Sunday, May 01, 2005

Out of Singles

Spiral Stairs and I headed up to Atlantic City yesterday as part of a bachelor weekend for a friend of ours. This morning, around 1AM, we found ourselves with the rest of the group at a strip club, where I found myself at first feeling typically awkward.

I have been learning more about stripping and the world of strip clubs from stefanie's blog, but no amount of reading will lessen the weirdness I feel in a strip club. I haven't been to many in my life. The first times I went was when I lived in New York. I had this friend named Mike, who was a minister's son. Mike once dragged us to this place called "Medallions." To this day, my friends and I never talk about what we saw and what happened at Medallions. In the ten minutes we were there, we witnessed acts that may qualify as war crimes under the Geneva Convention.

The few other places I have been to have been far more mellow, but it was never my idea. In fact, I always tried to get the fellas to do something else. One time, I said something to the effect of, "Look, let's forget going to the strip club, and just go and watch the game somewhere and grab a beer." Mike responded, "Why don't we do that while also seeing some breasts." The logic of Mike's point was overwhelmingly persuasive to the rest of the gang.

What do I mean by feeling "awkward?" Uncomfortable. Like a fish out of water. Except I am not a fish and breathe air. And a fish out of water would eventually die. What a stupid expression. Anyway, when I am in a strip club -- always at the insistence of friends -- I find myself wanting to be anonymous. A few years ago, my brother dragged me to a strip club in D.C. I saw a Borders nearby. I excused myself, went to the Borders and bought a Harpers. I sat in the corner of the place drinking an $8 Heineken while reading a long essay about dictionaries while my brother and a friend of his fed a variety of women stacks of singles. It was a pretty fascinating essay. Then, this drunk guy sitting next to me started talking to me. He was from South Carolina, and was at the strip club because it was his son's bachelor party. He then started weeping silently about his ex-wife. I told him about the dictionary essay. It was a weird night.

I am not afraid to admit this: I am intimidated by strippers. In a lot of ways, I can be an indomitable person. Not in the strip club. I like powerful women. I like sexual women. And I am not a moralist about the issue. But, the kind of sexuality strippers wield overwhelms. It is powerful, yet also too remote and unfamiliar. It's that, as well as the possibility that they find themselves stripping after a overwhelmingly sad or painful early life. I can't tune it all out and just appreciate the grind. My mind focuses on the "who" to the exclusion of the "what."

Yet, last night, over time, the experience became pretty tolerable for me. Same reaction from a couple of other dudes in our group who share my unease at strip clubs. As we drove home today, we discussed why, and it may have been this: we were in New Jersey where strippers are not allowed to be nude if the place serves alchohol. So all the women were basically just dancing around in lingerie. I guess that makes them more exotic dancers than strippers, but I admit I am not sure about terminology here.

The dancing was just as suggestive as at a regular (?) strip place, but somehow the extra clothing tempered the vibe. Was it the extra clothing? Why should the appearance or non-appearance of a breast affect any of the issues I identified above? That explanation was so arbitrary to us. But obviously right in a way; when we all inventoried our money this morning, none of us had anything smaller than a $20.


Blogger Stefanie said...

This might be long, and I'm sorry for that.

It's guys like you that swore me off stripping. (No offense, really.)

After the crash of 99, men like Boss Hogg, who were the main customers of strip clubs, stopped showing up. Instead, there was a surge of 30-something guys who wondered why they were even there. They had disposable income, but at times they would ask me "Why should I spend $200 to talk to you when I could spend $50 for a blow-job from a hooker?" And that's when most strippers would come up with clever answers. I would usually sympathize and say "I don't know."

There is a whole generation of guys who were raised either by their single moms or by the new, politically correct society to believe in the potential and strength of women in the business world. When these guys enter strip clubs, it's very hard to extract money from them. They always want to talk and get to know me, and that's cool, but it takes time away from making money.
Gone were the $100 bills just for a pleasant conversation. These young guys were showing up just to witness what their fathers did while they were away on business trips. And they were disappointed.

Alot if these young guys were interesting. They were friendly and fun, and they loved to buy me drinks, but they wouldn't let me dance (aka make money) off of them. I had a whole arsenal of interesting stories, if only they would promise me some cash. But, no. "Tell me about yourself. What do you aspire to do?"
I'd love to tell you, dude, but I've only got 8 hours in which to make my rent. Have fun being middle class and affluent. Seems to work for you.
These guys were like kudzu to the stripping world. I could identify with them, but the opportunities to make money were strangled and forgotten in their hands.

I didn't relish being a dentist (pulling teeth) to make money. But lots of other girls knew exactly how to handle these guys. Hey, they were pros.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Stefanie said...

Sorry for my blog-entry lenghth comment and its hostility.
The face of stripping is certainly changing, but it's not your fault. I like your blog + read it often.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

No offense taken at all. It's certainly not the first time I've been told I suck, and probably not the last. Seriously though, you raise valid points, which I'll address briefly below:

1. Patrons like me are indeed not desirable in the least. Normally, we are there because others brought us. I think we'd be worse if we were simple voyeurs who came in off the street and effectively gawked, and I think that is more who you are describing in your comment. But, we are still bad for business and a waste of space. Once there, discomfort, and not cheapness, retards our desire to spend.

I realize that all this has a direct impact on the dancers bottom line. Talking with a boring (or even interesting) middle class, affluent person who just wants to chat is a waste of time or money. To make matters worse, I don't even like to talk much when I am at these places (but have no problem reading, as noted above). I guess that adds misanthrope to my descriptor. There is probably some small amount of irony in the fact that I'd probably pay to read an article or book by you because I enjoy your writing about your life.

2. I am not so sure I fully agree with your theory that changes in family patterns or societal perceptions (e.g. strong women in personal/business/professional world) are the principal reason why there may be a growth in people like me. I think it has do with a mix of factors including: (i) some men are more self-aware, a different kind of image consciousness, (ii) shifting concepts of sexuality (which may have led to the dilution of the market with the rise of free alternatives resulting from behavioral changes or technology) and (iii) in some part, the influence of feminists (for liberals anyway; probably churches if you are an evangelical) who oppose exotic dancing.

12:31 PM  

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