It was mid-March this year, 2017. I was stepping onto the strip club floor, in the first minutes of my Tuesday evening shift. As of this writing, I celebrate my eighth year at this club. I scanned the crowd, taking the temperature of what kind of reception I could expect. Would the audience be gracious and kind? Stingy and sexist? Entitled and arrogant? I discover this by interacting, but first I study.
It was early, and the crowd was sparse. A few men pushed limes into their beer bottles, someone tap, tap, tapped at the video poker machine in the corner. The bartender shuffled ice. The other night-shift strippers trotted up the dressing room stairs, selecting their music at the DJ station, stretching their calves and running fingers through their hair.
A woman with a pink hat stared pointedly at the stage. She was wearing a pink hat, but not any pink hat. A conspicuous, knitted, cat-eared hat that I recognized from the historic January 21st Women’s March. She sat close to the bar, her head resting on her fist and her eyes fixed on the naked woman spinning upside-down.
In front of Pink Hat was a plate of half eaten pasta and some fries. Her drink was scarcely colored, the ice but little pebbles in the glass ― she had been there for some time. Two men in worn, dusty hats and Carharts clapped loudly and pushed a few more dollars across the metal stage we call “the rack”. It was my turn on stage.
“Hey, did Pink Hat Lady tip you?” I whispered into my co-worker’s hair as she brushed past me to leave the stage. She paused, without raising her eyes to betray my inquiry, “No, just stared the whole time. She’s been here for two hours.” Great. Taking a deep breath for patience, I trotted across the stage in my stripper sneakers and my onesie, smiling big for the two blue-collared boys who were already laying bucks on the rack.