My ex was a stripper. To be fair, when I met her, she was a student. A rather creative and brilliant one at that. And I’m not sure she’d ever considered dancing naked as a career choice. Not until one Tuesday night…

strippers & such

Inspired by Chelsea’s post of a similar name.


My ex was a stripper.

Now, I’ve been to strip clubs before. Before I moved to Boulder, on a week-long trip to this fine city, a female friend of mine — one of those friends you never quite expect to say the words Let’s go to a strip club — suggested a few of us hit Pearl Street’s resident red light district (yes, that’s a joke).

And there was the time I visited one with a best friend, years ago, on a trip to Macworld in New York City, just outside of Times Square before they really cleaned the place up. That’s where I learned that strip clubs are where you go to buy overpriced drinks from scantily-clad waitresses and get hit on by women leading up to the inevitable question: So… do you want a dance?

And the time I went to meet up with another girl friend of mine who was having a tough time, after she interviewed to be one of those waitresses at (by their advertising, anyway) ’Manhattan’s best gentleman’s club’. I must’ve spent $80 on the world’s weakest gin & tonics just to have a way of shooing away the line of women approaching me for – yes, a dance. And they didn’t even stop to get to know you, or make small talk. Just So you wanna dance? That’s New York for you.

I swear there’s a science to these places – all the flashing, swirling lights, sparkling glitter, dark corners and skimpy outfits – designed to disorient the senses, to make a man dizzy and more susceptible to the advances of women they don’t know and won’t know twenty minutes after the song ends.

Finally though, the onslaught ended when my friend’s friend – herself a dancer, told the rest that I’d only come to pick her up. I was happy for the respite, my resolve weakened considerably by the gin and the glittery din.

Or the time a few of us drove up to Montreal. I don’t exactly know what we were thinking. Perhaps we were emboldened by a trip to a sex shop with another female friend of mine (for laughs, nothing more, I tell you). I’d found a bottle of this absolutely awful-smelling pheromone cologne, and when I saw awful, I’m talking sweaty feet packed in dirty socks and sprayed with Brut awful. So of course I made her smell it. She jumped back, saying Oh my god, that’s putrid!

Wait, let me smell it again.

I had to drag her away from the stinky colognes; she would not stop sniffing that skunk piss of a scent. I ended up buying a teensy bottle. Not to wear, mind you. Just so I could haul it out every so often and test my friend’s noses. Most guys scrunch up their noses and look at me like I’m insane. So do the women. Except the women invariably want another sniff. Or two.

But anyway, back to this strip club in Montreal. My friends insisted on buying me a dance (See, I’m not the type who comes up with these ideas, generally. I’m the one who follows along, thinking… ok, this could be amusing… maybe I can use it in a story someday.)

I tried to delay the inevitable, waiting until the last possible moment to pick someone out. When the DJ announced the last dance, they just wouldn’t let me out of it. So I looked around, chose a petite young brunette a simple black dress. They brought her over to me, she smiled shyly, introduced herself, and started to dance for me.

Perhaps a minute in, the lights came on. Not mood lighting, the reds and purples and blues sweeping around the room. Not black lights making teeth, tongue rings, recently washed clothing and lint glow. No, the overhead flourescent wash-you-out and make your skin translucent, let’s make everyone look bad lights came on. And she’s here half on my lap without a stitch of clothing covering her body. We’re not in some corner of the room hidden by the back of a couch, either. This is right in the middle of the couches and chairs where everyone sits to watch people on the little stages scattered about.

Bless her heart, she blushed but tried to keep going. Any mood we’d had going for us ran away like the darkness when those lights came up, but she tried.

And then, mid-song, the DJ turned off the sound system.

Trying to give me my friends’ monies worth, she kept dancing to some imagined tune inside her head, for perhaps another thirty seconds, until I put my hand on her tiny bare shoulder (earning me a stony glare from one of the bouncers), smiled as warmly as I could given our mutual embarassment, and said, It’s ok. Thank you! She flashed (funny how the thing I remember most about her wasn’t her body; it was this moment of disarmed intimacy) a huge smile of relief, hugged me, wrapped herself haphazardly in her dress and scampered off to the safety of the dressing room.

So the thing is, I’ve never really gotten the allure of strip clubs as something sexual. I’ve almost always seen them as just another form of entertainment experienced together with friends, and never been the guy who suggests such activities. But sometimes I’ll go along… I mean – who doesn’t enjoy laughing at the utterly confused look on a friend’s face when a girl knocks off his glasses with her breasts?

But where was I? Oh. My ex was a stripper.

To be fair, when I met her, she was a student. A rather creative and brilliant one at that. (Yes, I have a thing for smart girls. Smart, slightly off-kilter girls, apparently. Psychoanalyze that!)

And I’m not sure she’d ever considered dancing naked as a career choice. Not until one Tuesday night in Boulder when – after the few open bars WITH dance music playing on such a night had all closed – she suggested we go out and listen to some club music.

I only knew one place that’d be open and still playing music. Yes. That place. No, not the one in North Boulder. I’ve never been there and never had any desire to. If I’m going to enjoy myself at all at these places, I’ve got to know they don’t have secret back rooms where illegal things happen. I’ve got to know the women there are enjoying what they’re doing or at the very least are being treated fairly and not abused by the owners. The place has to look… well, it has to have some class, which I admit is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to strip clubs.

Oh, and have I mentioned that in New York, tipping anything less than $10 at a time at the stage gets you a look that suggests you’d be dead in a dark alley if that happened anywhere else? Boulder’s cheap compared to the Eastern seaboard.

But anyway, we went down. I spent more time watching her reaction than any of the girls wandering about. I bought her a dance because she looked so excited to be there. I had to go catch the girl she wanted, who was about to clock out for the night. But when they started the private dance, the look of pure giddiness on my ex’s face made me smile. And then I looked back at the stage, sipped my drink, and waited for her to come back.

So… we only went that once. But she decided perhaps she’d like to try dancing over the summer. I’m not really one to tell someone what they can and can’t do, the place didn’t seem seedy (well, any more seedy than a topless bar, perhaps), and she was excited about it.

So I joke that it’s my fault she became a stripper. To be honest, I hope she got out of it after the summer. I could see someone trying it out for a little bit, pocketing some extra money and getting an admittedly interesting experience in the meantime, but I just don’t see it as a positive long-term career choice. Just too many elements that could wear a person down or lead them further astray over time.

So my summer looked like this: t-backs and teensy skirts strewn all over the apartment. Giving fashion advice (do you think this’ll make em stare?). I once answered the question: do you think this hajib works better as a tube top or a skirt?_ (Answer: You’re wearing a hajib as a skirt?! How tiny are you?)…

Meeting up with people I knew who asked, How do you know her? and didn’t know I knew where they’d met her. Sitting with a guy in a bar, listening to him tell me how it’d been years since he’d met a girl that made him want to date again, and how he was so mad she was leaving… and that if anyone hurt her, he’d bust the guy up.

I was a dance choreographer, an armchair movement coach. Me. The guy who trips over imaginary tree trunks and who’s mastered the art of the one-foot, I-just-slipped-on-black-ice pas de troix (finished with a twirl and a shaky flourish, of course).

I was a bodyguard, glowering at horny guys staying after in the hopes of something. I was a cuckold more than once: I fell in love! she said one night of an interesting customer. The honeymoon wore off overnight.

I was a hairstylist – I think I dyed her hair three different shades of red and pink. And she threatened me with the blue.

Ask me about the recently homeless former chef she convinced me to let stay for a night, who drank all the alcohol in the house (not that much, really, just a bottle of wine and half of amaretto that I used to make sours… I’m really pretty good at that, by the way), and absconded with my Blu-Ray copy of Ratatouille. Who steals Ratatouille?

Or the time we hung out with some young Buddhist guys, one of which had quite a bit of chemistry with her, who couldn’t figure out what our story was, and how after leaving that apartment she grabbed my hand and walked like that on the Boulder Creek Trail with me all the way home.

And then there was running into her co-workers. In broad daylight. On Pearl Street. With their kids. KIDS! She’s a mother?! And you can’t call out their name. Oh no, because it’s not their name. And people might wonder why anyone calls them that. I still have one guy who works there who wonders why I haven’t been back every time he sees me on the street. No reason, I say. And he looks at me like I’m crazy.

I was a typical guy for a summer. I saw more boobs and more ass than I’d ever even wanted to see. And the things I thought I might have a problem with – a girl I’m seeing dancing suggestively for other men – turned out not to be an issue at all. I actually had more of a problem with the guys she met outside of the club.

Hell, winter fell upon Boulder and I was still explaining to confused men why she never actually showed as much interest as they’d like. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that she often asked me how to respond to texts from guys: Come on over, what if we don’t see each other again? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we never knew exactly what we were to each other, and how on earth do two arguably crazy people know what they are to other people when that’s the case?

But hey, life wasn’t ever dull. And as I moved out of my last apartment, I found a few various bottles of stripper scents (yes, like lilac and strawberry) that she’d left behind. And a single bra pad, squishy and filled with liquid. I wonder what one does with a bra that’s got only one pad.

I found myself asking how did I get here? quite often that summer. But one day, watching her darn a pair of cherry red fishnet stockings, sitting in a red-and-black shirt adorned with a faux smock, legs akimbo in a bright red tulle skirt just barely hiding a pair of hello kitty boyshorts, with her bag full of hundreds of dollar bills sitting half open beside her, my book of poetry, with a cover picture of us in quiet and simple embrace, opened to the last poem, the one I wrote about her (laying face down on the floor, wide open — the book, I mean — on top of a copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract), Sneaker Pimps & Birthday Sex playing in heavy rotation, I realized love itself can be kinda like a strip club. All the flashy lights swooshing through, all the exotic scents… it disorients you, makes you dizzy and soon you’re shelling out your heart, folding it in half and handing it off to someone else. It can be an intoxicant – let it take you over, and it can get you in a lot of trouble… but a little can add some spice to life. Not a bad thing, necessarily.

Now that I think of it, the too-bright lights came up on us pretty early in the summer, and we just tried to keep going after the music stopped playing. Must’ve been the lighting.

Mila (Jacob Stetser)

Mila is a writer, photographer, poet & technologist.

He shares here his thoughts on Buddhism, living compassionately, social media, building community,
& anything else that interests him.

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