I had a really interesting evening last night. My Theory and Literature professor assigned us a paper where we have to analyze a cultural space, and the space I ended up using was a strip club near campus. I'd been meaning to go for a while and it just hadn't worked out. It turned out that my timing was better than I thought, because I really don't think I'd have had as good an experience at any other time. If the experiences my classmates had are any indication, I think it's true.
So, I had a couple of drinks with Sara at the Longbranch beforehand, then met up with Marlene and Jacob at the place. The first girl we saw was very jiggly and favored hiphop accompaniment. The next was very thin but did these really complex moves, and danced to some weird hard rock songs that sounded like they were composed specifically for the stripper market because they could never get played on the radio. Towards the end of her time onstage, one of the other girls came by and asked us what kind of music we liked. I wasn't sure what to say that could possibly apply to the setting, but Sara thought fast and said, "80s." So this girl was up next, and she started with Lullaby by the Cure. All the other dancers were wearing fluorescent stuff that glowed under the black lights, but she was all in black except for the skulls and stuff on her kneesocks. She had nice tattoos, too. Anyways, her performance on that first song convinced me and Sara to tip her during the next one, which turned out to be Zombie by the Cranberries. We went up to the spot at the base of the "T" formed by the stage where people went to tip the girls, and Marlene joined us. I think she liked having a bunch of shy girls come up to the stage for her--she gave us a sort of "aw, you guys" smile. I managed to do the expected procedure (the insertion of the money into the g-string), but only on my second try, after fumbling it nervously the first time. Then we sat back down and she did one more dance to Tainted Love.
A few minutes after her set (is that an ok word to use?) our favorite dancer came and sat with us. She started out on my lap and at first she was more on the flirty side (flattering us about how cute we all were and how she'd rather talk to interesting-looking people like us than the usual boring, creepy dudes, complimenting me on my glasses), but pretty soon she pulled up a chair and just started talking to us, and eventually just to me after Sara got up for a while. She said she'd rather hang out and talk with us than do other stuff that would make her money but that she wouldn't enjoy. It's interesting, she talked about having customers that just wanted someone to listen to them talk, but I think she really needed somebody to listen to her that night. It was really interesting getting her perspective on things. It's too bad it's really outside of the purview of my paper to do any sort of interviews, but hearing what she had to say still gave me a lot to think about, and not just for my paper.
The whole thing was pretty eye-opening, actually. I was surprised by some of my reactions. I kept having this impulse to go dance with the strippers. It just seemed wrong that they were up there all by themselves. It was interesting to see how it felt being in a space where unabashedly staring at another person is sanctioned, even encouraged. Sometimes it was sort of enjoyable and other times I found myself avoiding looking in certain ways even though those sorts of looking are supposed to be the whole point of being in that place. Another interesting thing was how seeing the strippers made me think about my self-image issues. I would have thought they would make me feel bad about myself, but actually, they weren't all that different from me. And just the fact of seeing a bunch of scantily clad women in all their diversity of sizes and shapes was kind of neat. Of course, there were icky things too. A creepy guy who ogled Sara and Marlene and I as if our presence in that space meant it was ok to treat us like we were on display. The guy my stripper friend told me about, in the corner behind us, who paid her to spit on him and ash in his beer. The strangely misogynist lyrics of some of the music. But even the weird parts were really interesting.
Sounds like an oddly good time. Believe it or not, I've only been to a strip club once in my 33 years. And that was only because my friend's neighbor (who was a dancer) invited us to see her. I guess it just seems like a seedy kind of fun that I'm either too self-conscious about enjoying solo or too "above it" to ask friends to go.
Also, I buy drinks for nice girls who ask because I can't say no. By the end of the night, I'd be pennyless and destitute.