She lifted herself up the pole, more nimbly than a firefighter. Using only her legs, she hung herself down, arms splayed out as if readying for a pool dive. She contorted around the gold, shiny rod and slowly let gravity glide her down, twirling her arms in a graceful way, as if dancing around the pole.
Holy shit, I thought, how the hell do they do that?
As I watched the stripper’s leg muscles flex, I had the sudden, compelling urge to go to the gym more often.
God only knows my motives for going to a strip club. I’m no prude, but I like men, and checking out naked dancing women doesn’t really get my juices flowing.
However, I am an experience collector.
For some odd reason, I’d been to the Foxy Lady within two weeks of moving to Raleigh. Words can’t even begin to describe the pink-lit concrete building adjacent to a rooms-by-the-half-hour hotel. I was only there for five minutes, but that’s because we showed up at 1:45 and they wouldn’t let us in. I was with a small group who went there to meet another group. Group 2 was a bachelor party, and one of the guys was Frank, one that I began dating a week later for about a year.
I’d been to strip clubs before in college, with drunken groups of people. Again, not really my thing.
So why was I going to the Men’s Club?
I guess for me, the idea of putting myself into something out of my element is a way to challenge myself. Who wants to be boring?
Besides, I was told that Wednesday is couple’s night and there’d be a free goody bag at the end.
There’s something shocking about nudity in such raw form – writhing on a pole, dancing in a dim cage. To me, it seemed a tease. You’re just going home to your hand, right guys?
My “tour guide,” for the night – a frequent strip club visitor we’ll call Mateo – said it’s simply Disneyland. That is, it’s a fantasy. The guest is there to have a good time, be treated well, to escape from life.
As I scanned the crowd, many of the men were alone, probably business travelers. One had his arm around the size zero girl perched on his lap. Maybe having a pretty girl give you a little lap rub is an excuse to touch another human being.
There were a handful of women in the audience, sitting with guys. Most eyes were on the stage, but I found, as time passed, that I became numb to the nakedness.
What I noticed was half-dead, half-bored look on one dancer’s face as she slowly swayed in the side cage to my left.
I noticed the dancers were all shorter than me, and mostly size zero with large breasts.
I noticed that the paintings on the wall appeared old, canvas and oil, featuring scenes of old brothels. Dancing women wearing ruffled dresses shaking them at cheerful mustachioed men.
I noticed that the dancers all wore long gowns, such as one might buy for a formal event. Would they ever wear these outfits out to such an occasion, I wondered? I noticed their shoes, the standard strip club wear, too high for much else and mostly plastic.
I noticed the servers wore cute suit jackets with tails. If I were ever jobless, I could handle that, I thought. Mateo told me some of those women make $40,000 a year.
I wondered: do they use their real first names when they greet a customers?
Suddenly, my pondering was interrupted. It was 10 p.m. and the girls all lined up high on the catwalk. Down the stairs they came, strutting their stuff in a row, stepping carefully in their high shoes and long dresses, onto the stage in a line, as if up for auction.
In a way, they were.
Except they filled the room and chose their prey, leading smiling men back to private areas for private dances.
Another dancer began gracefully climbing up the pole. Hanging upside-down, she reminded me of the Hangman card in a Tarot deck.
The Hanged Man is a card about suspension, not life or death. The story behind it, according to Aeclectic Tarot, is that the Fool sits under a tree for nine days, seeking enlightenment. On the ninth day he climbs into the tree and hangs upside down as a child might. He gains new perspective in this way.
It’s “a time of trial or meditation, selflessness, sacrifice, prophecy,” Aeclectic Tarot says. “The Querent stops resisting; instead he makes himself vulnerable, sacrifices his position or opposition, and in doing so, gains illumination. Answers that eluded him become clear, solutions to problems are found. He sees the world differently, has almost mystical insights. This card can also imply a time when everything just stands still, a time of rest and reflection before moving on. Things will continue on in a moment, but for now, they float, timeless.”
Was the stripper the Hangman, looking to gain illumination on her life? Maybe I was the Hangman, sitting in the Men’s Club, observing the world around me with open eyes and open mind, timeless, looking for illumination as to why I was here in the first place.
Aeclectic Tarot continues: “But timeless as this moment of clarity seems, he realizes that it will not last. Very soon, he must right himself, and when he does, things will be different. He will have to act on what he’s learned. For now, however, he just hangs, weightless as if underwater, observing, absorbing, seeing.”
Soon, it was time to leave. I’m must not be a very good Hangman because I’m not sure what I learned or how to act on it.
And as Mateo and I walked out the door, there wasn’t even a goody bag.