Thursday, September 27, 2007

Class Mom

This is a big step for me. I've hidden behind my own insecurity about how I am perceived until now. But yesterday a letter was sent out to all the parents in my daughter's class. A letter from me, introducing myself and performing my first duty as class mom - the contact list.

Of course, I don't actually know what is expected of "Class Mom" other than a brief email response from last year's Class Mom saying that its just to help out the teacher. It depends on the teacher's needs, she said. The teacher is new and the first thing she wants me to do is ask all the parents to pitch around $15 per student for a new water cooler. I'm not sure how the others will respond, but we just pitched $12 each last year for the new water filter that goes over the tap. We'll see what happens with that!

In my letter to the parents I described myself - short, curly dark hair, a 2-year-old on my hip most days. I think it will be a good fit for me, this job, because it doesn't require any time and date commitments. I can do most of my Class Mom duties via email once the contact list is created.

When the teacher asked me to be the Class Mom, my first response was shock. My first thought was that the other parents might not like it that much. See how I just automatically assume that I'm an outcast? I'm relieved about how the press around Exotic Dancers for Cancer outed me last year. It's better than always fearing I'll be found out and then the cold war will set in - polite declines for playdates and arms-length conversations in the schoolyard - but I have a deeply ingrained fear of being rejected by the other parents.

I am not ashamed of my seven years stripping. They shaped me. I recall the years of fulltime dancing as the least stressful in my life. That was before I had children, when money was constant and work was quite relaxing. The chats in the changeroom between shows. The times when I had the changeroom to myself. Kicking arrogant customers' asses at pool - just because they were arrogant. Otherwise I'd usually lose. Life was simple and I liked my job.

I don't feel that my time as a stripper really makes me that different from other women either. Some people say it does. But I don't agree. I've met some incredible women who are down to earth and open-minded who were never strippers. It's just that MOST strippers are like that because it takes that personality to become one. I was like that before I was a stripper.

But then maybe it does make that big of a difference. I still identify myself as "a stripper" in my mind even though I'm three years out. It seems like yesterday...lol. I still dream about it. I still revert to my stripping mentality when approaching almost any situation. My relationships with men are very much impacted by my time as a stripper. I'm still completely comfortable and confident with them. My relationships with women are also the same. I'm still scared of them.

Sure I met a lot of women who were dancers when I was stripping. But those were the kind of women I could relate to. We were mostly honest, mostly humourous, and mostly naked. It's an intimate connection dancers have with each other. And we don't even realize it. It's just the way it is, when you're dancing.

Having left dancing though. I miss that constant contact with other women, even though they changed every week.

My decision to accept the role as Class Mom was many layered. It forces the other parents to see that I'm a lot like them. I'm also reliable, friendly, and have good grammar and spelling. Maybe I'll make a friend or two. Who knows? It will also give me a chance to feel more a part of my daughter's increasingly independent life. It will help me to find other ways of identifying myself other than sex industry advocate or forlorn former stripper (missing the good ol' dancing days).

I obviously already identify myself as a mother first and foremost because it is the strongest role I fulfill in my life. But a woman has to be more than a person who's given birth and devoted her days to raising her children.

The questions are coming more frequently and pretty soon I will have to explain it all to my 7-year-old daughter. "Mom, what does exotic dancer mean?" The other day she told me I should be "Annie Temple" for Halloween. I've been open in how I talk and what people say in front of her. I've referred to my time dancing many times. She's listened to the interviews and my espousements about stigma and dignity and respect. But I've never been completely honest with her. Exotic dancer is a "beautiful" dancer. And "exotic" can mean that too.

How much does she know and understand? I'm holding out a little longer, but we'll need to have the talk before she feels she's been deceived. The talk about what a stripper is, why Mommy "advocates" for them and doesn't condemn them, why other people do.

I don't ever want her to think I've been dishonest with her. Afterall, I'm not ashamed. And I'm still trying to be the best mom I can be with what I've got. I want her to always feel she can be honest with me too.

This Class Mom may have a few skeletons in her closet, but being a stripper is not one of them. Everyone knows about that (except the new teacher). It just complicates things a little. Real or perceived? I do not know. Wish me luck! :)

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