The incredibly leisurely drinking of coffee in my underwear is my most important morning ritual. One which my neighbour, on an agitated and peripatetic phone call that has ended in him mostly stationed outside my open living room window, is interfering with. I want to tell him normally this view would cost him 2 dollars for every three minutes but more than that I want him to find some place else for his noisy phone call.
Regan is out for a month adjusting to her boob job. She’s living her dream! Work is less hilarious and more tedious without her, and I have to find a new partner when I hustle bachelor parties and two girl dances. (On the bright side, when she’s back I think her boobs will be a big selling point with bachelors and birthday parties, so that’s something to look forward to.)
She went out in a blaze of glory, however, winning the honour of Most Dances Sold in June, I think with 189 dances (I had 130-something), and sharing the honour of Most Dances in a Single Night (29) with me.
The thing about having a lap dance partner in crime is that a lot of guys have a short attention span. They get three or six or nine dances from you, and then suddenly their attention wanders, and they want fresh meat. They say, “Later, give me 20 minutes,” and before you can win them back over someone in furry legwarmers is pulling them back into the lap dance room. Sometimes we can bounce the same guy back and forth, or, if the guy is really feeling wild, get a two girl show. That way we both win. And she’s a mildly judgmental prude like me, so the fake lesbian thing is (yessss) off the table. I don’t think Regan believed me that guys would just go for a two girl dance that wasn’t frisky until she actually saw me sell a few with Shawna and Autumn. She laughed her ass off the first time (so did Shawna and I. I laughed so hard I fell over the customer’s feet and went down in a graceless heap, while Shawna distracted him by shoving her boobs in his face) and told us “That was the worst dance I’ve ever seen.” But having performative cunnilingus happen in their lap isn’t every man’s dream. (thank god. Or I would be out of a job)
The last Friday in June I got out of the dance room and went to find my next customer. He looked uncomfortable, no, he did not want a dance any more. He bobbed his head awkwardly and I mentally cursed whoever got in there while I was busy. Fine, fine, I turned away from him and walked into a pudgy bespectacled man who said eagerly, “I want a dance!”
It was so ideal and soothing. I beamed at him and led him to my favourite booth.
Cut to 1.30 am and I’m exhausted but not about to stop. Regan and I have spent the whole night back and forth with that same guy, until a few songs ago, when he decided to simplify things and just get us both back there. Regan made me take off my shoes, which I don’t normally do, in case I stab her hand while clambering up the chair as we maneuver around each other. The guy is nice, but he talks a lot. And I’m getting so tired I’m not even sure what’s coming out of my mouth any more.
I purr into his ear. Regan, on his other ear, has to turn her head away for laughing. She just found out about this when I told her about Plaid Shirt Who Doesn’t Like Cats and she can’t believe that anything that cheesy has a success rate. Our current customer smiles, “Do that again!”
I can’t do it without laughing.
I’m Katniss, he comments, idealistic and brave, and Regan is someone more misanthropic, he names a character I’ve never heard of and thus can’t remember. He starts talking in a Pirates of the Caribbean/Jack Sparrow accent–my fault, for explaining my stupid Teenage Bad Judgment tattoo, which is ripped straight off Johnny Depp’s arm in that movie–and I take a break from dancing, sitting on the armrest and keeping up the patter while Regan takes over. He’s talking about string theory now and I move into his lap, thinking about how weird lap dance conversations always are. He seems to expect an answer.
“I don’t really do math,” I explain. “It’s part of why I’m a history major. Math makes me feel desperate and filled with despair.”
“It’s about black holes!” he said urgently. “Entire universes in black holes!”
“…like the final credits of Men in Black?” I look up from current position between his legs and try to avoid Regan’s ass.
“I love that movie!” Regan chimes in, climbing down.
“Yes!” he agreed, pleased. “Just like that!”
“Hmm, that sounds really interesting.”
He nods, and lapses back into Russian. He doesn’t actually speak Russian, it’s guidebook phrases–“I don’t know, I don’t understand, USSR”–I think stemming from my confession that I don’t speak it very well and request to practise. I haven’t commented on his very limited vocabulary.
“I may move here,” he says. “I want to settle down and get married.”
“We will marry you,” I offer magnanimously.
“We’ll be your sister wives.” Regan agrees.
We continue in this delirious fashion for an hour. At one point Regan makes me laugh so hard that I collapse on the edge of the seat. She’s making fun of one of my moves, a habit so ingrained that I don’t even notice I do it, like pinching my nipples.
“I’m going to pee!” I gasped. “Oh no, I’m going to pee!” This seems like a real and terrifying possibility, since I’m naked I will actually be peeing on our customer and it’s the danger of that that stalls me. Regan is merciless and keeps going, but I can keep my laughter in check. Guy seems amused and indulgent of the fact that he’s basically incidental to our own entertainment, the dance has stopped being even nominally for his benefit and is just the two of us cracking jokes over him, while we all laugh. I lean over him again while Regan kneels down and it’s in this pause that he decides to lick my nipple. My slap is instinctual, and immediately I’m horrified. We both apologize. Mine is less sincere than his, but I think of the hundreds he’s spent on me and the hundred’s more that I want and I accept his apology.
Regan’s looking up at me from his lap and I can feel her thinking “Don’t fuck this up.” I agree. It’s harsh because I want to hit him again, and harder, but there’s her money to consider too. And I don’t want to go back on the floor and hustle up someone else who might be even more difficult, for less money. I purr in his ear and we keep going until the bar closes.
At the end of the night when the bouncer is tallying up our dances I have 29, 20 of which came from that guy. Regan has 28.
“Just lie!” I said gleefully. “You’re so close! We did it together!”
“Really?” the bouncer looks baffled. “You want to get charged for a dance you didn’t do?”
“We want to be tied! We’re going to win!”
1-the club keeps track and posts on a monthly scoreboard, something I never used to pay attention to because I try to curb my competitive urges but what with our lapdance competition and all I started to pay attention, and winning is satisfying.
2-It’s so awkward having to pull the other girl aside to specify “No body fluids!” before a dance.
3-To be fair, we were trying to make it bad. Shawna in particular was having a terrible night and our revenge was selling a string of absolutely no-contact air dances under the guise of “A wild two-girl show”. The first target was a guy I gave a dance to earlier who wouldn’t stop trying to squeeze my ass, and the look of dawning disappointment on his face as he realized neither of us would come within a foot of him was the most delightful thing ever. Aside from him, however, no one seemed disappointed at all.
4-This one shares the title of Ultimate Gulag Tattoo with the one on my chest. I heard some Russians making fun of it and saying it looked like a prison tattoo last week.
5-He told me on my first dance with him at the start of the night that he just got back from St Petersburg.
“Govoritye po-russkii?” There’s nothing like practising my Russian to liven up a dance.
“I do!” he said. “And you do too?”
“Not very well.”
That was key. He started talking and at first I couldn’t make sense of it, and then I realised he was just saying guidebook phrases. “Nye znayu, nye ponimayu, s s s errr.” I had to smother a giggle.
6-It’s the same look she had while we were between dances with him and I got called to the stage and she was on standby. She glared at me. “Go get him! Make him come to the rack!”
I made a face at her. Peevishly:”I think he’s tired of me.” The night was too good, I didn’t want to ruin it by getting rejected. Sometimes I’m perverse.
“He has a black card!” she hissed at me even more urgently.
“Oh, all right.”
I waved him over and he sat down, and between the two of us we managed to keep him at the stage until Regan finished her set a song after me.
“Are you ready for more dances?”
Yes, he was.
Frowning at my phone. Glaring, really. Regan is on her own phone, kicking my ass at Word Scramble, as usual. So she’s distracted.
“hey, what’s this word?”
She reaches out for my phone and I hand it to her, hoping she doesn’t look too close at the top.
S_H_L_ _ is where I’m stuck.
“Scholar,” she says after a brief pause, and hands it back.
“thanks!” I try not to let the giddy relief of postponing my inevitable loss sound too clearly in my voice and I finish my turn without laughing.
I hear her phone alert her that it’s her turn.
“Whose word was that?!”
I can only keep a guileless smile up for so long before I start cackling hysterically.
“you’re ridiculous.” she says without heat, mildly disgusted but more amused, and I lose my shit still further, doing a little footloose dance of glee in my 8 inch heels. She’s shaking her head at me.
“your turn!” I gasp.
Regan and I have two new games we play. This partially accounts for my slacking here; also there is the fact that Beautiful Professor sent me some very true feedback that had me sobbing in therapy, whereupon we spent the next hour constructing potential scenarios in which I do not faff off and read fantasy, leaving 15 page term papers til 5pm days after they are due. I have actually been timely (well, with studying. Being consistently on time to a morning class is a work in progress) and only missed one class, last week when my engine died.
Let me tell you about being relegated to biking and public transit. It is rapidly sending me back into the baleful vale of hate that caused me to have a total meltdown and quit dancing because men on the street seem incapable of allowing a woman to simply go about her day, and life, unmolested.
I got a taste of this on my first trip to the grocery store without a car:
“hey, how about you come over here and make fifty bucks the hard way?”
This alluring invitation was issued by a creepy white dude in a creepier white van. I’ll pass, but thanks for reminding me again of reason #3 on the list of Why I Love My Job.
However. Despite assholes inside the club and out, and despite rapidfire word games with Regan, I remain on top of things. I paid 1,000$ on my student loan, my new engine is paid for, and I even got an A on that midterm I thought I did poorly on. My classmates remain ridiculous and mockable, particularly a long-winded and begoateed fellow I have dubbed Shakespeare-in-Love.
1- While on the street I’m fair game to any creepy asshole misogynist laboring under the (notreallymis)-apprehension that he can harass, follow, and even potentially assault me with impunity, the club destabilizes this. It’s the one space I can think of where this sickeningly prevalent idea about the easy availability of free female attention–or forcing that attention if it isn’t immediately given– doesn’t hold. In the club, if they want my attention, they pay. Through the nose. And even that doesn’t give them the unfettered access to my attention and person that they can force on me outside the club. I say what happens when, and I can choose to walk away.
Stripping lets me profit, even from interactions that anywhere else–and let’s be real, they happen almost everywhere else– cost me a sense of security and peace of mind and make me dread running simple errands. In the club it costs them.
Although, honestly, unlike street harassment, the vast majority of customers run the gamut from nice to boringly innocuous to harmlessly weird or gross. Only the ones that stick in my head for being outstandingly awesome or hilariously terrible make it on here.
2-I learned years ago from reading the scrabble dictionary that “be” in front of anything is a valid word. My personal favorite, and one that made me laugh for ever, was bevomit. Like bedeck, but more acidic and foul.