There was a huge sense of camaraderie born out of our comfortable dissatisfaction. I think we were all very happy at Paradox–I certainly was–but in the cramped, smoky bubble of the dressing room, the most popular activity was complaining. We complained about everything, the music, the customers, the lack of money (if it was a slow day), the condition of the dressing room, the condition of the booths, the temperature, anything that was even somewhat irritating. At first it was strange to me, could these women all really be this unhappy? But for the most part they weren’t. Our complaints weren’t so much meant as criticisms of the club and they certainly weren’t to be taken seriously; they were more commentary than anything else, they said “This place is weird and sleazy and kind of run-down, but we’re in it together, we’re sharing this experience and laughing about it and that’s pretty cool.”
Besides complaining, there was also a lot of nudity. Because they didn’t serve alcohol and there was no contact with the customer, Paradox managed to allow full nudity in a city that makes it as difficult as possible for even topless clubs to exist in peace. When you were done with a show, you had two options: awkwardly get dressed before leaving the box or grab your clothes and take them to the dressing room. We almost all chose the latter option, not only dressing in front of each other, but sitting down to cool off first. Among friends, this kind of behavior wasn’t new to me, but among strangers I had never been in an environment where nudity was so casually desexualized. While we were at work, our bodies became nothing more than tools. Of course, the fact that they were also objects of desire was what made them so effective as tools, but that was beside the point.
There was very little competition. Our physical types were so different that it was unlikely we’d all appeal to the same demographic. Every so often, Crystal–the old war horse of Club Paradox–would accuse another girl of trying to steal one of her regulars, but since Crystal was the only girl who leaned over the half glass and jerked guys off in the ‘windowless’ room, we could honestly assure her that the guy was just testing the waters and would undoubtedly return to her. In a regular club, Crystal’s extracurricular activities would likely have been a serious problem; not only with management, but also with the other dancers. She would have been blacklisted and shunned, if not outright fired. Here, though, we joked about it.