Good god, that was exhausting.
Sales were pretty good, surprisingly enough–nobody’s been buying art these days, what with the economy being tanked, I’m getting something like 30% of my usual sales income–but Kevin theorizes that people are saving up for special events, like the cons, which seems to be somewhat borne out. It’s not enough to make up for the general sales crash, of course, but it IS nice that they’re not as brutally affected. And our new display rack went over very well, lotta compliments, and the nice guys from the Hero’s Haven comic shop whipped me up a very nice sign overnight because my banner hadn’t come in yet.
Business aside, the real highlight of the con was a field trip we took Friday night.
I have never been to a strip club.
Kevin and Otter decided to rectify this oversight–for science!–and since we were doing it at WTHCon, we dragged Jennie Breedan along as well. Now, Kevin has been to strip clubs occasionally, but not for quite awhile, and Otter hasn’t in many years, and Jennie had been to one, once, at a bachelor party, which had been a terrifying hole-in-the-wall sort of place, so needless to say, this was an adventure.
We had some basic rules. Drink in advance (Jennie and I chugged half a bottle of Bailey’s in the car.) Don’t do anything that will cause the bouncers to have to hurt Kevin. (This was less of a rule and more of a desperate plea from a man who is not entirely sure what he’s getting himself into.) Finally, and Otter-this-is-specifically-addressed-to-you, no making the strippers cry.
"I haven’t made anyone cry since I was twelve!" Otter protested. "Why does everybody think I’m evil?"
We walked into the strip club, and a bouncer immediately focused on Otter. "You look like trouble," he said. "I’m watching you."
Rules aside, there is an etiquette to strip clubs. Men, Kevin tells me, pass this down as a kind of oral tradition. Most women, I daresay, do not have this experience. Kevin was forced to fill in the gaps quite rapidly.
"Dude! That guy in the corner is–"
"But that blonde is practically–"
"Yes. I know. Don’t look. This is a private experience for him."
Otter: "Can I talk to that woman hanging upside down from the bars? I want to know how she keeps her wig on…"
"NO!" Kevin said.
"NO!" I said.
"She’ll cut us!" Jennie said.
For another example, I was previously unaware that if you buy a shot at a strip club, it came with a lapdance. This was…unexpected. And by unexpected, I mean that my three companions were doing their impression of Ursula getting a lapdance for the rest of the weekend. (Fling yourself back in a chair as far as you can go, grip the armrests in a desperate attempt to Not Touch Anything, stare with an expression of abject horror, and then begin laughing hysterically. As Kevin said "I never had any doubts about your heterosexuality, but if I had, I wouldn’t anymore…")
It wasn’t that it was bad, it was just…almost hallucinogenically surreal. And personal space being hard-wired into us as a species, when there are suddenly boobs in your face, the inclination (at least for me!) is to think "Oh god, I have somehow accidentally walked into someone’s boobs! They must be very upset! Let me retreat and apologize!" When a very determined woman is bumping and grinding against my pelvis, the misfiring of these signals apparently cause me to attempt to phase myself through the back of the chair, while simultaneously apologizing to the stripper for…something…or other…
Then I got a look at Otter, who had her head down on the table and was crying with laughter, and that set ME off, and then I thought "Oh god, I hope this poor woman doesn’t think I’m laughing at her–" and apologized for that, too.
By this point, even the stripper was laughing at me.
Somewhere in there, she turned around, the better to wiggle her ass against me, and I got a look at a faded tattoo on her shoulderblade. "Oh!" I said, grabbing for any possible conversational gambit (what does one SAY in this situation!?) "What does your tattoo say?"
"It’s for my cousin who died," she said, quite cheerfully, grinding her buttocks into my hipbones.
Needless to say, this did not make an awkward situation any less awkward.
I am told that generally the stripper places the shot in her cleavage, where one is supposed to extract it with their teeth. Apparently that’s for men. I found myself staring into a shooter tucked into the nice woman’s underwear, with the vague belief that I was supposed to drink it up-side down. (No one had warned me about this possibility.) "Um," I said. "I’m not sure I can–"
"Sure you can!" she said cheerfully.
"No," I said a bit desperately, "it’s not that I don’t want to, I mean I don’t think I can get enough suction–"
The sound of Kevin having hysterics temporarily deafened my right ear. Let’s draw a veil over the next few minutes. Most of the shot went into me. Eventually. I think.
"You’re very cute," said the stripper, with the sincere but pitying air of one who has just watched a none-too-bright puppy walk into a wall.
"Um," I said. "You, too?"
"That would almost have been hot," said Kevin weakly, after the nice woman had accepted a very large tip and wandered off again, "if you hadn’t looked so terrified."
The rest of the evening went pretty much like that.
Another point of etiquette–if you spend too long watching a stripper, courtesy demands that you give them money. Kevin handed Otter a bill and told her to go give it to the nice woman over in the cage. She stared at the money as if he’d handed her a dead rat.
"But where do I put it?"
"She’ll show you."
Otter has never lacked for courage. She stood up, squared her shoulders, and went off to tip the stripper.*
We watched, fascinated, as the stripper sat down in the cage and began talking to her. There were frequent explanatory hand gestures from both parties. Then the woman hugged her–at least, it looked like a hug from our angle–and Otter walked back to our table and sat down with a thump.
"….she touched me in my no-no place."
When we had finished howling like wolves on nitrous oxide, she added "Also, now I know what strippers do during their period."
"Ooooh…." Jennie and I leaned in for this bit of anthropological fieldwork. "Really? Tell us!"
"Apparently you can either cut the string on the tampon or tuck it up…she was a tucker, not a cutter…"
"But how do you get it out again?" I asked, fascinated.
The hand gestures were both clear, explanatory, and completely impossible to describe in print. Judging by Kevin’s expression, this sort of thing doesn’t happen when men go to a strip club. I expressed my undying platonic love for Otter, although given the earlier lapdance, I probably hadn’t needed to add the platonic rider.
It was a long and glorious evening–I shall skip a few great bits, since Kevin also has blog entries to write, and I don’t want to spoil too many punchlines from potential future Devil’s Panties strips–which finally ended with a series of "dollar dances" where topless women wander by and dance for about thirty seconds. Otter wanted to trade seats with me, so that she would be out of the line of traffic, since, as she said, "I really don’t need boobs on my head."
Certain laws of dramatic irony come into play in situations like that, and the universe did not disappoint. Approximately thirty seconds after I had traded seats with her, a stripper appeared, whipped Otter’s chair around, and her head vanished under cleavage. Never one to suffer alone, when the half minute or so was up, Otter pointed her over to Jennie, who also attempted to burrow through the back of her chair, particularly when the woman unbuckled Jennie’s belt and began using it as handles.
It’s a good thing these women get payment in advance. They would have lost money waiting around for us to stop laughing like lunatics so we could pay them.
"I am never going to a strip club with men again," said Kevin, when he could breathe again.
The downside to this vow–apparently men are far more grim and serious about strip clubs, and do not spend the entire time laughing hysterically–is that apparently if you show up with a group of women, you immediately have stripper kryptonite. Even if you are well-groomed and smell fine and are reasonably attractive AND have a stack of dollar bills next to you, they will ignore you in favor of your female companions. Whether this is because women–or at least us–are not generally lecherous and keep their hands mostly to themselves, or whether it’s novelty, or what, I have no idea, but we had to flag down someone to lapdance for our long-suffering male compatriot. (Hey, he’d put up with nearly two hours of us–he’d EARNED it.)
So that was how I spent Friday night. There was also a con in there somewhere, but that’s the memorable bit.
*This is not like tipping a cow. Do not confuse the two.