My husband has known for a while about my former avocation. OK, "former avocation..." I guess I don't need to use code words here: in the early 80s, as an undergrad at Penn State, I posed for some very hardcore XXX magazine shoots for a local photographer, which were published in a handful of magazines, and then, a few years later, as a single mom, when I needed money for grad school and bills, I "came back" and did more shoots (including videos) for a couple years.
Marty and I already knew each other from high school and college, although we never dated until our 20th high school reunion, and when we started getting serious, I started worrying about those old shoots and videos. I knew if we got serious, I'd have to tell him, but I didn't know how to bring it up, where to bring it up, when to bring it up. When we started sleeping together, I got obsessed with it. I'd go to the Y first thing in the morning and swim my laps, or go out for a jog, or lie down to take a nap, and immediately the internal debate would start in my mind:
What about the pictures and the videos? How am I going to tell Marty?
I can't tell him. But I have to tell him.
I plotted ways that I could tell him, ways that I could get away with maybe never telling him. Every possible possibility, I cooked through in my head. And I never reached a decision.
And, as so often happens, it turned out I never needed to.
The third time we slept together, we were lying on our backs under the flannel sheets in Marty's little apartment on College Avenue, cool breeze coming in through the big windows, both of us sweaty and spent, staring at the ceiling, getting our wind back (Marty valiantly lying on the wet spot), and I can't remember what I was about to say (probably something profound like "That was SO great"), but Marty took a breath and said "Chris, I have a question."
He sat up and rolled over to reach into the top drawer of his nightstand and took out a magazine. Not just any magazine, but a magazine called UNIVERSITY GIRLS USA, which was a 1982 "college girl special" featuring the first nude picture I'd ever had published: a shot of me sitting bareassed on a boulder in the middle of a stream at Bald Eagle State Park, legs spread wide, eyes closed, boobs thrust out, fingering myself.
As soon as I saw it, my breath caught, but before I could say a word, he opened the magazine to my page (he'd bent the corner down) and said, "Is this you?"
We got our second wind pretty quickly that night.
Needless to say, since we got married, I've shared all of my old pictures and videos with Marty, and he's probably my biggest fan. More than a fan; he's become sort of my unofficial archivist. This has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because nothing makes your husband hotter for you than looking at pictures of you as a porn star, screwing with other guys and girls. "I love being married to a porn star," he used to say, and I'd always argue the finer point: "Marty, I wasn't really a porn STAR. The most copies any magazine I was ever in sold was maybe ten thousand," or "Those videos were shown on a couple local cable systems in upstate New York." The upshot of my objection was that just because I did porn, that didn't make me a porn STAR.
"No," he insisted, "you're a porn STAR."
At first, I gave up. It seemed pretty harmless to me to object -- if he wanted to think of me that way, who was I to argue? But then we had our first daughter (my second), Maggie, and after I delivered, our sex life came to a complete halt. It was then that Marty started looking at the old pictures and videos more and more, to the point of obsession.
This was OK with me, at first: I didn't feel like screwing (as a friend of mine told her husband, "If you knew what it felt like when that baby came OUT, you wouldn't want ANYTHING to go in there!"), and Marty works at a college, so, I figured, if he was looking at my old pictures and videos, at least I knew he wasn't fooling around. Besides, him looking at my pictures and videos was kind of like us being together, right?
But as our daughter's first year wore on and my libido slowly came back, I became more and more interested in him again, but he was lost in the pictures and videos. Lost, as in: I'd go to bed alone at 9 pm and at 11:30, get up to hit the bathroom from an empty bed, only to see the light on in the office down the hall, where Marty was scanning my old pictures, transferring the videos to the computer. I'd come to the door and see myself, naked and 20-something, on the screen with another man.
"Are you coming to bed?" I'd say, and Marty'd say "Yeah, yeah... I'm just..."
And his voice would trail off, and I'd go back to bed, and sometime between when I fell asleep and when I woke up to go for my swim, he'd come to bed, but he never made a move toward me.
Finally, one night after my obligatory call at the office door, I went back to bed and just couldn't get back to sleep, so I threw back the sheets, got up, took off my nightie, and crept back down the hall to the office.
"Baby," I said, leaning against the doorjamb, nude, "I'm glad you like me in those pictures, but I'm here, live, now."
Marty looked up at me and ran his eyes down my body. I knew I was in shape: I worked hard to lose my extra weight, and I was probably in better shape than I'd been before I'd gotten pregnant.
"So," I said, "what do you want, baby? The porn star on the screen, or me?"
And as he stared at me on the screen, I turned and crept back down the hall to our bedroom.
Five minutes later, he slipped into the sheets next to me, raging hard.
"I would've been here sooner," he said, "but the editing program wouldn't close."
Anyway, one of the points is that Marty knows, probably better than I do, what pictures I posed for and what videos I did, and where they were published and when they were broadcast... so it kind of surprised me to actually find him surprised...
...as in: one day last summer, he came up to me with what looked like a newspaper clipping in his hand.
"This was stuck in your copy of HAIKU: THIS OTHER WORLD," he said, and he handed it to me.
"You never told me you were a stripper," he said.
"Well..." I said, "actually, that never happened," and I took a breath...
I'd done porn first during my senior year of college (1981-82) and then again later for four or five years when I was a single mom and my daughter (Maura) went off to daycare. The first year I came back, I did a few photo shoots and videos with a woman named "Luna." It was really the first time I'd been paired with a woman on camera and it was great. But we never were lovers off camera for a couple reasons: one, although I could "perform" with another woman in front of the camera, I really didn't want to have a relationship of any kind with a woman. I still found that I was most attracted to guys.
But two, I didn't get involved with her for the same reason I never got involved with anybody from a shoot. It just didn't seem right to have the lines blurred. I found it easier to do what I did in front of the camera if there was no involvement whatsoever between me and whoever I was posing with. I wanted to keep it "strictly business," which is so strange, because when the camera was there, I threw myself into it with total abandon. I had better sex on camera those years than I ever had in a relationship. Strange but true.
The biggest reason, though, was that I had Maura, and I did not want ANY infringement of what I was doing on camera into my personal life.
Anyway, when we met, Luna mentioned that she was a dancer at an adult bookstore near one of the exits on I-80, and I figured that was code for "hooker:" those places catered to truck drivers and were usually glorified "massage parlors," if you know what I mean. Seedy... not the kind of places you wanted to hang out.
My first pictures were published in a magazine called COED, and I had to go to one of those places to get copies of it. Maybe not "had to;" I don't know if it was sold at any newsstands in town, but really, I didn't want to find out. When you're living and working in a small town and you go into a newsstand and buy copies of a magazine on which you're the nude cover model, it can lead to talk.
Anyway, this bookstore by the interstate was my source of choice anytime I was in a magazine, and I always hated going there. It was "put on sunglasses and a wig, run in, grab a copy of the magazine, pay for it, and run back out."
So I knew about those places, and when Luna said she was a "dancer" at one of them, well...
But Luna said no, it wasn't a whorehouse; it was just an adult bookstore and video shop off the interstate exit. The owner wanted some extra income, so he installed eight private movie viewing booths and eight private dancing booths. You bought tokens at the front desk and for a token, you'd get a certain number of minutes in a booth. The booths had benches in them where the customer would sit, and in front of him there was a wall with a floor-to-ceiling two-way mirror and a curtain.
"We used to have screens instead of mirrors, but that got to be real nasty. Really, you did NOT want to see what those guys did in there. A couple girls quit and the rest threatened to quit unless they made it so that we couldn't see the customers. So that was when he put in the two-way mirrors."
The dancer sat on the "mirror" side of the mirror, and each token the customer inserted would open the curtain for five minutes. The tokens were 50 cents each and at the end of the night, the girls would take their tokens and cash them in and get half of the take. That doesn't sound like much money, but there was also a sort of mailslot in the mirror so that if the customer wanted to "tip" the dancer, they could slip money through there for her. THAT was how the girls made most of their money.
And, of course, the better the "performance" was, the better the tips were.
I didn't think much of this. Like I said, I'd been to those places and they certainly weren't anything that I thought I was interested in. Stripping? No. I was doing the photo and video shoots and that was enough, both in the $$$ it was bringing in and the amount of involvement I had. I didn't want to do anything more than that, really.
But unknown to me, Luna had gotten a couple of my issues of COED, and she took them to the manager of the store and said "You need to get this girl in here."
So... one night I came home from work with Maura in tow from daycare, and there's this message on the machine from this guy Bert at Adult World, and he said he'd talked to Luna, and she'd recommended me, and he wanted to know if I wanted to dance there some weekend.
I said, "I've never really done anything like that."
And he said, "Look... you know what you do in the pictures and the videos? Just think of it as doing THAT, but in front of an audience of one that's hiding behind a two-way mirror."
We talked for a while, and finally I asked him if I could come in and watch Luna work, and if it looked like something I thought I could do, we could talk, and he agreed to that.
So that weekend, I went in with Luna to watch her. I was kind of dreading what it'd be like, but amazingly, once you got past the parking lot and the main room (where all the magazines and videos were: kind of a cruddy room with bright fluorescent tube lighting, shelves of videocassettes and bins of magazines and racks of "novelties," and grungy-looking grey-brown carpet that looked like it hadn't been steamcleaned since 1971), the back room where the girls gathered was REALLY clean. There was a big bright lounge behind the booths (with lockers, a shower, etc), and there were eight doors leading out to the booths. There was a red light next to each door, and when the light came on, that meant that a customer had come into the booth and you were going to be "on" in a couple minutes. There was a bench in each of the booths where the girls sat, and there was another bench in each booth (out of sight of the customer), so that if someone wanted to go into the booth and observe (like one of the managers, to make sure that the customer wasn't getting out of hand), they could sit there and not be seen by the customer. The part of the booth where the girl "danced" was elevated about two feet above the customer section, so that it was basically a stage with a bench behind a pane of glass: transparent to the customer, but a mirror to the girl who was "dancing."
So Luna got dolled up in a schoolgirl outfit (short skirt, white blouse, white kneehighs, hair in pigtails; I asked her if she went to Catholic school and she said "I'm here, aren't I?"). It was midsummer and HOT outside, and Luna had warned me that the air conditioning didn't really seem to be too effective in those little booths, so I was wearing Daisy Duke cutoff shorts, a t-shirt knotted at the waist, and sandals, in case you're wondering.
We hadn't been there five minutes when Luna's red light lit up and she said "We're on!"
I noticed her use of the word "we."
We stepped into the booth and I sat down behind the partition and Luna got up on the stage and I heard a male voice say "Don't YOU look sweet."
That voice kind of shocked me a little bit, because up to that point it had just been Luna and me and the other girls who were doing their thing in their booths.
But that voice made me really realize exactly what was going on.
Luna didn't hesitate. "You like my outfit sweetie?" she purred.
"Yeahhhh. Are you going to take it off for me?"
"I might be able to do that, baby..." and she glanced over at me and winked. I loved the way she said "Might" like she also might NOT. But as she told me later, "Everything is to either get them to use a token or leave a tip."
Luna stood with her legs shoulder width apart, hands on her hips, less than a foot away from the glass, and gyrated her hips a little as she ran her fingertips and opened palms down her hips and thighs. It's funny: from where I was sitting, it looked like she was just preening and posing in front of a mirror, but she said that when she stood that close to the mirror, she could see through it: "You can see the guys sitting on the other side. Not clearly; it's a little hazy. But you can get an idea of what they look like, how old they are, all that."
This first guy was in a suit and tie, she said; "he looked like a college professor."
Luna stood in front of her own image but had her eyes aimed down, like she could see the face of the guy on the other side of the mirror, and she ran her hands down to her thighs and then back up, lifting her skirt just high enough to reveal her baby blue panties before letting it fall back down to hide them... turned around, back to the mirror, bent over at the waist, and yanked her skirt up in the back to reveal her ass for a flash before letting it fall back down as she spun to face the glass again.
"Tell me what you want, baby," she said, but as she said it, I heard the sound of three more tokens being put into the slot, which meant that this guy had paid for twenty minutes uninterrupted.
"YOU know what I want sweetheart," the deep voice said. "Take your time and take it off."
And Luna did. She slowly lifted her skirt, tucking the hem inside the waist so it was hiked up and you could see her panties, and then she unbuttoned her blouse, and there she was: in her bra and with her skirt hiked up to her waist... and as she turned to show the customer her ass, she was eying me, and the look in her eyes made me think of our shoot: the way she felt against me, the things we did to each other in front of the camera: fingering each other, kissing each other, going down on each other... not just the tangy taste of her pussy, but the forbidden other places I'd licked and tongued and sucked and tasted her...
I caught a glimpse of her ass in the mirror and I had to look down, but as I did, it was like Luna could read my mind. She bent over, ass to the customer, and she laughed, tossing her head back so her black hair flew over her shoulders, and then she reached behind herself to slowly pull her panties down, exposing her bare ass and her pussy, then turned to face the customer, cupping her firm boobs in her hands.
The whole time she was doing this I could hear the customer urging her on:
"Yeah, sweetie, that's good... right there... ooo, YEAH, sweetie... like that... you're so fucking hot... god-DAMN! "
And down came Luna's skirt, and as she started to reach behind her back to unhook her bra...
...the curtain closed. It was hard to believe that the 20 minutes was up, but it was.
Luna stood up straight and took a breath, then leaned in close to the glass, peeping through a crack in the curtain, and as she did, we heard the door from the customer's side opening and closing.
"Well, that's it for HIM," Luna said, and she pulled her panties and skirt and blouse back on, stepped down off the platform, and as I took a breath, we opened the door and stepped out the back of her booth into the bright dressing area/lounge. Luna stood in the opened door to the booth, lighting a cigarette.
"He didn't stay very long," I said.
"Actually," she said, tossing her head back and blowing a smoke ring up into the fluorescent tubing, "that was pretty drawn out."
I still felt a little hot and bothered from watching her, and I guess I wasn't just asking a question, but stating a hope when I said, "You think he'll come back?"
Luna stepped all the way into the room and let the door shut behind her. "Nahhh, he'll go off and try someone else." She pulled in deep on her cigarette and then turned her head to exhale away from me. "So," she said, "you wanna try it?"
I laughed, trying not to sound nervous, which, of course, meant I sounded totally ill-at-ease. "Tonight?" I stammered.
Luna nodded. "Yeah, why not? Take the next customer."
I wasn't even trying to hide my nervousness now. "Can I?" I said.
Luna looked at me. "That's why you came here tonight, right? To see if you could do it. How else are you gonna find out?"
Our eyes locked for a second and I felt like she could feel my nervousness and fear, and maybe a couple other things, and I was about to take a breath and say "Maybe later," but as I opened my mouth to speak, the red light by Luna's door came on. She reached over to crush out her cigarette in an ashtray sitting on a metal folding chair.
"I'll take this one," she said, and she winked and opened the door to her booth and went back inside.
I stood there for a second breathing in the smoky air before I stepped over to the soda machine and got a Pepsi. From behind one of the other doors, I could hear music: "Back In Black" by AC-DC. Luna said it was up to each girl whether or not they wanted to use music, but she said she didn't like it because she couldn't hear the customer.
As I stood by Luna's door sipping my Pepsi, I couldn't decide if music would make me less scared or not.
The thing was, really, I wasn't planning on getting up there and dancing or stripping or anything at ALL that night. I'd come out to just watch and then figured I'd make up my mind when I left.
On the other hand...
I put my half-finished Pepsi on the chair next to Luna's ashtray, took a breath, opened the door to Luna's booth, and stepped inside. She was up on the platform, squatting, knees far apart, and had already stripped off her top and bra, and was kneading her breasts, and when I came in, she looked over at me and smiled, and as she looked back toward the front, I heard a male voice, this one even deeper and more resonant than the first customer: