Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dancing At "Flash" 7: Relapse (or Re: Laps?)

WARNING: Adult situations and sexual themes are discussed Once again, this blog includes details about my encounters with male strippers! Readers' discretion is advised!

Greetings Frothy friends, here's a quick Flash-back of previous events:

I became addicted to visiting Toronto's "members only" strip club Flash due to an alluring dancer I call "VinTatum" (named for his resemblance to Jersey Shore's Vinny and Channing Tatum.) What started as a fluke turned into a puzzling infatuation that I couldn't shake. (Check out Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six for the complete saga thus far!)

In my last outrageous episode, I was trying to create a "grand finale" to wrap up my Flash-tacular adventures. After seven intoxicating encounters with VinTatum, I was determined to go "sober" and was successful for at least four months. But only a week before the 2013 Gay Pride festivities, I fell back into old habits...

I should start by mentioning something I left out of my previous entries. VinTatum and I had started trading e-mails shortly before my last visit. (He stunned me by giving me his contact information after one of our dances, but warned me not to "abuse" it.) My first e-mail was crafted with my best softball banter and he told me I was "awesome" in his initial reply. But after that, he only wrote to ask if I was coming to see him at the club. Even when I asked lightweight stuff like "How are things going?" he would encourage me to "catch up" with him over at Flash. I hoped our messages would lead to crossover success outside of the club, but he had me firmly placed in one specific john-re.

During the months I was on hiatus from the club, we became further acquaintances through social media. His only rule was that I never mention his "work" on any of the platforms we were connected on. Part of me was thrilled to get a better glimpse of his non-stripper life, although it may have created more blurred lines than a Robin Thicke song. Befriending my infatuation online probably wasn't the best way to get over him. But whatever the case, I was ecstatic to learn more about his "real" self, or at least a version of it.

In early June, I sent him a message complimenting one of his pictures and offered suggestions for a project he was working on. He then replied saying he had a favour to ask of me and wanted me to call him. I almost fainted on the spot. My mind raced through tons of scenarios as I wondered why he'd want me to call. I had to go to work, so I wrote back saying I'd phone him on my dinner break. I was a nervous wreck for the next few hours and tried calling a friend right before touching base with VinTatum. My pal didn't pick up, but I left a voice mail frantically theorizing, "I hope it's not about money." Soon enough, though, my fears were confirmed.

VinTatum explained that a situation had come up in which he couldn't work at Flash for a brief period. He told me his bills were piling up and that he would really appreciate it if I could "help him out" financially. He might have heard the drop in my voice, since he quickly added, "I know I can't force you, but think about it..." It was a gloomy Monday and rain poured down as I processed VinTatum's attempted cash grab. I went numb as he tried to shift the conversation into more genial topics. "So how have you been doing?" he asked. I should've answered, "Kinda depressed now..." But I went through the motions and shared my excitement about Pride coming up. He bantered back about how great the festivities would be and said he'd give me some time to think over his (indecent?) proposal. When the call ended, I felt utterly deflated.

For quite some time, my friends were concerned that VinTatum was taking advantage of me and his latest request seemed to prove them right. I could take responsibility for choosing to spend money on him at Flash. But doing it outside of the club was a whole other story. I felt stupid for trying to put a sincere (if naive) effort into supporting VinTatum's goals away from stripping. It was becoming clear that I only mattered to him when he needed cash. (Everyone reading this is now shouting, "You think?") Social media can be deceiving, but from what I saw, VinTatum had a large and diverse network of people who would be more than happy to help him out. So why me? Was it because I was a smiling dope who was hung up on him? None of the potential answers seemed very comforting.

There was nothing left to lose, so I poured my heart out in a sprawling e-mail that detailed all the angst I felt. I owned the fact that I was experiencing a one sided infatuation, but questioned why our interactions always seemed to come back to money. (Specifically, I wondered if he asked any of his closer friends for help before approaching me.) I also mentioned that I cut down on visits to Flash because I felt far too invested in a hopeless situation. I even admitted I had been writing essays, song lyrics and envisioned a musical about my experiences at the club. Against my better judgement, I added that I might be tempted to give him some cash if he told me his life story over dinner. My letter was a dizzying attempt to express a broad range of emotions, but I hoped it might provoke some sort of meaningful response from him.

For a brief period, it felt cathartic to get my feelings out in the open. Even if he didn't care, telling him everything felt important to me. It was an exhilarating stage of my journey, like the moment in the Wizard of Oz where black and white gives way to vibrant technicolor. Being honest about what was on my mind felt like a giant step towards moving on. Was I really on the path to freedom from my unrequited admiration of VinTatum? He didn't reply to my message and the bumpy stretch of road that led to this moment suggested the saga was running out of gas.


About a week before Pride, a pal and I decided to check out Flash. I joked that I was ready to "cheat" on VinTatum with a new dancer, since he claimed he wasn't working there at the time. After dinner on an outdoor patio, we headed over towards my infatuation station and my jaw dropped as we got closer. VinTatum was outside chatting with the doorman and I was immediately filled with anxiety. I turned to my friend and started to wonder out loud if we should even go there. My nerves grew more unruly as I paused to pull a wad of cash from an ATM before resuming my panic. Ultimately I decided we should still go in, but as we approached the steps, I snuck past VinTatum so quickly that he didn't see me.

About a half hour went by with my pal and I watching other dancers grace the stage. I had contradictory feelings about whether or not I wanted VinTatum to come in and find me. When he finally did re-enter from his outside chat, he took one look at me, smiled a mercenary grin and pulled me into a gigantic hug. My head rested on his shoulder as I looked at my pal with an expression that read, "What do I do now?" My friend shrugged whimsically as my eyes widened with confusion. Even after my soul baring letter, he was trying to drag me off for some private dances as if nothing had changed. I was desperately hoping to slow things down a bit before they went further.

"Did you get my e-mail?" I asked. He replied that he did, but just in case, I figured I'd reiterate some of the key points.

"So you don't mind that I have a hopeless infatuation with you?"


"You don't mind that I'm writing musicals about this?"


His nonchalance was ironclad and he didn't seem phased by anything I said. (I wondered if he would've been thrown by something really crazy, like, "You don't mind that I want to make a blanket from grafts of your skin?") In all seriousness, I did feel relief in having his quasi-approval over being turned into my muse. But opening up to him about my infatuation only emphasized that the ball was in his court and he knew it. All the imagined conversations where I would face him and tell him how hurt I was began to evaporate. Only minutes after he found me, I was caving faster than a building marked for demolition. Even though my crush had become a wrecking ball to my emotional stability, I was allowing him to pull the lever again. He took hold of my hand and led me to the booths in the back just like old times.

"How long have you been here?" he asked as we settled into our tiny cubicle.

"About a half an hour," I replied.

"Wow, I didn't realize I was outside for that long," he said. I actually felt envious that the guy at the door could have such a long, casual conversation with VinTatum. If this latest adventure was any indication, he preferred dragging me into the back before I could start any meaningful dialogue with him.

"I was actually really nervous when I saw you there. I thought things would be weird between us," I admitted.

"Why would they be weird?"

"Because of the e-mail I sent..."

"I appreciate you sharing that with me," he replied quickly and casually. It made me wonder if he actually did read it.

The mists of sensuality subdued any further attempts to flesh out what he thought of my message. I hated how much I loved holding him. I knew he wasn't going to kiss me on the mouth, but there were some near misses that were pretty nice. At one point our noses were pressed together as we more or less stared each other down before he kissed my neck. In a way, this experience was like falling into bed with an ex. I knew it was probably the wrong thing to do, but it felt great at the time.

"I really missed this," I sighed as we embraced.

"Then why didn't you come see me sooner?"

It baffled me how oblivious he seemed to my conflict over coming back. I thought my e-mail would have helped him understand that every time I saw him, it wasn't just "fun" for me anymore. It was something that weighed on my heart in a way that wasn't so healthy. But our dances soon came to a close and aside from being disappointed in my lack of will power, I really enjoyed them.

"You're a troublemaker," VinTatum teased as we exited the booth.

He repeated the phrase again, which I found funny, since I thought of him when I heard the Olly Murs song Troublemaker. Especially with lines like, "Why does it feel so good, but hurt so bad? My mind keeps saying run as fast as you can..."

My pal and I soon left the club, but waited outside for another friend to join us. Moments later VinTatum came out for a smoke and I remarked, "I'd still love to get a picture with you." Unlike our last encounter, he seemed a bit more open to the idea.

"Maybe next week during Pride, since I'll have an excuse for it."

His neck was stiff and I offered to try massaging it for him. I'm no expert, so he was coaching me on how to do it properly. As I rubbed away, a guy on the street noticed us and joked, "Can I be next in line for that?" The guy stood there and repeated his query, to which VinTatum shot back, "That'll be $20." His reaction seemed a bit stern, since it was a harmless (if slightly leering) compliment. Those little breaks in character reminded me how much his demeanor shifts when money isn't involved.

The dancer who reminded me of Joey from Friends had joined us outside and volunteered to take over. Joey demonstrated more proficient massage skills and shortly after, the two men began an impromptu arm wrestling match. There was a weird mix of homoeroticism and machismo on display and once more I thought their adventures would make a great documentary. (Or a reality show? They could be boisterous sexy buds like Jaymes and James from the Amazing Race.)

In the days following my relapse, I sent VinTatum a message saying it was great to see him again and gently pressed him for a reply to my e-mail. I told him I was still really interested in his perspective on what I wrote. His silence was deafening, yet not entirely unexpected. However, my mind was now preoccupied with the hope of getting a picture with him during the coming weekend.


Pride arrived with a bang, bringing together friends, fun and fabulousness across several days of mayhem. It was Saturday night when I convinced a group of my pals to join me in my quest for some Flash photography with VinTatum. Given the inflated prices at other venues, the $5 entry fee at Flash was a bargain.

Not long after making our way in VinTatum spotted my group and I joked that I brought my "gaggle" with me. He smiled and nodded at my friends, before suddenly grabbing my arm and pulling me to go for dances with him. "Stop! Stop! I just got here," I protested, surprised by his aggressiveness. "Now!" He insisted, before explaining, "I'm leaving pretty soon."

"I'm really broke this weekend," I explained. "I can only do two dances today."

"Three," he said playfully.

"Okay, but three is the most I can do," I countered.

Even though things felt a bit more rushed, I tried to make like Barbara Walters wherever I could during our time together.

"Have you ever been attracted to a guy? You seem pretty straight," I said. He nodded and smiled mischievously. He followed up by implying that he might not be as straight as he appears. I still wasn't sure if he was being real or just playing up his Flash persona.

"I know you want a reply to your e-mail," VinTatum said, promising he'd send one soon.

"I'd really like that," I replied, somewhat surprised that he even brought it up.

"I actually read it the day you sent it," he continued.

We didn't get much more introspective than that. But there was a humourous moment when he accused me of reacting to his (I hadn't.) He acted shocked and his expression was a tad exaggerated. I joked that if I was wet, it was from the mickey of alcohol I guzzled before arriving. Maybe it was just me, but I found this kind of schtick tougher to get into after all we'd been through.

Cynicism aside, it was fun to have dances with him while the energy from Pride filled the venue. As we wrapped up our shortened session, he reminded me that tips are always welcome. Normally I'd oblige, but I told him I barely had enough money to get through the weekend. I asked about our potential picture and he promised to text me when he was outside so we could take one.

Soon, the DJ announced VinTatum would be dancing upstairs, so I went up to watch. He did a neat trick where he bobbed his hand up and down in sync with his member, as if he had his manhood on a string. Another highlight came when his pal Joey snuck up behind him and slapped his ass. VinTatum briefly channeled Beyoncé's reaction in Copenhagen before he realized it was his buddy. Frat boy action - it's faaaantastic! VinTatum saw me watching and rubbed his palm in a "money" gesture, hoping to squeeze a tip out of me. The patrons of the room, though, showered him with a sizable amount of dough for his brief performance. I scrounged up a two dollar coin, which I offered as he counted his haul of cash. "It's still a tip," I said weakly.

It may have been my giddy anticipation over our upcoming pic, but I offered to buy VinTatum a drink. "I thought you were broke," he said. "I am, but I have my credit card," I replied. He seemed distracted and slipped away before I could further humiliate myself. Despite being furious he asked for money outside the club, I was now bouncing around like a puppy desperate for his attention. My friends had left already and were waiting for me, so it was a good time to go.

A bit later, we finally met up for our picture, but he still harbored a few reservations about it.

"Let me put my shirt on," he said, before adding, "Don't take it in front of Flash."

We turned to face the opposite direction and I captured two "selfies" of us with my camera. I looked wild eyed, but gleeful beside his scruffy facial hair and gorgeous smile.

"Don't post these on Facebook, or I'll delete you!" he said.

"I won't, don't worry," I assured. (I ignored one pal's advice to go out in a blaze of glory by posting them with the tag "In A Relationship With...")

"Send them to me," he said.

Even though he promised a response to my tumultuous e-mail, it continued to slip his mind well after Pride. (I also understand why he wouldn't want to reply. It's harder to seduce somebody if you officially confirm they're only a bag of money in the grand scheme of things.) He did, however, send a message saying our photos were "awesome."

One friend suggested that VinTatum and I didn't just blur the lines between us, we "napalmed" them. That's probably true, since we constantly pushed against each other's boundaries in various ways. I kept attempting to transition from client to friend/acquaintence so I could have him in my life without draining my bank account. On the other hand, he kept trying to find ways to profit from my attraction, even away from Flash. So maybe we could never be "friends" in the traditional sense. However, I think I'm now okay staying in the background with everyone he's added to his online "fan club."

All things said, it really did mean a lot to me that VinTatum let me take a picture with him. It was important to me to capture us overlapping at this particular moment in our respective journeys. He made a huge impact on me, and now I had something to represent that in my "scrapbook of life." As with most of my infatuations, I hope to someday look back and laugh about how crazy I went. (It also wouldn't hurt if I can successfully turn it into a play that does the saga justice.)

More recently, it looks like some great new opportunities have opened up for VinTatum outside of Flash. His future seems very bright and I'm really happy for him. (It looks like he's gaining traction for his goals and has some stability, which may help him avoid asking guys like me for moolah...) I sent him a quick note of congratulations, telling him I was excited about his new endeavors.

He told me I was awesome.