June 2, 2015.
Every morning, on the way to dropping off Mrs M at the bus depot, we pass a sad looking little strip club called Pleasure Island. Usually we pay it no mind but every now and then Mrs M or I will make a joke about how I should stop in on my way to picking her up some evening. Here's a fact though. I've never been to a strip club in my life. There's nothing to make of that. It's just how things have gone. But here's another fact I just remembered this morning as we went by and Mrs M made another joke. I've never been in one but I knew someone who worked in one.
Not as a stripper. As a cocktail waitress. Friend from high school. Summer after our senior year she landed a job at a topless club in Schenectady, New York. Only the dancers went topless. The waitresses wore skimpy little dresses that showed lots of cleavage and lots of leg. My friend had an average amount of the former and a remarkable amount of the latter. "Legs that went all the way down to the ground" as Hawkeye Pierce was fond of saying and I was fond of quoting, thinking, at eighteen, that made me sound like a real charmer. I never saw my friend on the job or dressed for work because she asked us all to promise not to come to the club. Easy to keep because she lasted all of two weeks. She didn't talk much about her experiences there or about why she quit after except to make it clear the boss wanted to "promote" her to dancer.
The thing is I didn't believe it. Any of it. I didn't believe she actually had the job. I was sure she was kidding us. Teasing us. She wasn't a known fabulist, though, and wasn't a tease. Just the opposite. She was a proud and out professional virgin, saving herself for marriage. She didn't flirt. And she didn't date. She said she didn't want to date boys and she was still too young to date men. So hands and eyes off, pal.
She wasn't an obvious prude. But she was consciously and conscientiously prim and lady-like. So she was the last girl in our circle of friends I'd have expected to go to work in a strip club even as a mostly dressed cocktail waitress. She swore she took the job only for the waitressing experience that would get her a better job at a regular bar or a restaurant. I still didn't believe her.
But I also didn't believe that if the job was real she kept her top on or that she wouldn't have accepted the promotion.
It wasn't that I suspected she was a hypocrite and her I'm Not That Kind of Girl act was an act. I believed she held certain principles and I believed she was sincere. And I believed she would would always be sincere...until one day when she wasn't.
See, I was already coming around to understanding that most of us are divided personalities. Some of us are divided several times over. The person we are at any given moment is only the person we are at that moment and we're that person because the circumstances of the moment allow us to be or force us to be. Change the circumstances and you don't change yourself, exactly, but you open space up for another side of yourself---another self---to take center stage.
My friend was the good girl she claimed to be but she was also an actress, a brilliant one. We played directly opposite each other three times. In one play we kissed. In another she beat me up. She did both very well. The third play was The Crucible. I played John Proctor and she played Abigail and in that one we had to *act* and she blew me off the stage. She was that good because she was completely uninhibited on stage. Don't read too much into that. This was high school. We did some sophisticated stuff but not *that* sophisticated. What I mean is that she was entirely unselfconscious and without fear and she did whatever the part required.
So she wasn't shy and she didn't embarrass easily. And she had showed another side of herself only recently before taking the job at the club.
For our senior show she choreographed and led a group of her popular girl friends in a dance to Maria Muldaur singing “Don't You Feel My Leg.” The lyrics included the lines "Don't you feel my leg Because if you feel my leg You might want to feel my thigh And if you feel my thigh You'll want to go too high..."
They wore nothing but leotards and tights and their dance moves went with the lyrics without subtlety. They were very good. My friend especially.
Did I mention she had legs that went all the way to the ground?
Anyway, there was that side of her.
I told Mrs M this story this morning and she knew what friend I was talking about. "She was a little weird about sex, wasn't she? Isn't she the one who took the gay guy to the prom?"
It wasn't the prom. It was the senior ball. And it wasn't just a gay guy. It was Uncle Merlin. And none of us had much fun that night. But that's a story for another day.