor I knew of an earthly father, just a heavenly one.

3. Club Life: When Partying All Night Long Seemed like a Good Idea



I began going to clubs with friends when I was 22. It was all so exciting and new. For the first time in my life, I was getting lots of attention from boys. Boys were talking to me and flirting. I felt almost attractive, especially now that I had discovered the hair weave.

I didn't get much attention growing up. I came from a big family, and after my mom became widowed, I was often overlooked and ignored. My mom worked long hours as a police officer to support us. As a result, she had limited ability to spend one-on-one time with each individual child.

Since I was the oldest, household chores usually fell on me. I was a responsible teenager in most regards, but not when it came to academics. School was definitely not for me. I had been held back twice in elementary school, and every year up until eighth grade, I was in danger of being held back again.

Suddenly receiving so much attention at the club was a refreshing change; it was also something I wasn't used to. It made the new club scene seem wonderful and exciting, like a drug I couldn't get enough of. Guys were truly interested in me (or so I thought). Little did I know that they were more interested in what they could get from me, and neither of those things included a handshake or a dance routine. My already weak self-esteem made me easily give in to their needs. And when they got what they wanted from me, they just moved on to the next piece of meat. I didn't care because I was finally getting the attention I craved.

At first, I went out once a week. But then, I started to go out more often until it was four nights a week. One night at the club, a girl asked me, “Are you a dancer?”

“I took a few lessons when I was younger,” I said.

“No, girl, I am talking about topless.”

I wasn't so sure what to say, so I simply stammered a no. I was even embarrassed that she asked. As she kept talking, I realized that the girl meant it as a compliment.

“Well, I'm Renee, and I bet you could make a lot of money,” she explained.

That got my attention. I had been waiting tables at a restaurant and not making a lot of money. I could barely afford a place to live. So, when Renee said she could help me figure out a way to end my monetary troubles, I had to listen. Later, I wondered if I would still have responded positively if Renee hadn't been so persistent. She began calling every day to see if I wanted to meet up again.

It took her just a couple more calls and soon enough, we were hitting the club together. We became close. One day, Renee got the idea that we should get an apartment together with another friend Blanca.

I had absolutely no problems with that. It actually piqued me. Can you picture it? Blanca and Renee did all the leg work in finding something. A week later, I received a phone call from Renee saying they had found the perfect apartment. Three single women living together in a very spacious apartment across the street from our favorite club, J. Larkins. It was going to be the best year ever! It was great living with two other women who loved to live life to the fullest. Our after parties were epic.

After about a month of rooming with my girls (that's what I called them), their behavior started to seem a little … odd. There were many times when Blanca and Renee were alone in a room together, talking with the door shut. I began to wonder what they were talking about. I was afraid they were talking about me. It began to piss me off. One day, I decided to just walk in and there they were – knelt on the floor, sniffing white powder from straws.

“Do you want some?” Blanca asked. I just stared at them with my mouth agape in astonishment.

“No, thanks,” I said. I could see they were very nervous about what I would think. I was shocked because I had never seen real cocaine before. My fight or flight response kicked in and I quickly left the room.

Anyway, I tried pushing the entire incident to the back of my mind. Later that night at the club, the two of them were feeling real lovey-dovey.

Renee kept saying, “I am wiggin. I am wiggin girl,” with her eyes rolling back in her head. She seemed very happy.

I asked, “What is wiggin?” I felt stupid saying the word out loud.

Completely taken aback by my question, Renee looked at me as if I just asked the strangest question in the History of Strange Questions.

She laughed and said, “You don't know what wiggin is? You've heard of ecstasy, right?”

“Nope,” I said.

“You have to try it,” she said. “It's not a hard drug.”

“Na, girl I don't do drugs.” I always remained firm in that stance.

“You can't get addicted to it because it is a pill.”

“Really?”

“You'll love it. I'll get you one. Trust me, it's better to do it with a group.”

I had to admit, Renee's confident attitude convinced me that the chances of getting addicted were small. Like most people who have never tried drugs, I worried about getting addicted. But if what Renee said was true, what did I have to lose?

Nothing!

I eventually gave in and tried it. I would like to tell you it was a bad experience, but unfortunately, I can't. It was great! The comedown, however, was horrible.

With stimulants like cocaine and ecstasy, your serotonin and dopamine levels get higher than normal, and it gives you the same kind of feeling as being in love. When the body starts to come down, it wants the peak again. So, a person will dose themselves again, though it is nearly impossible to regain the original high. With each comedown, the low feels worse than before because you have interfered with the normal functioning of serotonin producers and receptors in your brain.

The comedown is what encourages people to do whatever it takes to get high again. My first experience with drugs was so good that I had to try it again just to make sure that I liked it. I did, but I still hated the comedown. Ecstasy would keep me so wired on the comedown that I couldn't sleep a wink; I would be up all night hoping that another pill would drop out of the sky. I wish I could have foreseen that – opening this door to Satan would cost me years of suffering. But I kept experimenting with drugs, starting a vicious cycle that made me consume more pills every weekend.

At the time, I didn't see anything wrong with it. After all, I still had the power to turn down my roommates when they offered me a line of cocaine. That made me feel proud. I spent about a year continuing this clubbing cycle with my exciting new friends. One month, Renee was short on rent. This wasn't even the first time; we were all short on money (maybe our drug addiction problem was partly to blame?)

Renee got the bright idea to go and strip at a club to make money. The idea appalled me, but Renee being Renee, convinced me to accompany her.

“If you are my friend, you would do this with me,” she said.

I really was Renee's friend. She had been there for me all this time we were living together. She was always nice to me. I decided that it was my turn to be Renee's good friend.

I agreed to become a stripper, but only temporarily.

Renee and I entered the club. It was dark and freezing. I had dreaded going, but now that I was here, I was even more fearful. I didn't think I could pull it off. The dancers at the club where we hung out were all beautiful and sexy. Renee asked to see the manager. Men in the club were staring at me. I was still debating about whether to return to the car or not when the waitress pointed to the owner – a white-haired man with a white goatee who wore a white suit.

Oddly enough, his name was Whitey. How convenient!

Renee introduced us with self-assurance. Whitey said he would have to see us in our G-strings before we could be hired. I didn't even own a G-string. In fact, I was wearing granny panties.

My mind was racing. Something inside me was telling me that this wasn't right and that it would only lead to more problems. When I told Whitey that I wasn't wearing a G-string, I had secretly hoped it would blow my chances. But Whitey said it was okay; he just needed a look at my body to see if he liked what he saw. The club (he said) had a high set of standards.

This did not help with the butterflies in my stomach at all.

After Whitey's careful evaluation, I found myself with a new job. Weirdly enough, Renee was turned down because she had tattoos on her legs; it made Renee give me the cold shoulder for a week. After weighing the pros and cons, I finally decided that I could really use the money to pay for my college tuition. I would give it a try. Strip club, here I come!

Reminiscing about my first-time dancing on the stage that first night still scares me. I was so nervous. I wasn't sure if anyone would like me. All I was hoping for was for men to come throwing a whole bunch of money on stage for me. Up on stage, the lights were bright, and I was getting more nervous. Should I move right? Or left? I was not sure I could even remember how to dance, so I just began to move. At least it was a start.

Certain areas of the stage were so brightly lit that one couldn't see the audience. This was a blessing in disguise for me. If the bright lights kept me from finding out what men in the audience really thought of me, then I couldn't be happier!

On the first night, I didn't know what other strippers thought of their audience, but I concentrated mainly on making sure I wouldn't trip onstage. I always wondered what made these guys notice me at the club. For example, if I was walking down a busy street, would I still stand out to these guys? Would they find me equally enticing if they noticed me in the real world?

That first song seemed to last forever, and I just wanted it to end. When I finally got offstage and counted my money, I realized that I had made only a measly, four dollars. All that stress and worry brought me … just four dollars! It made me feel terrible.

A girl named Chocolate saw me crying and approached. In her infinite wisdom, she told me that I needed to do table dances to make real money. Sure enough, when I looked up and wiped my tears, I saw a girl dancing above a man who almost looked in pain. In fact, he was so eager to be close to the dancing girl's body that it almost seemed to hurt him to refrain from doing so.

At this club, men were allowed to touch the women, but they tried to avoid doing it (in their minds at least) so that they weren't cheating on their wives. I seriously wondered how I would be able to deal with this.

Chocolate told me that I had to go and ask the men if they wanted a dance. If they said yes, I would have to charge them no less than twenty dollars a dance.

So, what did I do with Chocolate's advice?

Nothing.

I just sat alone because I was too shy to walk up to some random men and ask them if they wanted me to dance for them for money.

Later that night, two men came up to me and asked me to dance for them.

So, I did, albeit being nervous and scared. On the first night, I made forty-four dollars. That was a little more than I was making waiting tables, but I wanted to quit dancing; everyone else made hundreds of dollars in that one night. And, I could only manage $44.

When I went home, my roommates encouraged me to keep trying. “You can't give up after one week.”

So, I continued to go every day for the next couple of weeks that followed and kept coming back home with $40 a night because I was too afraid to ask anyone for a dance. But on Friday, I came home with $100. From Monday through Thursday, I made $40 a night and on Fridays, I made $100.

This went on for a month and then it hit me: maybe if I try a different club, I'd have better luck? I was told about a club named Fantasy where you could dance, and the girls made a lot of money, but the men were not allowed to touch at all.

So, I gave it a shot, and it was a success: more guys asked me to dance, and they paid a lot better. I was making about $200-300 on a slow night and $500-700 on the weekends. For a while, I was the highest-paid girl in the club.

I was happy. I had saved a good amount of money and finally decided to attend San Jacinto College. I eventually joined the college, but the late hours at Fantasy led to poor class attendance and poor grades, so I dropped my courses.

During my time there, I made friends with the head of the psychology department who feared that if I dropped out of college, I may never return.

This was not something I wanted to think about, but it did weigh heavily on my mind.

I continued to dance and make a lot of money in my first year of dancing. Then, one night, I went to another club named the Gold Cup as a favor to a friend. This was a higher-class club. The club was beautiful on the outside. However, no one ever warned me that I could go to jail for doing something that was legal. I danced for an undercover officer and set myself up for real failure – I landed in jail.

I called my mother to let her know that I had gotten arrested because I was afraid that she might end up being the one to take my fingerprints if they transferred me to the county jail. It was better to give the unpleasant news myself.

“Hi, Mom … I've something to tell you … I am in jail.”

“Why are you in jail?”

“Public lewdness.”

“Deanna, I don't believe it.”

That comment rang in my ear for a while. I would like to say that I wised up right away after that. The tone of my mother's voice indicated that I had disappointed and even hurt her. I didn't want to hurt her; like most children, I wanted her approval. I had started a lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to; quitting now would render me financially disabled.

Amidst all this dancing away, making money, joining college, leaving college, going to jail and everything else in between – God was always in the back of my mind. I don't mean this in a positive way. He was in my mind entirely for different reasons. I was sure He didn't care much about me anymore because I had turned my back on Him.

I had disobeyed Him; why would He help me now? Even while such thoughts plagued my mind, a little part of me told me a different story. It told me that He is still there, calling out to me even if all my sins had landed me in jail.

Days turned into weeks.

A couple of weeks later, after I got out of jail, my mother called me.

“Hi, I just wanted you to know that I love you, and the Lord has not forgotten about you.” Her call warmed my heart and made my eyes well up with tears. After we hung up, I kept replaying the conversation in my mind. Maybe it was a sign that He still loved me?

I wasn't ready yet to leave this life I'd made, but knowing God was still there felt good. I had never really meant much to anyone. I was always second to someone or just not enough. As a dancer, I knew people thought I was attractive and special – even if it was just for one night of lights and music.



4. What You Need to Know about Strippers



First things first, never confuse a stripper with a prostitute. Although it may seem the same, it is not. Girls who are trying to get ahead will dance; girls without any hope will prostitute. Having firsthand experience with being a stripper, I realized there are many things people don't understand about strippers and strip clubs. The people who go to the clubs don't talk about why they go or what happens there, and strippers do not spend a lot of their free time telling people about how they pay their bills.

To understand me and my story though, I should probably explain a few things about strippers, customers, and strip clubs.

Strippers are a strange and rare breed, so much so that it would seem easy to pick them out of a line-up. Most dancers love attention and like being listened to, but they are also very good listeners. They are not always starved for attention. Sometimes the attention can be overwhelming. A dancer who is making money and getting plenty of attention is having both her material and emotional needs being met. This is an ugly cycle though because every dancer has off nights. Nothing is more devastating to a dancing girl's ego than going to work and realizing that no one is interested in her that night … or even worse, that week. During such times, past feelings of rejection and abandonment will resurface.

For me, dancing gave me a confidence I did not have before.

I was raised in a culturally diverse area, and we were taught to at least outwardly pretend to respect one another, regardless of any differences we may quietly perceive. Most of the people that I had encountered up until this point in my life had acted the same way. My neighborhood was a nicer, suburban one, and I had no problems fitting in. Until I began dancing, I hadn’t felt like discrimination was a huge issue for people of my generation and background.

At a strip club, racial issues are out in the open and never brushed aside in the name of “good manners.” On some nights, people did not want me to dance for them because I didn't have blonde hair and blue eyes. On other nights people only wanted me because they had some African-American girl fantasy. The strip club is all about fantasies: fulfilling and recreating fantasies of how people think things are and how they wish they could be.

A man who comes into a strip club is looking to have this fantasy fulfilled, to have some perception reinforced, to get the attention he is not getting elsewhere. When a man walks into a club, he can finally get any girl he wants to dance – that is the perception that the dancers give as they vie for customers to pay them for dances. They compete for the men's money, but the men tell themselves that the dancers are competing for them although both sides know it goes no further than a dance and maybe conversation. The only potential downside for a man coming to a strip club is if he doesn't have any money. As they say, “No money, no honey.” Even then, the idea of a beautiful woman flirting and acting interested may be enough to bring him satisfaction.

A strip club sells a fantasy, and the men are happy to buy it up. Whether it is the stripper herself or the men on the other side, everyone knows that none of this is real.

What is that one quality that a stripper needs to have a lucrative career? Most would say that she needs amazing dancing skills. And I agree, I mean, if she doesn't know how to dance, what is she really going to do up on stage? Juggle?

I don't think so.

But for a girl seeking to make a living as a stripper, there's something even more important than dancing – awesome acting skills.

In order to fulfill the fantasy, a successful dancer must also be a trained and convincing actress. While new dancers might naïvely believe that dancing is enough to make money, girls who have stayed for longer know that they aren't just paid to dance. Think about all the acting prowess a dancer has to possess just to convince someone to part with $20 for 4 minutes of their time: hopping onto a stranger’s lap, pretending that he, the most hideous creature, is handsome – despite his bad breath, receding hairline and big gut, after which they will have to move ten feet away to the next heinous men and do it all over again.

You need pretty good “faking it” skills to do this effectively. It is incredibly difficult pretending to be interested in a man who is anything but appealing to you.

So, I did – I learned the skills and I learned to act pretty well, at least well enough to convince customers in the strip club. I wasn't perfect, and some nights, there just wasn't enough money in the world, so I knocked the heck out of a few of the guys who touched me the wrong way. However, I learned to mask my emotions pretty well overall – not the best skill to have as a woman of faith, as it makes it a lot easier to hide from yourself and your own emotions as well.


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