Episode Two: My Date With the Girl From the Strip Club
Bad Decisions I Make When I’m H*rny or Drunk or Both
In Episode One I explained that like the Summer Olympics, every four years or so I enter a serious relationship. And on a different cycle of fours years, I make a truly bad decision.
These are the Winter Games…
Pour Some Sugar On Me — Def Leppard
Katie and I were the only ones in the side room of the club. It’s reserved for private dances. Her knees were pressed firmly against my hips as she straddled me in the large cushy chair. Her black dress is pooled at my feet, discarded two songs ago. All she wore was a choker, purple satin bikini bottoms, and absurdly tall patent leather heels.
It was our final song together — most likely ever. She leaned in, pressed her chest against mine, and grazed my ear with her lips.
“I’ll miss you,” she whispered, her mouth close enough that I could hear her above the music. Then she hugged me around the neck.
She eased back, and I could see the redness in her eyes. Mine were the same. She looked over her shoulder and located the bouncers and the manager. They weren’t looking. She took my hands and dragged them up to her hips, and I squeezed and slid them down the front of her thighs. She let her hair fall to the side and leaned in. Our foreheads touched. With our faces hidden by her curtain of hair and out of the view of the pesky staff, she kissed me softly on the lips.
Here I Go Again (On My Own) — Whitesnake
I’m completely lame with women. I know this isn’t the story you likely want after that opening, but it’s important for me say. It sets the stage for my weird and ambiguous relationship with an exotic dancer.
My early 20’s were a shit show when it comes to relationships. The decade started with a girlfriend who began dating one of my friends without ever officially breaking up with me. And then when I was 25 I insanely started a secret LTR with a college intern at my job.
The time in between was as lifeless as Alex Jones’ gut bacteria. There was nothing happening. There were a few flirtations scattered throughout, a few dates that went nowhere, and a smattering of “hotline blings.”
But it wasn’t uncommon during this time for me to go an entire year without carnal knowledge of a woman. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want emotional or physical intimacy. I simply didn’t know how. When dating opportunities presented themselves, my approach was cringe-worthy. I was lame. I was lame, and I had no game. My love terrain in my early 20’s was pretty damn barren.
The first time I ever went to a strip club was because I was bored and lonely on a Saturday night, and the strip club was a ten-minute walk from my apartment. And all the subsequent visits that summer were because of the dancer I met that very first night.
Slave 4 U — Britney Spears
“You don’t talk to me like these guys do. Like… you’re having an actual conversation with me,” Katie said.
I’d met her two hours earlier, and this was the third time she’d stopped to talk to me at the bar. Each time she stayed for about fifteen minutes, never asking me for a tip or a private dance. Just conversation. And maybe distraction.
She wasn’t the classic template for an exotic dancer. She was petite. Her hair had an old school vibe — long and black with bangs like Betty Page. She wore dark clothes and dark makeup. When she took the stage earlier I noticed two things.
First, she was an amazing dancer. Not amazing for an exotic dancer, just amazing period. She was straight out of the background of a TLC video. Second, she seemed to be abjectly bored. Her dancing was crisp and professional, but she was clearly going through the motions. Her body said “dance hall,” but her face screamed “study hall.”
I tipped her when she was on stage but not too many other customers did. When she came off stage she didn’t seem that interested in enticing customers into a private dances. She wandered around the bar in a black evening gown not really engaging anyone. I made eye contact with her and she smiled.
She sat and talked with me for longer than I expected. I kept waiting for her to ask me for a private, and I knew when I said no she’d disappear. But it never happened. She only left when it was her turn on stage again.
When she got off the stage, she came back to the empty seat next to me. I was thrilled, but I was also confused. Of the guys in the club, why was she hanging out with me?
Finally when it was close to last call, she asked me if I wanted a dance. I had been too embarrassed to do a “private” all night. But after spending the entire night talking to Katie, I felt ready to take the leap.
She explained that there was no touching. And the dance lasted one song. She seemed surprised that I talked to her during the dance. And she openly laughed at my reactions to her. For God’s sake, I was crushing on an exotic dancer.
After we hugged goodbye, she told me to wait at the bar, and disappeared into the back. She came back and slipped a napkin into my hand.
“Put it in your pocket,” she said looking a little nervous. I knew what it was, and my heart started racing. I’d met an exotic dancer two hours earlier, and now she’s giving me her phone number. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to me. How exactly was I going to screw this up?
We talked a couple of days for almost an hour. She told me that she goes to school and teaches a dance class part time. She had been in a couple of music videos, including one for Wu Tang Clan. And her dream was to move back to where she grew up in Philadelphia and teach dance full time.
Over the next few weeks it became routine for us to talk two or three times during the week. I’d come to the club on Friday or Saturday. Each time we’d talk all night in between her stage time. And at the very end we’d have a private dance.
Too Close (You’re Making It Hard For Me) — Next
We weren’t clicking like we usually did. Normally, I could get her to talk about herself, and then get her to laugh with jokes about my boring life. Most nights she showed the natural sarcastic energy of a 25 year-old.
I was aware of the path we had taken to becoming close. Her feelings were completely opaque, and they had to be in her profession. But her eyes gave her away. She liked talking to me. And she was kind. I was clearly into her, and instead of being annoyed or uncomfortable, she gently nudged me into friendship. And even though I was crushing hard, I was just happy to be in her company.
But tonight we were out of sync.
She finally admitted to me that she didn’t want to be here tonight. One of the girls in the back had some tranquilizers her boyfriend had given her, and she had taken a couple. She didn’t know what they were. I asked her how often she took things to get through the night, and she shrugged, and stared off dazedly.
When she looked back at me, she must have seen the worry in my face, because for the first time since we met, she seemed uncomfortable. We didn’t say much after that — just listened to the music. At the end of the night, she asked me if I wanted a dance.
We had gotten to know each other so well that we had full blown conversations during our dances. We would laugh so much that the bouncer look peak in to see what was going on. But tonight I was quiet. Katie was examining my face, trying to gently smile me back to normal. I don’t think she understood why I was worrying.
The song changed. Our dance was over and she stood to put her dress back on.
“You’re leaving now?” she asked. I nodded. She stepped close and hugged me. “Wait for me outside by the parking lot,” she whispered.
She disappeared into the back, and I walked out the club and waited. She came out in a bulky sweatshirt, baseball cap and jeans. She smiled nodded toward her car.
“I’ll drive you home,” she said.
I was sweating. I’m not sure if she noticed my stammer as I gave turn by turn directions. Was this really happening? Am I reading this right? Is my apartment clean? Do I have protection that was purchased in this decade?
After a short three-minute drive, we pulled up to my building, but she didn’t park. She pulled up alongside a parked car and idled the engine. I almost heaved a sigh of relief. She wasn’t coming in.
Free of the anticipation of maybe glorious but more likely humiliating sex with Katie, I stopped being a blubbering mess, and we sat and talked for an hour.
“I’m sorry about what I told you before,” she said. “It’s just hard. That place is horrible. I wish all the guys that came there were more like you.”
I told her if they were, she would spend all of her time talking. She wouldn’t make any money.
“That’s not true. I’d do more privates if they were like you.” I flushed a little, and then swallowed hard to suck down any feelings that started to crawl out, escaping their cage. I think she noticed my change in expression, and she took my hand.
“I like you. A lot,” she said softly. “But my life is really fucking crazy right now. I hate my job. I have no time. And I don’t even know how much longer I’ll be here.”
I knew all of this. And I knew the feeling of wanting to be in someone’s company, even if there’s no chance it could be anything more than friendship. I knew what it felt like to steward your desire to be close — to rein it in and barrier it so that no one’s feelings are hurt. To be wise and responsible rather than passionately destructive.
I told her I was glad we were friends. She was sitting almost sideways, leaning against the driver’s side door with her leg propped. We sat in silence as the car hummed.
She unbuckled her seatbelt and pulled me into a long hug. It was the first time I’d really touched her body with my hands without the threat of a headlock. My palms felt the firmness of her back as her ribs matched the movement of her lungs. Her breath came hot and quick against my neck. She kissed me on the cheek and lingered there, then trailed one kiss after another until she found my lips. And we kissed. But definitely not like friends.