It’s been nearly two years since I stopped working as a domi. It’s funny. I was only a karaoke hostess for a few months, but it still occupies a large space in my brain. I got funny stories, sure, and met interesting people, but, mostly, the thing was an awakening.
It took a while for me to iron out the thoughts. Maybe they are silly thoughts, petty things, easy to brush aside in favor of real concerns like getting a job and paying the bills.
It’s not as if I am the first woman to see my body as an object. The world wants us to see ourselves as objects. Open up a magazine and you will see page after page of women dissected for their parts–their luscious tits, their perfect asses, their lean legs, their flat stomachs. We are parts, not wholes, smooth and poreless from plenty of photoshop. Sure, men are posed provocatively in ads, but it is never the same. Men are strong and powerful, big muscles and broad shoulders. Women are weak and diminutive, with tiny bodies taking up as little space as possible.
It is hard to explain how if feels to see yourself as thing first, person second. I’m mostly over it, mostly able to think of myself as a whole thing, my brain first, my body second. But I think all women feel this to some degree. How we look is always most important. How much we appeal to men is always most important.
I liked being a karaoke hostess. It was an easy job, except for the cigarette smoke and the late hours. It was surprisingly easy to pretend to like boring assholes. After all, I have been taught how to play this role my whole life. I have been taught to be sexy, to be sweet, to be demure–that is what a woman should be. I have been taught to play defense. I am a thing to be protected, to be defended from the big, scary thing that is male sexuality. Women on defense, men on offense– our culturual expectations play out in those karaoke rooms. I had to deflect groping attempts and requests for sex nicely, like so many women do, despite the progress made by sexual harassment laws.
The funny thing is how unremarkable the whole thing was. I was so used to this kind of thing–wanting to look pretty, win male affection, trade my body for money–that it never stood out to me. I never told any of my friends. A few strangers, here and there. My boyfriend. But friends and family–no way. How would I even explain it? The truth it, I didn’t want them to know. After two years, I crave confessional, but I am afraid of perverting others’ opinions of me. Will they take me less seriously? Will they think I’m a slut? Will they even understand what it was.
I have always had a problem with my self-worth. Many people do, women especially. I have always needed something to measure it by. In the old days, my eating disorder days, I measured my worth by my calorie deficit. The less I ate and the more I exercised, the more value I had. But, with that horrible phase mostly behind me, I needed something else to measure my value–my look and my ability to make money.
In a capitalist society, people are only as good as their ability to earn and spend money. In a sexist society, women are only as good as their ability to fit into the role of mother, wife, or ingenue. How convenient–a job that assured me of my sexual value while it made me a good, little capitalist. The trouble is, it didn’t work out quite like that. Instead of rising, my self-esteem got tangled in the idea of making money. I was only worth what I brought home every night. I was only as happy as what I brought home every night. If I didn’t make enough, I wasn’t enough– pretty enough, fun enough, sexy enough.
I don’t know how I managed to untangle my self-worth. I am finally at a point where I recognize my value as a person, aside from my looks or my earning potential. I still don’t earn a lot of money, but I don’t let it define me. I have moments where I obsess over my appearance– changing my hair, perfecting my makeup, criticizing my stomach–but I acknowledge them and push past them. I wish I had more useful advice, but I have no clue how I arrived at this place.
I don’t regret any of my actions, but I don’t recommend them to others. If you have other options, don’t trade on your sexuality to make money. Not because it is immoral or indecent. Because you start to see yourself as a thing, and it is very hard to see yourself as a person again.