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“Gentlemen, Put your hands together and welcome Cassidy to the stage!”

I take a deep breath as the pumping beat of Destiny Child’s “Bootylicious” pours through the speakers.

Wearing a black lace teddy that fits my body perfectly, I strut onto the stage. My curls are wild, my lips cherry red. I start dancing and immediately find myself agreeing with Beyoncé and the girls: “I don’t think they are ready for this jelly.”

I’m surprisingly good at this, considering how new I am. I’ve always loved dancing and have never been shy about moving my body in front of an audience. Of course, this is a far cry from dance recitals at summer camp. And it’s worlds away from ballet class where I got kicked out, at age seven, for moving my hips and shoulders too much. “Too much wiggling, not enough discipline!” my instructor said. She wasn’t wrong, and she’d be very disappointed to see me now, but this is exhilarating.

I move to the front of stage and swing my hips from side to side while scanning the roomful of strangers looking up at me. The second song starts: “Dirrrrrrty” by Christina Aguillera. Time to take something off. That’s the rule, by the way. First song, clothes stay on. Second song, top comes off. By the middle of the third song…naked.

This wasn’t the life I had envisioned for myself. I had been a good girl, a good sister, a good daughter and now a doting mother with two young sons, but here I am taking it all off for paying customers.

By the time I started dancing, my marriage had hit a rough patch and I was convinced I served only two purposes: homemaker and sex toy. It took years of subtle manipulation, plus a near-death experience, the deaths of my mother, brother and multiple miscarriages to bring me to the double life I’m leading today: Marci, thirty-four-year-old housewife by day, and Cassidy, twenty-eight-year-old stripper by night.

This was the treadmill I was on, my double life, flitting between two worlds and telling myself it was normal. Strangely enough, part of me took pleasure in the empowerment it brought me. But then again, it had taken a lot of bad shit to bring me to a place where I could find refuge in being a stripper. Where being on stage as Cassidy was about the only place I felt strong and protected. Where sexual adventures, even if harmful or degrading, were the only ways for me to experience self-worth. This was all the result of the traumatic overload I had experienced.

Another part of me knew I was out of control, that my lifestyle wasn’t what I wanted or needed for myself. In my less manic hours, I knew it was unsustainable. The lines between naughty vixen and suburban housewife were starting to blur. It couldn’t end well.

Cassidy was telling me it would all somehow work out, and she was in charge most of the time. She could rationalize my bad decisions. She convinced me that she was my best option or, at least, that I had no other options. So, I stayed in the Cassidy zone, managing as best I could. I was stuck. Whoever I used to think I was, or had ever dreamed of becoming was gone and barely remembered.

As it turned out, I couldn’t make it all work.

My worlds were about to collide.

An excerpt from The Good Stripper: A Soccer Mom’s Memoir of Lies, Loss and Lapdances by Marci Warhaft.

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