Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Strip Club Paradox, or How I Lost an Argument

There are many things one can do on a Saturday night. Take out a nice, sweet girl to dinner and movie. Go to a sporting event. Absorb some culture in an art museum. Drive to a crush's house, throw eggs at her bedroom window and then drive off to a dark alley to weep. There are also some things one should probably avoid doing on a Saturday night, like taking several rowdy, unbearably loud friends to a strip club. And going there with the goal of spending the entirety of your weekly paycheck. And arriving so completely drunk you don't realize you're wearing two different shoes. And not realizing you're the designated driver.

I know what you're thinking. "For the love of God, Matt, does this ever end with you? Is everything debauchery and darkness? Where's the levity? Where's the sunshine?" Well, I wouldn't know about sunshine because I'm typing this from inside a fortified bunker. And besides, there's a full confession I'd like to make: I loathe strip clubs. With a passion. They're dank, they're soul-crushing, they're degrading to the women who participate and to the men who watch them. They're degrading to the owner and even the DJ. They take the purity of the human body and human sensuality and coat it with deliciously nasty oil and rub it down until its toes tingle. They take good taste and slap it repeatedly with a pastie-covered boob. They support drug addicts and ne'er-do-wells. I dread going.

But I'm always the one to suggest going.

There's something to be said about exposing oneself to things one hates. It's like force-feeding yourself a food object you can't stand repeatedly in order to learn to stand it. Remember that first sip of Jack Daniel's your father gave you when you were a toddler? I do, and it tasted horrible. But damn it, I fought that initial distaste and now my liver is turning multiple shades of puce. Same thing with smoking cigarettes: it burns the first time you try it, as if your respiratory system is foolishly trying to keep you from harming it, but you train your body to tolerate the toxins, to reject the need to breathe freely and before you know it you're up to three packs a day and want to sue Philip Morris. Going to a strip club is a personal test: if I go in alone, pay for several lap dances from a variety of girls from a variety of racial backgrounds, pay for a couple quick one dollar couch dances, toss a couple of bills to a favorite dancer of mine (Candice) as she twirls around center stage, tip the bartender and doorman and bouncer ... if I can do all that, experience all that, leave five hours later, get into my car and feel nauseous and bad and displeased with myself, well, then I know I'm still okay. That means I'm on the right track.

I'd be on the wrong track if I enjoyed myself and was glad I went.

Shared self-loathing is, naturally, better than self-loathing sustained by yourself. Getting good and liquored up ahead of time with several wild and crazy compadres and convincing them to accompany you is a brilliant tactic. If everyone has a great time and you feel like crud, you can accept the accolades from your peers and celebrate a night deviously wasted (while still maintaining that inner disgust). If everyone feels ugly and blames you for taking them, play the defensive card: insist that you were more than willing to go by yourself, that no one was dragged against their will, that you had fun. Point out how attractive that one girl was. Blame them and their lack of an imagination, or make a comment about how prudish they're being.

Something to watch out for is the aftermath of the strip club experience: sometimes some of the people that will accompany you will be in committed relationships and have wives, girlfriends and fiancées. Some of these females might find this particular Saturday activity revolting (and they will be correct in that assessment). They will want answers as to whose idea it was to go in the first place. This is where everyone will start to point fingers, and based on personal experience, those fingers end up in my general direction. This is where denial is essential. Tell them how disgusting you find it. Tell them about how everyone ran out of better time-wasting alternatives. Blame the tequila shots everyone did ahead of time. Get into the part about how you were wearing two different shoes and unfit to be designated driver. Explain how you were there to do research for a role in a movie you haven't been cast for. Whine about how you spent your paycheck in a few hours and can't make rent. Plead for sympathy. Insist you're weak inside and need help.

Pray someone believes you.