The year of my 21st was the worst year of my life. I had been dealt a double blow six months earlier, when my beautiful dad passed away from stomach cancer and my long-time boyfriend broke up with me.
Things were financially stretched as I struggled to get myself through my vet science degree. I was utterly exhausted as I juggled uni with working nights teaching aerobics classes in gyms across Brisbane.
To make matters worse my over-bearing mother had switched into over-drive and we fought constantly.
Things came to a climax between my mother and I when the sprinkler sprayed water through the window and somehow managed to land on the computer just as I finished a 3000 word assignment. It was nobody's fault but the tension caused another huge row with Mum and I knew that I had to move out before we killed each other.
I spent the next few days plotting my escape but $25 for the occasional aerobics class was not going to support me and I needed to earn some real money very quickly.
As luck would have it, a solution appeared almost immediately. A friend of mine had arranged for me to meet up with a DJ at a local nightclub one Monday afternoon. The DJ was going to mix tapes that I could use for my aerobics classes.
I had never been to this particular club before. I knew that it stayed open later than most of the clubs in the area and had a pretty sleazy reputation.
It turned out to be a fantastic afternoon. The club had a huge music library and it was great fun mixing up Billy Ocean, Duran Duran and several big artists of the '80s to create the most dynamic aerobics music that had been played in a long time. The DJ also helped himself to the bar and after three Coronas many of my worries seemed very far away.
"You know you could get a job here and earn five times what you make at gyms?" the DJ told me.
I was surprised that working at a bar could pay so well.
"Well you could earn $80 for four hours behind the bar or $350 for an hour's work."
He was talking about stripping of course. I wasn't overly naive but had no idea that this particularly club turned itself into a strip joint each Saturday night.
I don't know if it was the Coronas, the desperation of the situation or the lavish compliments that the DJ kept paying me, but the idea was very appealing.
I had in fact been a dancer all through primary and high school and one main point of contention between my mother and I was that I had given it up. If only she knew. And $350 a week was enough to get me my own place easily. I was in!
The preparation was remarkably simple. I had numerous outfits from dancing and just needed to add some strategically placed velcro.
The DJ was a huge help. Thrilled to have someone he could mentor, together we worked out a dazzling routine to Janet Jackson's "Black Cat" that culminated in me pouring milk over my semi-naked body from a cat's saucer. Intrigued by the money and creative side, I totally lost focus of how sleazy my routine really was.
The night of my stripping debut arrived quickly and I was very pumped about the direction my life was taking. I strutted on to the stage like I owned it and except for one minor hitch when I almost slipped on my discarded cat ears the routine went off very well and was fantastically received.
Clad in only a pair of bejewelled undies, I collected my props and made my way off stage, when one enthusiastic punter caught my eye. There in the corner perched on a bar stool was my grade 11 maths teacher.
His name was Mr Right but we had always called him Mr Wrong because he was constantly hugging the senior girls trying to get a look down their shirts. I, a girl who prided herself on being good, had just given him the complete show. Worst still, what would my beloved Dad think?
My stripping career began and ended on that bizarre Saturday night. I toughed it out at home with my mum and eventually qualified as a vet.
Now 12 years later I am married with two sons. My husband, a school deputy principal, would be horrified if he knew what I had done.
As for my sons, I try and teach them to treasure and respect woman, all the time blocking out images of me in my cat suit.
Sometimes we see Mr Right out and about in the local area and it may be my guilty conscience but I am sure he winks at me. He still seems to be the same sleazy man he always was. I just hope he can keep a secret.
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