Off the rails?
September 23, 2009 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Please help me convince my 19 year old niece that she shouldn't drop out of her upcoming professional course to become a stripper.

My niece is the middle of three sisters. Their mother, my former sister in law, is a drug addict and has seen the girls rarely in the last seven years, when they moved into my mother's house with their father. Middle niece seems to have been doing well-- she moved out, got a waitressing job, graduated from a high school equivalency program. But now, weeks before she is going to start an (10K and 10 month, 3 day a week) hair/nail aesthetics program, she wants to put it off for a year (though she won't have funding for it then) and strip instead. (Data point: she's been asking to do the program for a couple of years and was thrilled when she registered, seemed to be excited since.) She lost her waitressing job a few weeks back, and has declared that she will instead be a stripper, that she has been in touch with an agency, etc. Yes, we know it's her life, but her grandmother is spending a lot of money on her course, and has offered her a room in her house if she has trouble paying the rent.

Family, especially her oldest sister, who has done everything she can to help the younger girls, is beside itself. I'm hoping to gather arguments as to why my niece should at the very least wait for a year before making this kind of decision. I'm not anti-stripping or sex work, this isn't a matter of religion of cultural conservatism, but the conviction that with my niece's history-- depression, anxiety, meds, etc.-- this would be a terrible choice for her. Any advice gratefully received.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, we know it's her life

And stop right there. She's an adult, it's her decision.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason she can't do both? Most people who are in beauty school hold evening/weekend jobs.
posted by scarykarrey at 1:15 PM on September 23, 2009 [11 favorites]

I don't have any references for you at hand but I would imagine that YOU probably aren't going to do much convincing. I would look around and let the message come from somebody who has been there and done that.
posted by well_balanced at 1:17 PM on September 23, 2009

Grandma needs to tell her that payment for the hair/nail course is a one-time offer. Period.
posted by notsnot at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2009 [9 favorites]

I would focus on any actual studies you can dig up. Stripping correlated with drug abuse, stripping correlated with eating disorders, stripping correlated with arrests, etc. If the stripper stereotype is sad and true, point it out. If not, well, you'll both have learned something. Maybe go visit some strippers and ask them how old the last person was who "retired." Ask for numbers on how much they make; all they can do is say "no."

Also, you might point out that stripping, as a career, has a finite lifespan. Just as an athlete needs an exit strategy for when they're outside of their range, I think a stripper might, too. This might be a high-risk, high-reward gamble as a short-term deal, but it doesn't hold up as a long-term career. Maybe some kind of savings account would work as a way to view this as a means to an end would help her figure out if this is a good idea for her.

If you can get her to commit to something, make her sign a "contract" with you. Prick her thumb and yours, just to impart some seriousness to it. Then have the "and by the way, I love you, but I will yell at you if you try to bail on this" clause.

Sometimes, when I want to convince someone that something is not a fantastic idea, I just try to plan as pragmatically as I can "what would this look like if we were to do it?" and present that as a way to work out the consequences.
posted by adipocere at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2009 [4 favorites]

if she strips for a year and doesn't blow through her cash irresponsibly, she'll likely be able to pay for it on her own and live comfortably while doing so at the end of the calendar.
posted by radiosilents at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Sure, you can go ahead and do that. Just realize that Grandma can only help you financially with beauty school if you start this year. After that, you're on your own."

If she's got her mind set on doing this, no amount of studies, pleading, begging, chastising, cajoling, etc will change her mind. The only way there is a chance she'll give it a second thought is if she realizes the rug will be pulled out from under her time at beauty school. That is, if she actually cares about going in the first place.

I'd also bring up the fact that there's no reason she has to go into it full time. There are plenty of people who do it on the side while they go to school and make just as much money.
posted by arishaun at 1:35 PM on September 23, 2009

She might be romanticizing or glamorizing the idea of stripping, and she might very well decide that it isn't all she thinks it will be once she gives it a try.

See if you can convince her to continue with her plans for school while she's also doing the stripping. Don't make any value judgments about the stripping, just be very nonchalant about it, letting her know that you realize she's an adult, yadda yadda, but that you hope she'll do the schooling too so she'll have another skill to fall back on. Hopefully she'll be mature enough to see the wisdom in that.
posted by amyms at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take her to a strip club. Point out the rank stench of misery and gin sweat.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2009 [14 favorites]

Ask her what's changed for her. It's worrisome that she's abandoning something she really wanted to do. Focus on that angle rather than the stripping, since however you feel about it, she's likely to assume that you disapprove of that. Try to find out if she's feeling anxious about the program, if she's worried about failing or the bad economy. Or if she never really wanted to do it in the first place but just picked something.

On a different note, The Girl Next Door does a pretty good job of portraying the emotional toll of sex work on a young woman. In this case, the work is porn acting, so there's a lot of sex, but it might give your niece something to think about in terms of how comodifying herself might affect her. I would give a pre-watch yourself though, to make sure that it's the right thing for her.
posted by carmen at 1:36 PM on September 23, 2009

This probably isn't what you want to hear, but it seems like given a choice between stripping and being a nail technician, and she's got the goods to do the former - isn't stripping the better decision? Even given the shorter career horizon, if you want to call it that? At 19, she could likely strip for damn near 15 years if she wanted to make a career out of it, or she could just do it for a bit while paying for her education in whatever else it is she wants to do.

Plus, the fact that she's an adult and capable of making her own decisions and all that.
posted by downing street memo at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been in a very similar situation with my own niece. She went through some dark times trying to process the things that happened to her in her childhood. It's a very difficult balance from your perspective. You care about her, and you can see clearly what she didn't get from her parent(s) and how that's having a negative impact on her behavior and potentially on her future.

The problem is that she can't - she hasn't learned the lesson yet fully, and it's hers to learn unfortunately. You CAN be an ear for her. You can believe in her and do whatever you can to help her learn her lessons without wreaking too much havoc on her life. But until she understands fully that she is in charge of her own destiny, and that she is completely worthy of and able to go after her own happiness, even if you stop her from making this mistake, she will make another kind of mistake. She has to get tired of the place she's in before she improves her life -- we all do, it's just some of us have higher mountains to climb than others.

Honestly, I think the worst thing for someone in her position is to feel ashamed of her behavior. It takes time and a lot of mistakes for some people to reach out for a better life for themselves. Obviously her plan is not great. Stripping is going to really wreak havoc on her issues. It may get worse before it gets better. That said, if she's feeling a terrible lack of love and attention and power in her life, of course stripping is more attractive to her. Instant power. Something that feels like instant adoration and love. That's what she's seeking. Honestly, until there is something more positive in her life that fills that void, she's going to run after whatever might fill it like a wild animal. You can't fill it for her, but I think if you focus on the emotional place she's in rather than the actual circumstances and material mistakes she's making, you can help her more.

Don't cut her off, don't chide her, and DON'T say I told you so. That doesn't mean you condone or support what she's doing. There is a difference!
posted by pazazygeek at 1:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

given a choice between stripping and being a nail technician, and she's got the goods to do the former - isn't stripping the better decision?

In terms of what? Both are kind of dead-end, annoying, not ultra-well-paying jobs--stripping does pay better, but nail technicians have more room for advancement, as many techs open their own salons whereas almost no strippers open their own clubs.

According to some of the strippers I know, there's a glut of dancers right now on the East Coast of the US (I suppose people who lost day jobs and are now looking for work as dancers), so everyone is taking home a lot less cash than they were two years ago. At the same time, many of the clubs are asking for higher fees or percentages from dancers, so it's not as relatively low-risk, economically, as it once was.

On the other hand, nail tech is probably hurting, too, from the economic recession.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also, stripping for "an agency" sounds like outcall strippers that go to bachelor parties and things like that. Sounds a lot scarier than working at a club. Less security, different expectations than a club job.

I've only known a few people that worked at strip clubs. One was a woman who worked as a waitress/bartender and the other was a stripper. The waitress paid for part of law school with her earnings, and the stripper bought exotic animals and cocaine.
posted by electroboy at 1:52 PM on September 23, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hit post too soon. Maybe see if she'll try working as a cocktail waitress or a bartender at a club first. Working for an agency sounds like a really really bad idea.
posted by electroboy at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, as long as she's smart about it, there's no reason she can't build up a nestegg stripping for a year or two, then go back to school to do whatever she wants. Millions (?) have done this.

That is, and not to be cruel, but you're never too old to be a nail technician. She's probably in her prime marketable years as a stripper, though.

All that said, of course, there's no reason the grandmother's offer should be strings-free and open-ended, either. If she's turned it down, she's turned it down. I believe that grandmothers, especially, have every right to be conditional and judgmental with their attentions. They've earned that.

As for the rest of you, though, including anonymous aunt-or-uncle... your niece seems to be a grown-up, so why not respect and support her choice.

If you wish to tell her you disagree with it, do so once and move on. More than that is overstepping your place, I think.
posted by rokusan at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know we have at least a couple of ex-stripper college graduates here on MeFi. Hopefully one of them will guide us a bit.
posted by rokusan at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2009

Well, there's nothing wrong with being a stripper in principle but you could point out to her that:

(a) A 19-year-old stripper might make pretty decent money, but a 29-year-old stripper can't expect to make so much; on the other hand a beautician with 10 years of experience would be an experienced beautician, maybe the owner of her own beauty parlour. In other words, if she decides stripping and not going to beauty school is the best choice for her at this time, she should give some thought to what she will do in the future, e.g. save up some money to go to beauty school later on.

(b) The clientelle might be less appealing than she imagines, and the job less glamorous. For example, if the job involves lap dances, her clients might include the least attractive kid she knew in school, and the work might involve rubbing his penis through his clothing until he orgasms in his underwear. Or the client might be a sweaty 40-something office worker. Or the client might be you. Is she sure she would feel comfortable doing that kind of work?
posted by Mike1024 at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

there's no reason she can't build up a nestegg stripping for a year or two

Except that, depending on where she lives, there may currently be a glut of strippers who are more experienced and/or prettier and/or more uninhibited and/or more willing to break whatever local or state regulations apply.

Now is really not the best time to break into the field. And working for "an agency" is not the best way to do it in most locales, especially if, as electroboy suggests, it's an agency that does bachelor parties, etc. Nobody ever built up a nest egg doing bachelor parties.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, let me recommend Tales from the Boobie Bar as a good resource for your niece: squigglz tells it like it is.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Financially, I think we can all agree that stripping is a great way for a young woman to make at least as much money as many folks make at high-skill jobs after many years. However, there is a lot of info out there on sex work and PTSD. To me, this is the most convincing argument against sex work in our society. I couldn't find anything specifically on stripping and PTSD (erm, didn't look too hard), but here's this:
In [Parker's] experience, many prostitutes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He compares the PTSD experienced of these women and men as similar to the PTSD experienced by people who have been tortured by the government yet remain in that country. Soldiers who suffer from PTSD leave the environment in which they developed their illness, so they are able to enter a society in which there are fewer stimuli for flashbacks. For women who are trying to recover from the trauma induced by prostitution, material that can trigger flashbacks is unavoidable in some cultures.
I found that here. If I were me, and 19, and I told my family that I were interested in stripping, I would be most swayed by a logical argument such as the one mentioned above. Perhaps suggest that she go through her aesthetics program first by reminding her how excited she was to have the chance to do the program (maybe by asking her why she was excited about it?), and point out that she will have an entire lifetime to do things like stripping later (or at least another decade). Pointing out to her that your opinions aren't a matter of cultural conservatism might be useful. As you're saying, a year from now, stripping may no longer hold the appeal that it holds at *right this very moment*.

If she's looking for money-making alternatives to beauty school, perhaps suggest that she work for a cruise ship, or a national park? One website for such things is Another such option that has some great programs, lots of attention and girls her age, as well as some education funding upon completion, etc., is AmeriCorps.

In any case, she'll be fine. It sounds like she has some good family at her back.
posted by aniola at 2:06 PM on September 23, 2009

I have a friend who went through a similar situation with his niece years ago. He started out trying to talk her out of it but after a few heated discussions decided to just bite his tongue and honor her right to make her own mistakes (or not).

The result? Their friendship actually grew stronger, particularly when she ended up having a few bad experiences and he was the only family member she felt she could talk to.

Last I heard, she's out of the business, happily married with a kid.
posted by philip-random at 2:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, if you decide to take her to a strip club to let her see what it's like, don't take her to a nice one. Nice ones are clean, have good security and reasonably polite patrons (or patrons that at least observe the rules). Low end strip clubs are fucking scary.
posted by electroboy at 2:17 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm all for someone usin' what they mama gave them, but someone may want to look into the legitimacy of this "agency". As previously stated, the lack of security and how different each situation will be might not be good for someone with her lack of experience.

There were some stories a few months back that I can't seem to dig up after just scrounging Google's surface, but it basically said that with the economy the way it is, more women are applying for jobs in this industry and because of that, there was a better supply of "attractive candidates" and it was getting incredibly competitive. If she thinks she has what it takes, good on her, but when all it takes is a [decent] body and a [decent] face to get a job somewhere, the outlook can't be that good and the way it may present itself to future employers might not be great either.
Family, especially her oldest sister, who has done everything she can to help the younger girls, is beside itself.
As an older sister who has seen her little sister do (and continue to do) very unreasonable, questionable things, there is absolutely nothing you can do. I could throw this girl every bone in the world and she'd gobble it up and spit it out and have the audacity to ask for five more right on the spot. It's depressing, but after awhile you just learn to just let go.

She probably sees and will continue to see your need to "help" her as some sort of intervention and it is pushing her further into "this is a good idea" territory. Let her make her own mistakes. But like notsnot said above, "Grandma needs to tell her that payment for the hair/nail course is a one-time offer. Period."

No handouts. No second-after-second-after-second chances. It's hard, it's really hard. But I can almost guarantee if my mother would put her foot down for once, my sister wouldn't still be living off of her rent-free, jacking money from her purse every weekend at 22 years old with no steady job.
posted by june made him a gemini at 2:28 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, back when I used to work third shift waffle house, I used to talk with a stripper who was a regular customer. (I knew quite a few because of my job.)

She quit-to go to nail school. She came back to tell me and was thrilled with her decision.

(You may also want to tell your niece that many people in the " straight" world really look down on strippers-one of my coworkers, a longtime waitress, would go into rants about how there was always better ways of making money than doing that. And this was a woman who depended on tips from people "doing that.")
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:00 PM on September 23, 2009

Agencies...bad juju. Those are prostituting rings 90% of the time. If she can't cut it working in a club, then she has no business in the business.

I have worked in gentleman's clubs. Very high-end strip joints. I worked as a waitress, a bartender and a manager, but never as a dancer. (In an area filled with tall, leggy blondes, there wasn't a lot of call for short, dark women who over-thought things.)

Granting that this was a while back, dancers made insane amounts of money. Sometimes averaging 1k a night. Most of them were in college or trade school, and could afford to pay their own way through schools like SMU.

Clubs have multiple shifts; daytime girls make less money, but they're still pulling in decent scratch. New dancers are never going to get the prime shifts right off the bat anyway, clubs want you trained before you have to deal with the insanity that are weekend night shifts.

Lots of dancers do drugs...but so do lots of hairstylists...most of the successful dancers I knew didn't drink, didn't do drugs, and saved the vast majority of their cash, because they knew it was a 10 year run at the top. I know three women who own incredibly successful businesses that they funded from their dancing years...and I'm sure knowing the most powerful people in Dallas from the clubs didn't hurt.

If she really wants to try it, help her figure out which clubs are the "top talent" clubs in your area. Find the ones that have touring acts, and ridiculously high cover charges. Good clubs will offer things like showers, dressing rooms and even massages for their dancers. Bad clubs will have things like "VIP Stalls" that are sticky and obviously hand-job closets. Avoid any place with banners like "hot naked girls". FYI: Dancers can expect to pay 20% of their take to the house, and another 10%+ to the bartender/bar staff.

Have her apply and try it. It's a lot harder to walk out on that stage than people think it is. And the really good dancers are in shape that make Olympians look slothy.

There's no reason she can't work nights and still go to school, or work weekends and still go to school. But there's also no reason she can't make seriously good money working as a waitress/bartender at those places either. I would almost always recommend trying the front of the house first, it's a lot less work/costuming for the money, and you can get a feel for how the club operates.
posted by dejah420 at 3:02 PM on September 23, 2009 [18 favorites]

The route I always take with my daughters is one of "if you're determined to do this, then let's look at the smartest way to do it".

If your niece is determined to do this, then maybe all you can do is minimise the risk of bad outcomes. One way to do this is by researching the industry yourself and being an advocate of aiming high. If she can't find a well-paying stripping job in a well-managed environment with good security, is she the type of person who'll take whatever she can get? Would the family reaction be less negative if she was modelling lingerie for catalogue work (this can actually be extremely lucrative if you're very clear about your personal boundaries), for instance?

At 19, more than 5 years in any job is likely to seem like a lifetime to her, so I'm not sure that "think about when you're older" arguments are going to carry much weight. And while it's great to have some marketable skill, has anyone researched whether her course is likely to give her "something to fall back on". Everyone and their dog here seems to have done nail technology, spray tanning, and therapeutic massage courses and very few of those people seem to be able to find any kind of stable employment. Just as many college graduates are finding their degrees useless for obtaining employment, I'm seeing a massive oversupply of people with certain vocational qualifications.

Is it really imperative that your niece develop a "fall-back position" at 19, or would grandma's money be better spent a couple of years down the track when your niece has a clearer idea of what she wants for the future? At 19, your niece is young enough to get by on crappy, low-paying service industry jobs for a couple of years and I know many young people who wish they'd done just that between the ages of 18 and 22 rather than investing time and money in something which is of little use and now holds no appeal for them.

Maybe the best investment grandma could make at the moment is not in a course of study, but in top quality mental healthcare for your niece - giving her the resources to get her mental health issues under control would truly be the gift of a lifetime, because they will affect her long-term future and her happiness and well-being for years to come far more than any course of study or short-term employment she undertakes in her late teens. Perhaps this is something you could advocate to both your niece and grandma.
posted by Lolie at 3:09 PM on September 23, 2009 [5 favorites]

I don't think stripping is a great idea, but if you go with the "she can do both" path, if she goes to beauty school, she can apply the techniques she learns to herself. She can practice on the other strippers, and start building a client base. Being the person to whom all the strippers go for their nails seems like a pretty profitable business.
posted by cCranium at 3:22 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Agencies...bad juju. Those are prostituting rings 90% of the time. If she can't cut it working in a club, then she has no business in the business.

This is the biggest potential problem right here. I would bet that this agency is a front for an escort service, either deliberately or by looking the other way when their "dancers" negotiate extras with the clients. There is no reason for her to be with "an agency" if she is trying to be a dancer at a relatively reputable club.

Maybe she knows that. Maybe she doesn't. But you should probably make sure she does.

If she's looking for money-making alternatives to beauty school, perhaps suggest that she work for a cruise ship, or a national park?

I think you're either vastly underestimating how much money a stripper makes, vastly overestimating how much money entry level workers on a cruise ship make, and almost certainly vastly underestimating the amount of sheer effort and hard work being an entry level cruise ship employee entails. If the OPs niece's primary concern is that she wants to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible, arguing against stripping on these grounds will be difficult. Because it is, whether one likes it or not, the easiest legal way for most young, attractive women to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

OP: As I said, the big issue is whether this agency is actually an escort business and, if so, whether your niece knows it is an escort business.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on September 23, 2009

I think you're either vastly underestimating how much money a stripper makes

This has changed a lot in most of the US over the past couple of years. And nobody ever makes very much money working through an agency, no matter what: the way to make decent money is to work at a high-end club.

Seriously, if she is going to do this, she needs to ask people who are currently working in her area how much they're clearing. The folks I know who are working in this industry are experiencing a real drop-off in terms of income, which people who experience the industry from the consumer side and/or only through media depictions of same may not be aware of.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:46 PM on September 23, 2009

I think you're either vastly underestimating how much money a stripper makes, vastly overestimating how much money entry level workers on a cruise ship make, and almost certainly vastly underestimating the amount of sheer effort and hard work being an entry level cruise ship employee entails.

I have a good idea of the numbers. It takes a lot of sheer effort and hard work to do entry level cruise ship work, but it also takes a lot of sheer effort and hard work to do stripping. I was operating under the assumption that if she was willing to take a regular job waitressing, that waitressing on a cruise ship might seem at least as exotic.
posted by aniola at 3:49 PM on September 23, 2009

I've had some friends that stripped, and they never made it sound like a decent job. One of them was very beautiful, made a lot of money, but the job stressed her out to the point that it affected her health - her hair started falling out enough that she had to wear a wig for a year. She quit stripping after that to work as a nail tech.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:05 PM on September 23, 2009

I think Lolie has it.

Tell your niece that whatever you think, it is her life and you aren't going to try and sway her opinion. Introduce the idea of doing both at once and, if she is determined still to be a stripper help her navigate the waters and choose the safest place to work at. And be there for her if things go sour.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

If no one is opposed to her stripping , and the program is only three days a week, why can't she do both?
posted by djduckie at 4:10 PM on September 23, 2009

follow-up from the OP
I've been getting some really helpful responses, and I'm grateful. I just wanted to answer a couple of questions to clarify some points. The funding for my niece's program is really a one-time deal-- it's a payout from an education investment fund and has to be used for a full-time educational program (her course qualifies) before her next birthday (June). After that the money that comes back is only the initial investment plus a bit of interest. I did call her this morning just to say that I thought she should know, before she made any decisions, that the course is either now or never unless she wants to pay for it herself in the future.

Regarding the question about investing money in her mental health: we're Canadian; she's had excellent therapists and has been treated for a number of years by a psychiatrist who is one of the best in her field. It's helped her a great deal, and while she was a minor it was all paid for. Now she's over 18, it's a bit harder to arrange, though it's still possible. Her meds are covered, so that's not a worry.

Thank you to everyone who has replied. At this point I'm hoping we can all take a breath and a step back, and that in the next few days I can share some of the good advice here. Again, my thanks.
posted by jessamyn at 4:51 PM on September 23, 2009

Has she given any insight into why she's suddenly lost interest in the program? Is she generally this way, or is she perhaps not excited by the imminent growing-up that is implied by going to school and starting a career?

I've known a few women who started stripping around the age of 19. The ones who had their sights firmly on a goal like paying for school generally did OK and transitioned smoothly to the next phase of their lives then the time came. The ones who treated stripping as a way to put off real life generally did a lot of coke, got entangled with a lot of abusive men, and burned out by their mid-20's.

If she's determined you can't talk her out of it, but you can try to help her find goals outside of stripping. And perhaps you can (gently, non-judgementally) help her see through the romanticized veneer of the profession.
posted by rhiannon at 5:46 PM on September 23, 2009

I don't go to strip clubs (maybe once or twice), and I don't know strippers. However, maybe some of that perspective is missing from this post? Perhaps strippers rationalize their career choice?

Choosing to be a stripper at 19 is a tragic decision. Despite what everyone says here, your niece is not an adult. Adults have spent a couple years time at least in adult relationships.

Here are my list of reasons not to become a stripper:

1. Stripping is going to seriously warp your very young, barely legal, almost jailbait, niece's perception of what relationships are and how they operate before she's even had one. After spending a year seeing men at their worst she will likely confuse that with their true nature.

2. No man will ever look at her the same way after they find out she spent time stripping. It will either be a turn on or a sad thing. I would think it would somewhat scar any serious relationship.

3. She will likely be put in a position where there is the opportunity to sell herself and do hard drugs. Especially through an agency she may be put in a position where she feels scared to say no. At 19, a baby, she will be easily manipulated.

4. This is a dead end decision that leads nowhere. She'll likely spend the money (it's easy to do at 19) and be worse off than before with no career related experience.

5. The decision will break her family's heart. Make sure she knows that.

I disagree with the posters above that you act nonchalant about her decision. Instead, I would stage an intervention with the rest of her family. I would tell her how the idea of stripping makes each of you feel. I would offer every other alternative in the world, even for her to just put off the decision for a year. I would even consider calling the agency and telling them there will be trouble of some kind if they hire your niece. I simply wouldn't let this happen.

On the lighter side :-):
posted by xammerboy at 7:20 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Three days a week leaves seven nights and four days a week to work a part-time job, and there's nothing wrong with stripping as a part-time job.

What really needs to be clarified here is why she can't do both. Seems ideal to me, so there may be an issue here you need to pick through with her a bit more deeply.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 PM on September 23, 2009

A year in the life of an unlikely stripper: "Candy Girl," by Diablo Cody.
posted by conrad53 at 7:51 PM on September 23, 2009

Can you arrange for her to talk to some tax lawyers and personal financial advisors? They know all about how much money people make, legally and otherwise, and what they do with it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:16 PM on September 23, 2009

I tried to be encouraging and supportive when a relative of mine went this route. I wish I had forced her to think about it a little harder. It set bad habits into motion that haunt her to this day, and reinforced a lot of bad psychological baggage from her childhood.

Seriously, if you have anything to say about this, you might as well say it now, because later on when she's already in the shit, she'll think she knows more about it than you do.
posted by hermitosis at 8:23 PM on September 23, 2009

I know two sisters.*

One made the choice to strip instead of go to school. Four years later, she's spent thousands of dollars on plastic breasts, unfortunately chosen tattoos (according to her sister, her lower belly says TIPS HERE) and clubwear. Because she never meets anyone else, her dating pool consists of other dancers and sad men she would never have looked at before.

Meanwhile, her sister procured herself a BA in psychology and four years of telemarketing experience.

I don't know which path has more future in it -- they're both unemployed at the moment -- but one path certainly shows a lot of past. You can look at the dancer and see exactly where she's been. She looks like a Barbie doll owned by a little girl who is allowed to use felt pens on her toys.

*Anecdote contains two actual sisters. [NOT PARABLE-IST]
posted by Sallyfur at 11:33 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the idea of telling your niece while you don't like her choice, you will try to help her learn about her options so she can make an informed decision is a good one. I wonder if your niece isn't frustrated with losing her waitressing job and having trouble finding something else. Maybe if you can find someone to give her a job, it will lessen the appeal of stripping.
Anyway, here's what I know about it. I use to go to rock bars a lot in my misspent youth and there were dancers who would come to have fun and hit on the band. I'm a curious and ended up talking with them about it. I also had a friend who was a taxi driver whose room mate was a dancer.
I'm not sure if I've ever met a dancer working their way through college though I'm sure there's some. Most just seemed to be like your niece (not many options for higher paying jobs) or single moms who needed a decent paying job to support their kid(s).
The bad thing is most of the dancers I met got stuck in the lifestyle of partying and blowing all their money on flashy stuff that didn't make their life better long term. There was a lot of pressure to get breast implants and be as thin as possible.
Many of them started drinking or doing drugs before they went on stage so they wouldn't feel so self-conscious. Drugs were easier since the bars don't want you trashed and falling off the stage. It led to some real problems for some. There was a bonus for every drink a guy bought them, thought the bartender would give them almost straight soda after a while. Lots of drinking after they were off. DUIs were rampant. My taxi driving friend was popular for that reason.
They also tended to end up looking for pretty boys to date and often ended up being the one who paid most if not all the bills. I guess since it was a nice change to be with a hot guy. There was a weird use or be used dynamic to most of the relationships/friendships that I heard about.
A few, maybe 2 or 3 out of over 25, were smart about it and used the money to buy cars or buy a house but those were the ones that I knew through friends. They didn't go bar hopping much.
Many people will look down on a woman for being a stripper. It's not nice but it happens. Guys will think there are better odds of sleeping with you and higher odds of you sleeping around. If you have kids later, it can be embarrassing running into another kid's dad who's seen you almost naked and will share that info with other dads.
Escorting can be safe or very dangerous. My taxi driving friend told me a horrible story about a girl being a stripper at a big bachelor party who was raped by several guys and the cops blew her off since she was a stripper. Someone he use to work was called to do the pick up, was really pissed about it and got her out of there.
The bad thing is any Joe Blow can set up an escort service so if there's not a driver who's there to do security it can be very dangerous. I found this out through one of the bar hopping girls. There should be one driver per girl, never shared. Not all escort service do prostitution but if there's one girl giving b.j.s, there's going to start be a lot of pressure and asking for it. She was very pissed about this occurring. Once again, you can make a lot of money but it can be dangerous work.
On the upside, the money dancing or escorting was suppose to more in a night or two than I'd make in a week. It's probably one of the best paying jobs for someone in that age group. If you're very outgoing, not inhibited and save or spend your money wisely, striping can give you a good economic start. I've met some really nice women who were dancers and some that were scammy. You can do well at it but you really need to have your head on straight and not get caught up in it. Ask your niece to take some time to really learn about it before she jumps into it. It really helps to have a plan.
posted by stray thoughts at 5:52 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like to add an addendum to my previous comment.

A couple of posters have mentioned how being a stripper can impact life later...and if someone stays in the same area, it's absolutely true...for a given value of "stripper". Some dancers are dancers, and some dancers are strippers...and there's a big ol difference between performers and sex workers. And you can tell by looking at them which class they fall into.

For instance; one of the men in our neighborhood recently married a stripper. Not a dancer. A stripper. Complete with prison-looking tats, fake boobs, bad clothing choices, a sex offender brother who started hanging out in their front yard, 4 kids each with different fathers...huge screaming fights that involved the cops....well, you get the picture. I was the only one in the entire neighborhood that would talk to her, or let her kids play in my yard. She was all but invisible to everyone else. They didn't talk to her, they didn't see her, she was completely shunned. After a few months, they put the house on the market and moved.

On the other hand, I know the head of the PTA from my club years. She married very well, she's coiffed and manicured, (and a total, absolute bitch...gods I hate that woman). But she's in or runs every social group around here, belongs to the country club, lives in the gated section of the community...and I'm probably the only one that knows she was a dancer. She doesn't look like one, she doesn't act like one, and there's nothing to suggest that twenty years ago she was one of the highest paid performers on the circuit. She looked terrified when she first saw me; afraid I was going to blow her cover. She and I have a deal; she and the rest of the Stepfords leave me alone, and I won't break out pictures. So far, we have a truce.

So...while there can be a lot of baggage attached to being a dancer; it really all depends on *how* you are a dancer.

That said; I reiterate that there is serious money to be made in the front of the house, without any of the stigma. As a bartender, I made almost as much as the dancers, and I didn't have to do it in heels. As a waitress, I cleared a couple hundred a night before tip-out usually.
posted by dejah420 at 7:54 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not advocating stripping as an ideal profession, but it seems like it might be worth pointing out that there are various comments that seem to equate stripping with prostitution or imply it is a one-way path to drug addiction and other horrors. Or that if you are ever a stripper, everyone you meet for the rest of your life will know about it and this will forever taint you in the eyes of all mankind.

These things are ridiculous.

It does seem like the main argument is the one-time nature of the financing to go to school. If she doesn't understand this, you should try to help her understand it.
posted by snofoam at 8:00 AM on September 24, 2009

And stop right there. She's an adult, it's her decision.

I don't understand this comment. Just because someone is an adult doesn't mean you stop caring about them. If my mom were considering a decision I thought would hurt her I would try to talk her out of it.

Stripping is a high-risk job (this doesn't mean that it can't work for some people, but that the odds are probably not great), and your niece sounds like she is a high-risk person. Good for you for trying to help her and her family through this.
posted by walla at 7:01 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I know a woman who stripped during University, made tons of money, had a good time, and finished her degree. She stopped when she got tired of dancing, and now works at a university making almost six figures - and she's not yet thirty. I'm not saying she's by any means typical, but she's evidence, I think, that you can do both - and I also agree with the earlier comment that she may meet future aesthetics clientele through dancing. And to the person that said nineteen was "a baby" - that's neither accurate nor polite. She is an adult, albeit a young one.
posted by Bergamot at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Most of the stories of the fabulous money that can be made stripping are from before the recession. The current economic reality is very different.

I live in Las Vegas. One of my husband's friends tends to date a lot of strippers, and through that knows a lot of people involved in the strip club industry.

Thirdhand information from him is that the recession is hitting strippers really, really hard. Lots of women are (re)turning to stripping after losing their jobs (including, somewhat amusingly, a lot of former real estate agents and mortgage brokers). Meanwhile, clients have less money to spend on strippers. Now, what happens when supply increases while demand decreases? The price drops. A lot. Many strippers are actually losing money some nights stripping, because they have to pay the club to dance and they don't always get enough business to cover those fees.

Meanwhile, many strippers are resorting to prostitution to get by, and at cut-rate prices. Word gets around fast and many customers are beginning to expect cheap blowjobs with their private dances whereas before the recession they were usually just "dances". ("Dances" meaning dry-humping a clothed customer, without penetration of any orifices.)

So, it's a bad time to try to break into the industry (just like it's a bad time to try to break into real estate or finance). She's unlikely to make much money and is likely to be pressured to become a whore.

If you Google "stripper economy" you can find a lot of articles to support these points. If her motivation is money, this information may change her mind.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:25 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think your niece should go to a strip club and make friends with the strippers there. If she decides to do it, then it will be good to have friends in the business. If she doesn't, it will be a more informed decision.

I agree this isn't a binary choice. She can go to nail school AND be a stripper at the same time (although this might be difficult under grandma's roof).

More information will only help your niece. Maybe you can go with her to the club and help her meet people?
posted by metametababe at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2009

Also, show her this thread. :)
posted by metametababe at 9:04 AM on October 3, 2009

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