Wednesday 3 May 2006 @ 1:07 pm
I know a woman who stripped her way through college. Shes now a corporate headhunter, pulling down a six figure annual salary, shes married, and shes got a kid. Her story, as they say, ends happily ever after.
Sadly, she’s the only stripper I’ve ever “known” (and not in the Biblical sense, either). Sure, Ive ENCOUNTERED many an exotic dancer back in the day, but I can’t say I’ve ever really known them any better than, say, the guy who delivers my pizza. And that’s not its because I believe I’m too good to get friendly with a stripper; quite the contrary. I’ve just always imagined there are lines an exotic dancer doesn’t want crossed; some fat dork from Jersey asking “You wanna grab lunch some time?” might be just the sorta line-crossing I’d imagine they’re uncomfortable with.
However, I haven’t frequented a strip club since “Strutters” in Long Branch, circa ’89/’90, with Big Bry. “Strutters” was a juice bar, which meant the performers (oh, who am I kidding? the chicks who get their kit off) would get labia-dangling naked, because there was no booze on the premises. What a wild, wonderful world it was to discover…
For about a month. Then, Bry and I got tired of giving away hard-earned cash just to look at naked ladies. Mind you, these were the days before the internet (when the options one had to look at nude women you weren’t involved with were limited) and long before I’d ever marry (at which point, I got to see a naked lady for free regularly AND do stuff with her), but that first glimpse at a Live Nude Girl clutching a brass pole with her thighs to the beat of “I Remember You” still lingers in my cabeza. Oddly enough, it’s not the ladies who made it all so memorable, but rather the dudes jockeying the stage
Beyond the standard “Don’t touch unless you’re TOLD to touch” there’s no universal etiquette for a strip club. After the condom on the banana demonstration, you’re not handed a manual in Health class entitled “How to Conduct Yourself and Not Be Creepy at the Peelers”, so behavioral patterns in da club range from guy-to-guy. Bry and I were the “We-like-to-see-brown-and-pink-eyes-up-close-but-don’t-need-to-slide-the-back-of-our-palms-across-your-lips-while-you-accept-our-cash” types; we were there to get our freak on in the most civilized way possible. Show us your meat curtains, yes, but regard us with enough intelligence to know that you have zero interest in us beyond the exchange of currency for this privilege. We were happy to hand the dancers our tips, rather than make the bill exchange from lips to cleavage, or worse, from fingers to vag/ass. There was no seduction necessary, because we didn’t buy into the fantasy – which is probably why we never became regulars. Both of us knew that, in the real world, none of these foin, foin ladies would take a leak on us if we were on fire at their feet in a public toilet after their water pill just kicked in, so we couldn’t pretend that the furtive glances and come-hither eye contact was anything more than role-playing. And if I want to enter a magical world of make-believe, I’ll watch old “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” episodes.
While in Strutters, Bry and I spent as much time looking at our fellow patrons as we did looking at pussy. There were the OPEC Guidos – the Italian dudes whose hair was slicked back with so much oil that, fuck Iraq – Bush should’ve went to war on these dudes’ heads. There were the OP’s – the guys who came solo, who I always imagined stepping up to the ticket counter at a movie theater and sighing “One, Please.” There were the Thread-Bares – the fellas who accepted so many lap-dances that their pants looked like they belonged to the Michael Palin’s prisoner character in the opening credits of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, as he hangs from chains on a dungeon wall, uttering “It’s…”
But the most fascinating category of strip-clubbers we used to obsess over were the True Believers – the guys who bought into the myth, and seemed to seriously believe they had a shot with these women once “Girls, Girls, Girls” ended.
I’m sure that, if they ever noticed me gawking at them, the True Believers would’ve assumed I was into cock – so intense was my fascinated gaze. But I never had to worry about being caught studying them, as they never… NEVER took their eyes off the prize, man. These dudes were locked onto their targets – whichever girl was on the catwalk at the moment – like a NORAD-programmed ICB. This would reach a height of utter disturbance when the ladies finally worked their way over to the fellas in question. The fucking eye contact was so intense, you’d almost buy that there was a Chuck-Woolery-level love connection in their future. But then you’d look at the parties involved – a tanning-bed frequenting, twenty-something gorgeous Goddess, decked out in fuck-me pumps and clothes that’d do the Emperor proud, and a thirty year old Indian-American in thick specs, thinning, black-matted hair matching that of his Father, who, incidentally, was seated beside him, also macking on the stripper with a grin that’d make Mola Ram in “Temple of Doom” look like Ghandi – and realize that the “Pretty Woman” paradigm only works if the guy with the cash doling out strawberries is Richard Gere.
On the night of our second-to-last visit to Strutters, Bry and I took the opportunity to talk to one of the dancers about their Oscar-worthy performances with some of the least desirable-looking men in Monmouth County. The woman in question sauntered over to us, wearing an addled expression, asking if either of us were interested in a lap dance.
“You seem upset?” I observed.
Somewhat surprised, the girl sat beside us at the bar. We chatted for almost a half hour, inquiring about her life and what made he want to dance in the first place. Periodically, Bry would hand our new friend another twenty bucks, guilt-ridden over the fact that one of our own gender would breach the girl’s exhaust, uninvited, without so much as a “By your leave”.
We learned so much about the dancer’s life in that half hour, but more than that, we learned that it was possible for the insanely beautiful to find a pair of trolls interesting. I mean, here was this heavenly creature, engaged in a conversation with us, getting to know us not for what we could give her, but because we showed her a little human compassion in her hour of need. We didn’t look at her like she was a pair of tits (even though she was completely naked), and she didn’t look at us like we were those Hindi True Believers down the bar – one of whom who’d been very forward with his pointer digit.
Before she had to head back to the stage for her set, we asked if she wanted to grab some late-night chicken salad at the Inkwell – the legendary Long Branch bohemian eatery with the dim lighting and the collegiate clientele that closed at 4 a.m. She said she couldn’t tonight, because the boss on duty was a real hard-ass about the girls leaving with patrons. We shook hands, and she was off, heading to the stage. Rather than have her see us as the kind of guys who’d talk to her like human beings for half an hour only to ogle her while she worked the pole later on, Bry and I excused ourselves from Strutters and headed home, all-the-while discussing our newfound friend as well as the utter tragedy of the True Believers who thought for a minute that they were being treated with any degree of sincerity as they forked over their bills.
A week later, Bry and I went back to Strutters. As we paid the cover charge, we saw our new friend onstage, pelvis-thrusting into some dope’s face. Rather than make her uncomfortable, we opted to hang out on a side couch ’til her set was over, refusing the legion of lap dances offered to us by the ladies waiting for their sets.
When the girl got off stage, she offered us this very concerned look as she approached us. We wondered if we’d done something wrong by coming back to the club during her act, now that we were all friends and whatnot. But as she joined us on the couch, she immediately dispelled that misconception in and oddly familiar way.
“What’s the matter?” Bry asked.
And then, it became clear that not only did the girl not remember us from the week before, but also that finger-in-the-asshole she’d complained about probably didn’t happen either. We’d been played; she’d marked us as the wannabe-sensitive types who thought too much of themselves to gawk at gash and mash our faces into boobs. We were too proud to behave like the standard clientele, and y’know what they say – “Pride goeth before the fall.” And as we not only fell but plummeted toward the realization that we’d been had, it dawned on me that somewhere in that bar, someone was looking at Bry and I and labeling us as the kinda guys who actually believed they were better than everyone else in the club, because they were sensitive and viewed the women as more than just business-types hell-bent for loot; they saw the working girls as people who, given the chance, would rather have a conversation with them than thrust their Brazilians within an inch of their maw. And the standard label for guys like that?
The Self-Righteous Retards.
Following that, we never went to Strutters again.
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