The teaches of Peaches

20 Jun

Kate Moss doing the fun bits

I’m learning how to use Photoshop for some work I’m doing. It’s slow progress, and my usually patient husband has lost his rag. “How can you forget how to size something when I’ve only just shown you?” I wonder myself. My ability to retain any useful information at the moment is diabolical, but I can tell you what Kim Kardashian has everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Perhaps the problem is the clutter in my brain: it needs a good spring clean, one that not only dusts away the cobwebs but Hoovers up all the fluff and detritus that has gathered over a lifetime of badly selected data. All the useless stuff I’ve learnt in the last few years needs to be archived or banished from memory. The problem – if I had the ability to arrange my brain as I would my computer desktop – would be choosing what needs to go and what would be wise to keep.

There are many things that I could do with forgetting. Ten years ago, I worked in a club as a ‘dancer’. In my world, at this time, this was a polite word for a stripper, and my year-long stint as ‘Peaches’ has left me with a lot of memories that would best be forgotten.

I learnt so many things on the job that the list could go on forever: that well-dressed male bankers who visit ‘gentleman’s clubs’ are not gentlemen at all; that there is no such thing as the ‘sisterhood’ when it comes to women who have to make enough money  to cover their hefty house-fee (‘rent’ that is paid to the club), the taxi ride home and some change left over to justify the bad company and grotty surroundings; that most of Chelsea football team are misogynist dickheads who like mute blondes with pneumatic breasts; that a normal bush is so much better than a bald one, if only for aesthetic reasons.

My time working in a sewer was less a year of living dangerously and more one of thinking: “Now I’ve earnt some money and learnt a few things about the human race, I think I’ll get a job in McDonalds. The money might not be quite as good but at least I can keep my clothes on.”

Aside from experiencing the often grim reality of life in a strip club, I picked up some new skills. I learnt tricks. Not the kind that were ploys to get customers to cough up crisp notes for a totally un-titillating topless dance, or a ‘sit down’ which was  a bargain £200 for a one-hour conversation with a stripper that usually involved the male customer defending his reason for being in a titty bar.

The tricks that I enjoyed when I worked as a dancer were not tactical, or money-making, or ways in which to play men. They were all the kind performed up against a pole. The seasoned girls with bodies like well-oiled machines would stay behind after hours and teach new girls like me how to dance on the stage. This was the only fun thing about the job. Not since gym class, when the PE teacher was feeling generous and got the horse and the springboard out, had I felt so free.

I wasn’t a natural on the pole. Simple twists and turns were as much as I could master, and watching some of the incredibly gymnastic girls perform the splits upside-down while 10ft off the ground was something to behold. But the few things I did learn were wholly new and a challenge. Even now I miss the dancing, but I’ll never miss taking off my clothes for strangers in a cavernous dark pit that reeked of bad plumbing.

Pole dancing will probably not be something I’ll ever need again, unless I want to embarrass my children on the fireman’s pole in the playground. But it’s exciting learning new skills. I’ve never had a solid career built from one thing, but I’m slowly realising that doesn’t really matter at all.

In the years since I left school, I’ve learnt many things: how to touch-type, how to interview people,  how to give reflexology treatments, how to help a woman during labour and how to hula hoop. Some of these things have taken an afternoon, while others have taken years of training or simply experience through trial and error.

(I still don’t properly understand the function of a semi-colon; I’ve just demonstrated how I often use it incorrectly. But maybe I’ll never know, and hopefully it won’t matter too much.)

Some of my skills have earnt me money and others have just been things to keep life interesting. The hula-hooping lesson my daughter gave me was a great example of roles being reversed. I’m usually behind ‘teaching’ her all of the things I think she should know by now. Never maths-related problems – my husband put paid to that when he heard me tell her that 12 x 12 was 142 – but things that I have found useful in the past, like how to harmonise over certain Prince songs, or how to make a good roux.

I would like to teach all young women the importance of being able to masturbate to orgasm, but this is certainly not a lesson that I should be giving my daughter.

I do realise that most of the things she learns will not come from me. Although I want to give my kids the skills to go forward and enjoy their lives as much as possible, they’ll have to make mistakes and take a stubborn disinterest in subjects that I see as important for them to truly learn what they want to do in life.

Back to me and Photoshop then. My husband has left the house because he thinks I’m a lost cause and he told me he’ll be back when I have worked out how layers work. It reminds me of a time when I was trying to teach him how to drive. We were down a side street in south London, and after my fourth firm request to get him to find reverse on the gearstick, he declared that he was never getting into the driving seat with me in the car again.

He undid his seatbelt and stepped out of the car. Very soon after the ‘failure to find reverse’ incident he made the bold statement that he was, in fact, never ever going to drive. While we usually work very well together, the teacher/pupil role is one we have remembered not to repeat until now.

As a result I’ve enlisted the help of a capable friend. He has sent me a tutorial video to help me understand how the program works: as practice I used a photo of myself to re-touch – I gave myself flesh-coloured teeth in a bid to make them whiter.

Having watched the tutorial four times I am still none the wiser, and in the last hour have made frequent visits to the fridge and eaten all of the chocolate in the cupboard. I have come to the conclusion that, although you can teach an old dog new tricks some things are better off left to the professionals.

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