Sunday, November 4, 2012

That Awkward Moment ...

When You Realize That You Really, Really Don't Want a Lap Dance

The following anecdote is absolutely true, at least as far as I can remember it. Names have been changed to protect people who are still my friends.

Back in the 90s I was a dishwasher in one of those coffee shops that was doing well because Starbucks had yet to realize that people who lived in Arizona would also like to pay too much for coffee. Like most jobs in my life, it became the key incubator of my social world. Admittedly it did take about three months for me to actually talk to anyone outside the kitchen. Once I acclimated to the place, though, these people became my family.

These were the people who took me under their wing, taught me how to drink, and kept me out of fights with random frat boys after I'd learned how to drink. They looked out for me, and made sure I got a fair share of the tip jar. They also were a bit bemused that a regular proportioned guy with balanced facial features like me had made it to 24 without going all the way with a girl. Especially fascinating for them was the fact that this wasn't for religious reasons and it wasn't because I was secretly gay. I just couldn't get it together to make that kind of connection. Any kind, really.

They took me to clubs on cheap drink nights, wound me up, sent me in promising directions, and laughed when I puked on the floor. It was actually a lot of fun, but I was not sending off the full Zaphod vibe. I was an Arthur Dent. The college girls just weren't that into me. And, to be honest, I wasn't that into them.

One night, a couple of my work friends, let's call them Catwoman and Maverick, and I were hanging out at our regular watering hole across the street from the coffee shop. We were shooting pool, having a good time, and the idea of hitting a strip club came up.

These aren't the kinds of places I usually go. But, I felt I could use the life experience. We all got into Maverick's car and drove three miles up the ugliest street in America to such an establishment.

The first bit was easy. I followed Maverick and Catwoman in, paying the cover charge like Maverick (you have no idea how many places I've breezed into without paying cover simply because I didn't realize I was supposed to).

Then, it was just weird. It was exactly like the kind of cheap strip club you see in movies or TV. Nothing special, except there were women on a stage with not enough on and I felt very, very weird about it. My eyes scanned the place and settled on a TV that was playing footage of construction equipment. Front loaders and caterpillars and bulldozers shoving massive amounts of dirt around. I found those images very comforting and I kept returning to them as I tuned out what was going on in the rest of the place.

At the edge of my field of vision, I noticed Maverick and Catwoman were talking to one of the women. I didn't pay much attention until she came up to me. She was right in my rigorously defended personal space and I was sort of squirming.

"Relax, Machine," said Maverick. "We bought you a lap dance." Machine was my nickname in that crowd.

It was too much. Looking at the nakedness of these people that I didn't know put me right at the edge of what I could deal with. The idea of one of them being within touching distance, or actually touching, sent me over the edge. I think I might have said "I have to go." I'm not sure how I managed to get out of the chair without actually making physical contact with the woman right next to me, but I'm pretty sure I pulled it off.

The next few minutes were a blur, until I found myself walking alone along the ugliest street in America. It was three miles to get back to where I'd left my vehicle parked. Catwoman's car was in the lot, too. I tried to make some kind of note explaining why I had to leave so suddenly. Whatever it was was bullshit. I had no idea why I left so suddenly. It certainly wasn't because I felt like I needed to "take a walk" or whatever I put in the note. Mostly the note was to let my friends know that I was okay. I was. I just couldn't be there.

There wasn't any fallout from the incident, although, like everything else, I did feel awkward about it. I seem to recall that Maverick thought it was hilarious while Catwoman was pretty confused by my actions. I could be projecting that, though. I do that sometimes, fabricate my own idea of what someone's internal reality is because I don't read the body language right.

The big takeaway for me, though, was, don't go to strip clubs. They're exactly what I think they are. And I don't want anyone touching me that I don't know really well. Especially if they're naked.

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