wednesdays with that girl from algebra: not a good book, even worse as a movie
“18+ WELCOME WEDNESDAYS ONLY!” is probably what the sign said, but I can only remember the look on my dad’s face as we turned into the parking lot of Club Alex’s in Stoughton. Not sad, but stoic. It was the facial contortion of a Major Parental Sacrifice, like cutting your own leg off to appease your offspring's kidnapper or, for instance, taking your daughter to 18+ night at Club Alex’s in Stoughton.
This is the hat trick of badness - it's inconvenient, it's expensive and my dad is gonna be there. To be fair, this was not how I saw it going.
Dad eyed the florescent sign above the building that, were I to put money on it, used to be a Chili’s. The fall air mingles with five dollar jack and coke, pussy stank and underage vomit.
"Have you ever been here?" I ask. We’re making conversation. We're having fun.
Dad sighs heavily. "No, Jame, I haven’t.”
The plan: go in. Talk to the strippers. Write a C-grade paper for Freshman Sociology. Don’t discuss it for the next half decade.
We had pitched our concepts for Freshman Sociology midterm papers three weeks earlier, and I had an awesome idea that no one had ever thought of before in the history of papers, ever. A paper so boldly conceived, I did not know it had been written five thousand times already by people of equal or greater intelligence with better results. A paper so unique that I could not execute it without adult supervision. It made my friend Kyle laugh, though, and that was the only qualifier needed.
"I want to write about the, uh, sociology of strippers." This sentence makes no sense, but I hung in. If the word "sociology" is in the title, she would never notice I'm a fucking idiot.
This is the second-worst college freshman sociology paper you can write, sandwiched between wearing no makeup for a day and calling it science and harassing a local homeless person in exchange for a carton of food from the dining hall. Every September, the homeless people who hang near campus have their calendars fully booked by kids from Long Island with a paper to write and seven years until their trust fund kicks in. I chose the white trash teenager in over her head option.
My professor was young and wanted us to think she was cool in spite of her taste in blazers, and asked me where I'd go to research. I rattled off a few strip clubs in the area - The Glass Slipper (“The G-Slip,” I said knowingly), Centerfolds (“Um, C-folds”) — without knowing that you needed to be twenty-one to get in. She nodded. Why not. Never mind what images the term "c-folds" brings to mind.
A cursory Google search revealed that not only could I not get into the clubs near campus, but none were available by train, either. There was, however, Club Alex’s and Dad’s Ford Focus and the Wednesday before my paper was due. I texted him to see if he'd be free to check out some pussy, and he said yeah. For education.
There’s a strip club in my hometown called the Foxy Lady where someone was more brilliant than I ever will be had once ceremoniously removed the "Y" from both words on the sign. For the next week, eggs and legs could be found only at thriving local business, The Fox Lad. No one had ever actually been there, but we liked to speculate as we passed on the way to Panera Bread.
Was that girl from fifth period really a dancer there? Where were the eggs from the 'eggs and legs' promotion procured? Was it from the women attached to the legs? Was that legal? At that time, higher education and eating human eggs while the girl from fifth period grinded on you were both plausible, if not desirable, routes of thought. Later on we'd realize that no woman in her right mind would part with an egg for less than ten grand when planning how to pay off student debt.
Right now, the only concern is the sex Chili's we're about to go into instead of Bring Your Daughter to Work Day this year. Dad and I got into Club Alex’s with no problems other than a knowing look from the bouncer, who thought that I was going to fuck my dad for drugs.
I recognize the girl onstage immediately. We were right about the girl from algebra being a stripper, but had been wrong about the club - what woman in her right mind would strip at the club down the street from where she did long division? Don't shit where you calculate. Here she was, at Alex's on a Wednesday night showing the early stages of pregnancy, and any delusion I had of interviewing a stripper ended by seeing the girl whose quizzes I used to cheat off of in old pasties.
“Can I get you guys anything?” the waiter asked. He was clinically gay and working here was the great pain of his life.
“Two Diet Cokes and fries,” my dad answered. I had taken the seat at the table that left me with my back to the stage. The waiter silently contemplated how a man of my dad’s age is going to get a girl of my age to fuck him for drugs using only Diet Coke and fries, but left without asking.
The patrons of the club were, unsurprisingly, men under twenty-one getting lap dances and exchanging “can you believe it” looks as the dancers made “I can believe it” looks to the pock-marked bartender. There were a few rouge clientele, including me, Dad and a big woman wearing a t-shirt with the silhouette of a smaller woman. Made a note to self to make this into an infinite image of smaller and smaller women on t-shirts. Probably commentary. Probably sociological as hell.
“Are you going to talk to anyone?” Dad asked. He has moved past his anger for a moment to appreciate how bad my paper was going to be.
“I know her,” I whispered, gesturing to the girl onstage. I could go and ask her to borrow a T-9 calculator or the gender of her baby, but this paper was not happening. I went to the bathroom twice to pass the stage, but nothing more. We were done here.
“If you brought me here for nothing, I don’t-” I would never know what he didn’t, because the worst plate of french fries was delivered to our table at that exact moment.
The waiter was certain by now that there was something he was missing. Here’s an unhappy middle-aged man trying to seduce a visibly frightened teenager, carbonated liquor-free beverages, not a dime bag in sight - he was in the middle of a game of Clue that definitely ended with me dead in a trunk. He beckoned my algebra classmate over to the table in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
“Want a dance?” she asked, and vague recognition flickered over slightly pregnant features. She couldn’t quite place me and I wasn't going provide a name for the stupidest person to ever cheat off of her pop quiz. Let her think I’m someone who will be dead in a trunk later instead of someone who had fucked up the same three-part equation ten months earlier.
"Are you gonna talk to anyone?" No. I'm not even going to face the stage. I'm going to face this waiter. Daring him to think I'm not fucking my dad for drugs.
The french fries are real bad. So bad that I won't even go to thesaurus dot com to find another qualifier. Just real bad.
Dad commented on the other stripper’s status as hatchet-faced, and I wanted to yell at him for being a misogynist goon but he was right. We plowed through the fries as early aughts songs blared and I occasionally found the inner strength over my shoulder. Nope, I still knew her. Nope, she was still pregnant. We paid the bill and the waiter gave me one last chance to redeem myself as a hot slut who doesn’t care.
“Sure you don’t want anything else?” he said.
“What time is your class tomorrow?” Dad asked. The waiter gasped, the mystery solved.
This is a little disappointing. I want this gay waiter to think I'm cool enough to fuck my dad, then remember that that's not cool but you know what I mean, that I could convincingly go out in public with Keanu Reeves and have people think yeah, she's totally not his slightly autistic niece. Tonight is not the night.
We drove home ten dollars poorer, never having spoken to a stripper or anyone in the club who wasn’t selling concessions. I felt like I should thank Dad for driving, but those couldn’t possibly be the right words.
"She was hatchet-faced."
He laughed and turned up the sports radio. "Yeah, she was."
The paper was completely fictionalized and littered with grammatical errors, but I'm pretty sure no one read it all the way through. My presentation was the second best in class - almost as good as Katie from Long Island, who spent an hour with a homeless veteran and slightly better than Allison from Long Island, who didn't wear eyeliner last Thursday and called it science.
A+ for everyone.
For your entertainment, a Yelp review of the Foxy Lady:
Where were the girls? Of the two we did see, one looked like a 40 year old Jean Bennet Ramsey and the other had the most mediocre dance moves, Weymouth face, and tacky money hustling skills. My boyfriend said his back rub was good and that girl was nice to talk to, but negative marks since she was wearing sweatpants. BOO. I'm all set.