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.