1PM, my eyes burn, I’m a bit stoned, overtired, I need a few hours’ sleep before tonight’s bachelor party at 8. I set the alarm for 5:30, hoping to snack, shower, and run a couple of errands before I head to the restaurant. At 6:55, I wake with a start. I must have stood up and sleepwalked a few steps, to shut off the alarm. My eyes are still dry and itchy. I feel emotionally numb, dissociated. Every sound, from my own breathing to my flatmate’s voice in the next room, grates on my nerves. Resist inertia; this feeling will pass. We are late, but we will not blow off the occasion. I promise myself coffee and a hearty helping of meatlicious breakfast disguised as dinner. 9PM, I strut into the restaurant (a Bennigan's). Introductions are made, I wrangle a black-and-tan and a glass of ginger ale. By the time the overworked bar team gives me change, our party is seated. We eat, the bachelor guest of honor is treated to round after round of tequila, Jägermeister, and kamikazes, and the surprise finale is announced: the party is moving to a strip club down the highway.

This raises an alarm within me. I’ve never been in a strip club; the closest experience was Meow Mix in Manhattan (yes, the lesbian bar featured in Chasing Amy), where the single dancer smiled warmly every time our eyes met. I don’t remember if she was topless, only that she had a serene face, and an unlikely body. I understand the illusion of connection, complete with intimate smile and generous eye contact (as necessary), is all part of the show. I used to get a hypocritical neurotic cookie from the conceit that I am, in matters of the titty bar, still an "innocent". Maybe I should just go home now.

"Hypocritical": Over the years I’ve incited married women to adultery, cheated on more lovers than I’ve been faithful to, witnessed every sort of pornography short of snuff, and flouted nearly every sexual taboo this side of consent. I long ago lost the right to consider myself an "innocent" in any sexual respect. Sometime last week I was ambushed by the unbidden thought: Maybe I should bury this dissonant Puritan prejudice against the relatively tame institution of strip joints, and simply enjoy the view next boys’ night out. I have loved, not wisely, but perhaps too much; the sight of the female primary sexual characteristics reminds me of love, and I cherish memories of each darling and unique vagina as a subset of cherished memories of their respective owners. Why not enjoy spectator sexuality, and accept that the love I burn for will (or won’t) manifest in good time? This is the way my decency erodes: not with a bang, but a whimper. An extension of the same logic would seem to justify occasional visits to prostitutes. I’m not ready to tread that path, and hope I never am.

$15 is the after-7PM "membership fee" for Hott 22, "New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret" and "NJ's Premier Nude Juice Bar". $20 buys a lap dance, and for something on the order of $100 a "member" may sit quietly in a chair on stage while "dancers" climb, bounce, rub, and wriggle all over him. My pulse always pounds in my ears for a few minutes after I enter a dance club or concert hall; the tense energy of a crowd of strangers washed in a demanding beat has never overwhelmed me, that’s not a real fear, but then it’s never a smooth transition, either. The cigarette I smoked on the ride over, and my own reservations about the "scene", add to my temporary distress. Within 10 minutes, my blood pressure has settled down. Part of my mind congratulates itself on maintaining a façade of cool: I am conscious of a resolve not to stare at any one girl for too long, and I ease my inner conflict by squinting periodically at the closed captioning on the two TV’s, or scanning around for someone I know. If I don’t think too deeply about it, I do enjoy the view. I’m deeply suspicious of pleasure that fades under scrutiny.

By half past midnight, I’m watching faces more than any parts more southerly. Dave comments that one girl looks familiar, and I agree. I catch her eye from time to time, and I would swear there are hints of both recognition and sadness. She writhes her way downstage, and is replaced by another girl whose body and face portray opposite sides of the shameless/ashamed coin. Some girls are animated and cheerful, I hope they sincerely enjoy their professions. Some are simply distant and mechanical, and I suspect it’s a lesser-of-evils proposition for them. I imagine these are the veterans. I’m a sucker for innocence, and I hope the girls with wide eyes and sad smiles get the hell out of the biz. I feel no urge to slip dollar bills into garters, despite the hygienic dry smoothness of the flesh they encircle. (If a dollar bill with a hole torn in the center ever passes through your hands, consider whose nipple it was impaled on, and how recently.) Occasionally I catch a whiff of fresh vaginal scent, perhaps imagined; my inner paranoiac wonders if it isn’t artificial. I never thought I wouldn’t relish that smell, but now it just prompts me to edge away from the stage. I love to go down, but you couldn’t pay me enough to sit stageside while one of these kittens wiggled her tail in my face. Words like "cherish", "faith", "love", and "sacred" are alien here; in their place stand words like "contempt", "weakness", "use", and "mundane".

By 1AM, I’ve seen and smelled all I can stand. My skin and my heart feel dirty, I feel like I’ve wounded some moral organ – it will heal quickly enough, but will show a scar forever. Next time that inner alarm sounds, I pray I wake and compel myself to action, rather than sleepwalking.

"I want to go to work tonight, but it's going to be so boring!" She exclaims as I sit across the table from her at the coffee shop. "When I left, there were like 60 girls, and only 30 or so guys."

"So are you gonna go back?" I ask, hoping she'd say no, and we could sit here and have one of our unusually intellectiul conversations.

"Yeah, but I was hoping to have some company there to talk to."

Whoa. I've never been to a strip club, let alone a ``nice'' one. Looking over at Gihran, he's all about it. Even trying to find the quickest way to get a to-go-box for his food, so we can leave.

"Sure. We'll go." I say, not knowing what I was about to get into.

"Ok, I'll meet you there." Is the last we heard from her until we actually got to the club. She knows that Gihran and I need to stop and get beer, cigarettes, and money.

Ghihran and I hop into his Ford Explorer, pop in some Gorillaz, and head off to the store to get the aforementioned goods.

As we pull off the side road from the cafe, we Immediately run into bumper to bumper traffic.

"Why the hell do they do this?" Gihran asks.

"Not sure..I'm still convinced the road crews have some sort of contract out with the state to tear up every road at least twice a year." I reply.

"Well, we can cut through the park, and get around this mess." He says as we steer off into an alley that leads into the park.

We make it to the gas station in a record length of time, get a 6er of Shiner Bock, and get ready to head back towards downtown. About half the way down the main drag, I look over to him and ask "Are you going to hit that?"

"Hit what?" he asks me, puzzled. At that same moment, we go over a large mound of ground asphault. "Oh, where the hell did that come from?"

I simply shrug, and begin pondering what has yet to come.

"So," I start off, " this will be my first time at a strip club."

"Really?" he asks in disbelief.

"Indeed. Is there anything I should know before we get there?"

"Well," he begins, " If you see something you really like being done on stage, slide her a single. If you see a girl you would like to get a lap dance from, It's fifteen bucks, and it's about ten minutes long."

"Should I tip her as well?" I ask.

"Most definately."

We arrive at the club, and at this point, It appears to be packed. We find a parking space in the satellite parking area down the alley.

As we get to the door, we are greeted by a guy in a white button-down shirt and a bowtie.

"Ifs you needs anytings at all, lets me know." he says with an accent and a smile.

The doors open. Women are dancing on stage, and on two mini-stages in the back of the place. The music is loud. There are more bare breasts in this one place than I have ever seen at once, anywhere.

"Uhm, so where should we sit?" I ask Gihran, my psuedo-guide.

"I don't really see anywh...ah ha. There's Cleo, she can help us find a seat." he says looking around like a hawk trying to find some prey.

"Thank you both for coming here with me. Although it looks busy, there is still a two-to-one ratio of women to men tonight, so I'm probably going to be bored most of the time. Let's go sit." she says calmly, and we sit down."

We chat for a bit, and I become distracted by the pole tricks being performed on the center stage.

"Would you like to buy the lady a drink?" I'm suddenly asked by a woman, dressed like the man at the door before.

Cleo whispers "Just say no" into my ear, and I turn around and pass on the friendly "No, thanks." to the lady, and she dissapears.

"One of the first things you'll learn is this: The girls working here, are vultures. If you don't want something, don't try to be nice and pretend you're pondering it, just say No, and they will move on." she says, smiling.

"Thank you. I'll keep that in mind."

"Could I Please have all the lovely ladies here tonight please come to the center stage." A voice announces over the sound system."

Cleo dissapears, and all of the dancers parade around the center stage.

"What's this about?" I ask Gihran.

"It's a club ass-parade. They show you the girls, so you can decide if you want to get a dance from them."


Right after the ``ass-parade'', we are approached by a tall, skinny girl, in an extremely short shirt, and a thong.

"Would you like a dance?" she asks both of us.

We answered with an syncronus "No, thank you."

"Oh, ok, you two must be like me. Dick only." she mouths at us and walks away.

"Well, that's a way NOT to get a dance from us." I say to Gihran. He nods.

We are asked a few more times, and finally, one girl sits down with us. Her name is Sadie. I'm quite suprised, she didn't ask us to dance, she didn't harass us, just sat down to chat with us. I found this extremely cool.

Sadie had only been working as a dancer for a month. She was extremely beautiful in that whole goth-indrustrial/schoolgirl kinda way. From talking with her, it appeared she didn't need anyting more than just someone to talk to, just as Cleo did.

Before long, Sadie hit the center stage. I was in awe. The girl seemed to have raw skill, or was lying about only doing this a month, or something. There appeared to be a green and white carpet growing under her on that stage.

"Get up there and tip her, you dumbass." Gihran blurted out of nowhere.

"Shut up and let him take in the scenery and get a feel for the place." Said Cleo, coming to my rescue.

Saying nothing, I turn back round to wach Sadie do her thing. Before long, it was over, and she moved to one of the satelites, as Cleo took the main stage. Now, knowing Cleo ahead of time, and knowing she would help me learn, I joined Gihran at the edge of the stage.

Not sure what to do, I pull out a dollar bill, and flash it at Cleo. She comes over, places it into my mouth, and I suddenly get breasts in my face, smashing together, and the dollar is gone. Cleo smiles at me, and continues dancing.

We tip again, and her dance is over. This is the point I see Sadie dancing on a satelite, and decide to go enjoy her show a little closer this time.

I get over there, and Sadie gives me an ear licking, breast smothering, ass slapping good time. I tip her well.

Upon returning to my seat, We are greeted by Kylie. Now, Gihran and I do not know her name at this point, so he begins by thanking her for not hitting him in the face.

"Last time I was here, a girl with red hair, I think her name was Kylie, punched me in the face after taking the buck out of my mouth." he says to her.

I notice her bite her lip and begin to giggle.

"Thank you for not hitting me like that. "

"What's your name?" she asks him.

"Gihran." he responds, "and yours?"

"I'm Kylie." she says and begins to giggle again.

At this point, I'm enjoying watching Gihran attempt to remove his foot from his mouth, and apparently, Kylie is enjoying the show as much as I.

They begin to talk, as Cleo comes over. Gihran was origionally going to get a dance with Cleo, but decides on Kylie instead. He expresses this to Cleo, and she wanders off again.

I see Sadie coming my way. She's asking about giving dances on the way over, and everyone appears to be shutting her down. Mind you, we had been saying no all night, but everyone there knew we were there with Cleo, so they didn't honestly expect us to say yes. (Well, most of them didn't.)

Sadie comes over to me, I look up and smile at her.

"Would you like a dance?" she asks.

Now, I've been hearing this all night, and it was about to drive me crazy, but for this one girl, my response was, "Yes. I'd love one."

I leave my coat, phone, and beer with Gihran, and head off to a sofa, led there by Sadie.

We get into the booth, I remove my hat, and my keys, and place them on a table beside the sofa. As she's getting undressed, I become a little nervous.

"This is my first time to a strip club, and my first lap dance. " I blurt out to her.

She smiles, gives me a hug, and says "Don't worry. I'll take good care of you."

Oh and she did. The dance she gave me was honestly the best psuedo-sex I've ever had. I kept smiling at her, and giving slight facial expressions to let her know I enjoyed what she was doing. She would smile back at me, making eye contact, and occasionally giggle.

After she finished, and she sat down to put her clothes back on, I couldn't help but try to get to know her.

"So, do you hang out anywhere when you're not working?" I ask.

"Nope. I only come here." She said, as if it was a stock response.

"Oh well. I was hoping to get to know the real you sometime. If you ever decide you want to get out, I hang out at Cafe Coco." I say, a slight bit dissapointed.

"Really?" she begins, "I live right by there, I'm actually there quite often." she says smiling at me.

"Yeah, I'm almost a permanent fixture. Next time you're there, look for me, I'd love to chat with you when you have more time."

"I'll do that," she said, sounding sincere this time. "Oh yea, before we get done here, I gotta collect fifteen for the dance."

"No problem. I have exactly fifteen dollars. Here ya go. Sorry I don't have enough to tip you." I say.

"That's ok, you've tipped me well tonight already. Besides, I get ten out of the fifteen."

"Ok, Thank you again for a wonderful experience." I say to her, and she gives me a huge hug, and a kiss on the cheek.

Upon returning to my seat, Gihran gives me one of his evil smiles.

"Yes, I had a good time." I respond to his unspoken query.

"Good," he says. "Watch my stuff."

Cleo sits back down, as Gihran goes off with Kylie to get a dance.

"I just had my first lap dance," I tell her, not realizing that Sadie was behind me.

"Yeah, I got to take his strip club virginity." she says, and we all begin to giggle.

Cleo gets up to float one more time before heading out, and as Sadie gets up, she whispers me her real name.

"Don't tell anyone here my real name, but if you see me at the cafe, you'll know what to call me now." she said, smiling. "I meet hundreds of people here a night, so please don't be offended if I don't remember you right off the bat."

"Understandable." I say, "I'll be sure to remember you, though."

She smiles, and walks off to the dancers 'area' behind the stage.

A few minutes later, Gihran returns, Kylie in hand, and sits down.

"Did you punch him?" I ask Kylie, playfully.

"No. I was nice to him. This time." She replied in the same demeanor.

Kylie had to go; she was beckoned for a dance from someone else. Gihran and I prepared to leave, and we saw Cleo, fully dressed again, just as when we came in.

We left, and headed back to the cafe.

"So, did you have a good time?" Gihran asks on the trip back.

"Indeed. I had a great time." I said.


We all arrive back at the cafe, have a glass or two of water, and head to our respective homes.

Moral of the story:

All in all, just as someone can be afraid of losing his or her sexual virginity, I was uncertain, and similarily afraid of my first visit to a strip club. However, just like it feels good when you willingly lose your sexual virginity, this experience was not far from the same way. And hey, I might have made a friend out of the deal, too.:)

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