The “Modeling Studio” and a Case of Mistaken Identity

Presentation3“How y’all doing?”

The two of us wore wool coats. The woman who greeted us when we came into the “modeling studio” and her coworker wore denim short-shorts and work shirts tied above the waist.

Ellen and I in our coats, our bags stuffed with pamphlets and condoms and lubricant samples—and information on the clinic where we both worked. Before we got a chance to chat with the two women a man in his late 50s, bald, wearing jeans, a belly overhang, and a jeans jacket came through the door. “What do y’all do?”

One of the women working there pointed to a sign on the wall, much like what you’d see in a burger or taco joint. “Here’s the price list. That includes me or her,” pointing to her colleague. “But not her,” pointing to Ellen, “or her,” pointing to me.

The man scratched his head. “If I bring in some clients, can you take care of them?”

“Sure,” one of the two women answered him.

“Okay. Can you give me a receipt?”

I did my best not to roll my eyes at the man. He planned to bring in some of his customers to partake of some nude “modeling” and he was concerned about taking it off of his income tax.

Good Days on the Job

For a time, I worked as a health educator and counselor in a maternal health and family planning clinic at the same time that I did outreach in the field identifying women who were not receiving well women care. [See my posts on my visits to a topless bar or two.] Some days were a challenge, listening to all the difficulties the women in and outside the clinic were having that were difficult to address. There were a few successes I remember in my work. One was a woman who returned to the clinic to let me know that the time we’d spent together six months before, when I counseled her about relationship violence issues, that she had turned her life around. She’d used the numbers and information on leaving an abusive relationship to help her go in a new direction in her life.

A second was a young 15-year-old girl who told me that she didn’t mind if she was pregnant and didn’t need birth control that visit. Rather than lecture her, I asked to think about her child, if she was pregnant, and ask herself if she would want to be her own baby in the life circumstances that she found herself in.  When she went in to see the nurse and found out she wasn’t pregnant, she asked for birth control, though I don’t know what happened to her after her clinic appointment as I didn’t see her again.

But the one woman I remember most, who I did see more than once in the clinic and on outreach, was Veronica (not her real name). I met Veronica in a “tanning salon”—a place on a street filled with sexually oriented businesses that had a broken tanning bed and a towel on the floor for sex with clients. Veronica started by coming in to the clinic to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease and a well woman visit. Returning again several months later, she was disease free and appeared less altered by drugs or alcohol. The third time, a very different Veronica visited the clinic—smiling for the first time and accompanied by a sister. She credited my coworkers and I for helping turn her life around, but I knew we had contributed only slightly, with most of the credit going to Veronica’s family and to Veronica herself.

So even though I sometimes sat out in my car before going into the clinic and had a “moment,” wishing I could do more, I often thoughts of those times of hope and firmly committed myself to doing what I could to make women’s lives better, or be there to support them when they made their own lives better.

Afternoons in the Topless Bar

Stripper-on-PolePerhaps if you’re reading this you’ve been in a strip bar and haven’t thought it was any big deal, but for me, stepping through that door and approaching the (usually female) greeter/hostess was more than a little intimidating. We often go in the late afternoon, so the number of patrons is usually much lower than after normal work hours. That helped to reduce my anxiety over a place that is both taboo and intriguing.

No matter whether high-end or not-so-high-end club, we first make contact and establish a relationship with the house mother, a woman who helps the dancers with anything from a little make-up, feminine hygiene products, or a shoulder to cry on. Many club dressing rooms are crammed with all the things a house mother needs to do her job, which includes making sure the dancers go on stage at the appropriate time and gets them scheduled for the upcoming week.

I have always been impressed by the talents of most of the women in strip bars. There’s a certain athleticism that they have to have. I learned that early on when I passed the stage on the way out the door just in time to see a dancer punctuating her number by standing on her head.

Watch for more about what happened during some of these forays into the bars.

Stripper on Pole image by Momoko (,  Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, via Wikimedia Commons

Funny Who You Meet on the Way in the Door

First day. On way to topless bar. Luckily, two coworkers had been to the bar previously, so there was no reason to be nervous. Right.

The bar sat along a road in what looks like a mostly industrial area, dotted with similar businesses, some inside strip malls, some standing alone. A diner here and there. A standalone bar sat at one corner. We park the car and get out. Our bags are filled with condoms and flyers. One co-worker is Nina, the other is Marie. We approach the entrance.

The doors swing out as we approach it, and a man in shirt sleeves, asphalt gray hair sweeping over his head, and wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He looks up and his and Nina’s eyes meet. A combination of ‘hi’ and ‘hello’ comes out of her mouth, while his lips sputter. He is looking down at the ground he scurries across and Nina and Marie and I make our way into the building.

Nina wears a stunned look. “Oh, my God,” she whispers to both of us. “That was my gynecologist.”