have a fucking plan. [an interview with gabrielle]

legs

On getting kicked out at 15, running away to Vegas, a suicide attempt, and life as a stripper.

Sometimes you’ve just got to swan dive into a steaming pile of shit to switch it up a bit. Not to necessarily wipe the slate clean—but maybe just to smear an already-overwhelming mess with an alternate hue of some kind.

Maybe just to alter your outlook.

Maybe just to save your own life.

“Look I’m not gonna lie—it was pretty grim. But at the same time, it was a pretty transformative time in my life. I learned how to say no—something I was not capable of before. I learned how to have better eyebrows. I learned that having money was not going to solve all my problems,” she smiles, “even if it meant I drove a bitchin’ 1989 Mercury Cougar, and had a fireplace and hot tub in my living room.

And I learned that I was going to have to make a serious shift in my life in order to like, get back on track.”

We’re concluding our two-hour conversation under the red lights of some neighborhood pub. I’m on my last beer. Gabrielle*—as she’s getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to slaughter her law school syllabus, mother a bright-eyed little one, likely sauté some salmon for dinner, and spearhead an additional array of overall badassery—is on her last leg. It’s almost 10 PM.

Bedtime.

“But it was kind of good in a way,” she continues. “It was a like a detour. An ‘oh my fucking god my life is fucking falling apart—I’m fucking falling apart as a human being, I need to make some sort of drastic, horrifying shift where I’m going to get some perspective on everything” kind of detour.” She throws her head back laughing as I snag the check. “And that’s exactly what it did. It gave me a ton of fucking perspective—on everything. It gave me perspective, and it gave me money in the bank, so I could go and have a different kind of life afterwards.”

I sign the tab. She pulls on her coat.

“That’s what I wanted. And that’s what I got.”

Her prior life—one that prompted such a desperate reach for perspective in the first place—saw her kicked out of her adoptive parent’s house at the age of 15. A scenario Gabrielle summarizes as such: “Basically after that I always had to depend on other people. I never had enough. I was so fucking poor.” After a brief stint rooming with her Iowa-based bestie (and her freakish pastor father), Gabrielle opted for a change. “I moved up to Chicago when I was 17. Which,” she continues, “was exciting I guess? But I was just always dependent on other people.”

“There was just a lot of sneaking around, you know? Because I just didn’t have what I needed.” She shrugs, “A lot of secretly eating my roommate’s food—using their toothpaste and shit. A lot of going out on dates that I didn’t want to go out on, because they would buy me dinner.”

At 20, she got a call from her not-really-friend-but-when-you’re-in-your-twenties-sometimes-that-shit-can-be-hard-to-decipher ‘pal’ Cathy. “Cathy had been in the military for a couple years after high school, and wound up living in Las Vegas. At one point, she was like ‘Dude, fuck Chicago. Come to Vegas.’ So I did,” Gabrielle laughs. “I moved to Vegas with one suitcase and a boom box.”

A boom box spouting REM’s Monster, at that.

Gabrielle cozied into Cathy’s “piece of shit” couch, and uncomfortably passed the next few months. “Again,” she explains, “it was a lot of ‘Are you gonna finish that?’ and ‘Oh, you’re out of town? Can I sleep in your bed?’ shit.” Despite a nightly gig serving wastoid university students $1 shots (only on Thursdays, #causeYOLO), and subsequently, scooping their vomit out of the bathroom sinks come ‘last call,’ Gabrielle still wasn’t making ends meet. “It started going downhill pretty fast.”

After (regretfully) attending a Slaughter concert with her non-friend Cathy, the two gals finally had a falling out. “Man, fucking twentsomethings. This is what I mean!” Gabrielle exclaims. “I came home after work one night to find that—due to some snarky comment I had made about her to my boyfriend—she had pulled all of her furniture into her bedroom, and locked the door. No fucking shit!” Cathy had even dragged the phone cord across the living room and locked it up in her lair of awful.

Gabrielle’s night spent on the floor paired plenty of neck kinks with the realization that shit just wasn’t working. “I had to move out. But I couldn’t afford to get my own place, with deposits and shit, so I got a weekly. A super super shitty weekly. Along the shitty backside of the strip, in this shitty neighborhood where you do not walk around alone at night and where a cop sits 24/7 at the corner store.”

To add even more shit to the shit, her (shitty) boyfriend followed her to her new place. “Man, don’t even get me started on him,” Gabrielle rolls her eyes. “There were some serious things wrong with him. Some serious things wrong with me for dating him. He had rich parents—I don’t think he ever took anything as serious as me, because he never had to. He always had his doctor Daddy to fall back on. But anyways, he moved in with me, and said he was going to get a job…and then like three weeks passed, and he still hadn’t even tried to get a job.”

Again her ‘how the fuck did anyone ever make it through their twenties’ logic flares up. “I don’t know what I was thinking, but I was just like ‘You’re not gonna get a job? Well FUCK YOU! I’m gonna quit mine!’”

Perhaps a poor choice, but a moot point nonetheless.

“He didn’t get a job,” Gabrielle explains. “And we got down to maybe $32. And, I don’t know…I remember he had a bunch of his shitty friends over from out-of-town one night, and I just fucking lost it.”

‘Losing it’ consisted of the following: locking herself in the bathroom. Breaking apart a plastic razor. Filling the bathtub. And slicing her wrists. “I did everything I thought you were supposed to do to try and kill yourself. It was fucking awful.”

She pauses. “My shitty boyfriend called the cops, and they came over, and broke down the door, and pulled me out of the bathtub. They strapped me to this board and drove me to the hospital. I remember they wanted a pee sample, and I wouldn’t give it to them, so they shoved a catheter up my vagina.”

To top it all off, the whole suicide attempt ran up a $700 hospital tab. “Yeah,” Gabrielle adds. I got the bill later. Fucking brutal.”

Gabrielle returned ‘home’ to find an eviction notice tacked to her door. She explains, “For like three days, it was just this really weird, freaky thing, where I was just curled in the fetal position, trembling. I was just shaking really bad, and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I just like, really fucking lost it. Just…totally lost it.”

She raises her gaze from the table to mine, as she continues, “It was at that point that I realized no one was going to help me. No one. I mean, sure people would be like ‘Ahh sweetheart, you’re $2 short on that Blockbuster movie rental? I can spot ya, no big deal!’ or ‘You know what? Yeah. You can have these scraps from this meal I’m not gonna finish. Here ya go cutie.’ But like, I just didn’t have it together.” She adds, “And at that point, from that place, there was just no way I was going to get it together either.”

After a few more unpaid days at the weekly, the sheriff eventually escorted them out. From there, Gabrielle and her boyfriend began moving into shittier and shittier motels for a night. “I remember asking him ‘What are we gonna do?!?’ and he was like ‘I dunno.’” she shrugs. “I mean I just realized that I was going to have to do something about this. That I couldn’t live my life like this anymore. I mean—this was maybe two weeks after I had tried to kill myself.

I knew something had to change.”

“I remember, while slinging drinks at that $1-shots shithole, you could always tell when girls were strippers, because they had these really long, fake fingernails, with designs on them and shit. And, they’d come in, and they’d have money and they’d look really great, and they had lots of girlfriends. I saw that and on one level was like, ‘I think I could do that,’ and on another level was like “I think I want that.”

She continues, “I mean, there was a level of excitement to the idea of starting out! I really wanted to know what that was like. I used to—especially in my twenties—do this really fucked up thing where rather than just go for what I wanted, I’d take the longest, most backwards route to get there.” She cracks up, “I was just drowning in this Catholic, Midwest, unibrow shame. It was weird dude.”

The next day, Gabrielle marched herself to Crazy Horse One—a topless club down the street. Since the city’s topless bars were for 21+ gals and Gabrielle was still underage, she had two sorta-options to choose from. One: work the day shift (illegally) at one of the topless bars, and hope Vice cops wouldn’t stop by during her shift. Or two: join fellow underagers and get a gig at a nude bar.

Nude bars—while not legally allowed to serve alcohol—still permitted patrons to carry in their own liquor, and just tuck it under their seat. “Talk about a win-fucking-win,” she laughs. “You get the youngest girls. They’re totally naked. You can bring in your own booze. You sit in your own fucking La-Z-Boy. You get so hammered. You know what I mean? At the nude clubs, it’s just fucking ridiculous.”

She continues, “I walked up to the door guy and was like, ‘Yeah hi I was thinking I would work here,’ and he was like, ‘Come back tomorrow during the day.’ So the next day, I went back. I’interviewed’ with the manager, which basically meant I took all my clothes off in front of him in his office, which was a really fucking weird experience. He looked me up and down and was like ‘Yeah, you can work here.’”

It was only after landing the gig, that Gabrielle was informed she’d only be allowed to work the day shift. A shift that, given the state of the sparely populated bar, and her last $32 burning a fairly desperate whole in her pocket, just wasn’t going to work. She began searching for clubs that were only open nights—clubs that she didn’t actually want to work at—as part of her strategic jumpstart into the industry.

“I tried-out at this one club,” she begins, “and I don’t even remember the name it. But it was just weird. I remember being in the dressing room. There was just a bunch of weird shit everywhere. And I remember every girl just checking themselves in the mirror—because before you go onstage you have to check your vagina, make sure there’s no toilet paper in there, no tampon strings hanging out,” she bursts out laughing. “I was just sitting there watching all these Russian girls wipe their vaginas with baby wipes, before going out on stage.” Gabrielle adds, “And, I remember thinking this club was a bit ‘lower’ than I wanted to go.”

After a ‘try out’ dance to the club’s sparse jukebox selection, Gabrielle mentally tallied the empty seats, realized this joint also had too few customers. She continued the job search elsewhere.

Enter Rick’s Tally Ho. A club that was seedy, but not too seedy—small, but not too small. “Rick was like, ‘Sure you can work here—but you’ll have to try out. Get up on stage and show us what you got.’ Basically, it was all about nerve. Like, CAN you do this? DO you have the balls?” She continues, “The stage was super small—maybe 5’x5’—so I got up there and tried out, and Rick gave me the job.”

“The thing is,” she explains, “strippers have to pay clubs to work there. There’s a fee for a dancer to even walk through the door. That’s how it works. So, Rick was like ‘Sure, work here. I’ll let you work the first night for free, just so you can get your footing—but you do have to pay for the jukebox.” Gabrielle pauses, “The jukebox was $5 for two songs! Fucking expensive shit! Sometimes you went onstage ten times a night! That’s $50!”

“There was a bar down below, and the club was upstairs, and Rick would bartend downstairs, and announce the girls over some PA system as they came out on stage.” She digresses, “Also? If you’re dancing your first time, you make a fuckton of tips. Guys get pretty excited just to see a ‘new girl’s’ discomfort.”

“So Rick announced me—something like ‘For the verrrry first time…’ and I remember it was so fucking weird, because not only were all of the dudes looking at me—but all of the girls were looking at me too. And THAT freaked me the fuck out.” She leans back in her seat. “To the point where—you know when you make yourself SO small inside yourself, that you’re not really there? You know what I mean? I was like, in here,” she taps the tiniest place above her chest, “waaaaay back.” She waves her hand over her face, “There was NOTHING up here. I was completely disassociated.”

Gabrielle continues, “I remember being super fucking scared. But also thinking, ‘If I can fucking do this, I can do anything.’ She grins, “You know what I mean? This was like, nightmare shit!

This was a fucking nightmare.”

Needless to say, Gabrielle tackled her nightmare. While her hit-or-miss nights at the Tally Ho would only reel in between $150-$300, for the first time in her life, her bank account began swelling. Additional perks to financial stability: pro tips from fellow dancer pals.

“There was this ‘VIP’ room called the Fox Den, she explains, “which really, was just a fucking loveseat with this black lace curtain drawn in front of it. But I remember going in the Fox Den with this guy—and you’re in there for like 30 whole minutes—and he was really grabby, and it was just horrifying and gross and I just didn’t know what to do. I was 20! I didn’t know how to handle that situation.” She leans forward, “Afterwards, this girl Regina, who—no fucking joke, dated Hugh Heffner during his phase in the 90s when he had a girlfriend for every day of the week—she pulled me aside for a one-on-one.”

Regina’s pro pep talk concerned the following ‘constructive criticism:’

“She was like, ‘Two things. First: You don’t take your clothes off fast enough on stage. Don’t wait until the last five seconds to get naked. That’s what they’re here to see, so just do it. Second: When you’re in the Fox Den, don’t let anyone touch you. Like, NOT AT ALL. Not even your arm. Say no, and fucking mean no. You’re in charge, and no one is going to help you here. We don’t have a bouncer, or a door guy, or a floor manager or anything. You’re going to have to learn how to say no, and MEAN no.’”

Gabrielle shrugs, “So I fucking did. I got so, so good at saying no. So good. It was actually really cool.”

In a matter of shifts, Gabrielle was able to move from her shitty hotel room into a nicer room down the street. From there, she eventually moved into her own apartment. “It was fucking awesome,” she exclaims. “I wanted an apartment with a hot tub and a fireplace—and so I got that. Because it’s fucking Vegas! You can do shit like that for not that much money. And fuck, even though it was super hot outside, I kept that fireplace on ALL of the time.”

Six months later, Gabrielle and the club’s latest piece-of-shit manager butted heads for the last time. “These guys were fucking terrible. I mean, really. Terrible people. But this manager? He was the worst!” She continues, “He required us to be dressed up when we showed up for work, because he thought it was ‘trashy’ for gals to show up in flip flops and pajama pants. And I was NOT going to do that. I refused to take a cab from my place to this shithole, made up like a hooker, so I can walk through the door and prepare to get naked. NO. Fuck that. So I showed up in this dress that I wore every day to work, just as a ‘fuck you’ to the manager, and walked in late, and he was like ‘You’re late,’ and I was like ‘Yep, what’s new?’ and he was like ‘You’re fired, that’s what’s new.’” She starts laughing, THAT’S WHAT HE SAID TO ME!”

Super bummed, but more so super pissed, Gabrielle met a friend at the bar next-door, for an anger-fueled bout of brainstorming. She explains, “It was so fucked up! We all hated this manager. I was sick of paying $5 for the fucking jukebox! There was a bunch of money-related, fucked-up shit happening ALL OF THE TIME. Us dancers were just getting swindled.” Gabrielle continues, “At nude clubs, usually there’s a floor walker. It depends on how big the club is, but usually they count how many dances you do, and then you pay a percentage off them—sometimes like $7 out of every $20 you make. On top of that, you pay base rent, which is like $65 to walk through the door. So then you just make your money off stage, off lap dances, and off tips. It just SUCKED. ” She smiles, “But mostly, I just wanted to stick it to this manager.”

After killing a couple hours, she returned to the Tally Ho and rallied the girls backstage. “I went upstairs, and convinced all of the gals that we should walk out. And they were like, ‘Why?’ and I was like ‘Because goddamnit! I’m sick of paying $5 for the jukebox! The house fee went from $35 to $60! We pay $7 for EVERY drink that we get bought! We get charged for the VIP room!’” Gabrielle continues, “It was also the beginning of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. Which, is the second biggest convention in the city, and draws ALL the nerds with ALL the money.”

All but two of the gals walked out. And as they left, a sort-of-confused-but-mostly-just-impressed group of guys followed suit. She laughs, “We all took off with our Caboodles—do you remember Caboodles?! Fuck yeah Caboodles!!—and went out to the Hard Rock Café for brunch. And some of the guys just came with us! They didn’t sit with us or anything, but they bought us brunch, and high-fived us for our walk-out, and you know—over the years we all kept in touch. They came to see us at the club we all went to work at next, and during CES they’d reach out and let us know they were all coming down.” Gabrielle adds, “They were so fantastic. One of the guys—god I fucking loved him—he sold gun to mercenaries! Like, Soldier of Fortune type shit. He was super anti-government, super anti-everything.” She grins, “So naturally, he loved me. He was like, ‘You walked out on a strip club!? Fuck yeah! FREEDOM!!’”

Post walkout (and soon after that last pitcher of mimosas), the gals all started work at Little Darlings. Gabrielle explains, “That was pretty easy. I don’t know. That club was just a really safe place. There was lots of security there, all of the gals and I had come from Tally Ho together…” she trails off. “There were things about it that sucked, but for the most part, it was alright. I really liked the stage there. It was a long, super wide runway stage, with three poles—one of which was free spinning—so you could kick up and do all these really incredible things.”

Little Darlings also happened to be the host of Showgirls of the Year, an annual event wherein gals competed for regional and district titles, before performing at the main competition. Gabrielle states, “Everyone was always like ‘Why don’t you do Showgirl of the Year?’ and I was like ‘Why the fuck would I do that?’” She continues, “All you win is $10,000, and then you have to travel around the country for a year, doing all of these shitty performances. And most of the gals who ‘win’ wind up spending even more money on costumes and shit.”

“I didn’t want to be stripper of the year, you know?” she shrugs. “This was not my finest hour! Not that I think that I’m stupid or awful or couldn’t win or anything—but I didn’t need to be the best at this. When I think about the things I want to be the best at? It’s NOT waiting tables. It’s NOT being a stripper. Whatever. I mean, I want to be the best at stuff like going to school, driving a car, being a mom. Shit like that.”

Gabrielle turned 21. Finally legal, she jumped from nude clubs to topless bars. “Things started getting better from here,” she explains. “I started working at Crazy Horse Two. They had their own makeup artists, their own tanning beds—even their own massage therapist on staff. The dressing room was AMAZING.

It was like, Las Vegas, you know?”

Since nude bars couldn’t make money off of alcohol, they took most of their money from the dancers. But topless clubs, because they made all their money off booze, didn’t take nearly as much from the dancers. Gabrielle elaborates, “So you paid a flat fee—which was usually like $40 back then—to walk through the door. And then that was it. Everything you made, you kept. Sure, you were supposed to tip out 10-15% at the end of the night, but no one kept track of how much money you were making. So those places were just better. I mean, it was harder—they would just flood the floors with girls, because they didn’t care. But it was better.”

It was here, that Gabrielle developed a different means of making money. “I really didn’t like dancing that much. I mean—that was probably the most boring part of my job.”

She continues, “Lap dances? It’s just doing the same shit over and over. And for me, I have a certain way of dancing that’s actually kind of taxing. I dance really, really, super duper slow. Which,” she shrugs, “is actually really difficult. I mean, I didn’t want to be ‘Stripper of the Year’ or anything, but I wanted to do this my way. And I didn’t want to look cheap. You know what I mean? I just, couldn’t feel sexy, unless I felt like it was sexy.”

“Plus, once you start giving dances, it’s just a battle the whole time. At nude clubs, it wasn’t, but at topless clubs, there just wasn’t enough floor walkers, or bouncers, so it was just a battle ALL the fucking time to keep people from touching you. Everyone is wasted. It just sucked.” She pauses. “So yeah. I didn’t really like doing dances, and I didn’t like the kinds of guys that bought dances.”

“Not only that,” she adds, “but I have a really hard time selling people things that they don’t need. And like, these guys didn’t really need to see me naked. I mean, there was already a naked girl on stage.” Gabrielle digresses, “I felt that my body was both of more and of less value at the same time. Less because there’s already a naked girl on stage! Like, how many naked girls do you need?” She shrugs,

“At that point, it’s not about me. It’s not about my particular body or anything like that—it’s just about more naked girls. And that sucks.”

What she could do, was talk to people. Listen to people. Surprisingly—given the circumstances—give a fuck about people. “Basically I would just ask guys about themselves. Listen to their stories. I mean, that’s kind of the hustle. You walk around, strike up a conversation with someone who looks interesting. Maybe they ask you to sit down. Maybe they buy you a drink. Whatever.” Gabrielle continues, “I was a really good talker and a really good listener. I would find someone that just needed someone to talk to and—because I’m not an asshole person, and I actually kind of gave a shit—that sort of came through at times. And that’s how I made my money. I would have these $200-$300 mediocre nights, but then I would find ‘that guy,’ and I would make between $2,000-$4,000—just through having an actual, real conversation.”

One such incident involved a guy visitng from LA. At the recent death of his brother, his asshole pals had opted for a spur-of-the-moment rendezvous to the strip clubs of Vegas—rather than say, any kind of grief-ridden, genuine conversation. “This guy had no one to fucking talk to, but he had a fucking ton of money,” Gabrielle explains. “So he came with me to the VIP room and we sat down and I just listened to him grieve the loss of his brother. It was horrible to hear about, but it was something that I felt better doing than dancing, you know?” Gabrielle shrugs. “So I made a lot of money just sort of being myself. Which, sort of sucked because a lot of times I’d have really dry spells.”

“There would be like, 10-day dry spells, where I’d just make $100,” she continues. “Not only does $100 suck, but that’s you, walking around for eight hours, asking people for dances, hustling, it’s just super exhausting—and more so, it can get pretty demoralizing. I remember at one point being like ‘I don’t even want to dance for me anymore. I didn’t even think I was attractive anymore.” She pauses, “I mean, all of my friends had boob jobs. ALL of them. When I first started, I was the one with big boobs. Two years later, I was nothing. It was crazy. Plus, I was a brunette. So, I was kind of invisible a lot of the times.”

“I mean, this was the 90s! This was the height of fake boobs and blonde hair. There were always ‘natural girls’ with real hair and real boobs—we had always been there. But now, with the introduction of the SUPER BABE—that were the new thing. That’s what people came to Vegas to see.”

“So,” she continues, “I think that also played into why I chose to make my money just by walking around, talking to people, rather than dancing. I just didn’t feel like—sexy. Which, looking back, isn’t even something I consider sexy.” Gabrielle pauses, “I guess I just didn’t feel like that much of a spectacle.”

Despite this inevitable comparison between herself and her blonder, bustier counterparts, there was a flipside to this image-inclined coin. “I mean, sure—when I was coming down the homestretch of the entire experience, I was feeling invisible and shitty about the whole thing. But on the other hand, when I first started stripping I didn’t think I was pretty at all.” She laughs, “I was from Iowa! I hadn’t seen or done anything! I was this country bumpkin, with the world’s most horrific unibrow!” Gabrielle continues, “I never wore makeup, or did my hair. I was a fucking hick. I wanted to be glamorous, but I didn’t know how. Even when I first started stripping, I refused to wear makeup for a while. It took a really long time, but I started to transform.” She cracks up again, “Dude, I got my eyebrows waxed for the first time, and the guy forced me to look into a hand mirror as he said:

‘ARCHED. SEPARATED. TWO.’”

Gabrielle continues, “But even more than that, I was in incredible fucking shape. I used to do pushup contests with the bouncers—which I WOULD WIN—because I was so ripped. And you know, I started wearing makeup that looked good. I had my hair done. I got awesome clothes and got an awesome car. I mean, this was the first time in my life I ever felt like I was hot! And that was pretty fucking cool. That felt really good.”

When, mid-streak-of-jackpot-nights, she was fired from Crazy Horse Two, Gabrielle knew it was time for a change. “Look, if you were smart? You had a fucking plan,” she explains. “The best girls were working on real estate licenses, or going to school while they danced—which, by the way—is super hard, as you work from like 11 PM until 5 or 6 AM. But yeah, girls were doing that.”

Gabrielle pauses, “My plan was just to leave. I didn’t even have a plan after that. I just knew that I was never in the right place—that this was never what I wanted to be doing—and that I was just gonna keep my head down and get through it the only way I knew how, and then I’d fucking book it the fuck out of there.”

She adds, “Some of the girls were pretty cool. But the thing that really bothered me was the fact that a lot of them couldn’t see outside of it, you know? I was like ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’ Like, ‘WHY are you stuffing your body with $3,000 worth of silicon!? We’re not going to do this forever! What are you DOING!? This is not forever! Or ‘Why are you going to marry that guy? He owns a casino!’ or ‘Why are you dating that dude? He’s a fucking drug dealer!’”

Gabrielle leans forward, “TERRIBLE things would happen to them because they were doing shit like dating drug dealers! You know? And sure, some gals would get their degrees or their certifications for other things—but then they’d just stay stuck in the scene. They’d date horrible people and make horrible decisions. It was bad. It was really bad.”

“By that point, a lot of things had been changing,” she switches gears. I had my own place, I had stopped drinking for a while, I was starting to think about what I wanted to do…” Gabrielle pauses, “I went and traveled to Europe for a bit, and then came back and was like ‘Okay, now what?’ and then I was like ‘Oh yeah. I want to get the fuck out of here.”

“So I just worked, and saved up a few grand, and then packed up all my shit into a U-Haul and pulled my sweet 1989 Mercury Cougar behind it and moved up to Seattle.” Her piece-of-shit boyfriend came with her. Together, they ran for a fresh start. After securing an apartment in the city, and each landing their own jobs, they were able to breathe a bit. For Gabrielle, she was finally allotted a bit of the security she had always craved.

“Occasionally I’d fly down to Vegas just to work CES or other events. But even that was hit or miss. Some trips I’d fly home with $5,000, other times it was a total bust.” She continues, “I remember my last shift down in Vegas, I had made like $2,000. And—this is so fucked up—but they didn’t have enough lockers for everyone who worked there. So, you had to carry all your money around with you. I put my purse on the bar when I was talking to someone, and when I turned around it was gone.” She shrugs, “’Cause shit like that happened a lot. A LOT. And I was just like, ‘you know what? Fuck this.

I’m going home.’”

“So I moved to Seattle and it was great, you know? I could afford a car, I could afford the move. I could afford an apartment. I mean, I still lived with my boyfriend, but I could just do what I wanted. And really, that was the first time ever. You know?”

She adds, “Look, it was a great experience to have all that money so young, and realize it wasn’t going to solve any of my problems. I mean, it did solve a lot of really immediate issues. But once you get past a certain point, it really doesn’t do anything for you anymore. And I really thought it was going to make everything better, because for so long my life was just consumed with thinking about money.”

“I mean, from 15 on, I just lived on every else’s favors. Little, trifling favors. And I just never had enough of anything.” Gabrielle continues, “And once you start living like you don’t have enough of anything, it’s just like…this really horrible, desperate feeling where you’re just broke all the time. And it’s fucking awful. You’re just always afraid. Which sucks.”

She shrugs, “And when I left Vegas, I didn’t feel like that anymore.”

*names have been changed.

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