The conversation stirred recollections. Maybe. But were they real?
I spoke of old memories, memories I don’t trust. Did I really visit several strip clubs while I was in high school and in the first years of college, or were those false memories, experiences that I heard about but didn’t live through?
My mind convinced me. They were real memories. I recall going to a strip club not far from my high school, a place open twenty-four/seven, a men’s club where men young and old watched women slowly remove their clothes and dance suggestively around a chrome pole attached to the ceiling and the bar.
That was real. The colors inside were mostly blue. Blue lights, blue upholstery on the walls. Blue lipstick. But maybe the lipstick was made blue by the lights. I don’t remember, specifically, other women in the club, but I think they were there. Maybe they were girlfriends who couldn’t deliver what their boyfriends wanted in terms of shape and firmness and aptitude for pleasure-making. I find that idea reprehensible. Damn it, those women deserved better than being humiliated by self-obsessed sex-mongers who viewed women, all women, as sex objects. But maybe that wasn’t it. Maybe it was a consensual experience, a prelude to pleasure that could not reach its peak without that erotic trigger, that thrusting, swirling, gyrating attack on a chrome pole. Whatever it was, it was far, far from my definition of decency.
We disagreed, my friend and I, in a recent conversation about who was the “victim” in these intersections between stripper and men shoving ten-dollar-bills into almost absent bikini briefs. I said it was the women. “Victims?,” came the rejoinder. These women were taking the guys for all they were worth, relieving them of their hard-earned money.
I recall a visit to a strip club with a friend, after college. He and his wife lived in an apartment complex across the parking lot and a small street from a strip club. When she went to visit her sister, he invited me to visit the strip club with him. It was ugly from the start. Hard-worn women with thick, leathery skin stripping to reveal hard, brown nipples that looked sharp as sabres. But that view was brief, as a fight broke out in the entry, then spilled into the parking lot. I made the mistake of telling the two men to stop. “Fuck you,” one of them said. Then they both came toward me, angry and ready to re-direct their rage toward the soft little college-boy with no fist and knife experience. I ran inside, ready to kill my friend who had suggested we visit. “It’s just across the parking lot from our apartment,” he said, suggesting it could be nothing but safe.
We survived. It was my last trip to a strip club. I was young, then, and I enjoyed seeing naked women gyrate and suggest, if only tangentially, that they’d like to take me to bed. But I was afraid of learning things I didn’t want to know, of slipping into a psyche so burned and bludgeoned that I could not hope to recover without relying on a needle. So I left, never to return.
These things, real or not, I don’t enjoy remembering. But even the ugly memories help shape us, so we’re better served by allowing all recollections.