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I was an intern stripper

They called it the “new” Times Square. I dodged tourists to get to work. There was always a man standing at the corner of 50th Street and Broadway in a yellow vest that read “Flashdancers,” passing out little cards to all the men who walked by. One day, I asked him for one. He looked at me. “I work there,” I said. He handed me a card.

On the card was a picture of a topless woman who did not work at Flash. Come visit me, it read. It was a free pass to get in.

I was attending Antioch College at the time, and they had a program called “co-op,” wherein students alternated semesters on campus with terms of work or volunteer experience anywhere in the world. That fall, I had arranged to “co-op” in New York City, working at a nonprofit afterschool program for economically disadvantaged girls. But more importantly, when I’d made the arrangements I’d also set my sights on stripping in New York City, becoming part of an industry more glamorous and lucrative than any I’d come into contact with. Stripping was something I’d been doing since my sophomore year, when I found myself out of money while on co-op in Mexico. After that, I’d worked at two domestic violence shelters in Ohio, as a rape crisis counselor and at a Somali women’s health organization in London. To afford to live during the unpaid internships so often taken for granted as part of the undergraduate experience, I stripped.

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