lifestyle

$6000 a day? No wonder this work is addictive.

“I can’t just walk away from this lifestyle and the money.”

By GEMMA ASKHAM

“Old guys, young guys and creepy guys are all going to be looking at your bits. If you don’t mind that, then I guess it’s OK.”

We’re not describing the pap test from hell. This is one woman’s job description of what it’s like to be a ‘skimpy’ – a barmaid who travels to the most remote parts of Australia to serve drinks to locals while just wearing lingerie.

Yes, that terrifying dream of leaving the house and realising you’re only dressed in your knickers is an actual job.

On paper, the ‘bikini barmaid’ role is to pour drinks for the largely male community in agricultural and mining towns. In reality, the role is to smile in the face of sexist remarks and duck wandering hands (or worse), while wearing the kind of synthetic, asset-enhancing undies that will at best disintegrate after one use, at worst give you an intimate rash.

So far, so ‘no thank you’. But here’s the catch: you could get paid $6000 for doing it. Which makes the situation a whole lot more… confusing.

Picture this – and many of you won’t have to imagine hard as it’s probably the exact life circumstance some of you are in right now. You’re smart, educated, ambitious, and broke. You want to go to university/further education/buy a house – but resources are saying no. So the options are: work your ass off and earn just enough to get by, or work your bikini-bared ass off and earn sh*t loads.

Which is a seriously depressing thought, considering we’re nearly in 2015.

But it’s a thought that will be on your radar soon, too, as ABC2 is airing ‘Skimpy’ tonight at 9.30pm – a documentary focusing on 29-year-old Shae, who’s been pouring beers in her briefs for nearly a decade, and two colleagues – one of whom is trying to weigh up if wearing less is really the answer to earning more.

skimpiesShae, right, has been a bikini waitress for nearly a decade. Image via ABC.

As Shae told Daily Mail Australia, “We meet a lot of weird characters who will pick on you for personal things like if they don’t think you’re the right body shape. So you really have to have a thick skin.”

“I remember when I first started I’d have a complex. Some shifts I’d run off to the bathroom to cry because of someone saying something to me,” she said. “We do get hit up all the time for ‘extra’ stuff.”

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A quick look at forums about the industry tell a similar story. One 20-year-old admits, “I’m glad I got out because I started drinking a lot on the job, which is common. Plus, even in a bikini, you are treated like an object.”

Another woman believes the enormous heels they’re told to wear may have caused lasting damage: “I stood for seven hours in heels on Wednesday night and crushed the nerves in my toes. I’ve had pins and needles ever since… really hoping those go away soon.”

But for every negative story, there’s a positive – and, of course, it boils back to the money.

skimpies“We do get hit up all the time for ‘extra’ stuff,” Shae, second from left, said. Image via ABC.

As one woman explains, “I have recently started bikini waitressing to put myself through vet school. Everyone I mention it to turns up their nose; but I get treated far, far better working in a bikini in a pub than I do waitressing fully clothed. If I can work for just a few hours to get enough money to help feed myself and pay the rent, then it’s better than nothing. I would happily do another job, or fully cover up for this one, if I could earn the same amount of money in the little time I have.”

I guess the part that makes it harder to swallow is that this isn’t a one-off situation happening in a one-off seedy bar. It’s mainstream. It’s happening in regular bars, in regular towns… in fact, we could go now.

Young women are exposed to ever more sexualised advertising, music and media; many conveying the idea that they merely exist for men’s entertainment. And then there’s a bar – a decent bar – telling women that if they come in their knickers they’ll earn more money than any pretty much any job on the planet.

And that money is addictive.

Despite Shae studying a dress-making design course, she admits, “I can’t just walk away from this lifestyle and the money.”

Could you?

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