It was Martin Luther King Day

It was Martin Luther King Day. It had been one of those ho-hum nights where every guy you talk to seems like a demon from hell with an empty wallet. I had maybe seventy-five dollars in profit and the club was deserted. Clusters of dejected strippers slumped in dayglo palm print chairs. The DJ droned on as usual pretending that all of us girls were still happy young and wild. "Take one of these lovely ladies on back to VIP! He’ll take three! I would if could--but I got in too much trouble last weekend and I'm not allowed back there anymore. Hoo-ee!" He said the same fucking thing every fucking week.

One of the only takers I had that night was a foot guy with limited budget. I’d taken a pointless turn working the second stage at the back of the club. The DJ used to apologize for making me dance back there. I wanted to let him know that I hated him and the dumb wannabe gangster suits he spent my tips on so it didn't really matter either way but I just smiled and said no problem.

I laid down onstage in front of the foot guy because I was tired, then put my ankles around his neck in an awkward gesture of customer engagement. There was a little bar separating us that some girls would crawl over to twerk in the guy’s face. Personally I’m just not that spry and never really saw the point. I can look slutty enough from inside the box, thank you. Regardless of my onstage laziness Foot Man must have caught a whiff of something he liked because when I asked for a dance he said yes but only if he could smell my feet. “Sure,” I said. “But they smell a little bad right now.” “I know,” he replied, then turned abruptly into the private dance area and gestured for me to follow

He led me back into the darkest recesses

He led me back into the darkest recesses of the lap dance room. This particular club had two of them, one fairly open and the other, to put it plainly, for dick sucking. Honestly I think I saw more dicks in that room than I did in high school. None of them were dicks I was having any personal contact with, I was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Foot Man stopped at a tiny booth at the very back. Although the handyman skills of the part-time MMA fighters tasked with putting up partitions had left this compartment small and misshapen he shoehorned his round little body onto the low seat, the need for privacy outweighing comfort.

When I told him we had to wait until the next song to start the dance he seemed upset. This is always sort of an awkward moment. Since we’re already in the booth and I’ve closed the sale I resent having to stay charming and make small talk. Instead of talking I just decided to show him my feet from a safe distance, even though he’d taken me to the darkest part of the club and clearly wasn’t all that interested in visuals. The club's recently upgraded black lights gave my eyes and teeth a yellow cast and turned my skin blue. My theory was that they’d ratcheted up the black light to discourage all the dick sucking. Unfortunately all they'd done was create a carnival nightmare of blue-skinned monsters gobbling cock.

Foot Man’s moment finally arrived. As the song started I danced a little bit, then put one foot close to his nose and mouth. I’d told him no licking, which is a thing that has to be specified a lot more often than you’d think. He huffed my foot scent in short frantic breaths, his cold nose moving quickly like a little woodland animal. I could barely see his face in the dark.

Halfway through the song I gave up dancing because foot guys really couldn’t care less about the rest of your body. They begrudgingly accept it as the cost of doing business with your foot. Though I was trying to drag out the experience for more money I eventually gave in and just handed over the other one. Which he sniffed with the same careful dedication. When he got to the upper ankle area he stopped suddenly, taking in a long careful breath. Then another. I'd wondered if he would notice the cheap perfume I’d sprayed on one foot in a clearly unsuccessful attempt to mask the objectionable. He inhaled deeply as if to discern subtle hints of lime in the mix before turning his attention back to the toe area where the hit was more pure. He seemed disappointed, like he felt a little bit cheated. I felt like I really should have charged him extra but beggars can’t be choosers.

Foot guys are great because their fetish is extremely specific

Foot guys are great because their fetish is extremely specific, powerful and sort of embarrassing, so they’re prime candidates for spending lots of money. There seem to be two different camps. First group--the easy ones--are all about the smelly sweaty and disgusting. They don’t care about pedicures--if you’ve got a foot and a sour stench coming from it you’re good to go.

One guy liked to order chips and salsa, plop my coworker’s sweaty feet onto his lap, rub his fingers into the sweat reservoir between her toes, then carefully lift a chip to his mouth between the same two fingers, savoring the taste of foot. Every few bites he’d lick his fingers clean. I found the act pretty nauseating but got used to it over the passing weeks, after which my primary entertainment became pointing it out to anyone in the club who hadn’t noticed. Get a load of this guy, I’d say with a big smile. They'd peer toward the wretched tableau on the sofa, uncomprehending at first, then a slow wave of horror would spread across their faces.

The second type of foot guy is more particular. Refined. He doesn't like smell or sweat--he wants your toes to be pristine. Like a woman hasn’t spent the last four hours sweating into poorly designed plastic shoes.

My foot man declined a second dance, handed me thirty dollars and sped out into the night without bidding me or my feet goodbye. After I paid the dance counter the club's five-dollar cut I hung back in one of the cubicles with a decent view. I like to watch for a bit out of sight while I formulate a plan. The more guys see you wandering around aimlessly, the less they want to spend money on you. You have to create the illusion that you’re an object of desire in constant demand and walk with purpose to your chosen target.

A few more customers’ laps had opened up, including a youngish brunette guy in rock-climbing shoes. I had been watching him earlier. He’d had maybe five different girls on his lap but none of them had been able to close the deal. Which wasn’t saying much since plenty of the girls would just plop down on the guy and wanna dance him without even introducing themselves.

This is the shotgun approach to exotic dancing

This is the shotgun approach to exotic dancing. Kind of like a guy who stands in the street all day asking girls if they’d like to get freaky. You might go through ninety girls telling you to go fuck yourself but eventually you’re going to find one who says yes. Other than the brunette, the only available customer was a guy I called Beard Braids who bought ten-dollar floor dances during which he jiggled and hummed nonstop like a washing machine. Even though Beard Braids was a sure thing I did not relish the thought of being joggled on his knee so I figured I’d give the brunette the old college try.

I walked over to him smiling disarmingly. I smile a lot. I smile so much that a customer once described me as ghoulish. He still bought a dance so whatever. Because Brunette was handsome-ish I sat down.

“What are you doing here?" I say. "You’re way too cute to be in here.”

Most guys eat stuff like this up. Not Brunette ho boy.

“I bet you say that to all the guys,” he tells me like he thinks he’s sooooo clever.

“Hahaha you got me,” I say, but at least fifteen percent of the time it’s true. I like to refer to this gotcha type of customer as a Relater when I’m feeling charitable and a Pain In My Fucking Ass when I’m not.

This is the kind of guy who will only spend money if he feels like he’s in on the game. He has to let you know how smart and superior he is because he knows just how fake you are. For all the big talk about how difficult they are to fool it’s actually a pretty easy hustle. Act like they’ve won and drop the over-the-top stripper facade as you slide into stripper facade number two. Pretend you just want to take a break and talk to a cool guy for a change. Put down the other customers and tell a gross but humorous anecdote that shows how stupid and or creepy other guys are. Find a common interest.

In this case it was The String Cheese Incident. I don’t actually like that band but in my life I have acquired a great deal of trivial knowledge about a wide variety of topics in which I can feign interest to build rapport. At this point the customer will usually ask a personal question. Something like do you have a boyfriend or what’s your real name. Sigh. Like they’ve broken down so many barriers you’ll give up one of your real names or confess that you do have someone waiting at home.

Sometimes I say I just got dumped. Makes me seem that much more pathetic. Now he’s really got you on the ropes and may bring up the idea of dances himself. If he doesn’t it’s usually best to introduce it as a joke as though dances are something to be enjoyed ironically--even though trust and believe, he’ll pop a boner just like any old average Joe. Frame it like he’d really be doing you a favor.

These techniques were really doing a number on Brunette. I'd made a big deal about telling him my real name: Jennifer. After the first round of dances he seemed smitten but still unsure whether the sexual chemistry between us was real or manufactured. In all fairness I can’t blame him. He even had me dance onstage to an Arctic Monkeys song called “Do I Wanna Know?” that he felt encapsulated his feelings on the matter. He took me back for one last round just as the lights were about to come up. When it was over he informed me that no one could fake that kind of connection.

"You told me your name," he said. “Besides, there’s just no way anyone is that good a liar. It’s impossible.”

We embraced. I leaned up to nuzzle his neck, then whispered in his ear “My name’s not Jennifer” turned on my heel and walked away.

Molly Scott prefers to remain a mystery.