In 1996, after a decade of dating fellow journalists, I dated a stripper. Her real name wasn’t Rochelle, but that was one of the names she danced under, so I’ll use that.
( Both journalists and strippers are accustomed to pseudonyms. )
Rochelle asked me out. More specifically, she stuck her tongue down my throat at a nightclub.
( Strippers are women of action. Journalists are men of reflection. )
We met after she starred in a college production of some avante-guard play whose title I can’t remember and whose content I didn’t understand.
( Strippers fancy themselves independent actresses. Journalists consider themselves artsy spectators. )
I didn’t know Rochelle, but my friends knew her friends.
( Because of the nature of our professions, strippers and journalists meet more people than, say, secretaries and accountants. )
After the play, Rochelle, the cast, and my friends headed to a nearby Tex-Mex joint to celebrate. I sat across the table from her and ordered the Chili Relleno. I thought it was good. I offered her a bite. She accepted by opening her mouth and ever-so-slightly raising her chin – the universal sign for “feed me.” When children do this, it’s cute. When strippers do this, it’s sexy. So I fed her a bite.
Afterward, we all went to a nightclub. Rochelle pushed me onto a couch, climbed on top of me, and kissed me. I asked why.
( Journalists can’t enjoy the moment without understanding it. )
She told me it was because of the Chili Relleno. I said I didn’t understand. She asked me why that fucking mattered.
( Strippers can’t enjoy the moment if they’re forced to understand it. )
I never did get a good explanation. But since sex was involved, I subjugated my curiosity. The sex wasn’t intercourse, though. Rochelle feared AIDS and sneered at condoms, so we did everything but and a few things that had never occurred to me.
( Journalists have lots of intercourse but not much else. )
Rochelle said if I took an AIDS test, we could, and I quote, “fuck like rabid badgers.” As the first sign this relationship was doomed, I never got tested. When she asked why, I said I was too busy and just didn’t feel like it. Besides, I liked the sex we were having.
( Journalists are used to writing the same old stories over and over. )
At first, we got along because we had a couple things in common: Neither of us had a college degree (because stripping and journalism don’t require one) and both our professions gave us similar perspectives on life.
That’s because strippers and journalists suffer the same disrespect gap. Our customers don’t respect us, but we don’t respect them, either. Strippers think the guys who give them money to get naked are suckers. Journalists think their readers are morons.
Rochelle was a nice woman, slightly damaged by a lifetime of benign neglect and virulent objectification. I admired her – not for what she did for a living, but how she survived it. Out of this affection, I would do almost anything for her. Except stay with her.
The reason? I viewed my relationship with Rochelle journalistically.
I have a theory: You can’t work eight hours a day – one third of your life – and come home without your job affecting the way you perceive the rest of your life, including your relationships. I’ve interviewed people going through all sorts of grueling personal crises, and that’s made me much more sympathetic and much less judgmental about everybody.
So I didn’t judge Rochelle for stripping. She was a better person than many upstanding and corrupt bankers and businessmen I’d interviewed.
But because of Rochelle’s profession, she perceived her life (and her relationships) as sexual drama. A disagreement over dinner (Italian or sushi?) could easily escalate into a you’re-just-using-me-for-sex crying jag. She was much more insecure than me. While journalists and strippers can both be defensive, I could at least cloak myself in the First Amendment. Rochelle literally had nothing to cloak herself in.
So like a good journalist, I added up all the facts. And I decided journalists and strippers are not career-compatible, and that our relationship had the permanence of newsprint.
But instead of breaking up with Rochelle outright, I did that typical, cowardly guy thing called Not Being Available Physically and Emotionally.
Alas, getting rid of a stripper is like getting rid of a journalist. Tell a journalist “no comment” and he’ll never go away. Same for a stripper. The more I ignored Rochelle, the more she pursued me.
When that didn’t work, she tried insults. “You know, I can have any man I want. I can do much better than you.”
As an objective journalist, I had to agree. “You’re right. I’m definitely above my pay grade here.”
In a final attempt to keep me, she even offered to recruit a friend for threesome.
“A female friend?” I asked.
“You want a guy?” she asked. “Is that why you don’t like me?”
“No, and I do like you. A lot.” I said. “It’s just that I don’t think I could handle a threesome.”
“What’s not to handle?” she asked.
I explained that one night while waiting around for deadline, some of my fellow journalists – two men and two women – had devised some rules for a threesome…
- Know the third person as an acquaintance but not a friend.
- Enlist only one man in the threesome. (Which I think is a tad sexist, but one of the guys mentioned the term, “crossed swords,” which I thought was descriptive writing.)
- Never see that person again.
- Engage in the threesome at a location far removed from any place you might visit with any future girlfriend or boyfriend, lest you be reminded of an amazing sexual experience and then, by comparison, be underwhelmed by the individual you’re now with. So a hotel in a nearby town is OK. Your house is not.
My only contribution was this: The threesome cannot focus totally on my pleasure. The two women must also be attracted to each other, because pleasing one woman is difficult enough.
Looking faintly disgusted, like she just drank spoiled milk, Rochelle asked me why we had to come up with rules at all, and especially that last one.
“Journalists don’t enjoy being the center of attention the way strippers do,” I said. “We prefer observing from the edges, not being on stage.”
“Well, that’s the difference between strippers and journalists then,” Rochelle said. “You guys talk about doing stuff. We do it.”
At that moment, I knew she was right. I had to do something. So I broke up with her. Weeks later, I started dating the woman who would become my wife.
Like Rochelle, my wife had to ask me out. She’s a musician. Don’t get me started about journalists and musicians.