Sunny Days in DC

Jack of All Trades, Master of 3-ish.

And That’s How My Mom Ended Up On The Stage With The Male Strippers. I Swear.

on December 21, 2012

Ok, yes, this post starts out kinda sad, but I promise you strippers. Strippers, Las Vegas, and drugs. Male strippers, it’s true, but strippers nonetheless. So, you know, work with me here.

I haven’t always been the well-adjusted person you’ve come to love over the past few… days. Actually, I guess we don’t really know each other that well at all. Still, it’s amazing how you can look at the things that other people go through in their lives, and somehow, completely relate.

Depression and anxiety run in my family. They run in my husband’s family, too. When he and I were dating, I took a minute on more than one occasion to consider whether dating and marrying someone, and also probably having children with them, when you both share a propensity toward… that… is a smart idea. What if you end up having kids with depression? What if what they have is worse than anything you ever wrestled with on your darkest nights?

It gives you pause.

My depression and anxiety were never that bad, until 2003.

In 2002, my college sweetheart (d’awwwww!) and I graduated. Well, I graduated. He was an English foreign exchange student, so he went back to the UK to finish up his last year. I traveled back and forth between New York, where I lived, worked, and was attending graduate school, and London, where he was finishing up school.

As hard as it is for some people to believe, it really wasn’t that tough. Yeah, it sucked that we couldn’t see each other every night, or even every weekend, but honestly… military wives have it worse. All I had to do was save up cash, and I got to see my boyfriend, AND Big Ben… yes, take that last sentence as you will. 

At some point, shit took a turn for the worse. My family lives in Brooklyn, and both my mother and step father developed Cancer as a result of exposure to the crap in the air during 9/11. I quit my job to take care of them, but things got more complicated, so I ended up quitting school as well.

That sucked, but I honestly don’t have any regrets. My life is taking a different turn anyway.

Then… then in 2003, on a trip where he had planned to propose, the boyfriend broke up with me. Any one of those things would have been a lot, but all combined, it was too much for me. I spoke with a doctor, and he agreed to put me on a combination of medications: Clonazipam, and Zoloft.

Holy. Shitballs.

The first thing I get asked by a lot of people is: did it work? I guess some folks have a hard time with Zoloft?

Hells yeah it did!



But I knew that these things were only meant to be temporary, so I decided to work my way off of the anti-anxiety meds (Clonazipam) as soon as I could manage it.

That’s when my mom won an all-expenses paid trip to Vegas.

For clarification, Vegas on Clonazipam looks like this:


*Your hotel room is behind the giant screaming triangle. Welcome to Bat Country.*

So now, I’m trying to come down off of a highly addictive anti-anxiety medication, in one of the most stimulating cities in the country, while simultaneously ignoring all the strip clubs and nude/ partially nude/ at-this-point,-it-doesn’t-even-matter-because-YOU’RE-IN-FUCKING-LAS-VEGAS-WITH-YOUR-PARENTS flashing signs and images.

Anyway, my step father had officially proposed to my mother only weeks before, and since we were in Vegas, my mom decided she wanted to see a show. Because Las Vegas is known for its…. theater scene? Anyway, she finds a show called “Australian Thunder from Down Under,” and buys tickets for the two of us. I’m not sure where my step father was… honestly, I’m not sure about a lot of things that week.

I’m pretty sure that donkey thing never happened.


When I would later ask her why that show, as I delicately removed a piece of a male performer’s costume from the back of my shirt (no lie), she would say that it was “nearby,” and she’d “never been to Australia.”

It all seemed so perfectly logical, until the lights went down, and the strobe lights came on. That was also the moment that my anti-anxiety medication chose to kick in, and I realized that I could taste music, and feel the universe breathe.

It was everything you can imagine from a (legal!) drug freakout in a dark room filled with oiled up men who were dancing around you and your mother, who had purchased her tickets using the AARP discount. At some point, they asked if anyone there was engaged to be married.

Of course, she raised her hand.

They brought her up on stage and proceeded to give her a personal lap dance, while I sat quietly in the front row and wondered whether this was all really happening, and if it was, did it mean that I now needed more or less medication to deal. I still ponder…

On our way back to the hotel room, we walked through the slots section of the floor, because everything in Las Vegas is “on the other side of the floor, through the slots.”

It’s an odd kind of clarity you get from these drugs sometimes. I can’t speak for illegal drugs because I’ve never done any, but as I floated across the room with my mom in tow, I suddenly felt sad for all the people sitting at the machines. They were just these tiny people, sitting in impenetrable plastic bubbles, never talking to each other, never interacting. A room chock full of people, each inside of their own little worlds, all of which were touching each other, but who were each completely alone… 

But coming down was oddly the most amazing/terrifying experience of my life. I don’t think I would ever have been able to have had those thoughts, or look at people the way I did, if I hadn’t been coming off of my meds. I’m not promoting pharmaceuticals, or saying that everything can be solved by them, or that even ANYTHING can be solved by them. My meds worked for me, and I’m no longer on them. I’ve moved past that stage of my life. But I get how someone can say that drugs could alter how you look at things. I think it’s fine, and even accurate to call these things a “crutch.” If you break your leg, you rightly need a crutch. Then, ideally, you learn to wean yourself off of it. But a crutch isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In sum, I found Zoloft to be numbing. The anti-anxiety meds gave me tremendously odd experiences, but Zoloft dulled the emotion I felt around them. Instead of being sad about the slot machine slaves, I just felt… observant. I don’t miss that part, and I don’t know that I would ever want to go back…

But holy shit y’all, what a wild fucking ride!!!!


*Yeah, not all of us make it out alive, kid. Sorry!*

10 responses to “And That’s How My Mom Ended Up On The Stage With The Male Strippers. I Swear.

  1. fitzythird says:

    As someone who sampled the illegal side of drugs in younger days, I am scared to death of any kind now. I have however seen people get through with perscriptions….some are lucky, get by and get off…..others have lost everything. You’re a good writer and I liked your post a lot. Liked how your nipples saved us from certain doom as well. Glad things are heading in a better direction for you….keep posting…

    • H. Stern says:

      It’s interesting, because I read somewhere that LSD can instantly damage your brain, permanently. So, basically, I live in fear of all drugs, with the possible exception of Benadryl.

      Also, my nipples are glad to help. I’m making teeny, tiny capes superhero capes for each of them.

      And thanks for the support. Merry Christmas!!!

  2. I’m laughing and relating. Try a mother who had manic depression. (Actually, don’t try it.) Oh, I’m so sorry, I should have said the now-fashionable term, bi-polar. Luckily, I only inherited depression but it usually comes upon me with good reason. Then again, good reason is not necessarily my strong point.

  3. Adam S says:

    This post is insanely good. (No pun intended).

    Wow. I could totally relate to the period of introspection in the casino. It’s a moment where you’ve gone so deep into your mind, and are so fixated on one thing, it’s almost like you’ve been given every piece of information about a scenario by the universe– but in a manageable dose. It’s like a third eye understanding of something.

    Behold the power of legal drugs! But, god forbid you smoke a fucking joint…

    Great piece. It was everything I hoped it would turn out to be. I could hear Raoul Duke’s internal monologue as I was reading:

    “How long could we maintain? I wondered. How long until one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy? What will he think then? This same lonely desert was the last known home of the Manson family; will he make that grim connection when my attorney starts screaming about bats and huge manta rays coming down on the car? If so, well, we’ll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere, ’cause it goes without saying that we can’t turn him loose. He’d report us at once to some kind of outback Nazi law enforcement agency and they’ll run us down like dogs. Jesus, did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me?”

    Do another, pretty please?

    • H. Stern says:

      “It’s a moment where you’ve gone so deep into your mind, and are so fixated on one thing, it’s almost like you’ve been given every piece of information about a scenario by the universe– but in a manageable dose. It’s like a third eye understanding of something.”

      So, I spent about six months feeling that way, on and off. I would sit on the subway and try not to freak out when peoples’ faces melted off, or their skills split open and things crawled out. I’m not sure if that’s SUPPOSED to happen on these drugs, but honestly, I just kinda went with it because there were these amazing moments of beautiful clarity where you just saw everything *slightly* askew, and it made all the difference. Completely worth it at the time, but I would not go back on the meds for that.

      “If so, well, we’ll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere, ’cause it goes without saying that we can’t turn him loose. He’d report us at once to some kind of outback Nazi law enforcement agency and they’ll run us down like dogs. Jesus, did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking?”

      Good line. FANTASTIC scene. Not my favorite.

      “So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

      A line so good, I wanted to rip the page out of the book and swallow it whole, so it would actually be inside of me. It was like you said above: a single moment of third eye understanding, and it’s so crystal clear, but it emerges out of this book of frenetic chaos. And it’s the chaos of the book that MAKES moments like, lines like that, so stunning.

      • Adam S says:

        I completely agree with your favorite line. That, to me, was literary genius. It really is the perfect ending to that story. It’s the only thing that really makes sense in the book/movie, but it’s such a profound statement. It totally captures that whole era. Magical. That’s how I would describe it.

        …Although, a close second would be that entire scene when they’re doing Ether and Mescaline at Circus Circus. Classic!

        Merry Christmas to you. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff. You’re a real talent.

  4. […] And That’s How My Mom Ended Up On The Stage With The Male Strippers. I Swear. […]

  5. Adam S says:

    I picked this for post of the week, yo. Nice job. \m/

  6. holdontoyourpants says:

    I really enjoyed reading this.
    As someone who recently was battling some depression and anxiety the idea of being medicated to remedy them is scary to me. I think you are right though, sometimes it comes down to reading/hearing of other’s experiences of similar nature to feel you “relate” to someone else who is dealing with the same thing. If nothing else, what a tremendous story… I know that if I ever had to go see strippers with my mother and wasn’t on drugs before, I would most DEFINITELY need them after.
    Thanks for a powerful and entertaining read!

  7. ekgo says:

    Gabe never had such fun on his clozanophamteineadryl pill. Which, for me, was probably good but for him, maybe not good because I think he would have enjoyed a scary Willy Wonka Gone Wonky ride for a bit.
    Also, I wasn’t sure whether I should cry or laugh during this post so I just did both.

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