Thoughts on visiting a strip club for the first time ever:
- I walked in, paid the $8 cover, and there, in front of me, were real, fleshy titties. Naked, exposed titties. That’s fun.
- I blushed into the darkness for about the first half hour.
- The general setup: The bar snakes up and down a dim room, and one to three topless dancers inch along (it’s hard to move quickly in six-inch heels on a ledge four feet above the floor), stopping at each guy and gyrating/wiggling/wriggling ostensibly seductively above him. When not on the bar, the girls put on tops and sell jello shots and try to sell lap dances.
- The first girl who talked to me was a woman. She was old. I felt bad turning down a dance. Sure, strippers get fawned over all day at work, but they also deal with a healthy amount of rejection. Rejection sucks, whatever the form. Later, the ugliest shot girl told me the rest of the girls say she’s too nice to work there. That was sweet of them. We need to rationalize rejection somehow.
- In strip clubs you have to talk to more people than I was expecting. Instantly a flock of girls come crowding around, pressing their breasts into your shoulder, offering jello shots, offering dances. I guess I thought I could sit back and enjoy a show without too much pestering, which was pretty naive of me, considering how they make money. But what does one chat about with strippers? Usually I just ask a bunch of questions when I meet strangers; people love talking about themselves. But I realized that might not work in this setting when I asked one’s name and she pointedly told me a stage name (“I go by Boots here”). There’s also the awkwardness that comes from chatting chirpily with someone who wants to sell you something, and you both know it. It’s artifice. Those poor girls, trying to chat me up as I’m busy taking mental notes and really only there so that Rat can forget the ellipsis-toss game that is happening.
- The best conversation I had was with the bartender. Three Dos Equis in I remembered that I had forgotten to tip him, so I hit him with some back-tips. He brightened up immediately. That was his first night back at work after knee surgery. He’d been on crutches for five weeks, thanks to an old college injury. Don’t laugh: he was an all-American bowler and his sliding foot built up residual damage. He was nice. He would walk by and give me the ‘ok’ sign to make sure I was good on drinks. At one point he put clear plastic cups on each of a black girl’s tits, then turned to me and said, “It’s good to be back.”
- I lied. The real reason we were there was because going to a strip club was on my bucket list. I’ve been mildly obsessed with my bucket list recently. There are plenty of reasons, I suppose, none of which apply here. But I do want to note how quickly people accept a bucket list as reasoning for just about anything. “Why would you go to a strip club? Oh, it’s on your bucket list. Well alrighty, then. Have fun!” “What could possible interest you in Cuba? Ah, it’s on your bucket list. Awesome. Send me a postcard.”
- Overall, the experience tucked neatly into the intersection of sexual, seedy, and awkward that I had been told to expect. One image that will likely linger: one of the white girls squatted down in front of me and wiggled her ass. There, several inches from my face, I could see a friction rash on her butt cheeks. The memory is mildly prurient, but also awkward (‘Should I tell her?’) and exceptionally gross.
- Some journalism: On a weekend, up to 50 girls work the club. Monday had a considerably slower shift. In Louisiana, girls have to wear panties. Google was unclear about which states (it might be divided by counties) allow bottomless clubs. The girls skirt this rule by letting their thongs ride low, about halfway down their asses. There are three rooms off the main bar. One is an open room where you can get lap dances for $20 a song. The VIP room costs $30/song. To get into the “Party Room” it varies by dancer, but hovered around $300, $75 of which went to the bar. What the girls will do and how much it costs varies as well. Beers cost $5. Boots was — quelle surprise — putting herself through college (dance major).
- I spent a little over $50: $16 for my and Rat’s cover, $15 on three beers, and myriad ones fumblingly tucked into garters. All the girls had a special strap to hold their cash, mostly on their thighs but some on ankles and wrists. I imagine too many patrons used to drunkenly yank while slipping bills into panties, but that’s pure speculation. I forgot to ask.
- When the girls dance at the bar, you are eye-level with their ankles. Looking up had the sensation of sitting in the front row at a movie theater, neck craned awkwardly. I came to the conclusion that breasts — magnificently sculpted artworks that they are — are least attractive when viewed from the bottom up.
- The strippers actually didn’t do any stripping. They were already topless when they went out to dance. What I’m saying is that this wasn’t a striptease. I don’t know, that felt an important distinction.
- I spent most of the time there between flaccid and quarter-chub. Beforehand I wondered if it’s awkward to get a boner in a strip club, just like I have googled traditional practice for when you get a hard-on at a nude beach. It ended up not being a concern.
- “Is that guy a regular?” I asked one of the girls, pointing to a gray-haired man across the way. She hadn’t seen him before. I asked because he had three of the four hottest girls crowded around him, and was laughing and touching them familiarly. At one point, he licked up a girl’s leg, over her crotch, and up her other leg, which she had extended above her head. He held another by the stomach and kept trying to finger her. She kept his hand out of her vagina, but was laughing. He motorboated yet another. Movies had always told me you weren’t allowed to touch the strippers. None of the male staff members I saw seemed the mind, and by the way the girls were giggling, they were egging him on. I never saw him go in for a dance.
- I was very bored very soon. It quickly becomes over-stimulation if you’re not going to buy a dance. I felt roughly about the club as I do about casinos. I have sat at many blackjack tables with friends, even though I don’t gamble. I understand the appeal: there’s that rush, in this case prurient, that lures people. But mostly I just counted my ones disappearing, like I tend to calculate my cost-per-minute ratio the few times I have gambled. Unless you’re willing to invest a larger sum than my writerly wages can sustain, those vices are fleetingly entertaining.
- “We’re agreed to never talk about this again, right?” Rat said as we drove home. I asked why. “I have liberal guilt,” he said. I was confused. “Like Catholic guilt or whatever, I feel guilty about things liberals are supposed to care about.” That made sense to me.