Should You Feel Weird About Going to a Strip Club?
Making your way through this cruel, confounding, ever-changing world is difficult. Potential for pain, embarrassment, and heartbreak lurks around every corner. It's hard to do it on your own, and sometimes you need a fresh perspective. Got a question about relationships, sex, family, culture, fashion, really anything other than math? Lay it on me at [email protected]. I'm here to help you minimize the damage you will necessarily inflict on the world just by being alive.
So, what's your problem?
My girlfriend is planning on going to a strip club with a group of my friends. I have never been to a strip club and have absolutely no interest in going, but I am more or less being dragged along. I'm a pretty introverted guy and am slightly anxious about the night. What can I expect from the night, how should I act, and what in the world does one wear to a strip club? Also, I don't plan on "making it rain," but how does the money aspect work?
-John B., Sacramento, CA
Strip clubs are the New Year's Eve of physical spaces. Everybody shows up expecting to have the time of their life, and nobody wants to disappoint their friends by not having the time of their life, so everyone ostentatiously behaves as though they're absolutely having the time of their life. This is generally expressed through the mixed media of high-fives and going "whooo!"
I am not a fan.
And I don't come to my strip-club distaste from a place of sex-negativity or slut-shaming, either. Far from it! I just think a trip to a strip club is one of those things—like early-season sporting events and Cher concerts—where your good time becomes very performative. You are made to feel like a wallflower if you don't act like it's the greatest thing in the whole wide world. Phooey.
But here's what you can expect: You can expect to hear Kid Rock's "Cowboy," Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," and 28 songs that feature Lil Jon. You can expect to learn how to identify who is and who is not on cocaine. You can expect to hear one of your friends say that he has developed a real connection with one of the performers. Depending on the place and the time of day, you might be able to expect chafing dishes of fried shrimp and overly-sauced pulled pork. You can expect stiff drinks.
You can also expect a few extra layers of emotional complexity, because your girlfriend will be there. But if this is her idea, it sounds to me like you have license to do whatever you want (as long as it is respectful and non-predatory). She might even be suggesting this as a way to make you a little less introverted.
As for money, I find that I must turn to an expert: an old co-worker of mine who travels for shoots a lot and actually does have fun in these places and will remain anonymous because he's married. He says this:
If you sit at the bar, which doubles as the "stage," you are expected to tip. A dollar is fine every time they come to give you attention. The longer they stay focused on you, the more you tip.
Lap dances have a set price, but plan on tipping heavily. The dirtier it gets, the more you tip, anywhere from 20 to 200 percent.
Private booth champagne rooms are the most expensive. They have a per-song rate or time limit (typically in songs: three songs, etc). This is where you lose your shirt, metaphorically. And if you literally lose your shirt, in a "nice" place, you'll be spending four to five figures.
To which I replied: "Five figures?" And he said, "Long story."
Attire-wise, only your shiniest Going Out Shirt will do. If you don't have one, buy one. Because here's the thing: You should treat this as an anthropological study. You are Dian Fossey, and your friends and girlfriend are gorillas. Go deep. Blend in. Observe. You will absolutely get material that you can use to make fun of your friends for the rest of their lives, and you might just trick yourself into having fun.
Even I had fun in a strip club once upon a time. In the summer of 2001, MTV did their Beach House in Key West, which meant the production department spent the whole summer down there. There was an all-male strip club there, to which the handful of gay guys from the MTV staff, myself included, went a few times a week, because it was Key West in the summertime and one can only go on so many sport-fishing expeditions. The club was, if memory serves, called "Dudes." Most of the dancers there were your standard-issue male strippers—G-string, chest and ab muscles that look like an insect's thorax, the look of somehow constantly being soaking wet—but there was one dancer who was just the tiniest bit doughy and would dance in knee-length Umbro soccer shorts. Much of my per diem went down those shorts that summer, and it remains to this day one of my more powerful sexual memories.
So go and whoop and holler and drink and see what happens. You might find something unexpected that turns you on and lets the closet freak out of the introverted exterior. Your sexual relationship with your girlfriend might evolve a bit. Have fun, you animals.
Strip clubs are the New Year's Eve of physical spaces.
I feel like I'm at the age where I should get some hobbies besides watching TV after work. Mainly, I need some things to put in my Tinder bio so I don't sound so boring. Any suggestions?
-Tom B., Phoenix, AZ
You and me both, Tom. There is, of course, a staggering amount of quality television these days, and though one feels obligated to join the conversation, one must also get off the couch once in a while. I myself am planning on taking a woodworking class once the election is behind us, just to do something with my hands other than click remotes and refresh news sites. (Sage advice, Nick Offerman.)
Here's my suggestion for you. This has been a year of anxiety-inducing numbers: ever-shifting poll numbers, rising temperatures, our own blood-pressures, and bank accounts. I don't know what you do for a living, but if you're like most people, there are spreadsheets and pie charts and profit/loss statements in your life. There is a lot of measurable success or failure that you must check in with multiple times a day. It creeps into that sacred television-watching experience, like: Can I fit one more Narcos in tonight? We're even quantifying our exercise and our sleep.
So I encourage you, all of you really, to do something abstract. Take up painting, for example. Get some brushes and paints and a canvas and just let it rip. Do something that has no place in a world of success or failure, something that exists solely to allow you to express your feelings. Don't think about making your work pretty, or framing it, or even showing it to another human being—just do it. You will know it's good and done when you feel like it is.
And then you can put "abstract painter" in your Tinder bio and watch the right-swipes come rolling in.
Do something that has no place in a world of success or failure, something that exists solely to allow you to express your feelings.
Why is Carly Rae Jepsen not a huge star? Sure, there are plenty of talented artists out there that deserve more recognition than they currently receive, but I am truly, sincerely puzzled by the lack of honor CRJ gets. She is pop perfection.
-Corey, Boston, MA
At last, someone is asking the important questions.
Carly Rae is indeed a goddess. E*MO*TION is still in heavy rotation in my car, which is impressive considering my attention span and all the classic records that have come out in the 15 months since its release. She makes music that is purely joyful, and I relied on her a lot in this turbulent year. It should be, if not at a Thriller level of success, at least at a Rhythm Nation 1814.
I guess the answer is that level of success doesn't really exist anymore. Even our superstars can't achieve it. Despite being the pop music event of the last couple of years, Taylor Swift's 1989 has moved about as many units domestically as the Offspring's Smash. Lemonade has sold about half as many copies in America as Shakira's Laundry Service. Nobody's buying anything.
There are indeed pop stars who are in the national conversation: Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, assorted Brothers Jonas, and the like. I would argue that we're talking about them because they're putting themselves out there to be talked about. We know who they're dating, and with whom they're feuding, and which donuts they're licking. They are giving us a 360-degree experience in a way that Carly is admirably not. (Also, with a few exceptions, I don't think we'll be listening to their singles in a year's time.)
But most of all, I think this is the real issue: Just as in the 1970s when disco was considered the province of the black community (and gay men) and therefore rejected by the larger world, right now joyful pop music is seen as the sole property of girls aged 12 to 24 (and gay men). Everyone else seems to think they're above it.
Good. Let them. Carly is doing just fine, touring and recording and making more than enough to get by. Those of us who understand can nod to each other knowingly at shows and on dance floors, and feel like we're in a special and sacred community.
We are in "Cobrastyle-era Robyn" territory right now, us Jepfriends. I really really really really really really like it.
Send any and all questions (besides math questions) to [email protected].
From: Esquire US