The Herstory of a Bargirl
It’s her turn to take the stage and dance. As she lines up with her colleagues, another group of women, their stint now complete, is coming down. She makes a perfunctory wai toward a god she prays will bring her good luck or at least protect her, then climbs a few steps to begin her performance.
Many eyes are drawn to her as the music blasts away and her body reacts to the beat. She starts to dance. It’s beautiful. It’s rhythmic. It’s legitimately sexy. It’s also a well-practiced act, as it is by no means her first day. At 22, she’s already a seasoned veteran of the bargirl industry.
She may be a veteran, but it doesn’t evidence itself yet in either her body or her mien. The mileage doesn’t yet show. She smiles, and the smiles look real. They look heartfelt. Nothing hard about her yet, save for her still-young body, even if she’s in the process of betraying it with too many Tequilas and interminably long hours. Maybe she really enjoys her job. Maybe she enjoys the camaraderie she has with other women on stage with her. Possibly she likes being appreciated for her beauty, which she has in abundance. There’s a bit of vanity in everyone. Maybe she’s just a good actor, crying on the inside, or maybe she simply has found a way to deal with something she doesn’t really like, but for personal reasons has become the best economic route she thinks is open to her.
In a literal sense it was three or four stair steps that got her up on that stage, but there’s a longer tale to tell of how she came to be where she is tonight. It’s her personal journey. It’s herstory.
To the paying customers, enjoying this woman as much as their drinks, her journey to that stage sits somewhere between irrelevant and unimportant. She’s there, she’s a sight to behold, and that’s it. They neither ask, nor want, much more. If there are any thoughts aimed toward her, they’re likely of the carnal variety, which is, of course, why she’s up on stage and why the bar exists. It isn’t art; it’s science, and that science is biology.
Herstory, in a sense, is all about biology. Human biology, or more specifically, female biology. She is where she is because she’s female, and females can become mothers.
She was 16, or maybe 15. She was a typical teen, going to school each day, occasionally thinking about what she someday wanted to be, but mostly concerned with being liked by her friends, fitting in, and maybe finding that right guy.
She found a guy she thought was right, at least as right as any young teen could determine. They held hands. They hugged. They sometimes kissed. They fought, then made up, fought again and made up again. Both were learning how to build a relationship with the opposite sex.
One night they went together to a party. Her boyfriend gave her a drink. It was the first time alcohol had ever passed her lips, and the first time her body had to deal with such a foreign substance. Unable to process it, her body shut down. She passed out.
Her boyfriend had also been drinking. He saw a chance. Maybe it was his biology driving him, or the alcohol, but his chance meant doing something he had often fantasized about but had never been able to carry out. He took her, as she slept, and what he took was her virginity, if not her life.
It is one of the ironies of procreation that so many couples cannot seem to conceive, but young girls get pregnant the first time they engage in sex, even if they were completely unaware it was happening to them. The future bargirl was pregnant, though she would not know it for some time.
She felt odd, but she didn’t know why. Something was going on in her body, but it was new, so she had no reference, no way to assess it. A month or two went by, with her feeling a bit nauseous each morning, but still thinking she just had some sort of bug she couldn’t shake. No period came when it should have. Then a second period was missed. Slowly she began to realize, or fear, that she wasn’t ill at all.
Nobody came to her aid. Absolutely nobody. No one offered her any comfort, nor showed any concern, except for how the pregnancy would affect them. Her boyfriend told her to stop the pregnancy. Her boyfriend’s family, holding a slightly higher position in society than the girl’s family, and who had always felt their young son deserved better than her, demanded she abort. Her school no longer wanted her around, as her condition made people ‘uncomfortable’. Her own mother, driven far too much by concerns for her own reputation, offered little to no solace.
The young girl was alone. She was alone and she was scared. Her entire world had been shaken. She was lost, and she had no map to find her way back to any place resembling normalcy.
She thought about abortion, as the pressure coming from all sides kept telling her that was the way to go. She was confused. Abortion did seem the easiest way back to her childhood, or what might remain of it, but she could not fully convince herself that was right. She hesitated. She considered the consequences. She was suddenly growing up, like it or not. She was developing and embracing what would be the right morality for her.
We’re all biological machines, and while that scientific term contains the word ‘logic’, answers are often not so cut and dry. Undeniably, despite the relentless drive toward political correctness, there are some differences between the genders. If nothing else, the two genders run on different fuels, like vehicles with either a gas or a diesel engine. The means of combustion and generating power are different, even though almost all other aspects of the vehicles are similar. Males—call them diesel-driven—have testosterone, while females run on estrogen. Maybe that chemical difference impacts decision making, maybe not. Maybe there is an inherent inequality between the genders built into us, even if the current practice is to downplay such things.
There seems to be something called a ‘maternal instinct’, and it goes beyond religion or ideology, though this young woman may well have been driven by a belief in what was right for her. Then again, it could be just biology. Everyone on the outside was arguing for abortion, but she continued to drag her feet. It was, after all, her body and no one else’s. She would decide. Despite the constant berating she got from her boyfriend, his family, other members of her community, and the mixed messages she got from a mother who ever-so-slowly began to evidence some compassion, she could not bring herself to end the pregnancy. That wasn’t for her.
She checked herself into a hospital. It could have been on the dark side of the moon, because nobody came with her and nobody came to visit her during her greatest time of fear. Nothing could define ‘alone’ so effectively.
She gave birth to a healthy daughter.
That one brief moment at a party—the alcohol and the violation by her boyfriend—had forever changed her life. Whatever plans she might have had, whatever the dreams or fantasies, were gone. Poof! Evaporated in an instant. She had a life she now had to protect, a life for which she was solely responsible. Nobody offered any financial support. She decided she would do whatever it took to nurture and care for the new life she had chosen to allow into the world.
All acts have consequences, but the two are not connected in a linear fashion. The foolhardiest of conscious acts might produce just a minor inconvenience, while a momentary lack of awareness or control can have devastating impact. Life isn’t fair. No news there. There is cause, and there is effect, but the Universe did not match them up in equal measure, at least equal in the way humans try to define it. Fairness is a human construct. The laws of existence have no such concept nor obligation.
So today, years after the seminal act, this woman takes the stage, scantily clad, using the gifts of beauty and pleasing physique a fickle, impish or random Universe handed her, and goes about trying to earn a living and provide for a daughter she never planned to have. She stands out on that stage. She is stunning. Men are drawn to her. She’s naturally good at her job.
Maybe she was naïve way back when, but the sentence handed her for the ‘crime’ of naivete is unduly harsh. Yes, she could have said no to that first drink. Yes, she could have chosen a better boyfriend. Yes, she could have taken everyone’s advice and had the abortion, allowing her to resume her studies and chase her original dreams. She did none of those things, and she is living the consequences. She will never escape those consequences, but she comforts herself with the love she gives and receives from the life she ushered into existence. One hopes it’s enough.
Admittedly she made a choice to enter her current industry, but the economics of her situation and the fact she is only now trying to finish or enhance the education denied her in the past, hold sway. She’s where she is because she thinks it’s the best way to survive, and ideally one day get her life in order. She has a certain amount of understandable bitterness towards those who shunned her, but for the most part keeps that at bay, though she will never totally forgive. There’s also a touch of guilt over the work she chose, guilt which is entirely undeserved. No one who has not lived her life has any business feeling superior. How she emerged from her difficult past with the degree of kindness and compassion she shows for others is simply a wonder and proof of a goodness or strength all too rare.
As the music blares away, and she dances rhythmically and beautifully to it, her face lit up by a megawatt smile and the brightest eyes, a hundred pairs of eyes stare back at her, entranced, most thinking the same thoughts her former boyfriend thought half a dozen years ago. She’s going to earn her money tonight, no doubt about that. Men are going to buy her drinks. They are going to try to win her affection, even for a short time. She knows what to do and how to play. She knows how to maximize her earnings. She’s in control now. She can decide what she does, if anything, and with whom. She’s going to win tonight’s battle, even if it’s a Pyrrhic Victory in what will be a long war whose outcome remains uncertain.
The men will see only her allure, her charm, her sexiness, which are purposely on display. The men are driven in their own way as she is in hers. They will only think of themselves and what her qualities can do to make them happy. It’s primal; it’s why we’re all here. Nobody can really fault it, because it is what nature made us.
Her audience doesn’t know, and likely doesn’t care, about herstory. Why should they? They have their lives, she has hers. It isn’t as if herstory is unique. Sometimes paths cross, and maybe both sides get what they want or need, even if it’s but a fleeting moment. That is what tonight is about, and only about. It is why she, and they, have this chance to meet. It’s transactional.
For anyone who might want to know, however, this is herstory.
The author of this article cannot be contacted.