Previous chapter: University of Florida
Chapter Three: French Addiction
|French Addiction, 2003|
I remember that day clearly.
It was a warm, sunny day in Gainesville, around mid-February. Many students lounged around outdoors to study, hang out, and enjoy the Florida weather. My TESOL (teaching English as a Second Language) class had just finished, and my classmate, Holly, asked if I wanted to walk along University Avenue to kill some time before our next class.
Holly had an upbeat and energetic attitude, always smiling and remaining positive about life in general. When our TESOL professor announced a class project and paired us off into groups, I was paired with her. It was a pleasant surprise. She stood at my height and was very attractive. Some people thought she was of Middle Eastern or Hispanic origin due to her olive complexion and dark curly hair, but Holly was adopted at a young age and didn’t know her ethnicity.
We worked on our project several times together outside of class. Her gregarious personality made the project fun, and her work ethic guaranteed that we would get a good grade. We spent at least half the time talking about anything and everything instead of working on the project. Her openness brought me out of my shell and I felt like I could talk to her a lot better than most women.
She told me that she was seeing someone, so I left her alone. I would not have pursued her even if she were single because I thought that she was out of my league. Plus, she dallied around with several boyfriends at a time, and I thought it best to avoid that mess.
Regarding future careers, Holly was a lot like me. She wanted to go to a foreign country to teach English. I wanted to go to Japan; she wanted to go to Spain. She was studying Spanish and was already fluent. Moreover, she already had a job lined up as soon as she graduated that summer. All she had to do was finish a few more classes.
As we strolled down University Avenue, we passed a few stores and restaurants. There was the Mellow Mushroom, a popular pizza restaurant, a music store that sold records and CDs, and a sports supplement shop. Holly stopped in front of a lingerie store called French Addiction.
“Let’s go in here!” she said with the jubilation of kid entering a toy store.
The large windows had neon, reddish pink, neon lights that ran along the bottom of the window frame, giving the store the appearance of a brothel in Amsterdam's Red Light District. Through the windows, I could see the outlines of lingerie hanging from the clothing racks. My face flushed in embarrassment. I did not want to go inside.
I was about to continue walking, but Holly would have none of it as she grabbed me by the arm and pulled me toward the store. She suddenly stopped at front of the store to stare at a flyer posted on the front glass door.
It read: “Wanted: Exotic Male Dancers. No experience necessary. See inside for details.”
“Oh look!” Holly said, pointing at the flyer. “They're hiring for exotic male dancers. I wanna see!”
My heart gave a leap. I heard a little about male strippers before. It sounded like a dream job – earning money while stripping in front of excited and eager women as they groped, fondled, and lusted over you.
We entered the store together, and I stopped in my tracks. I had never been inside a sex store before. Sexual paraphernalia was everywhere. Dildos lined the shelves. Some of them had an extra tentacle-like protrusions that appeared as if they were about to latch onto something. I saw lube and oils under the glass counter. Bondage gear, boots, and stiletto heels stood amidst the racks of lingerie. I felt too timid to even take another step, the surface of my face burning with embarrassment. The presence of an attractive, acorn-haired girl watching us browse from behind the counter only furthered my discomfort.
“Hey Dion, what do you think of this?” Holly asked, holding up a skimpy piece of clothing up against her. I muttered something about it being nice while trying to conceal my arousal. To my relief, she wasn’t paying much attention to my reaction because she returned the outfit to the rack and continued browsing the store.
“Oh look!” Holly said, pointing at some picture frames on the wall. “Here they are!”
Four frames depicting four different men lined on the wall. The men were in various poses, wearing underwear. The pictures had an amateur appearance, since men were posing in this very store in front of the dressing room. Furthermore, three of the dancers looked somewhat muscular, but they barely had visible abdominal muscles. I’d always assumed that a six-pack was a requirement for male dancers.
Only one dancer's pictures distinguished itself from the rest. “Titus” was a black man wearing a thong, surrounded by young women in several candid shots. In one picture, he was shoving his crotch into a girl's face while she placed a dollar bill into his thong’s side-string. In another picture, three ladies sat on a couch, one of them reaching out to tip a bill into his thong as he stood in front of her.
I wanted to be Titus. He looked like someone who lived life to the fullest. I imagined myself standing in front of those girls with their hands reaching out for my body. The exhibitionist part of me that had sat dormant for so long wanted out. It was a fleeting fantasy, though. No girl would pay me to strip.
“Oh my god,” Holly said, pointing to picture of Titus. “He’s dating one of my friends. I didn’t know he was a male stripper.”
The girl behind the counter came over and asked if we needed help.
Judging by the awkward expression on her face, the identity of the dancers was supposed to be confidential.
“It’s okay, I know his girlfriend,” Holly said. “That’s so funny!”
The store clerk smiled. “He’s the most popular dancer here.”
Holly looked at me, switched her gaze to the pictures of the male dancers, then glanced at me again. “Dion, you can work as a stripper here,” Holly said.
“M-me?” I stammered. My face flushed. My desires had remained unspoken for a reason. While I tantalized the fantasy of taking off my clothes and dancing in front of crowd of eager women, I never actually considered myself as the type of person who could do so. It was like watching porn: I always imagined myself being the actor who plowed the hot actress, but in reality, I would just be the guy who sat in front of a computer screen with a towel and a bottle of hand lotion. Now Holly was suggesting I enter the set and perform.
To my further horror, Holly asked the store clerk, “Hey, what do you have to do to become a stripper here?” Holly asked.
“Well, the girls can choose to strip down to lingerie, topless, or completely nude,” the clerk responded. “The more you're willing to take off, the more money you get paid.”
“What about the guys?” Holly asked. “What do they do?”
“Guys don’t get nude. They just strip down to their underwear or thong.” The store clerk turned to me with a serious expression and asked, "Would you like an application?"
I fumbled for a response, but Holly cut in. “You should apply, Dion,” she said.
“Y-yeah right, I don’t think I can,” I muttered.
“Of course you can! You have a better body than these guys,” she said, feeling my chest.
“But what about looks—”
“You’re hot!” she said. “The girls will love you.”
The store clerk nodded and smiled. “Yeah, you should at least apply.”
I couldn't believe it. Growing up feeling like the ugly duckling made me dubious of compliments. Now I was in the presence of two attractive girls telling me that I was hot enough to become a male stripper.
“Here, just take an application,” the clerk said. “You get paid pretty well from what I hear.”
I took the application. I was glad Holly was there to ask for me, because I would have lacked the guts to do so on my own. My heart was pounding with excitement. Deep down, I really wanted this job. What kind of guy wouldn’t? I wondered if there was a catch.
The store clerk told me to fill out the application and bring it back to the store's owner, Janice. She said that I needed at least four pictures as well, and offered to take a few pictures of me with the store’s disposable camera. Holly interjected and insisted on taking the pictures herself instead.
“I took photography and have a Nikon camera,” she told me. “I can take better pics than what’s on the wall there. We want you to look your best.”
The clerk agreed. “Yeah, it’d probably be better that way. We use a disposable camera.”
I studied the pictures of the male dancers. I saw that two of the dancers wore boxers or tighty-whities, but Titus and another guy named, Maximus, wore thongs. I decided then that I needed a thong too, not only because it fit the stripper image, but thongs seemed ideal for holding money. So with Holly's help, I picked two out from the men’s clothing rack – a blue one and a black one. Holly giggled at my embarrassment. The store clerk even offered me a “stripper discount,” which I would’ve found amusing except that my face was burning with shame.
When I left French Addiction, I carried with me the application, a plastic bag with two man thongs, and a feeling of utter disbelief.
Holly seemed to bounce with excitement on the way back to class. “That’s awesome!” she said with a grin. “You’re going to be a stripper!”
I didn’t know it at the time, but my life would never be the same after walking into that store.
Next chapter: The Job Application