Yes, that’s true, you read that right. I went out on Friday night – without Milo! And I even drank a whole beer – my first since last October. Then I drank another beer… and then another.
It was craziness, I tell you. Sheer craziness.
And where did I engage in such non-maternal activity, you might ask? Where else but at a strip club!
You might think I’m kidding… but I’m not. It was my friend Tara’s pre-wedding “girls night out” bash, you see. (Yay, Tara! Huzzah! Huzzah!) Tara and I work together, and some of the other women in the office organized a bang-up evening which included a trip to a place called “Brandi’s.” Had I known that Brandi’s was actually an – ahem! – exotic night club**, I might have changed my mind about going out for the party. Let’s just say that strip clubs have never been big on my list of fun places to hang out.
(In fact, the only other time I’ve ever been in one was when I was in journalism school at Carleton in Ottawa – all because I refused to get out of bed and go to class one especially frigid morning. My good friend Liz [who’s now a producer at CBC, which means she’s probably walking the picket line as I type this] was miffed that I was still warm and cozy at home while SHE had made the bitterly cold journey to school, so she decided to sign me up to write an article about a proposed bylaw to get rid of strip joints, which involved going to an actual strip club and interviewing strippers about what they thought about the bylaw. Thanks, Liz. Thanks a lot.)
Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. We started the evening off at Shannon’s very cool Gastown apartment (a propos of nothing at all, I thought I’d mention that Shannon’s a beautiful woman and an accountant. All of our accountants at work are beautiful women. Just thought you should know that). I left Milo at home at home with Rob with several large bottles of breast milk – about three times as much as he could ever possibly hope to drink in my absence. (Kudos and wet sloppy kisses go to Rob, for happily agreeing to stay home with the little man by himself, so I could go out and blow off some steam.) Milo had already gone down for the night, and I wasn’t expecting him to wake up looking for food until 3:00 at the earliest, so I didn’t feel like I was being too bad a mommy for going off and leaving him.
Au contraire. I felt great! My new D-cup sized best pals and I were going out for a night on the town. You should have seen me swagger and bob as I headed down to the SkyTrain station. I had a thirst that had been building since last October, and damn it, I was going to quench it! My only fear was being able to pace my drinking so that I wasn’t completely hung over the next morning.
So I got to Shannon’s apartment, where all of the other women had already gathered, and got caught up with what’s been happening at work in my absence. It was at Shannon’s that I drank two of the aforementioned beer. They were Coronas, and they tasted fine. Actually, I’d only been planning on drinking one beer at Shannon’s place before we went out to a club… but after I heard that our first stop was a strip joint, I immediately reached for a second one and took a very large gulp. I knew I was going to need a lot of liquid fortification if I was going to survive the evening.
(Thankfully, my tolerance has gone down to zero, so that second beer was all I needed to convince me that maybe a trip to a strip club wouldn’t be that bad after all.)
A group of us walked to the club, which was about ten blocks away from Shannon’s place. I found the walk to be rather surreal. It’s been about a decade since I was a regular participant in Vancouver’s night club scene, and passing by groups of guys who scoped us out head to toe (paying not so much attention to the heads and toes as they did to all the stuff in between), acted all flirty and tried to reel us into their clubs was a strange kind of déjà vu experience. I felt like an awkward teenager, without the proper skills to deal with such situations.
When we got to the club, it just got weirder. There was a long line-up of guys standing outside, waiting to get into the place. “Why would all these guys be waiting to get into a male strip club?” I wondered. At first, I thought they might be gay, but the way they were staring at us, as if they were inspecting slabs of meat to throw on the grill at a barbecue, made me suspect otherwise.
Finally I decided they must be straight guys looking to get lucky with women who’d gotten all drunk and horned up watching naked men display their goods on stage. “Sheesh!” I thought to myself. “They must be desperate!”
I realized my mistake as soon as we walked into the place and I saw the naked girl twirling around the pole on the circular dance floor. It wasn’t a male strip club at all – it was a girlie joint! I was immensely relieved, partly because there was a bunch of our male coworkers already there waiting for us (and I’m sure most of them would NEVER be caught in a male strip club), which meant there were even more friends to hang out with, but also because it meant I wasn’t going to have to spend a couple painful hours cringing with embarrassment while women around me debased themselves by hooting at naked steroid-swollen egos onstage. Blech. (For some reason, I have this idea that women behave far worse at male strip clubs than men do at female ones. Not really sure if this is true, though…)
Thankfully, Brandi’s was a relatively high-class establishment, as far as “exotic nightclubs” go. At least, I think it was. Maybe I came to that conclusion because all the strippers were dressed in white when they weren’t actually performing on stage. It made them seem so… clean. Wholesome, almost. They brought to mind priestesses in a temple dedicated to Aphrodite or Ishtar or some other fertility goddess of days long past. Looking around at the men in the club, I could easily see them as temple devotees, paying homage to the female divine and reassuring themselves by their reactions to the writhing priestesses onstage that their equipment was still in proper functioning order.
What particularly surprised me was the number of women who were at the club – other than us, I mean. If you ignored the naked women dancing on the circular stage in the middle of the room, it was almost like a regular nightclub, with the man-woman ratio only slightly out of whack. There were girls clustered in groups of three or four circling the room and strutting their stuff, clearly checking out all the guys while pretending not to notice any of them. There were girls in pairs, and girls who arrived as part of a large, co-ed group (which is what we were, I suppose). There were even women who were obviously there with a date – their boyfriends or husbands, I presumed, although I couldn’t help but wonder if any of them were on a first date, and if that were the case, whether there would be a second date to follow. Heh.
After my initial bemusement, I realized that for women on the make, a strip club was probably a great place to meet guys. Quite possibly shallow, sleazy guys, but is that any different than the kind you’d pick up at a night club like, say, the Roxy? (Shut up, Brad. My mom reads this blog.) And where better to score with a guy than in a place where all the men have been eyeing naked female flesh for the past couple hours? Only thing is, all the dancers that I saw were in perfect physical condition. Who’d want to go home with someone who still had the impression of hot naked women with perfectly perfect bodies imprinted on the backs of his retinas? You’d have to be pretty confident in yourself – or pretty damned drunk – to want to bear the brunt of that comparison.
The other thing that struck me was the power relationships between the dancers and the guys watching them. I’ve always thought that strip clubs were demeaning to women, that they reduced thinking, three-dimensional humans to mere objects. Just another way that patriarchal society diminished the power of women, I thought. However, in this club it was definitely the dancers who were in control. The guys sitting in the chairs circling the dance floor were gawking at the strippers while trying to seem nonchalant, nudging each other, whispering, and smirking bashfully whenever a dancer seemed to show them any particular attention. I got the impression that any one of them would have screamed if a dancer had lunged at them and said, “Boo!”
As I watched the men watch the dancers, I realized there was something in their expressions that was startlingly familiar. Then it hit me – they looked just like Milo does, when I’m lifting him to the breast for a feed. Booby worship, that’s what I was seeing. Suddenly, as I watched men’s eyes roam over the dancers’ naked bodies, I was no longer seeing men reacting to the strippers’ sexuality, but little boys seeking comfort and nourishment.
I thought of my own boys – my little one in his crib and my big one in my bed, waiting for me – and wondered what the hell I was doing in a strip club. I wanted to be with my boys, right then and there, to feed them and comfort them and be comforted by them in turn.
Just then, without warning, my boobs filled with milk, suddenly rivaling the most surgically enhanced stripper’s rack in sheer size and roundness. “This is what you’re drooling over, boys,” I thought, watching the men watch the naked, bobbing breasts of the dancer on stage. “Baby food dispensers.”
I guess old habits are hard to break…
** Brandi's was where Ben Affleck got caught getting it on with a stripper or three, which apparently was what led to him and J. Lo breaking up.
(Note: I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of Google Ads get conjured up by THIS particular blog!)