I am a... legal eagle / go-go dancer

Illustration by Cecilia Granata

When I came to New York for law school in the ’90s, I was going out dancing all the time—at Squeezebox, Kitsch Inn and other parties. I’ve never been one to hang back: At these parties there would be a stage for anyone to dance on, and I was usually on it, right out front. One night a go-go dancer at Kitsch Inn didn’t show up, and the promoter asked me to dance in her place. I remember the look on his face—he was begging me, he had his hands out like he was praying. It was scary, and I still thought go-go dancing was a bit raunchy, but I did it anyway. I was wearing a skirt, not a bikini, but I got a lot of cheers, and it was exhilarating. I liked the attention: I’m an exhibitionist.

I was working as an attorney for a prominent family-law practitioner when I started go-go dancing professionally, and I certainly didn’t advertise my nighttime activities. I kept my MySpace page private, and my boss never knew a thing. I felt nervous sometimes—like, what if my coworkers knew the real me?—and I felt embarrassment in the pit of my stomach. But certainly none of our high-powered clients were going to be walking into the club.

I would sometimes stay up late and dance on Tuesday nights, then have to go to work the next morning. That’s why it’s good that I don’t drink very much: Dancing is a lot of exercise, it’s oxygen to your brain. That’s the difference between someone who dances and someone who goes out and gets wasted. I remember the dancers at Happy Ending Lounge being amazed that I wasn’t drunk. People will sometimes come up to me and ask me where they can get coke, and I’m like, “I have no idea!” I just have my glass of water or my one drink.

In some ways, I like it better than dancing in a group. People aren’t touching or bothering you, because everyone can see you—the bouncers and bartenders will see if anyone does anything weird. Though one time at Happy Ending a guy asked to take his picture with me, and as they were clicking it, he reached into my top. I had him kicked out. Some nights I make $80 in $1 bills. To get tips, you just stand up there dancing, and people put the dollars in your bikini string, the ankle of your shoe—once you get one dollar it’s easy to get more.

After I left my law job and went to Columbia for creative writing, I started teaching English at a local college. I ran into a student of mine when I was out dancing at Kitsch Inn. We acknowledged each other and it really wasn’t a big deal. People who go to those clubs tend to be hip to it. Others don’t get it—they think I’m a stripper. I look at people who have regular lives, and I think I’d be embarrassed to run into them, and then I realize that they might be jealous of my life—the freedom.

As told to Michael Freidson, Allison Hope, Kate Lowenstein and Lauren Shopp