Since I imagine I’ll never get to write this for school…
Once upon a time, I was just a baby stripper with a weak hustle. Actually I’d been dancing off and on and in all kinds of incredibly varied places for 5 years or so, but I’d spent a lot of time at a stage and reputation oriented club. I’d figured out archetypes and invented my own system oddly similar to LaVay’s (which, last time I read it, seemed as ridiculous as my old system), and I basically thought I was The Hottest and The Smartest. Also I was in college, so not only was I hot and smart, I thought I was better than everyone cause I was going to school! Looking back, I’m really grateful for the people who were nice to me in this really annoying phase.
Anyways, one day I was sitting in the hallway reading my book about Social Institutions before class, and the professor wandered by. He made some kind of joke I don’t remember and I made some kind of joke back and then I was like, “but not really, I mean, actually I think people just kind of invent reality cause they all agree on it.”
He sent me right over to the library to start reading Mind, Self, and Society, by George Herbert Mead, which changed my life and saved my hustle.
Somewhere towards the beginning of the book, Mead explained that people are like dogs. This is the example he gave: you know when you see two dogs approach each other, and the first dog sniffs the other dog in that certain way and then his hackles bristle and he muzzle punches the other dog in the shoulder and there’s that moment of stillness that you know will be followed by a fight? They are just following the “rules.” The second dog has not sat down and analyzed this situation and decided to fight, she is just following the script that socialization has embedded in her brain.
People are the same. If you introduce yourself with a smile and a handshake, the other person will smile and shake your hand back. There are rules and scripts in our culture about how men will respond to a damsel in distress, a winking seductress, or a professional woman asking them if that’ll be cash or credit. People don’t know that there are rules or that they’re following the rules – what’s actually happening, according to Mead, is more like you are invoking a little part of the person that functions in situations like this. Invoking, like magic!
Mead says we learn all these things through early socialization, and he says we’re made up of two kinds of self: there’s the I, which is what you’re experiencing, and there’s the me, which is how you imagine other people perceive you. Both of these selves are not fixed, they change with each situation we’re in and who the other people are. Your identity is an intersection of all of the things and people around and behind you, and your client’s identity is an intersection of their history, the strip club, and you. The technical term for other people is The Generalized Other – but there are many of these Others. When a child grows up going to church, they construct a “me” that is based on how they are perceived in that world. They probably also have a “me” related to teenage friends, professional life, their motorcycle club, etc. In our culture, a lot of men also have rape culture virgin/whore little mini mes.
In sales books when they tell you to assume the sale or tell a certain kind of story or develop rapport, they are getting at invoking a different “me” in the client. If The Generalized Other that you are being is pushy sales person, the “me” you will invoke in the client will probably reject you. If The Generalized Other that you are being is a friend, a helper, a teacher, a helpless girl, a mature seductress, a certain kind of muse, a nurturing sexy type, or an authority, you will invoke a different “me” and a different reaction.
The more you understand about the subcultures and institutions a person has been involved in, the more you can behave in ways that invoke different identity states and behaviors in them. As a female sex worker with male clients you can learn these things by watching movies from your target client’s teen years – which is what the house mom was trying to teach me all those years ago when she made me watch all those Marilyn Monroe movies and learn the big word of the week.
There, doesn’t everything make more sense now?
Here’s some other, non-hustle, things I learned from Mead.
At the same time I was reading this book and going to college and dancing and running another business and having a job, I was volunteering for a crisis line. I was also working at the sort of strip club where dressing room drama and personal crisis was sort of facilitated, which is all to say that I was around a lot of freak outs and women in crisis. So, I started noticing that many of these women suffered with deep, shameful secrets they had never told anyone, and they were mostly the same secrets! Because no one talks about them, we develop a construct of The Generalized Other that says no one else is like us and if anyone knew they would hate us, and then that becomes part of our “me.” But it’s just an unconscious conspiracy – if everyone was honest there would be a huge reduction in shame.
You know how Carl Rogers says that it is so useful for people to be witnessed and then have what they say reflected back to them? Essentially, this is the process of the therapist/other aligning with and reflecting the “I,” or the person’s experience. When The Other aligns with the “I,” the “me” is then also allowed to align with the “I,” and presto! Self actualization is achieved!
Basically what I’m getting at is that George Herbert Mead can help you figure out reality and explain everything. It’s long and dry, but if you’re interested it’s so worth it to read Mind, Self, and Society.
Okay, I’m gonna go write a boring paper about how people are supposed to learn now. My professor told me that my application of critical theory is maybe a little too critical, so I’m gonna go for boring sheeple this time. I miss you all, people of the Internet. Also, I might be in Vegas in February and I would love to meet people for fun, networking, and/or profit. Or I might like to try out these legal brothels, but I have heard they are awful and the money is no longer good, but I’m kind of retired now and I never crossed legal brothels off my bucket list and it might be now or never. Have you been to any of these places lately? Do you want to see me in Vegas? Email me.