or The Sex Post (ok, ‘the cabaret post‘)
So, long before my 3rd anniversary here, some time around my first one in fact, I went out to the bar where I had my recent vision with one of my primordial friends, Acting Cowboy.*
* Primordial friends: the locals who scrambled around me when I first came here, taking me out, feeding me in nice restaurants, showing me around, driving me around and making my life comfortable. When I was no longer a newcomer they all disappeared and no longer call.
Stubbornly a city person, I started that same blasted conversation about small places and how I feel uncomfortable with them, and especially in them. Acting Cowboy disagreed with me, he was finishing a relationship at the time exactly because he would not move to a big city, but it was an interesting discussion, all the same. Still, talk veered slowly towards the Outposters’ sexual oppression, as inevitable. Acting Cowboy’s face lit up and he said:
“Let’s go to a cabaret!”
I explained to him that I am not into buying sex. He vividly exclaimed that this is definitely not what cabarets are about; technically, prostitution is illegal in the Outpost after all (this is correct, whenever sex workers and punters are arrested, it is news). I sneered that he was close to telling me cabarets are family entertainment. “Well, yes, of course they are.”
He swiftly paid for the drinks (tequilas, vodkas and I don’t remember what else) and we briskly jumped into his car (yes, he drove drunk — it was terrifying) and landed at the biggest and best cabaret in town. Pink lights lit a corridor leading underground. The image of coyly risqué chorus lines, magicians and corny crooners quickly dissolved even before we opened the soundproofed door and saw around eleven Eastern Europeans simultaneously stripping, each at a different degree of nudity, to their thongs. I put on my contrived whimsical / detached smile, which is the equivalent of a normal person’s gasp followed by a gaping mouth. A bunch of old men were watching the Eastern Europeans (yes, they were all women: here they call them ‘artistes’, with an e).
We sat at a small table at the back. A short funny-looking waiter immediately emerged, a stereotypically cinematic middle eastern night-club waiter; we ordered beers (from my ‘butt bar’ savvy friends, as we call such places in Compatridia, I knew that you never order drinks that do not come to you in a sealed bottle). The stripping procession was going on non-stop: when one of the artistes would finish, she would disappear behind the curtains and a new one would immediately take her place and begin stripping, so that the number of strippers releasing themselves of latex, tinsel, nylon, vinyl, and various light materials would remain constant at any given time. This is how the Sacred Band of Thebes operated, I think.
The beers arrived. Acting Cowboy told me that I don’t have to buy anyone drinks, if I don’t feel like it. Before I ask him what this was supposed to mean, two artistes sandwiched us (just in terms of seating arrangements). The one next to me asked me if I would buy her a drink, sorry, I don’t think so, ok, let’s talk. She pressed her thigh against mine and positioned her face in an accordingly myopic distance. The discussion was not very interesting and I felt bad about keeping the poor girl occupied in vain, she probably felt the same and eventually left without having discovered where I was from (‘You are not from here. Are you English?’ hahahaha), although she had already surrendered the information that she was from Kiev. Acting Cowboy would not buy his artiste a drink either, so she left, too.
“Is that what you call family entertainment here?”, I whispered, as two more artistes were already heading our way. “Well, we come here in big groups when we are on leave from the army; couples come to cabarets, too”. Couples go and come to all sorts of places, I protested but the comment was lost and a Moldovan student sat next to me and asked for a drink. In vain, too, so she left. Then came the Muscovite, angry that we were spoilsports, just for a light (we disappointed her in that, as well). Then I said, “I buy the drinks” and I paid two beers 4 times what they cost in a bar.
Then we spent two hours in Acting Cowboy’s car going in circles round the capital and talking. Here is the story:
Acting Cowboy told me that Outpost women are ugly, bland, rude, sullen, antisocial, unforthcoming, unsexy, arrogant; I told him they are very oppressed into focusing on marrying and having kids as soon as possible, while starting and maintaining some sort of career. Acting Cowboy continued that, on the contrary, those cute, beautiful, ethereal, timid, talkative, girls from the East are indeed like Angels of Heaven, ever so sweet and always accommodating. Sure, I said, that’s their job. “The Outpost has been a prettier place since they came in 1991.” And no, I shouldn’t think ill of them, they are not what I think.
Ok, so, do men go to cabarets just to stare at their cheekbones and whiteness? What about the “buy me a drink” thing? Oh, that’s how the cabaret stays in business. Is that all? He would not be very specific. Nevertheless, after I deployed my interrogation techniques (here is how my job can help me in my everyday goings-on) this is what I was told:
Of course, there is a proper procedure: artiste comes over, if you like her you buy her drinks, after six or seven of them times two (one for her, one for you), the boss comes over and asks you if you would like to leave with her… “And then you do the deed”, I interrupted. “No, no: these creatures (a term of endearment here) are no prostitutes!” So, the artiste changes into something plain and decent (and free of synthetic fabrics) and you take her for dinner (you pay); then for a drink and chat (you pay); then dancing (you pay). “At a cabaret?” “No, elsewhere, for real dancing.”Then?” “Then, if you want, you can take her to a hotel” (which you pay).
By then it was 3:30 am and I decided to make a complete bastard of myself: “…and you chat?”. Acting Cowboy exasperated said, “oh, well, no, you can do something with her.” “What?” Well… For your information, the tariff is 10, 20 and 40-50.
I was later told that this combination of bonhommie, gentlemanliness and excess spending makes the whole thing look like a date and obviates the legal definition of what constitutes soliciting.