To distract from the misery of Valentine’s Day, I went dancing at a strip night with two female friends and watched hot naked girls pole dance. Why the heck not? Organised by the East London Strippers Collective, the night was hosted in a working men’s club and had an atypical ambience to what one would expect of a night where ladies twirl around a pole. The women showed intelligent humour (as well as fucking killer boobs and legs) and were very much in control of the whole setup – from the dancing to the organisation and, bizarrely, a raffle. They displayed personality, frivolity, as well as their well groomed vajayjays. Much of the audience was female. I found myself proudly exclaiming, “I used to have those knickers! They’re from M&S!” and feeling very much at home.
The night has gotten me thinking about appearances. Underneath the (lack of) clothes and makeup lie very different characters with surprising back stories. The East London Strippers’ Collective exists to raise awareness of the fact that stripping isn’t all glam. Behind the sheen of sleek strip clubs we would normally picture, there are tiny, dingy changing rooms and a culture of exploitation. Did you know that often strippers have to pay in order to dance? It’s like renting space. Here I was thinking they earned oodles of cash as long as the elastic in their thong was strong enough to hold it.
In preparation for our girls’ Fuck You Valentine’s night out, I had spent two hours mastering youtube “porn star makeup” tutorials, elected to wear one of my wife’s fancy dress gowns in line with the Soho Sleaze theme (but only after sending selfies to Boy Widower and letting him choose the best outfit), and taken a taxi because I couldn’t be arsed walking to the tube in my stilettoes and spare shoes just don’t fit in a clutch bag. I looked really hot, if I might say so myself. Well, Boy Widower also said this. Wink.
To others, we appeared three hot girls who had consumed a tad too much gin and taken the costume theme far more seriously than everyone else. No wedding rings, no significant others, no wrinkles, no scars. For one of us, I cannot comment since it was the first time I met her. For we other two, underneath our clothes and four shades of porn star inspired eyeshadow, we are articulate, ambitious, creative women who fall into the the world’s top 2% most intelligent people by virtue of some special, but bloody well earned, letters after our names. What others would never be able to tell about my fellow stripper-friendly gin drinker (SFGD) and me, though, is the story of how we are two souls forever linked by tragedy.
SFGD is the last person to have seen wife alive. I’m so glad that my wife’s final meal was with someone so aces but so sad that she lives with this experience. Further, she is the only friend who one could say was originally “wife’s” who has stood by me through the aftershit of her suicide. Literally the only one. While the rest blamed me for driving my wife to her death (mental illness doesn’t kill, wives do, obvs) she was able to put any such emotions aside, forgive and stay. Knowing some of the details of what my wife did that fateful day, down to her listening to a piano player in the train station and buying an elephant shaped biscuit, means the world to me. It really does, F. Thank you.
As for me, well, there’s so much underneath my clothes. On the plus side, widow diet is fucking brilliant and I’ve never looked hotter in a bikini. But widow brain has irrevocably changed me and my psychological makeup. I bear scars that nobody can see. I have literally been traumatised. I have witnessed true horror. I have also experienced true love. My marriage wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t awful – it was true and gritty. What devastates me is my lack of understanding of just how much my wife concealed from everyone who loved her, concealed what was underneath her clothes. It’s also frustrating as fuck that some others don’t appreciate how much she concealed and that I was just the tip of a massive fuck off deadly iceberg. As widow bestie says, “it is what it is.”
Sometimes I wish people could see past the makeup and the hot bod. I wish they could see past the lesbian ogling the fit stripper. I wish they could see past the career bitch who bosses everyone around. I wish they could see past the widow who is laughing and dating again. I wish they could instinctively know when I’m in particularly acute pain and just be nice. Because today/tomorrow (it’s nearly 2.30am) is the 7th anniversary of meeting my wife outside the gate to her quad. It hurts like holy fuck. All I want in the world is to see her smile again, to hold her warm hand.
When I wake up in the morning, it’ll be power suit on, M&S knickers, war paint and stilettoes. But underneath those clothes, there’s an endless story.