I love strippers. The whole concept is wonderful. When I think about the low lights and the bumping bass and constant motion of a strip club I smile. Maybe it is just because I am a guy but the idea of a dozen or so women in various states of undress writhing and grinding in wanting ways for just my arousal is one of the top five things I can picture for any days plans. I really love strippers. But outside of dating a few in my early twenties, I never really stopped to think about the mental landscape they must live in. Then I read Searching for Suzi by Nancy Stohlman.
This book is a fast firing flash fiction about womanhood, sexuality, exploitation, emotional evolution and the world of stripping. It is the tale of Natalie, a thirty something mother who retraces the steps of teenaged beauty pageantry and stripping to search for the first woman she slept with. The trail takes the reader on a ride through time that reveals a life of emotional abuse, squalor and eroticism.
It makes the reader think about the lives of strippers and the esteem issues inflicted on women in a world that tells them that they have to be beautiful. It asks serious questions about the effects our sexuality has on our lives.
Without becoming porn, this book looks truthfully at the world of strippers and gets quite saucy. The shifting point of view keeps the reader feeling like they are flowing in and out of the consciences of the narrator. It forces you to wonder how you would feel if you were 17 and your high school principal just walked into the strip club you work at. It keeps a dark subject light in the right places by reviewing stripper tips, like stripper tip #6: underarm deodorant glows under black light or stripper tip #11: smoking pot in the bathroom only makes the night drag on forever.
Sure there are plenty of dirty words to keep your attention and at least two sex scenes that will make you look around to make sure you are alone while you read it, but better than that is the underlying understanding of the story. It is a story about the scars sexuality can leave on us, and how those scars shape us into the sexy little beasts we become. It is also about the connections that you make in life and how things change over time. It is a story about real life and I am glad I read it.