Sunday, August 20, 2006

drama, mama

It was an OK night, right up until the end. Not spectacular, by any means. I've never liked the weekend crowd much: the party people who come in to gawk and make the scene, the bargain hunters, the gropers, the weirdos. But I've learned to pan the gold out and find the few friendly souls who want to have a good time with a pretty girl, who have a little money and want to spend it.

It was slow. Girls were changing outfits two or three times or four times, which is never a good sign. Finally, an hour or so before closing, people started dribbling in. The DJ called me to the booth and asked if he could put me on stage, because I'm one of the few who will dance to Ozzy and Judas Priest, and he wanted to break up the solid hour of techno and hip-hop that had gone before. I said yes, which put me on stage right after the World's Hottest Asian Chick -- perfect slim body, waist-length brunette hair, style so sharp it could cut you -- a hard act to follow. Even better, the DJ starts hyping the crowd up, "everbody yell if you love rock n'roll", etc.

Now, I am, at best, an average stage dancer. I am not the swing-around-the pole-flip-upside-down-get-crazy dancer who really should have followed a build-up like this. But I scrunch my hair up all bushy and wild and get out there. I figure I will make up in enthusiasm what I lack in all other respects. I swing around the pole and kind of slip, but I take it in stride and feel like things are OK. Nobody is tipping yet, but the hell with them. Crazy Train is playing and I dance like no one but Ozzy is watching.

Then there's somebody at the tip rail. Another dancer, a hatchet-faced blonde I've seen before but barely noticed except to note to myself in passing that if one's eyes are average-to-small and deep-set, one should not ring them heavily with black mascara. She holds out a dollar and I am already smiling and bending over before I realize that it is bait. When I am on eye level with her she snarls and makes a throat-slashing gesture. "Just stop," she says. "Just stop. You look awful."

It takes a second to register, then it does. "Go to hell," is all I can come up with on such short notice. Her lips curl back and she shoves me hard in the chest. I sprawl over. The crowd is staring the way people stare at a car wreck, hungry for the sight of other people's misfortunes. Blank faces, like wads of dough with raisins stuck in for eyes. My first song of three is not even half over.

Oh, I get up. I get up. I finish. No one tips me. It is terribly lonely up there, and it lasts for a long time.

I'm not angry often, and when I am I don't know what to do with it, where to put it. I am tall and, to an extent, strong. The only fight I was ever in, I dropped my adversary like a sack of potatoes with one instinctively perfect punch to the nose. It felt great, and this girl had a face made for punching. Unfortunately, my impulse control is cast iron. I am always thinking five years ahead. As fun as a lusty brawl on table surrounded by gaping bachelor party attendees might be in the short-term, I'd get fired and I like my job. Is this the same thing as being weak? The high school guidance counselor in my brain says no, but I suspect she is hedging.

Anyway, I didn't kick the bitch's ass. I lodged a complaint with a manager and then I tipped the staff generously, got my things and went home. In the dressing-room I cried a little bit and my friend the World's Hottest Black Chick petted me and told me I was beautiful. I recounted my adventure and she knew who I was talking about before I could even describe her, said she was the club bully, that she regularly does and says ungly things to girls who are young or new.

My friend told me she loved me. So did the manager. So did the DJ, who saw everything, when I gave him his tip. Weird how this heavy phrase gets passed around in the strip club world. It should be meaningless, coming from people who don't know your real name or hair color, or anything else about you, but it isn't quite. It gives you the same tiny jolt of seratonin as a mild drug, a very small ammount of coke, maybe. The brain is soothed by the idea of love, even in the absence of love itself. We know that. That's why we say it. To jolt a little more money out of you. To change to mood. To soothe a crying friend.

Anyway, I'm home now, in my beloved house, with my cats snoring all around me and the love of my life sleeping in the next room. My life is so good. Hers -- what ever her name is -- probably isn't. I doubt that she has love like my love, friends like my friends, peace like my peace. She probably cries herself to sleep a lot more than I do. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow I'll ponder that and feel compassion, but right now I think that's pretty fucking sweet.

4 comments:

Brad K. said...

Sounds like a lonely life. And the easy expressions of affection are signs that others understand just how lonely. Remember the blessings of the well-wishing you got, and let whatever else happened disappear.

Except ... I am a bit curious. Did you consider inviting the critic to join you onstage? I wasn't clear on what she complained about -- that the customers didn't get a good show, that the club didn't get the performance they deserved, that you weren't skilled or trained for what you were trying to do (against what standard?) -- or that she didn't like your performance? For any reason she sounds ignorant -- wild attacks are no substitute for focused, balanced communications. And besides, if you were doing so badly, why didn't she jump on the stage to help the club, or the customers, or maybe to help you?

Now, I agree that slipping or awkward moments break the mood, when you are trying to stage an erotic impulse in your audience. But like other intimate encounters, trying to regain the feeling and tempo, enjoying the reminder we are human, we can recover that intimate connection. Sometimes even better.

What the girl did, especially if employed by the club in any role, constitutes a 'hostile work environment'. If your complaint to the manager didn't include that particular phrase, I would be sure to drop that phrase in the near future -- it is the basis for some winning lawsuit strategies. Against the club, especially if the girl has a reputation for degrading others. The club has an obligation to protect you from things that make your work harder than it has to be. Drunks and party kids may be hazards of the trade, but poisonous entertainers and employees are another matter.

Maybe the next time she criticizes you, you can yell at her something like, 'Why thanks -- I would love to dance with you! Come on up!' She can't be very effective at calling you a liar in a crowd, and you direct the crowd's attention at this performance wrecker, giving you a moment to get back to the music, the crowd, and your life. If she does step up, just share the stage. Let people watch whichever they wish -- she is doing less damage close at hand, than sniping from the dark.

May her next snipe at you happen 2 years after you leave dancing!

diopter said...

Wow...THAT is what she does on a weekend evening? She goes to clubs and heckles dancers? Very sad. Wait outside for her and kick her in the shins. Or do like we Slavs do: look her up and down and then spit on her. It's probably the most demeaning thing a person can do without words and more importantly without the threat of charges being pressed!

Grace said...

Inviting her onto the stage isn't a bad idea, Brad. It's always fun to ask a bitch to step up.

However, your theory that her chief concern was the quality of the customer's experience is touchingly out-of-touch. She was having a bad night and/or on drugs and wanted to hurt somebody. I happened to catch her eye.

Rocketgirl said...

there are bitches like that in every club. They are motivated by jealousy and insecurity. You were probably making more money than her so she wanted to psyche you out.