I didn’t want to be a stripper.
Really, I have no idea what I wanted from the exotic dance class I’d enrolled in at an adult education center. I didn’t know whether the course catalog’s promise to help “create a full repertoire of floor-routine and chair moves you can use in enticing performances” was an achievable or even worthwhile goal. But there I was in a leotard and stilettos, undulating my hips against an inert and perfectly innocent chair.
The first order of business on day one was to pick our stripper names. The gaggle of married lady friends in matching pink leotards seemed to be in a geographical mood, seeing as how they chose names like Savannah, Sierra and Asia. The mousy woman recently dumped by her boyfriend chose Sexy Sadie because it was her ex’s favorite Beatles song. The pretty but uptight Indian woman apparently didn’t grasp the smutty aspect of the renaming process because she replaced her stripper-ready real name, Shiva, with Diane. I went for Cinnamon, possibly the most clichéd stripper name in the history of the universe, but which impressed my classmates nonetheless.
Our second task was to learn the basics, namely, the sexy walk, grinding against a wall and “butt circles.” Circling the hips whilst jutting the posterior outward is how one performs the indispensable “butt circle,” the centerpiece of any striptease worth its weight. In fact, said our instructor, Candi Apple, the move makes up ninety percent of any performance and is always a good fallback during lulls. When in doubt, do butt circles. An apt piece of advice for much of life, no?
In the second class, I realized something most people don’t understand about the tease: it’s damn hard. Easing your back onto the seat of a chair then spreading your legs in the air? You can’t just do it, the move takes vast amounts of coordination. Crawling across the floor like a lascivious feline? Without hours of practice, you look like an out-of-control slinky.
Candi Apple wasn’t thrilled with my sexy walk. The point was to strut to the beat of the music, but unlike the rest of the class, I was catching the backbeat, if you consider Pour Some Sugar on Me as having a backbeat. Once the crappy ‘80s-era hair bands were replaced with Beyoncé, all hell broke loose in my hips.
“Don’t dance, Cinnamon,” Candi Apple shouted as I shimmied across the floor. “Stop being funky!”
Certainly, there was something compelling about the whole scenario. The gaggle of married gals seemed smack dab in the middle of a sexual renaissance, rediscovering their bodies after decades of matrimonial monotony. Sexy Sadie had retrieved some confidence and the Indian woman had added some voluptuousness to her willowy charm.
Yet, something rubbed me the wrong way. Stripteases are hot. But if you’re counting steps and making sure your walk isn’t too funky, how much energy are you putting toward seduction?
Needing another pair of stilettos, I went into a store days later called Wet Seal, which anyone who’s been knows should really be called “Ho Clothes.” Thigh-high patent leather boots and crotch-length mini skirts are only some of Wet Seal’s offerings to its core demographic of 15 to 25-year old girls. At the register was a rack of Sour Patch Kids, Pixie Sticks and other candies for sale. I wondered if anyone else was bothered by the fact that they’re selling red latex thongs to people who might also want to buy Pop Rocks.
I also wondered, since when was it cool to be a stripper? As if they have fantastic lives. We’re bombarded with stripper exercise videos and adult ed classes, while dippy celebs brag about the stripper poles in their bedrooms. I’m just waiting for “hooker aerobics:” Lose weight without leaving your bed!
In class number three, I watched as the Married Gaggle, Sexy Sadie and Shiva/Diane performed a synchronized sexy walk across the studio. They looked confident yet indistinguishable. Like slutty Stepford wives. I feared the legion of women who’d graduated from the class, seducing men across the city with the same walk, same shimmy, same butt circle.
I’m glad my classmates were gaining confidence, but strip class wasn’t for me. I dropped after the third session. I prefer to see how a body moves to its own natural rhythms, I like sexuality that comes from instinct. Y’know, like how I’d rather see a lion in the wild than in a circus.
I don’t need a training manual for my body. My name ain’t Cinnamon. My hips catch the backbeat. And the last thing I want to grind when I’m feelin’ frisky is a wall.