Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Am Very Much an Introvert

When I was about 13 years old, I had a crush on a girl (my first big crush). She was pretty and popular; I was shy, chubby, and nerdy. Her family was fairly well off; mine lived in a trailer. I never planned to ask her out because of my certainty of rejection. I did, however, make a huge mistake in admitting my crush to a friend. He gossiped about it and eventually the news of my crush made it back to the girl.

I had anticipated rejection were I to ask her out - I never anticipated the cruelty she would show if she merely knew I thought she was cute. She openly and loudly mocked me on a long bus trip. She hugged me and sat on my lap. I had no chance to seek respite from the humiliation - I just sat in stunned silence. I thought she wasn't going to stop stomping until I was dead.

That moment stunted my romantic pursuits for the next decade of my life. I am very much an introvert and social interaction has carried a high cost for me for as long as I can remember. Asking someone on a date added not only carried the fear of rejection, but also a much greater fear of humiliation. I didn't date much. I wasn't very successful when I did, maintaining both physical and emotional distance. With every failure, I reinforced my previous fears and added new ones.

Enter strip clubs, providing a different kind of therapy where my visits to counselors had failed.

I first started going to strip clubs at the behest of my friends, with promises that you can't have a bad night at a strip club. They certainly were entertaining - that combination of drinking, smoking, and nude women was thrilling, in the way breaking social taboos can be.

I kept going once the initial thrill faded, though. Over the following two years after my first visit, I went as frequently as my grad school stipend would allow. I had read about sexual surrogates extensively online and slowly devised my own plan without the high up-front costs. The clear-cut social rules and monetary exchange of strip clubs created a safety zone for me to work through my issues and to work on some of my weaknesses. Things that would cause enormous emotional turmoil previously began to come more easily. I could let someone touch me and there was no mocking that followed; the expectation that it might be used against me faded. Telling someone that they're attractive ceased to carry an emotional cost for me. I worked on other social skills that had never come easily to me, too - making small talk, for instance. I'm still not good at it, but much better than I was before.

I stopped going to strip clubs a number of years ago. As my old fears were assuaged, I found myself capable of pursuing relationships without the self-imposed barriers that had plagued my earlier attempts.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Have a Fetish for Big Fake Boobs

In high school and beyond, I was extremely nerdy. I hardly had a date or a kiss until my mid-20s. At that point, I became reasonably successful with women, but some of the loneliness from those years remains with me. I am fortunate to have a wonderful fiancee, a great job, and an enviable life (I'm now in my mid-30s). But I still go to strip clubs from time to time on my own, and I have not been able to shake my compulsive porn viewing.

I have a fetish for big fake boobs. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. I don't know where it comes from. When I was a teenager and started finding porn, that's what I was drawn to. During my decade plus of enforced chastity, I disappeared farther into a fantasy life, and now it seems to be inextricably linked to my sexuality in some way. They don't have to be insanely huge - although I like that too - but fake in general is what I go for.

My fiancee is a knockout, and has a great body that I get plenty of enjoyment from, including a naturally fantastic chest on a slim figure. We have a healthy sex life. She considers herself more sexually adventurous than me, and in some ways that may be right. But of course I can't talk to her about the fake boobs thing. It's not that I would even want her to get them. And of course, that's not the type of fetish that she and I could enjoy in the privacy of our bedroom. It's an in your face kind of thing.

So, when the urge becomes uncontrollable, I go to strip clubs. I almost inevitably go for the girls who match that particular description (and there are plenty of them out there, so I know I'm not alone). At the club I go to most often (a few times a year), they are very liberal about the touching rules in the back room. So I play with them, talk to the girls about their implants, and generally indulge myself. I could care less about discussing my life or my problems. And I'm also not that interested in discussing their lives, although that depends on the girl and her personality. I'm there for one reason (well, two...haha), and the girls generally respect that. They see all kinds, and I'm definitely not the freakiest customer they'll come across.

There is a whole community online of people (mostly men, of course) who share this fetish. We share pictures and videos, and discuss porn stars' modifications the way sports fans discuss statistics. Unfortunately, this virtual experience isn't really enough, and sometimes I need the "real" thing. I have gotten better - a few years ago, when I was single, I was going to the clubs multiple nights a week - but I am doubtful if I'll ever get over it entirely. In some ways, I hope so, but in some ways, I don't. It's my little secret, I guess, and I can't really imagine myself without that side of me, sad as it sounds.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Am Gay

I only attend strip clubs as one of a group. One birthday party thrown by the dude's girlfriend, some bachelor parties for the soon-to-be married, and one all-male business group after business was done. In all cases, I've been explicitly invited, and while I am happy enough to go and mingle in the group, I never go by myself. I find there is too often a worrisome undercurrent that makes me feel that I am enjoying the event at the expense of others.

Most importantly, I am gay. The number of women I have been deeply attracted to is a single digit percentage of my crushes overall, so all the dancework and acrobatics performance at a club is just a skillful show where I am concerned. I can appreciate a heartfelt performance as much as any human, but that's all I am appreciating. Likewise, there is little attraction in spending the extra money for a private performance or even a public personal performance. I can appreciate the stripper's work as easily above a nearby friend as I can above myself. Moreover, in a party group, I can be giving a gift to the birthday boy or groom or business colleague all at once for the same price. Meanwhile, I can also chat up the bartender, talk to friends, enjoy the buffet, and seriously inquire with the ladies as to which drinks are actually worth the price of the drink minimum.

Usually, this is all pleasant fun. I'm not spending too terribly much, and most of what I am spending is a gift for a friend or colleague. Meanwhile, I get to people watch. No one minds if I take in the ladies, and no one notices that I take in the gents at the same time. Gay with friends at the strip club means near-perfect detachment from a sea of constant but unthreatening heterosexuality. Safe as houses.

The only problem is when I witness real vulnerability.

One of my friends declined a lapdance offer because he didn't have a girlfriend at the time and didn't want to go home with blue balls. One of the businessmen was obviously lonely more than he was admiring, as naked as the woman talking with him. One groomsman was obviously far too admiring, and his apathy toward his current relationship was suddenly and vividly apparent. One stripper was obviously very keen for private performances, clearly needing the higher payout with some sense of urgency.

All of that is uncomfortable to witness, because none of it can be commented on nor helped without becoming far too intimate far too fast. The club creates the illusion of heterosexual intimacy, a coy game of it, but it refuses to actually allow or engage the real thing. So long as everyone involved simply enjoys the game, all is well; but the moment someone needs more than the game, they absolutely cannot have it, and so they stand there, open and raw and unable to share. Most of the other dudes are too engaged to notice, but the detached strippers and the detached gay man notice.

It is profoundly uncomfortable. It is the price of a fun outing, the price of not being entranced by the ladies. I see cute straight men letting their guard down and baring themselves, and there's rarely a thing I can do about it beyond sending a stripper their way. I get to feel generous and thoughtful, but I do so fundamentally at their expense.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Know They Don't Care About My Life

Every guy has their reason for going to a strip club. Poor guys who want to feel powerful. You see them sweat as their carefully hoarded dollar bills dwindle. Bald guys who can't get a date. Insecure types who never learned how to talk to a girl. Lonely guys who have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.

Why do I end up in a strip club every couple of months?

In a word; therapy. The girls there will listen. I know they don't care about my life. That's not the point. A girl is sitting next you totally naked. You don't worry if she is judging you. You can say anything.

Who else can you talk to?

Your business partner? Can't afford to show weakness.

A friend? His wife is friends with your wife so you have to be careful.

A therapist? I've been trained to walk off a heart attack. I never go to a doctor much less a therapist.

But the pressure builds and builds. You lose a big contract. Your foreman gets arrested for drug possession. Your wife keeps pointing out how all her friends went on a ski vacation. The roof decides to leak. Whatever. You have to unwind or you start punching holes in the drywall.

That's where a strip club helps. Of course it's all fake. The saccharine smiles. The fake boobs. Watered down scotch.

But on another level it's as honest as can be. You pay a fee. For this a naked girl sits on your lap and listens.

It's ludicrous. I'm forty, drive a Cadillac, have traveled the world and am fully clothed. The girl is half my age, drove her mothers Hyundai to work, hasn't been out of the state since a trip to Disney World when she was ten and is stark naked.

But she listens for a bit and all is right with the world. That's why I go.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Met a Dancer Last Night

Last night I made one of my twice-annual trips to the strip club. Some of your other letters have described the obvious reasons for why I go – loneliness, basic companionship, touch. I’m very lonely, 40 years old and stuck for now in school with 20 year old coeds who look impossibly hot, many of them do talk to me but they won’t go out with me, I need hair to pull that off. I met a dancer last night just the same age as my schoolmates. She’s a single mom with a two year old girl. She has her baby’s footprint from when she was born tattooed on her back beneath her name, Isabella. She’s only been dancing for 2 weeks and confesses she’s still nervous. She won’t do all nude and says “I don’t know if I’ll ever be that kind of girl.” I get a private dance with her and though I can’t touch her (others will let you) having her lissome body pressed against mine feels great. It’s the only touch I’ve had with a woman in a long time. And yes, the fact that I’m having to pay for it does come into play. It makes it feel less substantial, like I’m trying to embrace her form in front of me but keep closing my arms around empty air. It’s not backed up by the meaningfulness of intimacy with someone you love (or at least really like). Still, it starts to fill me up even as it awakens more unmet desires.

She asks me if I have kids and I say no but I wish I did and it’s then that she confesses she has a beautiful little girl at home. I can see her stretch marks, she’s such a skinny thing. “I’m a single mom,” she tells me proudly with audible currents of courage and risk. She seems to be asking “Can I make it?” and I’m touched emotionally even as she grinds a little diffidently against my crotch. This is what I came for, too. I want to talk to a girl, and it’s a thrill to do it in a sexual setting, where she’s wearing nothing but lingerie or a minidress. I only talk about regular things. Again, I know I’m paying for the conversation but the girls I always pick out are genuine if restrained in their talk about their normal lives. One girl a few years ago, we got along so well, and she did end up going out with me for a time. We had connected genuinely despite the monetary obligations of the club situation. That’s why I just talk about normal stuff. If I tried treating them like a princess or searching for sexual dialogue then the spell would be broken because I’d know they were only telling me what they thought I wanted to hear, what I was paying for. No one discusses their actual personal love lives with strange men at a strip club.

As far as the money goes, I treat my visits like a big potlatch event, the ceremonies performed by the Native Americans from the great Northwest. I save up singles and new crisp $5 bills to give out in abundance, feeling better and better the more I give to the ladies. They’re working hard, and I’m in the service industry too working for tips, so I can identify with them. I give my dance partner $50 for a $30 lapdance and it just feels good knowing she’ll use the money for her baby girl. I give the $5’s to the girls on stage. I’m not showing off in a mid-level joint where singles rule the tip register, it just feels good to do something special, and it makes the girls happy.

I only go like I say about twice a year, and it’s a special event for me. I know I’m paying for sexualized contact with a hot skinny girl. But I always feel I’ve made a brief, not deep but genuine, just normal connection with a luminous creature, soft-skinned and slender, legs velveteen and long. I come away conflicted between exacerbated desire unrequited and a sweet, thrilled, treasured, focused satisfaction and completeness. For now, when the real thing isn’t available to me, paying for contact with an attractive girl postpones the pain of loneliness as well as tickles a lustfulness activated by the sight of so many girls walking around barely clothed, long legs and tight asses, bare shoulder and curvy chests on display. It’s an intoxication I keep as a special event, not for everyday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Like Being in the Company of the Other Guys

It’s not primarily for women that I go to stripjoints; it’s for the men. Sure, I enjoy watching naked women dance and getting a little sexual thrill. But mostly, I like being in the company of the other guys at the club—or maybe I should say, being a member of the club.

I think I’m a fairly normal, outgoing, heterosexual male. There have been times in my life, though, when I have seriously lacked for men friends. I met the woman I married early in college and started living with her in my junior year. That was wonderful in itself, but it probably didn’t do much to teach me to forge friendships with men once my years of schooling were over. I found it easier to talk to women then and never really developed a comfortable grammar of adult male friendship. I’m not a sports fan, which was probably a huge handicap in that area.

At stripjoints, though, I feel part of the company of men. Except at the extreme upper and lower ends of the business, stripjoints attract guys from all walks of life. I recall a club in Washington DC whose clientele appeared to be about one third bureaucrats, one third tradesmen and one third bikers. At my local favorite in the Midwest, I see doctors, students, mechanics, businessmen, carpenters, teachers, lawyers, auto workers, politicians, laborers, and men of just about every other occupation. Maybe this is just my experience, but I also think stripjoints tend to be more racially integrated than many ordinary bars. I feel more comfortable in this mix than I do among men of all one type.

I find it easier to talk to men in stripjoints than in other venues. If I were to go to a sports bar, I’d probably have to know something about sports to strike up a conversation. At a neighborhood bar or a biker bar, I’d have to be a member of the group to join in. But at stripjoints, the conversational gambits are dancing naked on the stage right in front of us. We can talk about beauty, we can talk about sex, we can talk about other women. There are no conversational prerequisites. And even if the music is too loud for easy conversation, I still feel a kind of camaraderie that I don’t feel in other gatherings of men.

The male behavior I see at stripjoints make me proud to be a man. The guys there seem more polite, more thoughtful, and less like macho men stereotypes than guys at other bars or gatherings. Maybe the strippers cast a spell on us all. I regularly see girls who are absolute knockouts leave the stage with only small handful of singles to show for their set; at the same time, I see strippers who are really very ordinary looking clean up a hundred dollars or more. Guys are voting with their wallets and they tend to vote not on looks but on attitude and personality. To me, this is a pleasing blow to the stereotype that all men really want is a nice big pair of tits and a scrumptious ass. Men treat women better at stripjoints than at other bars. Strange though it seems, I see guys treat the female staff at other bars far more crudely than they treat women at strip clubs.

Sometimes I go to stripjoints with my wife. While I do enjoy the extra attention that the strippers pay me when I’m accompanied by another woman and the erotic thrill of seeing my wife being aroused, I have to admit that I enjoy the envious attention of the men as well. In effect, I’m broadcasting that my wife is so sexually adventuresome that she’ll come out to strip clubs with me and even enjoy the sexual attention of the performers: I’m gonna get royally laid tonight. That’s obnoxious, I know, but it’s one of the rare times that I feel advantaged over other guys. Again, though, my focus is more on what I imagine the reactions, thoughts and behaviors of the other male customers are than on the strippers themselves.

Maybe this sounds like an I-read-Playboy-for-the-articles dodge. It’s not. I love looking at naked women and I’m unashamed of that. I am a little ashamed, though, that there have been times in my life when I have felt so disconnected from other guys that I’ve felt more connected to them at stripjoints than anywhere else.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Respect What Those Ladies Do

I respect what those ladies do, not just keep in shape (a natural breeding drive that the strongest women don't die in child birth) but that acrobatics, the individualistic acts (there are cookie cut acts, but very rare) that show a sensual display with a sense of humor.

Not a lap guy, air at times been surprized with a lap but not why I was there. I like the view and expression and beauty, almost like a flower blooming in human form.

It's also a place where it is not a lawsuit risk to say how pretty a woman is. I am not a bottomless or tassle guy, I find all to the bar give them more respect when they go full, plus what is the fear someone might see a nipple or vag? It's a strip club, not someone crossing the street.

As a comedian I respect the creation of a personal act too.

You ever notice that? Even on TV or something the whole breast is in view, except the nipple, like I'm so daft I can't know what's under it.

Some family that did it too. Not even a hinderence to life growing up when the unsaid member(s) of the family did it. It's how I know they aren't all a bunch of coked up whores. Resent the blanket "adult entertainment" and "sex worker" labels it's not right to wrap the sensual display with a sexual sale or even a sold attention of any kind. To the behaviour modification level, better than psychiatry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Like to Think This Is My Revenge

Oh, boy, do I ever like to go to strip clubs. I’ve been going for years, and now that I can afford it, I think it really gives value for the money – I go to an upscale club, where the girls are beautiful, and get five dances in a row from some pretty thing for $100. Here in Mike Bloomberg’s New York, they’re not really “dances” – you sit there and the girls more or less lie on top of you, grinding and bouncing. Typically I have to tell them to slow down and lean back a little so that I can look at their beautiful faces and bodies. When else do I get to do that? (Well, when I go to prostitutes, but you closed that blog.) I love their hair and their lips and their eyes and their smiles – they do like you, for that moment, for that dance. I wish they’d wear perfume, so it would fill my senses completely, but of course they don’t, because most men can’t go home smelling of tarts! I’m old in years – 61 – even though I’m an 18-year-old at heart, and I like to think this is my revenge for all the beautiful women in the world whom I can’t approach, whom I can’t get, this idea that I can have some young beauty dance and smile at me any time I want. I like to talk to them, get them to talk dirty, ask them about what kind of sex they have, and tell them about my own kinky desires. I try to keep it sexy, I don’t want to take the edge off by asking them any questions about their “real” life – and usually this erotic dialogue it ends up with me asking them to marry me. Then the music is over and I tell them to say, “I want to but I can’t,” and then they walk away – what a perfect relationship.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Honestly Believe Some of Them Find Me Charming

Strip clubs are different here.

Portland, Oregon has at least forty five strip clubs in the metropolitan area. It's rumored to have the highest strip club per capita than any other U.S. city. This, coupled with an already liberal culture, leads to a very relaxed strip club experience. I've yet to be charged an entrance fee. I've yet to see one that is not fully nude. The drinks and food are reasonably priced. It feels like a regular bar that has the luxurious benefit of having (usually) tattooed nude gymnasts performing onstage. It is awesome.

I frequent a handful of clubs around town. If I like the dancer's taste in music, I'll sit at the rack and fork over my cash. If she's not appealing to me, I won't watch the show. I've been told it's unpolite to stare without tipping. I've stopped buying lap dances, however, after getting married. The image of a strange nude woman grinding on me in a secluded booth makes my wife uncomfortable. Although my wife's allowed to buy as many lap dances as she wants for herself. She's even considered being a dancer before but has body-image confidence problems.

It's a legitimate occupation, stripping. These women are not desperate whores. They are providing a merciful service. An inspired pole-dance by a competent performer has turned a despondent, irritated mood into a piqued and playful mood on many many occasions. The really good ones have me completely convinced that they genuinely like me. I honestly believe some of them find me charming and interesting and attractive.

It is pure fantasy,of course and the blissful escapism is precisely what I'm paying for. A dimly-lit, dizzying microcosm peopled by impossibly vivid sexual virtuosos who entice and enthrall your basest nature in exchange for American dollars or free Long Island ice teas. Everyone is happy. No one gets hurt.

Strip clubs in the rest of the country are deafening dens of despair where over-scented men with doomed marriages and sheepishly hidden erections are relentlessly hounded by fake-tittied harpies who sniff them for money then chafe their upper thighs with a Victoria Secret catalogue. And it costs twenty five dollars to get in.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Was and Am Far Too Serious

I frequented strip clubs for a brief period between 2007 and 2009. I quickly became tired of paying for nothing but attention.

My first foray in 2007 was quite pleasant. The music was loud, but not at a level you couldn't speak to the girls (and quiet enough that the girls could "game" you out of your cash). The drinks were expensive - $9 simply for a water, coke or beer and there was a 2 drink minimum.

The first girl to give me a lap dance was from central Virginia and well endowed in the rear; not so much in the chest (she was shy about taking off her shirt for some reason). Pleasant to speak to and fairly intelligent - I was and am far too serious for the empty headed "party girls" to gravitate towards. I gathered from talking with the dancers that shy fellows were the best tippers.

The times I returned after that I was typically "gamed" by short, busty Hispanic dancers (exotic and curvy is my type). However, lap dances quickly became more restricted - no touching or grinding unless you paid a ridiculous price ($100) for a "private" dance behind a curtain with 5 other men getting the same. I paid for one or two - admittedly entertaining, but pointless. Before I left this was raised for $200 for a private/topless dance which was even more ridiculous (I was never dumb enough to pay this).

The music level was also turned up to ear-damaging volume, which was fine for the screaming partiers, but not for the shyer folks like me (and the dancers good at getting tips and dance money out of them). One positive change- free buffett with decent food, at least on weekends.

A co-worker of mine dated one of the dancers briefly and attempted to set me up with the dancer's cousin. The final time I entered a strip club I met with the dancer (not the cousin). The music level was deafening. I barely said anything to her. The next day I was told I was "creepy" for not attempting to speak when I could not be heard.

I have not had the money to return since my loss of employment in 2009, and would not bother to return to that establishment even if they turned their music down. I enjoy the scantily clad dancing (pasties and thongs are required in VA) but the atmosphere got steadily worse. I also realized that the solitude is the nice thing about celibacy; the not-so-nice thing is...not getting laid.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'll Always Be Pretending

I went to stripclubs for the same reason I bought gas station cigars; like every other American 18 year old I was acutely aware of the 3 more years I had before ‘legal’ adult became Real Adult. After I turned 21 I did it for the same reason; real adult didn’t feel very real if you didn’t have a real job. It was okay, I figured, to do a cliché rite of passage, repeatedly, so long as I did it with a snide wink to match their seductive ones. Maybe going with smug pseudo irony is still the best imitation a guy can do of a non-misogynist ‘they’re not exploiting me, I’m exploiting them’ mindset. This was just before hipsters became a thing, but my biggest excuse was, and still is, that I could be the guy who goes to strip clubs who isn’t like the guys who go to strip clubs. I could tell myself this because I had first hand experience that art, love and sex were all real and could all be real at the same time.
Trying to be a charming, sophisticated creep (I know I’m still a creep no matter how real my feminism actually is) hasn’t been a total failure. After a very long and lonely college loiter, I met the woman of my dreams. We rented a city apartment down the street from a strip club and I only went twice in four years. More than having it ‘out of my system’ by then, more than because I was getting sex at home, I didn’t want to hurt my partner’s feelings if I failed to omit where I’d gone.
Now we live in a suburb up the street from one. She is very serious when she says she would have been a stripper if she’d had the body for it. I have to be honest and admit the same. Even if that honesty is mostly me trying to be interesting. I also have to admit that I will probably visit the one down the street eventually. I’ll take the excuse as soon as it presents itself to tell myself that it’s research. I actually DO want to legalize brothels and popularize burlesque houses as a way to make strip clubs less a depressing lie for everyone. Even if I never go inside another one I’ll always be pretending I’m some kind of enlightened porn-cocoon butterfly rather than just another porn fly. That truth seems less depressing than a lie, and maybe a little more erotic.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm a Reporter

I only go to strip clubs when I know the feature performer.

I'm a reporter and journalist in the adult industry. I spend my workday watching and writing about adult material: DVDs, sex toys, websites. When I go to a strip club, it's because I know the feature performer, or I'm writing a story about her appearance, or both,

My middle-aged grey-haired appearance usually gets the attention of the house dancers, and there will be one or two who offer me a lap dance. I always refuse, politely, saying that I'm a journalist and I'm here to see the feature performer. Reactions are mixed. Some politely thank me anyway and move on, some engage me in conversation (I had one offer me professional services that she could perform at her office during her day job) and others have offered to go backstage and tell the feature I'm here.

When the feature takes the stage, I usually sit away from ringside unless there are empty seats. I don't want to shut out a fan who might spend real money. I will toss a few dollar bills on the stage to blend in but I don't go overboard. When the feature heads off to pose for pictures and do autographs I wait until all the fans have had their turn before I walk up. I may wind up talking to her for a while and, again, I don't want to take time away from a fan.

I don't go to strip clubs for fun. I spend my entire day watching adult material, so I don't have a need to see more when my day is through.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

We Are All on a Journey of Self Discovery

Went once to a strip club and to be honest found it pretty boring but met realer people there than met in most other bars and clubs have been in.  Found it weird that woman were there but that's just me.  Was not impressed but why what was on show in person, can read people a bit and made it difficult for me in some ways, but stayed there anyway.  Probably should have left quicker and wouldn't go back but be happy to chat to woman that work there.  Had a good breakfast after though, the one saving grace i think.  Good english fry up, sausages and bacon.  Not sure what people are looking for there maybe genuine companionship a bit of relief from fakeness, guess its better than the picture can wake you up to the reality of some images. For me guess appreciate good looks but also a genuine person, as much as anyone can be, we all are on a journey of self discovery, and guess the older you get the more you work out what you believe to be true. If people want to go there though that's there choice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I'm a 24-Year-Old Drone

I've gone to strip clubs because my life lacks intimacy.

There we go. Might as well just come out with it. Nobody talks to me, nobody cares what I say. I'm a 24-year-old drone who wastes his days sitting at a computer reviewing spreadsheets that don't really matter. Oh, I'm told to believe that they matter, sure. But they don't.

I get there at 8am. I leave at 6pm, and often times I find myself sitting in the parking lot wondering just where the hell to go. My family's far away, I have no friends to speak of; nothing awaits me at my apartment except Netflix and a couple of cold beers. Despite the overall pointlessness of my life, though, I do feel the basic human need to talk to someone. Not even necessarily to vent about how much I hate where I've ended up (especially compared to my childhood dreams of being an astronaut), but just to have someone who listens. Perhaps that's why I'm writing this e-mail, even.

I know the girls at the strip club don't truly listen, don't truly care. I know why they're nice to me, and they know I know it. But they pretend. Most of them pretend to care pretty damn well. When I think about it, that's enough to satisfy that basic human need. I'm sure they're not interested in hearing about my day, or my troubles, or my general dissatisfaction with the state of things, but they'll smile at me, giggle at my not-at-all-funny jokes, and give me some artificial sense of being cared for.

I'm probably the least common denominator; I bet most men go to strip clubs to look at asses, but I don't really talk to the men that much at these clubs. That's one thing I also find interesting about the strip-club scene. It's not at all like the bar scene. At the bar, you talk to the guy next to you; if he's a good guy, you buy him a drink. If he's not, you talk to the other guy. Rinse and repeat till you find someone who deserves a drink. At the strip club, it's not like that. If you didn't come in with a friend, you're not talking to anyone except the bartender and the dancers. It's not a social engagement, it's a spectacle.

I don't even really watch the girls when they're dancing. Sure, I'll tune in when they're pulling off something magnificently acrobatic or abnormally impressive, but most of the time I'm either watching whatever sporting event is being broadcast or pretending to care about whatever impending doom is being vehemently discussed on the news. It's when the girls come around to talk to you that gets me.

They almost always begin by asking why I'm all alone, or why I look "sad". I see what they're doing here; it's all part of their pitch. It's the used car salesman telling you that you look like a busy person who couldn't help but pull into their lot because you were so enticed by their spectacular deals. They know you came for a reason. Everyone's sad. Especially men at strip clubs. The patrons know it. The strippers know it. The guy out on the highway who couldn't afford the cover charge knows it. When you're a stripper, this knowledge of the target market can yield great profits. Appeal personally to the customer's emotions and you're sure to receive great return.

After feeding them whatever lie I come up with about how my friends are busy, or at a birthday party, or otherwise indisposed (to avoid the appearance of being friendless, of course. Who wants the 80%-naked lady to think they're a loser?) they either move on to the next customer or stay a while and talk. The reason I go to places like this is for those moments when they stay and talk. That's all I wanted. They don't have to be naked. They could be wearing a suit of armor for all I care; I just want to talk to someone who cares, and $1 every 3 minutes is a lot less than $250 an hour for a therapist.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I have some awful mental aberration that needs fixing from professional help. I just want to talk to someone. I'm fully aware that these dancing girls do not give half a care about my life or my situation, but they pretend. And they pretend very, very well. It's their job to pretend. That's why they all have fake names.

Strippers provide inauthentic care and concern in an authentic enough manner to satisfy my need to talk to someone, at a reasonable price.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Had Become Bored

The last person to ask me that question was a twenty-four year old woman sitting on my lap with only a bikini on (the least amount of clothing allowable in that sort of club in the State where I lived). I had gone to strip clubs for years, beginning with an office sponsored event and then during a mostly drunken auto racing weekend with neighborhood friends. Curiosity and the desire for sexual arousal or even satisfaction (as much as that is possible while staying clothed) had led me on a veritable tour of practically every strip club in my area over the course of nearly 10 years. So I had had many excuses and reasons, but the woman who was sitting on my lap was the only reason that I had at that moment.

I first met her on a football Sunday when dances are relatively easy to get because the clubs are typically filled with men more interested in football than dances--perhaps because the financial implications of the games might impact their ability to finance a dance. She could have done body double work for Gwyneth Paltrow but while I was first attracted to her beauty it was her intelligence and sophistication that intensified our relationship. Over about a year we saw each other at least once and often twice a week for an hour or more, and though we never met outside the club we often called each other and texted. The dances I paid for were not really dances: the club she was at had remarkably private rooms in the back of an upstairs smoking lounge, with no camera monitors and only a small glass window on the door. Over time our sessions were more cuddling than anything else. She would often fall asleep as I massaged her back. We talked about everything. She looked at pictures of my wife, daughters and pets. I commiserated with her when her sister was sick; coached her on training a dog she adopted; and listened as she told me about her boyfriend, her pets and about how she eventually wanted to go to medical school. When I joked that her intolerance of the sight of blood did not seem to bode well for her in that role, she quickly responded: “I am going to be a radiologist.” Obviously she had thought things out. She loved poetry and would save my voicemails when I would recite poems to her--not sappy stuff: she preferred Greek, Latin and Russian poetry, especially Anna Akhmatova, whether in the original or translated.

But back to the question: my answer to her was not so much dishonest as incomplete. Even so my answer to her did not come quickly or easily. I told her that after more than 20 years of marriage I had become bored and that I enjoyed being able to have a relationship, even if not fully consummated, with another woman. She was bothered by that answer in part because she could imagine what it would be like for her in another 20 years when her future husband would make excuses for being out. She had never been as comfortable with the club as the other dancers. When I once referred to her as an angel she quietly said “then why am I here?” Not long afterwards she told me she was taking herself off the schedule and a few days later I got a “leave me alone” text. It has been years since that happened and only gradually have I come to appreciate that the question as to why I went to strip clubs related to a desire to escape not any one person or any one thing, but rather everything. What a strip club had come to mean for me was a sort of false eternity where a game was always on, the beer was always cold and the women were always young. So behind it all was not so much desire as fear, the fear of change and ultimately dying. The future radiologist may not have appreciated all of that then but with her question and how I answered it seems she saw through our relationship and saw something irreparable in it and the place it existed in. I had lots of reasons to go to strip clubs. She left me with a very good reason not to: she would not be there.