Saturday, April 02, 2005

Calgon, get me the hell out of here

In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t have been so shocked that the only women’s restroom in the all-nude strip club was the one in the Girls’ locker room.

As a burly bouncer in a too-short tie swatted girls in various stages of naked out of the way, clearing a path to the stall for my bathroom buddy and me, I had to wonder about the etiquette appropriate to such a privileged scenario. Do I avert my eyes and make it a point to scrutinize the carpet at all times, or is not looking considered offensive? And if I look straight ahead and happen to catch a glimpse, am I expected to pay up on the spot ... or at all? And how do I handle my reflex-reactions? I’m wearing a freakin’ cardigan, so it’s no secret that I’m the sore thumb; are my blushing and lip biting noticable, and, more importantly, cause for an ass-kicking?

Thank goodness there was enough to distract me from thoughts of my early demise due to the breaking of the Code. As I guarded the stall door for my friend, I leaned up against the dingy taupe lockers, emblazoned with glitter decals, name labels (Heaven, Esmerelda, Dynasty - my favorite), and pictures of small Hispanic boys made in those sticker-maker photo booths you find in the food courts of malls.

I made a conscious effort not to look like I was checking things out. But you know, you can see a lot more under fluorescent lights - bruises, scars from C-sections, poorly-plucked eyebrows; subconsciously, I knew those things must be there, but it didn’t really click that I knew until I had actual visibility.

There were other things, too, though ... things I know I had no clue - subconscious or otherwise - about. The teal vinyl Winnie the Pooh backpack with a crumpled thong hanging out of the front pocket. The rhinestone picture frames (photos of fully-clothed mom and smiling daughter) propped up on makeup-smeared countertops and leaning against the wall-to-wall mirrors. The pile of discarded spike heels in red and black patent and clear plastic.

And then there were the supplies. Countless trips to drugstores and supermarkets must have dictated the blueprint for this precise setup. All the pink cans of aerosol hair spray were clustered on one shelf; on the next: neat rows of generic-brand lotion bottles and boxes of single-ply tissues; on the bottom shelf were three plastic tubs of tampons: heavy, medium, light. Every can and bottle and tub was labeled “MOM.”

A storage bin nearby was crammed with every fragrance of body splash Calgon has ever made - freesia, pear, lilac, tropical fruit, a signature scent for each dancer, maybe. The Girls lined up, single-file, in front of the bin for a quick spritzing.

The organization of the catering table was just as military in its uniformity. Cannisters of licorice sticks, dry cereal and cheese puffs (cheese puffs? Really) lined the table, and there were trays of apple slices and deli meat, and cheese sticks being passed around amongst the Girls who weren’t too busy prepping.

I was relieved to find that there was far too much going on for anyone to pay attention to the wide-eyed, ponytailed sorority girls who may or may not have been adhereing to a Strippers’ Locker Room Code of Conduct. I think the Girls were actually more aware of their peers sticking to the backstage rules.

A sign above the pay phone read: “If you pick up this phone, you are responsible for finding the person the call is for.” Underneath, in black permanent marker, someone had written, “Fuck no do it yourself.”