I was never nurtured into adulthood; I was dragged, kicked, and shoved until I got there. It wasn’t long after I turned 18 that I came home to find my parents putting boxes in my room and essentially telling me “we’re done, get out!” To be honest, I couldn’t fill those boxes fast enough and I did get out so fast I think the only thing you would have seen was the streak that was me fleeing from the hell hole I called home.
But before I moved out for good, I lived in a lot of different places. There were many nights after I just couldn’t take it anymore that I would climb out my bedroom window, completely unbeknownst to my parents, and head to the downtown area less than a mile from my house. There I would sleep under the bridge with the rest of my fellow “unwanteds,” and together we grew up. Street kids form a family unit that is unlike anything you can imagine unless you have lived it.
Despite how accepted I was by the kids I met under the bridge, there was a distinctive difference between them and myself. Most of them had been subjected to horrors that differed from mine in such a way that theirs exposed them to the world. They watched their drug addicted mothers prostitute themselves and they visited their fathers in jail. They lived on the streets and in homeless shelters until their parents either disappeared completely or they ran away from whatever hellish foster home they were in and landed under the bridge. I on the other hand never experienced any of that because I grew up in almost complete isolation, never learning much outside of the four walls of my home. When I finally started running away from home I was so oblivious as to how the world worked that they took me in and fiercely protected me, knowing that I would never make it out there on my own.
I watched the kids around me fall prey to the ways of the streets. Girls became prostitutes and guys became drug dealers. I watched many fall into their own drug addictions and I unfortunately watched several lose their lives because of it. When you are a street kid, no one tells you that you can be anything. We didn’t sit around saying “I want to become a doctor. I want to become a lawyer.” We sat around hoping we made it to adulthood and beyond that we didn’t dare dream.
I wasn’t sure who I would be when I grew up, if I grew up, I just knew who I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be an addict, I didn’t want to end up in jail, and I didn’t want to sell my body. To me, not being any of those things meant that I had survived my life, that I could truly say that I had made it out. It saddens me to write that now, looking back on my fourteen year old self with my entire life ahead of me, and my aspirations were only to make it out alive and intact.
Here I am today. As I talked about in my last post some big changes are coming around here and I will be needing some extra income (stayed tuned next week!), but I already have two full time careers with my housekeeping business and the not-for-profit.
And oh yea, I teach a strip dance class.
As I explained in the post "In Which I Take My Clothes Off For Money," I initially started teaching a strip dance class after realizing how under discussed sexuality is in the current support recovery groups. A majority of women who have been sexually assaulted tend to fall into two categories after the attack; roughly half will completely shut down sexually and the other half will become sexually promiscuous which leaves them at risk for being assaulted again. The core of these two problems is that when an attack occurs it breaks your sexual foundation. When a woman loses control of her own body to the power of someone else, her sexual identity tends to go with it. “Was I asking for it? Was I not firm enough? Did I send the wrong hints? Was I acting too slutty?” Women are often left feeling degraded, ashamed, and vulnerable after an assault. To counteract those feelings they will often either shut down completely or act out sexually in an attempt to regain control over their sex lives.
In an effort to counteract those two categories I started teaching my “Sexy Survivors” class. Women need to feel empowered about their sex lives. When a woman feels in control of her body and sexuality, she is able to regain a part of her identity that was so cruelly stolen from her. I want these women to not only be proud of what they have, but to be accepting of every part of themselves. To strip away the shame, no pun intended, and replace it with an armor of confidence.
What I wasn’t expecting was how many other women would come forward, never having been assaulted, yet feeling just as worthless and sexually inept.
Society has set such a standard for women to live up to sexually and yet at the same time, society does nothing but tear us down. We are constantly walking that fine line of appearing attractive enough and being judged as promiscuous. This unattainable and very narrow standard has created a generation of women who have almost no self esteem in the bedroom. It makes me so sad, everyone deserves to feel proud of their bodies.
With that being said, I haven’t let any women in the class who haven’t been assaulted because stripping your clothes away, looking at yourself in the mirror after an assault, seeing your physical scars, and feeling your emotional ones, can be very traumatic. I wanted to keep the dynamic of the class in such a way that each woman knew that the women around her understood in only ways that a survivor can, what she was going through.
Yet it didn’t stop the other women from calling, texting, emailing. “Hi Eden, my name is so-and-so, I heard that you are teaching a strip dance class and I wanted to know if you have any classes for women just looking to feel better about themselves. Please call me back at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
It got me thinking, I could do this. I could be that person. I could teach these women. I could help them. You all know that I’m a fairly sexually expressive person and I’m totally ok with that. This wouldn’t be a big leap for me and I could teach it at night after the kids were in bed, losing no time to work on the not-for-profit and losing no time with my kids.
Then my friends found out. “Eden, you have to be kidding me. You are a stripper?”
“No, I’m not a stripper. I’m teaching strip and I’m doing it to help empower other women, not just so some guy can get off to me.”
“Eden, you are still selling your body for money. What’s next, prostitution?”
That stopped me dead in my tracks and sucked me all the way back to my 14 year old self living under a bridge and vowing that I would make it out without becoming an addict, ending up in jail, or selling my body.
I’m selling my body.
What’s scarier, I’m not sure I care.
As I tried to explain my position to them and my feelings on the situation, the reactions that I got were “Yea and next you will be working at the local strip joint so that you can pay for college or standing on the street corner so that you can feed your kids. That’s what they all say.”
Oh. My. Gosh.
I am “them.” I am that girl. I AM THAT GIRL. Am I that girl?
This has sort of been an internal debate for me over the last few weeks. I’ve gone around and around with it in my head. I even texted Mr. Attorney Man asking if it would look poorly on me if it were to ever be brought up in court if I landed there with my ex.
The realization that I have come to is that I don’t care what anyone else thinks of me. I know my reasons for doing this and the only person that I need to be accountable to, is myself. Furthermore, who the hell am I to judge anyone else for being a stripper, a sex worker, a porn star, or whatever. Who do I really think I am that I can judge someone else?
What I am struggling with is letting go of ideal that I had for my life. I have always joked “hey, I might be poor, but at least I'm not taking the easy way out. I’m scrubbing houses, it’s not like I’m a stripper.”
I look back at my 14 year old self sleeping under a bridge and I feel like I let her down. I feel like even though I never aspired to be much, I am breaking one of the few promises that I did make to myself, letting go of one of the only goals I had set. “I won’t sell my body.”
This has been a tough one for me to swallow, letting go of another realization that my life didn’t turn out like I had planned, like I had wanted. Yet my life has not turned out to be anything that I had planned or anything that I could have anticipated, so I’m going to roll with this. I know where my boundary lines are. I’ve said it before, I have no problem messing around with a boy. I quite enjoy it and yet even after all these years I’ve never stepped over the boundary that I set for myself, which was no sleeping around.
So with all that in mind,
Dear 14 year old Eden,
Thank you for caring enough to respect your body. I’m going to take some of the respect that you have shown towards it over the years and I’m going to bend the rule a little bit in order to share it with some other women who could really use it as well. You know yourself well enough to know that you are strong enough to not cross the boundaries on what you view as acceptable for yourself. You’ve done a great job girl and I’m proud of you.
Dear 30 year old Eden,
Who the hell cares what anyone else thinks of you. You know who you are and why you are doing this and if anyone else disagrees, they can just go fuck themselves.
Hey guess what everyone in blogland