“¿Cómo se dice carbs en español?” I said, like an idiot.
There I was, literally sitting on my hands while a Latin go-go boy performed his bump-and-grind, and my fevered brain decided that the ideal topic of conversation at that very moment was his dietary habits.
We kicked off our first night in Puerto Vallarta with go-go boys; the bar next to our condo featured a pack of them during happy hour. I’m severely stripper-averse, so it wasn’t just luck that we ended up at a long table in the corner, me positioned on the far side behind two other people. But much later that night we ended up at a different place — I am pretty sure that my travel mate The Bulgarian is obsessed with “stir-EEP-erss,” as he pronounces it — where there was no safe place to avoid stripper contact.
The, uh, entertainers start off scantily clad up front in an enclosed shower (as pictured above), then towel off for a more-clad stint in a back “VIP” area for a few songs, then roam about as free-range go-go boys do, inviting patrons for private dances. Most of them, although in great shape, weren’t my type and I spent most of my time with my knees wedged in to the bar to minimize solicitation. I’d toss bills in the “shower tips” jar so as not to look like a skinflint, but my body language clearly translated “no, gracias.”
Even for Cristiano. He was so pretty I was literally dumbstruck, much to my friends’ amusement; all I could muster was “Wow.” Smarmy Bastard, who had decided it would be fun to watch me squirm, pushed 200 pesos in Cristiano’s hand (?) and directed him toward an unsuspecting me.
Which is, more or less, where this post began — me sitting on my hands, brain furiously trying to figure out appropriate behavior.
What I remembered: Our friend Lisa’s cousin had worked as a stripper in Scottsdale, and when we went to her place of business one day we got a quick tutorial in whose body parts were allowed to come in contact with whoever else’s — the stripper could put her ankle, say, on the patron’s shoulder, but he couldn’t touch her hip. What I forgot: I was currently in Mexico, where the rules are
different nonexistent. Cristiano had to pry my hands out from underneath me because I had seized up.
(“It was so much fun to watch,” SB said later, “because I could literally see you trying to process what to do. Your hands would instinctively move toward him — and then you’d catch yourself and freeze in place. But the whole time, your eyes were like you were in heaven.”)
If you had an attractive, semiclothed man nuzzling you and saying things like, “I want you to enjoy my body,” what would you do? If you’re me, you’d remember that The Bulgarian had mentioned that in Mexico “everything is for purchase” and, in fact, confirmed with the staff that Cristiano was included in that category. And you’d wonder, in order:
- How many pesos would that take, exactly?
- What is that in American dollars?
- How much do I have on me right now?
- Does considering this make me an awful person?
- How many guys does he do this with a week?
- Does the club take a cut?
- Wait, that’s his hand! Is that allowed?
And then you’d panic and start asking him about: his dietary habits, his future plans, whether he’d be in trouble tonight if he doesn’t go home with someone, and after he points out that the entertainer currently in the shower is his younger brother, whether that is at all as skeevy to watch for him as you imagine it would be. The answers: Good nutrition, he’s 21 and purports to be studying business, no, and no, because work is work.
That last answer clinched my “this is not OK” response, because it reinforced the concept of what I had previously coined “commerce c–––” — what you’re getting isn’t anything special just for you, it’s available to anyone who has the pesos.
The Bulgarian comes from a different world, where it’s OK that sex could be just like any other service you’d pay for — a pedicure, say, or someone mowing your lawn. So he couldn’t understand my Midwestern hangups: “If you like him and he likes you, why not?”
“He doesn’t like me, he likes my money,” I replied. “He won’t even kiss on the mouth, I bet. Like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.”
“You are so provincial,” he said. “He likes you, because he just spent more than half an hour with you, talking stupid about carbs, for 200 pesos.”
By that time, I’d already envisioned an alternate reality in which I’d save Cristiano from this line of work; he’d move to the U.S. and study negocios for real, we’d live happily and bilingually, where we’d laugh about the time I had to ask him how to say “carbs” in Spanish, and he would kiss on the mouth.
And then, after graduating, he would leave me because he had gotten what he needed. (Even my alternate realities have slaps in the face, it seems.) “It’s time to go,” I said. “I’m getting depressed.” I thanked Cristiano but told him we’d be leaving; he said he hoped that we’d return sometime during the week we were in town — but that he only worked Fridays through Sunday.
When we dragged in late Sunday night for a last drink on our way back to the condo, The Bulgarian said, “I wonder if your imaginary boyfriend is here.” A quick glance showed him standing in the VIP area, dead-eyed and looking at the floor while a haggard-looking older guy behind him rubbed his shoulders massage-style and tried to gather him into his arms for an embrace.
It made me even sadder when they left together, after the haggard guy stopped by and paid his “respects” to the cashier. At first I considered outbidding him, auction style, and then giving Cristiano the night off. Then I realized that was a stupid idea for multiple reasons. So instead, I pretended that I never saw any of it as they walked by and out the door. “F–––ing unattractive strangers for pesos,” I thought, and beat my own hasty retreat.
The following Friday — our final night in town — we rolled around the idea of going back for one last visit. The Bulgarian and Smarmy Bastard wanted to see if I’d be able to handle myself better this time, but I couldn’t get the vision of Cristiano with that haggard guy out of my head. “Probably one in a line of hundreds and hundreds,” I said with a wince. I was glad when, after a nice dinner, the wine left me drowsy enough to hit the sack instead of venturing out on the town.
While I dozed off, I thought again about us shacking up here somehow, starting him a new life on the right foot. “Maybe I could gay-marry him somewhere,” I mused, and luckily this time I fell asleep before the slap to the face occurred.
Before this trip even ended, we were already talking about going back next year. “Then you’ll have another shot at your imaginary boyfriend,” The Bulgarian joked. My first reaction was “Hopefully so,” but that was followed almost immediately by “Hopefully not.” I hope he’s out of there by the time we go back. Because like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I’d rather have the fairy tale, and I hope he gets to be Cinder-f–––ing-rella.
|WHAT SAM WORE: 3-12-12|
|The shirt: Cotton button-down by Façonnable, from Last Chance.|
|The pants: “No-wale corduroy” (aka: velvety) trousers from Uniqlo, New York.|
|The shoes: Loafers by Prada, from Last Chance.|