Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How Has Your Background Influenced the Stories You Want to Tell?

           

            I grew up in a small farming town in Ohio. No one had a lot of money, but we didn’t need a lot. If someone had shown up to school with a Gucci bag, we wouldn’t have understood that this was a status symbol and that we were meant to feel inadequate; we would have asked, “Why does your bag have Gs all over it and why are some of the Gs backwards?”

I’m a country girl; I want to tell stories about people loving one another without pretension, families finding peace in simplicity, and children creating entire worlds with their imaginations.  

            My junior year of high school, I was an exchange student in southern Brazil. When I arrived, I couldn’t speak the language and didn’t understand the culture. I’d never felt lonelier or more out of place in my life, and it seemed hopeless to try to fit in.

However, a year later, I didn’t want to go back home to the United States. I’d learned to speak Portuguese through immersion, and I’d created a new life for myself.

I’m a high school exchange student; I want to tell stories about loneliness, being the outsider, culture shock, adapting to new worlds, and discovering inner strength through hardship.

              After graduating from college, I drove alone across the country and started stripping at Spearmint Rhino, the best “gentleman’s club” in Las Vegas. Stripping wasn’t as wacky of a decision as it may seem; it solved my problem of how to find the time and money to write and gave me a fascinating topic to research.

I’m a Las Vegas stripper; I want to tell stories about strong independent women, human sexuality, sex work, persuasion and manipulation, mental illness and abuse, income inequality, capitalism and the world’s wealthiest men. I want to tell stories about the sacrifices people make for a chance to achieve the ever-elusive American Dream - to learn if what I’ve gained can ever make up for what I sold…

               I spent my first two months’ stripping money to attend a month-long yoga instructor training in Costa Rica. Becoming a yoga instructor was the best decision I’ve ever made. For over two years in Las Vegas, I taught yoga and wrote during the week. I published a comedy memoir about those years called The Yoga Stripper - it’s available on Amazon.

I’m a yoga instructor; I want to tell stories about spirituality, oneness, discipline, self-acceptance, self-knowledge and self-reverence.


Yoga has taught me that whatever stories I tell, whatever I accomplish in my short time here, whether this writing competition decides I’m special and picks me… or not… it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing outside of myself that could ever complete me; I’m already whole.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What movie do I want to watch?

I want to watch a movie that’s nice. Not complicated. Where everything works out in the end.

I’d like to see a love story where a handsome man meets a pretty girl… or better yet… where an average guy meets an average girl. And there’s nothing special about either of them… because there’s nothing special about any of us when it comes down to it.

Nothing special… only they both have really witty senses of humor… and they like to eat pizza together on the couch and watch cartoons.

And they love each other.
Man would they do anything in the world for each other.

And it’s simple and easy, and they have enough money so they don’t have to worry, but not too much money where they get bamboozled into thinking they’re fancier and more important than they really are.

Not nearly enough money so that the man finds a mistress and the woman gets desperate and poisons his beer… nothing so nasty as too much money.

And they’re HAPPY. Sometimes they’re REALLY very happy. Sometimes they get a little bit sad, but never so sad that it becomes depression. It never gets so real that the couple can’t get out of bed… and all the light leaves the room… and they can’t breathe.

Nothing so bad as real sadness and loneliness… only a little sad… only sad enough so that the good feels special and so they appreciate it more. Only that sort of sad.

And did I say that they love each other?
They LOVE each other. I want to say it again and again and again. There’s nothing nicer than someone you love, loving you back.

And this couple that the movie is about… they go on some sort of quest or adventure. They have some sort of goal that they need to achieve… because it’s not a good story if there’s not a goal… if there’s not obstacles to overcome. But… they won’t be too bad of obstacles… nothing that’ll make me cringe and pause the film and browse around the Internet looking at cat videos until I’ve calmed down enough to continue seeing the obstacles that my couple that I’ve just now created are facing… I don’t know… just obstacles like… the pizza is late one night… and the woman’s sister comes to visit for too long… and the man plays too many video games and the woman would rather play different video games.

But maybe this would work better as a tv show? Cause in TV the couple could never leave the couch… they could stay there together. In a movie, they’d be forced to go outside and gather the hobbits together to destroy the ring with Gandalf or something just as stressful.

Finally, I’d like it to be well written… even though it’s so simple and seemingly uninteresting… the way it’s written will make it interesting. A walk into the kitchen to get some coffee will be infused with such subtext and heart and courage that an audience won’t be able to dream of anything more.

That’s what I want to watch… just something nice. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dulcinea





For months, I’ve been listening to the song Dulcinea. When I first listened, I cried.

Sometimes, when I listen to this song, when I’ve been alone in my room for too long and I’ve begun to feel insane and worthless, I still cry.

The song is sung by Don Quixote, a crazy man: he believes he is a valiant knight, he fights imaginary monsters and he dreams impossible dreams. Everyone agrees that he is a fool.

The song is sung for a barmaid, some down-and-out wretch slinging beer.

She’s common. She’s nothing. She’s only worth sex and beer.

But in Quixote’s eyes she is everything. “I have dreamed thee too long, never seen thee or touched thee, but known thee with all of my heart.”

Quixote had never really believed a woman as perfect as his Dulcinea could even exist… but suddenly here she is, his prayer turned to flesh. “I see heaven when I see thee, Dulcinea.”

Quixote had lived his whole life desperately wishing to find her, and now she’s within his hand’s reach. “Let my fingers but see, thou art warm and alive, and no phantom to fade in the air.” 

For Quixote his delusion is ecstasy.

But for Dulcinea, to have a man poeticizing her presence, a man telling her that she’s beautiful, special and perfect when no man has ever said anything but that she’s worthless… well a stupid girl could begin to believe that maybe it could be true… maybe she could be important. Maybe she could be someone's song.

But then to have the man rhapsodizing her be insane… this sort of poetic agony is what great comedy is made of. 

“Now I’ve found thee and the world should know thy glory.” Then Quixote leaves her. 

And now her knight, her mad would-be savior, is gone. And she’s alone again.

And now the men in the bar begin to mock her. The very notion that she could be worth anything mocked by all those who are sane…

The song makes me cry, because that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? We find something or someone to love passionately, we dream that this can save us… and be saved by us… And to us, our beloved means the entire world. Nothing is worth anything without this dream…

But to the world we are always fools. Our dreams are nothing more than wretched bar maids that men grope and mock and tell that they are worthless.

But fuck those men at bars. What does it matter what those men think of our worlds? Who are they to decide what is valuable and worthy of love?

What we love IS worth everything, because we have decided that it’s true. Their malicious thoughts can do nothing to destroy us if we don’t allow them to.


Love is going to save us. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

25 Reasons Why I Swiped Left (Rejected You) on Tinder WARNING: MEAN POST!!!



Aren’t we all on Tinder for the swiping? I don’t even especially want to meet anyone, but I’m addicted to the swiping! Tinder is an epic game of Hot or Not where I can hook up with the people that I deem HOT! I get confidence points every time there's a match! “I don't care! I love it!  I don’t care!” Those are lyrics to this song:



Unfortunately, I’m swiping right (wanting the D) less than 1-in-100 times. These are the reasons why I swiped left:

   1)   You’re ugly. Sorry… imagine I put that in a gentler way....

   2)   Your profile picture is of half of your face. Do you have no understanding of composition? Are you awful at taking selfies? Are you the Phantom of the Opera?

   3)   You don’t smile in any of your photos. Kill yourself. Alternatively, seek help. I don’t care either way.

   4)   Your profile picture is of you and your friends. Your friend is more attractive than you. Can you give me his number?

   5)   ALL OF YOUR PICTURES are of you and your friends. It’s like playing a game of Where’s Insecure Waldo?

   6)   You only had 2 or 3 photos. I need more to go on than that for judging you. Default swipe left.

   7)   You didn’t write a description. Try a little bit harder to get into my pants. How lazy are you? I’d have to be on top the whole time, wouldn’t I?

   8)   You wrote way too long of a description. I don’t actually care that much about your thoughts and feelings. This is a hookup app.

  9)  I’ve already gone on a date with you. Obviously, it didn't work out between us. 

   10)   We have a mutual friend that I’ve already gone on a date with. Obviously, it didn't work out between us. 

  11) We have too many mutual friends. I don’t want my behavior with you to reflect poorly on me with the people whose opinions I actually care about.

  12)  Your shirt is off in your profile picture, and every picture. I think you’re a dummy.

  13)  You’re gay. Seriously, you don’t know that you’re gay yet?! I could tell just by looking at photos of you that you like boys! We’re in LA! It’s great being gay here! Screw your bullshit religious upbringing! Go dance in West Hollywood!

   14)  Your name is something that’s hard for me to say. I only like screaming names that I can pronounce.

   15)  You’re from a race of people that I’m not into. Sorry my sexual preferences are so racist! The heart wants what the heart wants, and in this case, the heart wants blue eyes or dance moves or a better-than-average chance of a big D.

   16)  I saw you on OKCupid months ago when I still had a profile and I’m hypocritically judging you for it now.

   17) You live too far away (6+ miles). This is LA and I will deal with traffic for no man!

   18)  I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly, but there’s something about you that I don’t like. I think you’re a jerk or stupid or arrogant based on your face. You’ve got that je ne sais quoi that I abhor.

   19) You were smoking a cigarette in a photo. Cigarette smoking is such an essential part of who you are that you need to have it in your dating profile photos? Gross. I’m a yoga instructor. Get your life together before your lungs collapse. 


   20) You’re partying in every photo. I partied professionally in Las Vegas for 2 and 1/2 years. I’m over it. These days, I want to go to bed at a reasonable hour and never drink a vodka redbull ever again.

   21) You have hot women with you in every photo. If I’m better looking than the girls you’re showing off then you’ve got no chance.

   22) You’re holding a guitar. I’m not going to date a musician that I met on the Internet... even my phone is worried that it’ll catch something from you. BUT if I meet you at a show that you’re playing, and if you’re incredibly amazing then herpes be damned! I’ll fall in love with you instantly.

   23) You have headshots. You’re an actor and I don’t like it one bit. Let me know if you’re ever famous, otherwise piss off.

   24) You posted a link to your art and I think it sucks.

   25) I was already on a roll of swiping left and accidentally swiped you left too! I’m so sorry, baby! Goodbye my one true love, goodbye! May our paths cross again one day. :(

These are the reasons why I swiped left to you on Tinder! Sorry I’m not sorry. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A car thief costs me $340 and convinces me that I'm going mad

I locked my keys in my car the other night. I'd left them on the passenger seat. I decided to deal with it in the morning. 

In the morning my car had been stolen. 

I called insurance to find out that theft wasn't covered. I called my mother and told her to cash in my mutual funds. Finally, I found my car title with my license number and called the police. 

The police told me that my car hadn't been stolen. My car had been towed for blocking someone's driveway. I began to worry about my sanity because I had a very vivid memory of parallel parking legally between two cars: the only street sign had said, ”No Littering;” the curb had been present and grey. What's wrong with me?  My mind must be slipping...  

I went to get my car from the tow yard. I asked if they could get my keys out of my car as I'd locked them inside and I couldn't find my spare. They said that I'd left the driver's side door unlocked and showed me the keys in the ignition. They asked me if I'd been drunk, but I'd been totally sober and apparently just going out of my mind... something must be wrong with my brain.  WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY BRAIN?!?!?

It cost me $340 to have my car towed and pay the ticket for blocking a driveway. I've spent days worrying about what's wrong with me.

This morning, I finally realized what must have happened!

I DID lock my keys in my car! A thief saw my keys on the passenger seat, broke into my car, attempted to steal my car, couldn't drive a manual transmission, stalled out the car probably 20 feet from where I'd parked it, left the keys in the ignition, left the door unlocked and left my car blocking a drive way!

So I'm out $340, but that's alright as MY CAR SHOULD HAVE BEEN STOLEN but some crack head couldn't drive a stick shift.

AND (more importantly) I'M NOT CRAZY! I can stop sadly questioning the state of my brain! I can trust the information my brain is sending me to be accurate again! I'm not having terrible acid flashbacks! I'M NOT CRAZY!

In fact, not only am I NOT crazy, but also I'm basically Sherlock Holmes using my incredible deductive reasoning to solve mysteries. AND I can drive a manual transmission. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Dear Friend: Snapchat Dick Pics Wanted


Dear Friend,

It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you, and I want to catch you up on my life in LA. In lieu of our once-lengthy correspondences, we’ve texted, liked each other’s Facebook statuses and you’ve sent me snapchats of your day-to-day activities.


Obviously, I would have preferred snapchats of your naked body. But, I guess, if you don’t want to be cool and share full-frontal snaps throughout the day with me, then that’s fine. I still want to be friends. But look, becoming better at Snapchat should be one of your New Year’s resolutions. Like, right when you get out of the shower, just take a snapchat in a full-length mirror and send it over to me for 9 seconds. It’s really not so hard.

What about the concept of Snapchat exactly are you not understanding? Is it the part where you should be sending me dick pics, but instead are NOT sending me dick pics? If you're not going to send me funny dick pics, then you may as well get off of the app all together. You’re wasting my time. I don’t give a damn about the sunset you saw yesterday, that basket of puppies you saved or your wife smiling lovingly as she holds your first-born child. I wasn’t even remotely inspired by that shit.

You never asked me to do this, but still I’ve sent you 5-second close-up snaps of my vagina every day since we were last together. I draw mustaches on my vagina for you. I color my vagina all of the different colors of the rainbow for you. I have my vagina saying funny things about the weather being hot and humid for you. I do all of this for you because a true friend shouldn’t need to be asked for funny pictures of their genitalia, BECAUSE THEY’VE ALREADY SENT FUNNY PICTURES OF THEIR GENITALIA.

Seriously, All I receive in return from you are snaps of jack-o-lanterns and pictures of fucking cats! Seriously, this is abysmal Snapchat etiquette. Sometimes I wonder if you even care about me at all. Seriously, do you even care about me at all?! I’m not a whore! I matter! Screw you! Why don’t you go say hi to your lovely wife who you love deeply for me?!?! I’m sure you make her very happy. Whatever, your marriage is not important to me. What IS important to me is Snapchat.

Snaps of my vagina are to let you know that I’m thinking of you, that I value your friendship and to give you something to aspire towards.

How have you been?

I am very good. A lot of great and exciting stuff is happening for me in LA. I’d tell you more about it, but I’ve spent so much energy explaining all of the ways in which you are failing at Snapchat that I’ve run out of time. However, this was obviously an issue that needed addressed. I feel a lot better having gotten that off of my chest.

Your friend,

Leah

p.s. Check your Snapchat inbox! ;)

Follow me on twitter @theyogastripper

Friday, October 4, 2013

5 Ways that Stripping in Vegas Changed Me


I worked as a stripper for 2 ½ years at the Spearmint Rhino in Vegas. I haven’t been a stripper since April, and I’m still adjusting to life after that Black Friday hustle in the darkness.
There have been some good changes to my psyche that will help me to succeed in life, and there have been some disturbing changes that make me want to go to therapy ASAP.
The good and bad together, I know that all of the changes have made me more adept at survival. A good story teaches us how to adapt, survive and thrive, and stripping in Vegas was a great story.
I’m much stronger, if not better, for my time as a stripper.  And here’s my brain now because of it…

1)   I like older guys

As a stripper at work in Vegas, this is how the scene looks: Good-looking guys my age are arrogant, broke douche bags who will give me no money yet still think I’d like to have sex with them just because they’re hot. Or they’ll offer an insultingly low amount of money for sex.

“Come back to my hotel room with me. I’ll give you a $100.”
“Nope. Bye. Have fun masturbating.”

Men 35+ are where it’s at in a stripper’s world. These men are really excited that a young girl is willing to writhe around almost naked with them and they respond with a lot of gratitude, a lot of compliments and a lot of cash.

So yeah, post stripping, I still carry a torch for older gentlemen who have the desire and the means to spoil me.  And, unless I’m especially horny and lonely, I have disdain for the guys my age that are too cocky and beautiful. “Get a real job, pretty boy.”


2)   Rejection is my middle name… aka I’m fearless

I have been rejected more than anyone who has never worked as a stripper. My sexual overtures have been rejected by 1000s of men. Thousands of men were huge assholes to me, waved me away from them without a word or told me I wasn’t their type. Thousands of men told me $20 was too much to have my naked breasts in their face for a song. A few men even tried not to pay me after my naked breasts had been in their face, telling me “You’re not worth that much.”

When a guy overreacts to my rejection of him, instead of feeling bad, as I did before being a stripper, I find it extremely pathetic.

When I was rejected, I got up and got on with my life. I didn’t throw a fucking tantrum.

 I had one guy I’d rejected at a bar tell me to, “Go kill yourself.”
Seriously, dude? Grow a freaking pair.

Constant rejection was THE BEST GIFT stripping gave me. Most people live their entire lives with a paralyzing fear of rejection. They’re too afraid to be told No. They’re too afraid to fail. They’re too afraid of potential pain. And so they never TRY anything.

And seriously, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

With fear of rejection a vague memory, I’m free to approach anyone, try anything, risk it all…

I’m free to move to LA to pursue my childhood dream of being a writer. And that’s well worth being told No a few thousand times.  After all, it only takes one.

3)   Prostitution is totally fine and awesome.

I wasn’t a prostitute in Vegas. I wasn’t even fully nude. I was selling tits. I was selling a party. I was selling pretending to care about men I couldn’t have cared less about.

I wasn’t sleeping with men for money, but this was a line drawn in the sand. I WAS selling a level of intimacy, once reserved for my boyfriend, to whoever was willing to pay me enough, and this decision, repeated over time, resulted in the same detached mentality towards sex that prostitutes have.

Make me an offer. I might take you up on it.

When I first started stripping, the idea of sex for money was appalling.
“Absolutely NOT! I am NOT for sale! Not for a million dollars I wouldn’t have sex with someone I didn’t choose from my loins!”

Three years later, I believe that there’s nothing wrong with choosing sexual partners with my brain instead of my loins. There’s nothing wrong with making decisions with my wallet instead of my heart.

No one in their right mind would have been willing to pay me a million dollars to sleep with them. So then I lowered my hypothetical price to $30,000. By the end, when a friend told me she’d agreed to have sex with someone for $2000, I was legitimately impressed with her being able to pull that sort of money and I insisted that she should be proud of herself.  Market value for high-end pussy in Vegas was only $1000 after all – my girl gets double that cause she’s a sexy baller.

This attitude of having no price that someone could pay you for sex is so far removed from most people’s realities… this is the na├»ve attitude of first world women who have never had to compromise themselves in order to survive.

This no longer describes me.

4)   Don’t cuddle me, bro.

I’m totally fine with having some fun with a guy that I couldn’t care less about.

As long as it’s safe, then I don’t need to know anyone’s real name…

But I can’t cuddle with anyone unless I actually care about him. Cuddling was never a commodity I was selling.

Sex is a fun 2-man, or occasionally group, activity. Cuddling is letting my guard down, letting myself feel my emotions for a change instead of using yoga to quiet and control them.

Vulnerability doesn’t make money, and I’m trained to make money.

“Do you want to sleep over?”
“Oh… that’s okay. I’m sure you have a really early morning…”
“No, I have a completely free day.”
“Right… I wanted to get a full day of writing in… sooo…Bye.”

5)   “Yo, Eskimo. Lemme sell you some ice.”

My interpersonal skills, my sales skills, are like no other. If I had a sales business, I’d want to hire exclusively ex-strippers to pedal my wares… not that I could afford their services.

Everything the books tell you to do to improve your communication skills, I did for years for money. I learned to approach, build rapport and confidence, and most importantly, I learned to close. ABCs – Always be closing.

Every interaction people have has the undercurrent of sex. This is why we like people. This is why we do what others want us to do. Sex is always the secret reason behind persuasion.
I spent years blatantly selling my sexuality – putting it so far ahead of myself that it couldn’t be missed. So now, all I have to do to sell is tone the sex down. The persuasion works the same as when I was stripping, only the subtly has been adjusted.

If this whole writing shebang doesn’t work out, I’m going to be making bank as Billy Mayes – hocking whatever the hell I want to hock – because I can convince Eskimos to buy ice.

So that’s it. That’s my mind now after stripping. 

I sometimes miss the Ohio country girl I once was. But that’s okay because the woman I am now is hardworking, determined, beautiful, brave and so incredibly strong that it hurts my heart to remember what she had to go through to become that way.

I still fully believe that when I achieve True Liberation, it’ll all have been worth the trouble.  And the journey itself has been well worth the price of admission.