We fly into Puerto Vallarta on a Friday afternoon. The mountains are flocked with a thick green cover, and misty fog filled the valleys. It is overcast, and raining. But this is what you buy into in the tropics, and P.V. delivers.
The sultry humid heat leads to long, sleepless nights where you just want to be outside and moving to generate some sort of evaporative cooling. The streets are filled with others doing the same, men and women with their shirts unbuttoned, fanning themselves, smooth brown skin glimmering with perspiration. A boy on a street corner lifts his shirt up, his hand rubbing his tight belly, and he suggestively smiles at me. I smile back, but quickly look away, and wonder for the millionth time why I’m so painfully shy when it comes to human contact. As we walk away down the street I look back at him. He’s staring at me, his hand making slow circles around his navel.
We make our way down the street, passing vendors selling street food from churros to chorizos. Eventually we come to a bar called Anthropology. We pay a small cover charge (50 pesos) and make our way upstairs. We’re seated on a banquet in a dark corner and we order some drinks.
Within a minute we’re approached by a beautiful man in a speedo. His body is sculpted and perfectly smooth. He could be used to demonstrate each muscle group in a human anatomy class. He introduces himself as you would at a sales meeting, solemnly shaking hands with each of us in turn, and then proceeds without further ado to grind up against Dan, climbing entirely up into Dan’s lap. Dan looks mortified but doesn’t know the proper etiquette for the situation. Bobby and I watch in amusement as the stripper (as if helping a child) reaches down and gently takes Dan’s hand and moves it to his gyrating ass. Bobby and I are extremely amused, Dan less so.
As the night goes on, we all get visits from various guys. I have a huge muscular titan climb into my lap and squirm away for some time before I buy him a drink and send him on his way. Bobby enjoys every guy who comes within reach, his face split wide by a grin, his hands exploring like caffeine-addled spiders.
Buying a stripper a drink seems like an odd thing, and it is. You would think that it would limit their working efficiency, and as the night went on the bar would be filled with increasingly sloppy dancers. Pole-related at-work accidents would soar, as would the proprietors’ insurance costs. Ahh, that’s what I thought too, until I saw a small chit passed to a dancer along with his vodka-and-tonic.
Here’s how it works. The stripper asks for a drink, and in the heat of the moment you agree. Of course! The boy calls over a server and orders a gin-and-soda, or perhaps a rum-and-coke. The server goes to the bar, gets a glass of soda, and grabs a ‘drink chit’. These are delivered to the dancer, leaving the customer feeling like a generous date. The stripper pockets the chit into his speedo. At the end of the night, the chits are exchanged for an appropriate amount of cash. Everyone wins… you feel like a generous date without the ugly exchange of filthy lucre, the bar gets to take a cut of the dancer’s tip, and the dancer gets both a tip and hydrated.
After a very short while Bobby our friends Robb and Rick evacuate, uncomfortable with the aggressiveness of the dancers. Dan decides to follow, leaving Bobby and I alone in the bar. Bobby schools me that I am in charge, and that I have to be assertive about what I want. Okay. I get up and walk across the room to a thin twig of a boy whose smile has been lighting up the room all night. I take him by the hand and lead him back to my seat, and he dances for me. He smells like sweet sandalwood, and he kisses like he means it. He sits in my lap and laughs and talks with Bobby like they were long-time friends. His name is Francisco.
After a while he offers me a private dance for 500 pesos. I agree, and he leads me upstairs to a small room, where we dance together for a little while before returning to the club. I think that he gives me what in the trade is called “the boyfriend experience”, and even though I have a husband I love very much, the thrill of fresh new love is always a wonderful thing. Bobby and I leave the club at 1am with high energy and high spirits, and make our way home through the damp & sultry streets of Puerto Vallarta.