I’ve arrived at the precipice of something very big. A crossroads of such personal import that the only way I can begin to order the upwelling of emotion is to write about it. My entire existence has been building to this crescendo so the realization that I am now staring down the barrel at it has left me unmoored. I am adrift, bobbing without reason and rationality, in a sea of infinite possibilities and outcomes.
See, for the first time in my long life, I am about to see a male stripper.
Ever since the part of the brain that is responsible for picking up on details such as a male stripper that will be attending your friend’s bachelorette party exploded in a dazzling fireworks display of neurons, I haven’t been able to compel the other lobes of my brain to keep coordinating my basic life functions such as eating, speaking and using my hands to pick up things.
For the sake of my family, I need to return to the days before the promise — or specter, I’m not entirely sure which — of male strippers entered my life. I long to go back to the days when every male I was to encounter would undoubtedly be clothed, a simpler time when occupations that included the word “male” were followed only by “nurse” or “teacher.”
It’s kind of like the time before I had eaten eggplant parmesan.
I didn’t really think about the fact that everyone else was eating eggplant parmesan. Ordering eggplant parmesan. Seeing eggplant parmesan at parties. Once I became of a certain age, it began to rattle those around me and steeled their resolve to make me one of them, an eater of eggplant parmesan.
My life became a hollow existence plotted around Italian restaurants and family reunions haunted by eggplant parmesan until one night I was out to dinner with my parents, and I opened the menu, to find it listed — boldly and nakedly — in the Primi section. I pointed at it meekly, unsure I could even utter the name of something that had risen to such culinary prominence in my mind. My stomach lurched just slightly when the waiter slid it off his arm onto the vacant space of table before me.
This is it, I thought as a rivulet of sweat cut a path over my left temple. I remember no more as the sweating and digestive grumblings were the precursors to a stomach bug that ushered eggplant parmesan out of my body, and my life, as though I were never fit to receive it in the first place.
I’m concerned that the same fate awaits me with the male stripper. The sweating and the gastrointestinal agitation, that is. Not the ingesting of something long denied although I am a nervous eater.
I only know that public rituals such as these quickly become a graphic National Geographic episode for people like me. In the opening frame, the herd munches mindlessly on the desiccated grass of the Serengeti as the lion they’re blithely unattuned to crouches out of view. There’s a sudden ripple in the matter and the collective is up and sprinting. Except for one. Me. The slow gazelle.
The slow gazelle wants desperately to be with the others, to be grazing and drinking, but she was too busy thinking about how stupid she looks in a maxi dress when she is caught alone and vulnerable and staring at the lion’s advancing genitals which are, at this moment, eye-level. Well aware of the futility but game enough to try, the gazelle turns to run, but the lion’s incisors land squarely upon her haunch.
I don’t know if I’ll actually be bitten by a male stripper, but I’m afraid of it just as I am afraid of being touched and leered at. And all the other verbs that appear in reports of sexual harassment allegations. I’m concerned about how to hold my hands and where to direct my eyes. I’ve felt crippling waves of anxiety over knowing the sort of occupation he will enter the room as so that I don’t mistake him for an actual plumber and begin discussing the winterizing of pipes. I’m wondering about whether I need to introduce myself and establish some mutual boundaries, like a safe word, which I’d like to be ‘Manischewitz.’
I’m curious if Weight Watchers points are still tallied if there’s a naked, orange man bumping and grinding on the hors d’oeuvres table. I want the other partygoers to understand that I’m prone to strange behaviors while watching displays of pageantry, like returning phone calls from the dentist or alphabetizing the gift cards in my wallet.
I know little about what lies ahead. The only thing I can count on is that I will never again be the same. And that he will be better waxed than I am.
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on http://imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.