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My Strip Club Scandal
October 16, 2003 - 9:45 p.m.
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Today I went to a strip club for the first time in my life.
This is a milestone event in a man's life. And I still haven't reached those two other great manly milestones- my first time drunk and my first time getting arrested.
And this was an unplanned and potentially disastrous situation. Here is how it happened.
Hoover, Pinto, and myself attented the same continuing legal education conference today. We went together to look for a place to eat at the lunch break. As we walked along the city, we were picking out potential places to eat. However, every place Hoover suggested, Pinto vetoed. Every place Pinto suggested, Hoover vetoed. I had pledged to be agreeable to any suggestion, though since they were vetoing each other, my pledge was of no help. And of course, any place I suggested drew a veto from Hoover and Pinto.
As we continued to walk along, one of us noted the gentleman's club in the distance. Hoover and Pinto started suggesting that we eat lunch there. I thought they were joking, and I joked about eating there too. However, within a minute, we were in front of the gentleman's club, and Hoover and Pinto were looking over the menu posted outside on the door.
At that point it occurred to me that at least one of them were not joking. But before I could raise an objection, the doorman started ushering us in, and Hoover and Pinto went through. So I followed, and there I was inside a strip club.
I've been curious about strip clubs, and going to a strip club was actually on my list of things to do once in life. However, it's something I would have liked to prepare for mentally. There's a whole culture and etiquette I would have to learn before going. What am I supposed to do at a strip club? I don't know. This is like brain surgery; one does just decide randomly one day at lunch that it would be fun to cut open one's head and move things around.
The place was dark, and I had to hurry up and focus so I didn't get separated from Hoover and Pinto. I did notice out of the corner of my eye that there was a woman dancing on a stage, but she was wearing clothing, and anyway, if I were distracted for a second, I might become hopelessly lost an unable to find my friends. Worse yet, I would have been embarassed if I would have actually made eye contact with the dancer, or anyone else for that matter. We were shown to a table, and Hoover and Pinto sat down on the side against the wall, and I sat down on the side facing the wall.
A waitress gave us menus, and I had to put my face in the menu to try to read it because the place was so dark. I actually stared at the menu for five minutes, at least, and in that time I deciphered just one like- turkey club. So when the waitress came to take our order, that's what I had.
I tried to talk to Hoover and Pinto, but the music was blaring. It took me a couple of more minutes to realize that there was something important happening behind me. I turned around to discover that my place at the table had my back to the stage.
Now the other thing I noticed when I turned around was that the woman on stage was now naked. Not only was she naked, but I found her appearance and her movements visually pleasing. Now I was faced with a dilemma- I wanted to watch her, but I was uncomfortable about watching her.
Now my instinct was to face forward, toward the wall, and talk to Hoover and Pinto so I could ignore the action on stage. However, I remembered reading something by someone, right here on diaryland. This diary entry in which she advised men how to behave at a strip club. (I would link it if I could find the specific entry.) The advice hinged on two principles. One, if the customer looks like he's uncomfortable and not having fun, then the stripper feels uncomfortable and doesn't have any fun. Two, strippers enjoy positive feedback from the customers.
Given that advice, the last thing I wanted to do was for the dancer on stage to be staring at the back of my head and wondering why I wasn't enjoying her show. So I turned my chair so that I could watch her. I was sure to smile at her when she looked at me (and smiling is an unnatural act for me, I have to try hard to smile).
And before long, I was just enjoying the show. Normally, I feel guilty about enjoying myself in any situation. But, reflecting on the advice from the diary entry, I changed my perspective from focusing on me, to focusing on creating a good atmosphere for the dancer, and that was the perspective I needed to allow me to relax and enjoy it.
So I watched and learned the protocol for tipping the strippers. Apparently, a guy gets up and stands in front of the stage with a dollar in hand. The dancer will give him attention for a few moments, and then lift her garter for him to slip the dollar in. I don't really have the money to be tipping strippers (and my glass of tea was costing me six dollars), and I really didn't want to stand up there at the stage. It didn't feel right, though, to enjoy the show and not contribute (and this is precisely what makes me feel guilty about watching PBS). If there were an option to tip every dancer secretly from a distance, I would have used it. By the time the second dancer had been up there a while, I finally resolved to give a tip. It was disappionting though, because right as I got up there she was ending her dance, so I didn't get to see anything special. (And I couldn't gauge from the music when a show was ending, because whomever was running the music was incompetent, starting and stopping songs randomly. There were quite a few occasions where the dancers had to dance to silence.)
Our waitress was chatty, and I flirted with her (which is another unnatural act for me). I guess the key for me is that I knew it was what I was supposed to do. I was being a good strip club customer.
The strip club itself wasn't quite as seedy as I expected. Of course, a lot of this may have been due to the fact that we were there at lunch time- the place wasn't crowded, most of the men were in suits, and no one was drunk. It didn't appear that the dancers were making a ton of money in tips (I hope they got a cut of my $6 tea). Even so, after each dancer was done, she would come out (after dressing) and go around to everyone individually and thank them for coming out, even if everyone hadn't tipped.
After we finished eating, a fourth dancer was on the stage. Having only tipped one lousy dollar to one dancer the whole time I was there, I figured I should give one more tip. The guys standing up to tip had dried up anyway, because there hadn't been much turnaround in the customer base during the hour. So I thought it was an opportune time. My first attempt at tipping had been disappointing. However, the second time was better. When I went up to the stage, the dancer turned her back to me, then hung on to the pole to bend over backwards toward me and brush her hair over my face. She turned back around, and pulled the garter open at a point so far on her inner thigh that I had no choice but to watch her very carefully to insert the dollar- with the precision of playing Operation and avoiding setting off a buzzer. It's a good thing I hadn't had one more cup of coffee, or I wouldn't have been able to do it and would have instead ended up committing an act of sodomy. All in all, that little bit of attention was worth more than the lousy dollar I gave her, and I regret not having an extra ready. However, the interaction did have the effect of inspiring almost every other man in the club to stand in line to tip her. At that time, though, it was time for me, Hoover and Pinto to get back to the conference.
I had assumed that strip clubs would be expensive. But even counting the six dollar tea, I spent about $17 for lunch and a show (though I really should have tipped more). I would have easily spent $12-$15 at any other restaurant for lunch, and there wouldn't have been any sort of entertainment at all, except for piping in the Musak version of Air Supply's greatest hits.
Overall, I had a favorable impression of the strip club. First, I had an hour in which women acted like I was an attractive person. I know that it's part of their job, but you know, it's still a nice feeling that I never get top experience otherwise. Second, it's nice to see a real live naked woman once in a while. It's much better than a picture.
And now that I've been to a strip club, though, I can't understand the big deal made about them, insofar as the scandals about, for example, Ben Affleck being seen in a strip club. This strip club seemed to be good clean fun. The women aren't touched, the show is entertaining but not arousing, the interaction is very superficial, and most R-rated movies are more sexually explicit than what I saw at the strip club.