More MS news articles for Jan 2002

A friendship stripped of all pretence

Thursday 3 January 2002

Simone and Crystal are best friends. They work together, watch each other's backs and go on holiday together.

Simone is 31 and has multiple sclerosis. She got into stripping after she had to quit her job in a fertility laboratory in 1994, when she was diagnosed. Crystal, 19, needed some money and thought stripping might be a way to earn a good wage.

Two years on, they are camping in Torquay in Simone's caravan for a week, doing the things girlfriends do on holiday - hang out, swim, surf, relax.

The pair spend Saturday night in the packed Torquay Hotel, where the smell of booze is strong enough to choke on. But they are not big drinkers; they are there to dance. When a group of guys and girls make a couple of wisecracks at Simone, Crystal unleashes a barrage of abuse that would make a sailor blush.

As they say, they fight for each other.

"You've got to work with someone you can trust," Crystal says. "You need to know she can protect you, if two blokes grabbed you."

Simone uses subtle intimidation to keep the guys in line. Occasionally they get a bit of trouble, but most of the time, they are in and out quickly and without a fuss.

Brash, chain-smoking, full of language, they have a manner about them that is at odds with the holidaying families that flood Torquay at this time each year.

"It does not take people long to work out what we are," Simone says.

She usually tells people she is an entertainer. If they ask further, she is a dancer. "If they have not worked it out by then, they're obviously a bit dumb."

If people knew the women, they would not be quick to judge, Crystal says. "Anybody who knows strippers knows strippers are far from being sluts. They do not work to have sex."

Crystal will probably keep stripping until she has enough money for a house deposit, then she wants to join the army.

Simone does not know what the future holds. Her medication is expensive, but it keeps the MS symptoms, such as muscle tension, at bay. There are some things she can't do when she's dancing. "If I spin around too much, I'll fall over."

Since she was diagnosed, she has had difficulty finding work. She is always honest about her illness, and says nobody wants to employ someone with MS.

"I can understand. I get sick; I've had to use sticks and all that."

But she is always upbeat. Worrying won't get her anywhere, she says. Instead, she talks about her dream job, working with animals. She has her own small menagerie of pets. Animals, she reckons, are nicer than about 90 per cent of people.

Copyright © The Age Company Ltd 2002