Spent a lot of today trying to figure out what I want to say in The Big Speech, what my message is and I am feeling challenged.
I know what my keynote speeches are going to be about. They will be for a different audience and the content will be appropriate for them. I will be able to speak freely and at length.
My challenge for The Big Speech is that much of my life is inappropriate for Public Toastmasters Consumption. It’s not exactly ‘family viewing’ type of stuff, you know?
Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champ says my message has to be me. My experience, and what I have learned from it, how I got there. I get that. So how do I tell these things to a TM audience?
Exactly 10 years ago tonight I was working at a strip club in Brampton, Ontario. It was my last night as a dancer. Ever. I didn’t know this for sure, but somehow, I knew this. I even remember going into the club dressing room that night and having a conversation something like this with one of the girls. I remember she was very tall and looked down at me as we conversed in the mirror.
“I’m going out to Vancouver tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah? Where are you gonna be working?”
“I’m not going out to work. I’m going out to quit.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know yet, but I met this really amazing man a few months ago and I’m going to be with him. I’m not coming back.”
“Oh you’ll be back.”
“No I won’t. I won’t be back.”
I said it with certainty because I knew it.
Lloyd and I had been conducting our ‘relationship’ over the phone for about 2 and a half months- he in B.C. and me in Ontario, 3000 miles apart. Although I didn’t really know him, he had shared enough of himself with me so that I felt I could trust him, as I had felt the very first night we met.
Lloyd had done something for me that I hadn’t experienced in my entire life. He respected me. He did it through his actions. One night when we were talking on the phone for one of our hours-long marathons during Christmas break, he told me that ideally, we should wait until we were married to be together intimately.
That suggestion literally made my heart flutter. I had to catch my breath and I grinned like a fool. My poor brain though! My brain couldn’t begin to comprehend it because I assumed values like that were not only dead, but better off so. I’d never met a single person in the world like that. I didn’t really think they existed.
I couldn’t deny what that suggestion did to me though. It told me that I was more to him than I had ever been to any man before him. He was different and it gave me hope. It changed my heart. It made me more brave.
Those last few weeks before I left for BC were amazing and incredibly difficult. Lloyd and I spoke at length about spiritual issues. I was a practicing pagan who was slightly opening the door to a fellow named Jesus. Lloyd was a Christian who wasn’t living the life he wanted to live.
I also found it increasingly difficult to dance for anyone as I felt I was betraying Lloyd but I had lingering doubts in the back of my mind and wanted to make as much money as I could just in case it wasn’t what I thought it was.
At the same time, my dancing on stage was the best it had ever been and I felt utterly electric. I knew it was going to be my last week and I was going to be the most miraculous dancer anyone had ever seen. I dug deep and gave away my soul every time I performed.
Now I wanted my last night as a stripper to be something of a celebration of the end of what I considered to be a legendary career. Born on July 4, 1986 and dying on Jan. 19, 2003, the caricature known as Red Hot Paula Scott was one of the best dancers in Canada and I wanted her to be acknowledged. I felt I deserved at least that after all I had done in and for the business. (I had been the chair of the Exotic Dancer’s Alliance of Ontario and the editor of its newsletter for a few years also.)
When I look back now I’m relieved it was so anticlimactic. I needed for it to be because it can be easy to romanticize this job, especially with distance and time. It’s a good thing I recently went through those dozens of micro cassette recordings to remind me of just how much general crap I had to deal with, how often I got wasted, how often I cried and how much I hated what I was doing.
However, there had been some changes happening in me since the night I met
Lloyd, my future husband and His good buddy Jesus and I was recognizing different values. Something was happening to my spirit. On what I was certain would be my last night, I actively tried to recognize the value of relationship, the value of time, and the value of love as a verb that did not involve sex.
There was a young man named Harry who had been in the club once earlier in the week. He had invited me to join him, he bought me a drink and began to tell me the story of he and his wife’s breakup. I eventually asked him if he wanted a dance and he said that he didn’t but that he would pay me for my time sitting with him. (A dancer’s favourite score.) He was so incredibly sad that it was painful to sit with him. He truly felt that most women were
rotten (or so he said, anyway) and that they were just out to get what they could from men. (Kind of ironic since that’s basically the way I felt about 99.9 % of men at this time.)
Well Harry came back to see me on my final night. I scribbled the following that night on a piece of paper which I still have:
Sat. night 9:45 p.m.
Harry, the East Indian guy came back. Third man to come back to see me this week- he was sad, so very very sad. Still a mess from the breakup with his wife. I had quite a long discussion with him. He was aggressive about wanting to give me money – my intuition told me that it was to confirm his suspicions of the “evilness” and the “taking” nature of women.
He asked me several times “What do you want?” (In terms of money.)
I said ”I want you to take care of yourself Harry.”
He was quiet for a while, then he thanked me and tears were forming in his eyes. It was worth losing the money to restore a shred of faith in humanity. I’m ok. I don’t need more than that.
And here’s an actual glimpse into my world that night. This is a direct transcription from my tape. Bear in mind that I was still 11 months away from sobriety at this point.
Second last show (but I thought it was my last)- 12:30 a.m.
“Well, I’ve done what’s probably my last show ever- did the Beatles, of
course. And um, well I knew it was gonna be anticlimactic up there since
the place is dead but I kept reminding myself “No, no, do it for you, do it
for God, do it for people who care- even the ones who aren’t brave enough to
admit they care,” and there are SO many of them. Most of them actually.
Sad sad state of affairs.
Hmmm. I’ve had four glasses of wine, and I’m debating whether I should have
a fifth. *laughs*
I still have an hour and a half to kill and I really can’t afford it but I’m
probably gonna- sounds like an alcoholic to me. *laughs*
(sarcastic voice) Maybe I’ll join Lloyd at his AA meetings, we can go
together, how charming. *laughs* (Lloyd had just informed me 11 days prior that he was getting sober.)
Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be real impressed with that……… Awww f***.
Anyway, I was just kind of… you know, the thing is, as a D.J. you should recognize things that are different and special and promote them and…..it’s been a 15 year career for me and this is the last day and ummm ….. I don’t think it’s cool that he didn’t acknowledge it in any way, shape or form at all. …….And so I will be rewarding him in kind. (Talking about my tip, or lack thereof for him.)
(So, it looks like although the money thing wasn’t as important to me, the
recognition thing was important enough for me to have taken retribution!!!! LOL!!)
Back to the tape 2:00 a.m.
(Imagine a slight drunken slur in all these words)
Hey, it’s almost 2 o’clock, they let me go early cause there’s nobody here.
But GUESS WHAT? Come on people, guess…. guess who had to do last show
tonight….Come on!!!! *laughs*
That’s right. Me. Big surprise. So what did I do? I finished off with Tori Amos.
I thought my Beatles set was going to be my last set so I gave myself away to the people and it was brilliant….but oh….. the people’s response was kinda disappointing, kinda poor!
Although I could see them wantin‘ to jam, they were just CHIC-KENS!
But ah, this time around, I found out like 5 minutes beforehand that I had to go on stage again and I said
“Oh. S’gonna be Tori then.”
So I finished off with Tori to “Don’t Make Me Go To Vegas”, “Sweet Sangria” and uh….song # 11. *laughs*
And I was there.
I was SO THERE.
And then I was done.
And then I walked off stage and these guys asked me if I would like to “join their table” and I said
“No. No, I don’t want to join your table.”
And that’s all she wrote folks.
End of tape
Man, that part makes me laugh. I can remember that final interaction and I was thinking “F you buddy.” But I never said it. I just wanted to get out of there and go see my man in B.C.
Now you see, GOD, in His infinite wisdom knew that I would cling to a memory of a great sendoff like a baby to his teddy so I am sure that He engineered that unremarkable evening for me and I thank Him profusely for that. For there have been some times since I quit when I have missed some things.
Mostly though, I miss the chats in the dressing rooms. Those were the most real of times. In the dressing rooms I saw people laugh, cry, sob, throw chairs, punch the mirrors, punch each other, secretly put flowers in someone’s locker, get high, hug, make out, attempt to steal, accuse someone else of stealing, scream, read, do homework, do taxes, do makeup, talk to their kids on the phone, get news of the death of a loved one, seek God, curse God, pound the floor in frustration, console, conspire, sing, eat, get drunk, pass out, philosophize, do crossword puzzles, despair, and hope.
And it’s not really the business I miss. It’s the girls. It’s those women. Those women that so often are left behind in the world. The women who don’t think they’re worth waiting for, who don’t think they’re worth much more than any monetary value. The women who shaped my life from 1986 to 2003.
I always wanted to go back for them. I hope to one day.
Now isn’t that a great story? And I’ve got a million of ‘em. And they are part of my life and part of what shaped me. So the question is, how do I make that palatable for Toastmasters Speech competitions and do I even try?