Attention grabber 





I have this exchange whenever I tell someone I've never been to a male strip show. I've seen male strippers, but mostly at gay clubs, plus one club in East Incest, Ga., or some "Deliverance"-like town, that featured both men and women. Sexual ambiguity in the rural South: Who knew?

But I've never been to one of those Chippendales-type shindigs that cater strictly to the ladies. They sound scary. I have heard that margarita-fueled nice girls become "Lord of the Flies" menaces, molesting the oiled-up, probably-gay dancers who are paid to entertain. This doesn't sound fun. If I want to see hungry creatures in a losing battle for meat, I'll watch them throw chickens into the moat at Gatorland.

So when Fairvilla held their Girl's Night Out party at their Cocoa Beach store, I went. It seemed safer. And more interesting. Bars don't have women who show you how the adult toys work, like a vibrator Tupperware party, nor do they have samples of erotic chocolates. My favorites were the chocolate bride and groom. The bride was beautiful and busty. The groom was a penis in a top hat. If you've seen a better edible metaphor, I'd like to hear about it.

My friend Gwen and I found a vantage point on the upstairs balcony and watched as the women went into their act around the same time as the dancers did, butts aloft, like cats in heat. A skinny redhead dressed as if she had a bit part as one of the no-good hookers in "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway" struck quite a pose. Apparently unable to keep her legs together, but not having anything to wrap them around, she took to squatting. The girl actually was squatting on the sidelines, like a coach trying to call out plays. Another woman grabbed a dancer's butt and held on like it was a flotation device. She was removed.

Outstanding contribution

The dancers were the usual sleaze stacks, shaking their money-makers like there was a bee on them. Then there was Him. He who was not like the others. He was not wearing a glossy marble sack, but regular tight-fitting, midnight-blue Calvin Klein underwear. He was beautiful enough to make the entire cast of the Sistine ceiling pack up their Gucci bags and say, "Let's call it a day; we can't compete with that." Gwen and I stood there with our mouths hanging open like we were sustaining some high note in an inaudible choir. While the other dancers strutted and preened, this guy -- and I was stunned that he was allowed to do this -- touched the women. He played with their hair. He knelt down and kissed their stomachs. He looked in their eyes like a lover. There wasn't a dry crotch in the house.

Neither of us would go near him. It's the same reason I don't window shop. Why tease myself with things I can't have when life so often does that for me?

Most of the girls didn't feel that way. They stuffed dollars into those hot pockets like they might have stuffed their bras in junior high. Watching them falling like the faithful at a Benny Hinn show confirmed what I'd always suspected: Sex shows aren't degrading to the performers; they're degrading to the audience.

Performance anxiety

Another reason I couldn't get caught up in this is because I get stage fright. If that boy had so much as looked at me in front of that crowd, I would have frozen like a shy 8-year-old in the school play. So when the half-nudes began ascending the staircase, Gwen and I went downstairs to the displays, where the dancers would be unlikely to follow. We ended up peering at the strip stage from behind the gay-video display -- peering, like snipers over a hedge.

We would have made very bad snipers. We didn't just fail to see our target, the beatific ass-shaker, on the stage. We failed to see him come walking up beside us, failed to realize that he was about to pull the most coquettish ploy I have ever seen a man use. He took a pratfall right into Gwen's arms and said, "Oops, I tripped." And he gleamed, like a child who has just cursed and knows you're going to laugh, then displays a coy smile that says, "I know you love me," and what sucks is that you do. After this little charade, he grabbed my butt, said something neither of us heard and disappeared.

We tried so hard to resist the irresistible, only to have it sneak up behind us. We tried to maintain our dignity only to have it implode. I still won't throw myself at any strippers. That sort of embarrassment I will reserve for real-life boys whom I might actually get somewhere with. But the whole episode proves one thing: No matter how hard you try to avoid temptation it will find you, even if you're hiding behind a stack of gay videos. The best, the only thing to do when temptation trips into you is open your arms.

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