A Stripper Taught Me All About Relationships
“She’s giving off some serious don’t-fuck-with-me eyes,” said my mate Andy. We were both observing a brunette tucked away in the corner of the rooftop bar of a hostel in Budapest. Live music thumped from the floors below. My mind, still on the brunette, Andy’s on his gastro-inflicted abdominal pains.
Andy’s bowels forced him down to his bed, so I approached the brunette. Her eyes were cast downwards at the glowing screen in front of her.
“Are you waiting for the shower?” I joked, motioning towards the disgusting outdoor bathroom inexplicably placed in the corner of the rooftop bar.
“No, are you?” she replied in a concerned tone.
And thus the ice was broken.
She was a 24-year-old Pilates instructor from Melbourne and I could tell within minutes that we’d get along. A self-confessed bookworm and historian, she confidently used the term ‘frontal temporal lobe’ while we discussed the nuances of the brain involved with learning a new language. We had real, visceral conversations about love, relationships, literature and music.
We drank cheap white wine, ate vegan food and went to the bar. The roof was busy and loud, crammed with British teenagers drunk on foreign beer. She told me about being an intense introvert. This morsel of conversation made me hungry for more, to explore the unexplored, to pick her brain. The whole concept of introverts is completely foreign to me, an incurable extrovert. She oozed sexuality, and there was an understated assuredness about her that seemed at odds with her shyness.
For all else, it was very clear that she did what she wanted. She was driven by her desires, with little-to-no compromise. She was proud of it and had earned the right to be that way. She was a free spirit, something I’ve always wanted to be, but don’t know if I am. Maybe by being in her presence I could learn to care less, I thought. Through her most recent relationship, she learned that she doesn’t think she’ll ever have a conventional relationship, a thought that had often crossed my mind after my last breakup.
We spoke at length about astrology; she knew everything about me: my star sign, birth chart, by how many degrees we were separated on the sex compass. She divulged that her ex and myself were the perfect sex compass distance apart, and thus why our relationship flourished. Her enthusiasm for astrology was endearing yet confusing. The skeptic in me, refusing to believe, was frustrated because I saw it as ‘copping out’ by entirely disregarding the scientific process, but I admired her study, because it was clear to me that she believed the content and had made an informed opinion.
By the end of our second night together a wall still surrounded her. I didn’t even know her last name, nor would she tell me. She didn’t have Facebook and was a beginner at Snapchat. Resigned to having to stay in touch via Snapchat’s direct messaging service, we said goodbye. I was going to Vienna, she was going to Prague, and that was that.
I went to Prague. We caught up on her first night there and slipped into an effortless rhythm, and stuck to it for the next week. Her introversion manifested itself by way of isolation. We were together a lot. More than I am used to and, I know, a hell of a lot more than she was used to. I appreciated her good company and vice versa. It was a different to my other travelling experiences which were often spent in solitude, or when with others, never as close.
It was around our fourth night together when she revealed that she was a budding scriptwriter and actor, stifled by unsupportive parents. On this night she went to tell me something at dinner, but became reticent before sternly telling me to drop my line of questioning. Later that night in a tacky five-story Prague nightclub on the R&B level listening to euphoric European summer hits, she came clean. She was a dancer. A stripper.
I was rattled. How could one of the most intelligent people I had met be a stripper? How could I have let myself become so mentally and physically attracted to her? How can an introvert take on a role that revolves around dealing with people, the worst kind of people, on a stage, while naked? It was hard to swallow, but I became curious. Why? How? I probed and asked and tried to understand; I wanted to understand.
She didn’t mind explaining her story. Her colleagues, her friends, were some of the most intelligent people she knew. They formed intense ‘sisterhood’-like relationships. Most confounding was how much respect she had developed for men through being a dancer for four years. “Men are beautiful,” she said to me with a twinkle in her eye. We sat riverfront, sipping overly sweet ciders. She glanced out across the glistening dusk water as she contemplated her next thought before continuing. Her role had exposed her to all manners of creeps and perverts, she explained. But aside from that, she met real, genuine men, who treated her with respect and as a human, more than many others outside the club. It didn’t matter from what walk of life: the diversity of clients, she explained, was endless, but there was one consistency – they were mostly beautiful, kind, caring people.
Never would I have thought I was capable of a connection with a star-sign obsessed vegan actor and introvert who strips for work. But therein lies the beauty of travel, and the road for being able to foster intense relationships which otherwise never would have flourished back in Australia. Will I see her again? Maybe. But she taught me that whatever happens happens.
Cover by Nik Venet