The Netherlands

My first year in college I worked a stint as a waitress at Baxter’s, a local chain restaurant. It served your standard American fare outlined in sticky, glossy tri-fold menus. Next to the kitchen was a small faux wood parquet dance floor, dj booth and Karaoke machine. The dance floor was adjacent to a bar that floated in the middle of rubbery seafoam green booths.

The bar was meant to improve sales receipts by catering to the local college crowd at night. There were $1 well drinks on Mondays, Live Music on Wednesdays and Girls Night on Thursdays. I worked noon to closing. I waited tables until we stopped serving food at 8pm then I checked IDs at the front door.

Thursday Girl Nights were a bit of a misnomer. Every Thursday evening the manager imported 3 to 4 “girls” to strip down to skimpy bathing suits on the dance floor for the pleasure of men who watched and drank full-priced beer.

The ladies arrived every Thursday evening around 6pm. The girls would march resolutely into the restaurant in their street clothes and then change into their performing outfits in the women’s restroom. My job was to roust the women from the bathroom and prod them onto the dance floor.

I never spoke much with them. I figured there was a line between service professionals like myself and service professionals such as their selves. Though I did enjoy a bit of power when I would walk into the ladies’ room and announce in a loud voice, “Show time!”

The manager would get behind the dj booth and start up the stereo, signaling the girls lined up on the floor and the men standing around that the show was about to begin. Then, in a flurry of straps, sequins and strings the girls would slither to the floor and begin their strip tease. As the music pulsated and grew louder, men would emit a few cheers and then fall silent. The girls would shimmy down to their bikinis and contort so as to better demonstrate their wares. Technically, the women were not supposed to get fully nude but as bikini tops shifted and thong bottoms moved, the men got an eyeful. And so did I.

I had never seen women in this manner before. My girlfriends and I were the kind of girls who dressed for high school gym by changing underneath our clothes or in the stalls; the goal being, to show as little skin as humanly possible while changing. The only real live breasts I had seen up to that point were my own sorry buds. Except for those that 80s aerobic enthusiasts wore over their leotards, I had never even seen thongs before. For context, this was the early 90s.

What shocked me the most, however, was the dancers’ hairless bodies. They were like perfect seals out there dancing for $1 bills (this was a college town). How could they manage to bend over in thongs without exposing the tell tale signs of pubescence? Being of Mexican descent, I was in awe. I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs until I was sixteen. I hated my hairiness, but watching those dancers I began to feel a bit relieved. The only explanation to me at the time was that they were obviously born without hair and therefore predestined to lives as exotic dancers. Poor girls. At least with all my dark hair, I could be a scientist.

I didn’t learn until a few years later that there was such a thing as a bikini wax.