True Stories: Girls’ Night at the Men’s Club

You can learn a lot about yourself in places you never thought you'd end up.

By Sarah Sweeney

Antonio passes me a warm Sol from the backseat, where he’s cuddled up next to Rachel, whispering in her ear. I watch as he pulls her into him and snarls, “Why you make me feel like a piece of shit?” as she cackles wildly and pretends to fend him off. His English is nearly perfect. Ask him and he’ll credit CSI: Miami for the free, and dramatic, education. 

It's so dark I can't make out the lines in the road. "I want to take you to a place where the girls work," Raul offers.

It’s our third night on Isla Cozumel with this group of locals. Rachel and I are wearing black dresses and glossy false eyelashes, which we’ve donned to mock-mourn Kim Kardashian’s marriage — today we learned of her separation from her husband of seventy-two days, and the subsequent uproar from America. We tell the boys we’ve come to Mexico to escape the “Kardash backlash” and they blink at us in the darkness. Both of us are fresh out of dead-end relationships, and so we’ve really come in search of adventure, of meeting new people, of risk. Each afternoon we snorkel the island’s famous reefs and drink pina coladas while tanning and taking turns reading aloud the preposterous sex advice proffered by Cosmo. We’ve come to let go.

Eduardo’s behind the wheel. By day, he leads scuba tours from the resort, but he studied accounting in college and also does freelance bookkeeping for a few local businesses (including a car-rental agency), so he’s pulled a few strings with the manager to charter a cherry red ‘70s Volkswagen Bug with which to spin us around the small island for the week. I’m secretly infatuated with him, his cinnamon skin, warm to the touch, and his broken English, which I find endlessly charming. “Your eyes,” he keeps repeating. “So clear, like I see your brain.”

We careen down Carretera Costera, iguanas peeking from the thicket. “Where are we going?” I ask. It’s so dark I can’t make out the lines in the road. Only Raul answers me, squeezed in the back next to Antonio, still pressed hotly against Rachel. “I want to take you to a place where the girls work,” he offers. I think "strip club," then doubt myself. Raul speaks English well, but I wonder if maybe he means something else. He dictates directions to Eduardo in Spanish and I wince as the VW creaks and moans around every corner.

I finish the beer just as we pull into a small parking lot. There’s an outdoor staircase leading into a storefront with no discernible signage, no indication of where we might be. Faint Spanish dance music thumps into the night, all horns and beats and words I can’t decipher. We scramble from the car and hide our empties behind the stairwell. Eduardo takes my hand and guides me up the steps and into a small club. The first thing I see is a paltry stage, about seven feet wide, with a gleaming silver pole stretched from the middle to the ceiling. From the smoky haze a heavy-thighed woman twirls, grinding against the pole, bending so we can see the black lace g-string that disappears in her ass, which I must admit is admirable. Poured into a too-small black bra with pink lace piping, she wears a creamy see-through lace robe over everything, her lips big and fuschia, her heels clear and Lucite. 

We sit next to a table of Mexican men in blue jeans and cowboy hats. When they divert their attention to Rachel and me, the dancer eyes us warily, and I feel a twinge guilty for that, but it’s the too-small bra that evokes in me something more ― pity, almost. 

“You like?” Antonio asks Rachel. Her eyes widen, but she’s smiling. We order beers and the waitress sets down a plate of limes and cubed jicama coated with chili powder. There’s a few disco balls churning from clear wire, but otherwise the joint is desolate. A curtain, made from what looks like an old bed sheet, denotes the back room. I imagine the dancers’ costumes hanging from a clothesline tied to the old plumbing, and lap dances performed in rickety chairs next to the kegs and boxes of empty bottles waiting to be recycled. 

I’d never been to a strip club before this. I’d pictured it — a glamorous night out with the girls, champagne, a limousine — probably someone’s birthday or wacky bachelorette. The décor would be fabulous, with dark velour drapes and glittery lighting, and there would be slutty but elegant lingerie paired with costume baubles we’d probably buy ourselves from Forever 21. And I’d always envisioned this trip to the strip club as a bonding experience between women, coming together to watch some seductress let loose in public as only our private selves do. It would be safer this way, without men or boyfriends or husbands, all of whom might cheapen the experience with their crude jokes belied by furtive horny glances and boner cover-ups. Most importantly, without the shadowy but perceptible insecurity we’d all face and which would spawn a thousand future fights — that we women were not good enough. 

Commentarium (31 Comments)

Mar 23 12 - 10:53am
JCB

I love these pieces that weave super-dramatic stories around boring premises like: "I went to a gross Mexican strip club."

Mar 23 12 - 12:00pm
DBN

"Unwrap me like a tamale"? Good lord....

Mar 23 12 - 12:26pm
Bery

Maybe it's because I'm mexican but that line made me laugh.

Mar 23 12 - 6:29pm
MS

I cringed.

Mar 25 12 - 11:21pm
mag

I agreew with Bery, it was funny. And it's also funny how people keep calling them "tamale".
Singular- tamal; plural- tamales.
Ahh this story is exactly the type of trip I want this spring break. As a matter of fact, I'll be in that exact location in 2 weeks. wohoo!!!

Mar 27 12 - 11:00pm
hearts and darts

nope, definitely cringe-worthy

Mar 23 12 - 7:54pm
br

I find the author's attitude and the piece itself- cringe-worthy.

Mar 24 12 - 4:09pm
jesse

Agreed.

Mar 23 12 - 9:54pm
arb

incredibly hypocritical. un mujer de los morales facil acting as if a strip club is embarrassing. I think the subtext here is "i wasn't comfortable when the possibility of me not receiving sexual attention existed for a brief time"

Mar 23 12 - 10:38pm
JCB

Actually I think the subtext was "Look at meee, I'm in Me-hee-co! Ewww, look at the stripper! Oh my god, Becky! Look. At her butt. I like, almost feel sorry for her. Wait, stop looking at her, look at meee! Hey guess what, I slept with a local guy who I called my 'Latin lover' as he 'unwrapped me like a tamale'. Ethno...ethnocentri-wha?...what's that? Tee-hee!"

Nerve gets really white sometimes, but this is just over the top. It's stereotypical to the point of making me think it's really clever satire.

Mar 24 12 - 1:16am
Aj

JCB- agreed. Many mean things I could write, but I'm just going to type: dislike.

Jul 03 12 - 9:57pm
SS

Agreed.

Mar 23 12 - 10:23pm
:)

What the hell happened to that beer?

Mar 23 12 - 10:42pm
Giggy

Sooo, how many insecure spring break girls do you think Eduardo pulls the take-to-a-sleazy-strip-club-and-then-unwrap-like-a-tamale game with on a weekly basis?

Nice work if you can get it.

Mar 24 12 - 9:14am
ridic

Ugh, and to think I bet on "enjoy his burrito" in our slightly-racist-sex-euphemisms pool...

Mar 24 12 - 2:19pm
Huh

mmmm i was kind of intrugued because i live in Playa del Carmen and Cozumel is quite lose.
but the story is kind of ........whatever

Mar 24 12 - 6:12pm
derek

The author seems really immature. My least favorite True Stories so far.

Mar 25 12 - 1:57pm
Jinna

Red flags: "Kardashian", "slutty lingerie", mention of a slab of wood painted black being "cute", "unwrape me like a tamale"...good god.

Nerve, please don't ever publish essays like this again. Beyond my personal distaste for the writer's (unfunny, condescending, "party girl" attempting introspective) tone and the content of the story (if there was actually one?), the writing was really, really awful.

Was this a NY Mag sex diary re-write?

Mar 25 12 - 7:25pm
pieplease

So true! Unfunny and poorly written! And probably made up??

Mar 25 12 - 8:53pm
ko2

Gross!

Mar 26 12 - 11:13am
J

Terrible writing. Congratulations on escaping the Kardashian divorce uproar (which no doubt caused mass hysteria throughout the country like 9/11 or the Rodney King riots) to hang out in dirty strip clubs and get banged by Mexican dudes.

Mar 26 12 - 10:10pm
jesse

Truly an insult to Americans, Mexicans, strippers, and Nerve readers everywhere. I don't recall ever reading a True Stories when every single comment was negative!

Mar 26 12 - 10:38pm
lc

someones a bit up tight here aye

Mar 26 12 - 11:45pm
jolly roger

sounds like a racist story from a clueless white girl who loves writing fiction....

Jul 03 12 - 9:59pm
SS

Yep.

Mar 27 12 - 7:09am
Hu

This read like a cheesy, attempting-to-be-risqué, 18-year-old private school girl from the OC telling us of her vacation as Carrie from Sex in the City, with a plentiful helping of Havana Nights mixed in for an absolutely gag and snore inducing waste of story.

Mar 27 12 - 7:16am
bern

Whoa. Am I the only one who liked the story? I didn't think it was racist in the least, just hinged on the premise that the speaker didn't know where she was going, and just it took some getting used to.

Mar 29 12 - 4:13pm
Why racist?

For one thing, she's looking down on the whole scene from a "place of privilege"--and privilege, like power, tends to conceal itself to those who have it. Hence, she's tone-deaf to the subtle language of "first world" (quotes are key) privilege in this text. For instance, using uber-cliche metaphors and hoping to get a set-piece "Latin lover" for her Mexican vacation? This turns Eduardo into an "exotic"; a stock character, rather than a person trying to show a visitor in his country something off the beaten path that he genuinely thinks she'll find interesting.

Oh, and next break, she's going to go to Ireland and say that she wants the local lads to "jump out of a box of Lucky Charms..." Get what I'm saying?

Mar 29 12 - 3:31pm
Take-away message?

The point? Is it, "OMG, Mexican strippers and their tacky underwear are gross, and it gives decent American Gringas a big sad when men look at them!!" When the writer says she feels "pity, almost" for the stripper, **this is a subtle way of shaming and controlling the stripper and her profession.** But the real shame lies not with the naked woman, but in the attitude of the person who wrote this. She can't belieeeeeve she's "jealous of a stripper"--how unfathomable! It''s like being jealous of chiuhuahua poop! To her credit, the author deftly combines subtle forms of class-ism, racism, and misogyny, with just a touch of 19-Century Orientalism (the Western tourist slums it with the locals) to boot. Hats off!

Mar 29 12 - 3:50pm
And, Eduardo...

If Mexico has a comments card, this girl is TOTALLY going to circle "somewhat dissatisfied." You're not doing your duty as a Cast Member of Mexico!! Next time, take the 19-year-olds looking for an "adventure" to Senior Frog's, and order the spicy tamales. As long as they're not TOO spicy.

Mar 30 12 - 5:53pm
Refluxology

Where does hepatitis fit into all of this?