The 21st Birthday Party (Fiction)

Another piece of fiction. Feedback welcome

It takes an Entertainer
Steve Says Yes to the Gig
The last thing I need to do tonight is to work another party. While business had been fun for a while, bachelorette parties and entertaining groups of women is losing its appeal. College graduation was several years back, and it’s time to move on with life. My plan has long been to take the real estate exam, move to Whitefish and sell real estate. I’m motivated to make some real money and that’s the place to do it. The economic crisis is over and it’s time to earn.

Missoula isn’t exactly New York City, but it’s about as hip and urban as it gets in Montana, so if there’s one place you can make a living as a male entertainer in Montana, it’s Missoula. Yeah, I’m a male stripper, and if I must say so, I’m good at it. I was on the track team in college where I specialized in the decathlon, so I’ve got great legs from running and a chiseled upper body from the throwing events. I still exercise regularly and truth be told, I’m still an Adonis. With a body like mine, I was a natural for the party business and as it turns out, women of all ages dig me.

It started as a dare. “Put an ad in the Missoula Independent,” friends taunted me went I complained about my non-existent job prospects. “Advertise your services as a male stripper and see what happens.”

Always up for a challenge, I placed the ad. What did I have to lose? Phone calls started coming in immediately, and I booked first party within a week. During the economic crisis becoming a stripper was a lot easier than getting a job as a kid right out of college. The money’s not bad and the hours are great, so it was easy to stay with it for a while. But as I said, I’m over it and it’s time to move on.

Despite my reluctance to work another party, tonight’s gig was hard to turn down. First off, I felt sorry for the college guy who hired me. He’s away on a semester abroad and felt bad about leaving his girlfriend at home. On top of that, he offered a sweet fee so how could I say no?

It Takes a Roommate to Host the Party
Marcie Says Yes!
I’m always up for a party and this one’s going to be a riot, a stripper for Juliette’s 21st birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I love Juliette, I really do, but she can be a stick in the mud when it comes to fun. It’ll be good to show her a wild time, loosen her up and make sure she has some fun during her last year of college.

In addition to hiring the stripper, Juliette’s boyfriend Drew sent some wine and Champagne from Paris, where he’s spending the semester, and arranged for a caterer to drop off a few appetizer platters. It’s a good spread and when you add it all up, Drew spent a bundle on this party and it will show. I don’t know any college students who have catered parties so this is going to be a really top-notch affair, classy yet wild at the same time. Out of all of Juliette’s friends, I know the most about throwing a party, and I’m the only one who can pull this off. Drew knows it, so I was the obvious one to host. Besides, everyone knows that my apartment is the best among those in our crowd so Juliette’s 21st birthday party couldn’t take place anywhere else.

It Takes an Obliging Friend
Kit Agrees to Help
When it comes to my friends, I rarely say no to doing them a small favor. Most can talk me into loaning them my car or helping them move or whatever, but only Marcie, overly confident, bossy Marcie, could talk me into helping her host a stripper party for Juliette’s 21st birthday. It’s not really our group’s thing and probably Juliette’ thing the least of all, but Drew’s studying in Paris for the semester and wanted to make sure Juliette had a really memorable 21st birthday.

Sad little Drew. He’s so enamored with Juliette and was so heart broken to leave her for a semester. But he’s also driven to do the things society dictates; study abroad, go to law school, become a breadwinner so he give Juliette the finer things in life she so desperately craves.

Fussy, snobby Juliette. She needs lots of reassurance and admiration and always needs to have a guy so she went off and found one the moment Drew left. She couldn’t dream of being without a boyfriend for even a semester and began dating Luke when she met him a few weeks ago. Juliette now spends lots of time with Luke while she figures out how to squeeze in time to Skype with Drew. I’m not sure if either of them is aware that there is another guy in the picture.

I’m taking my roommate Rashi with me tonight. She’s an exchange student from India and as hard as I try to bill this as a unique American experience, the concept of a male stripper is completely unfamiliar to her. Sure she tells me, she’s familiar with the concept of a stripper. She’s heard about those gentlemen's clubs in Mumbai that the businessmen frequent. “But strippers are always women,” Rashi declares. “Mostly poor women who need to make money. Men can usually get jobs, so why would a man become a stripper?”

As good as her English is, I can’t get the concept across. I guess some things do not translate. Luckily, Rashi embraces American culture and is big on having new American experiences so she’s up for the party. She’s trying to do as much as she can in the year that she’s here and writes down interesting lingo, ideas and more in a small notepad she keeps in her purse. Rashi’s favorite saying is “I’m up for anything,” usually followed by “I’m stoked.”

Between Marcie’s bossiness, Juliette’s fussiness and the lameness of a stripper party, I, unlike sweet Rashi, am not stoked. But I agreed to help and I’d hate to back out. It’s best to smile and go along with it. Get it over with and so we can deposit Juliette at Luke’s apartment afterwards, as she has clearly announced is her preference, and head down to Charlie’s Bar to celebrate Juliette’s birthday properly albeit without her.

Marcie Assesses the Scene
This is a great group, perfectly curated with the right amount of people and the right sorts of people. You can't invite merely anyone to a party like this. Kit helped me set up and everything is perfect, but what I can’t get over is the spread. The food and drinks are stellar. Fine wine and Champagne with names like Chateau de Lancyre Rosé, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Champagne Collet Brut Art Déco flow freely. This party is sure to be the best ever. Word will certainly make it around campus and this will be all anyone can talk about next week.

There's a knock on the door. “Who is it?” I ask knowing all to well who it is.

“I’m here to see Juliette,” a deep male voice says.

“Can I tell her who’s visiting?” I ask on the verge of hysterics.

“A friend,” he barks back.

A friend my ass I think. “Come on in.”

I am dying to see what this guy looks like. No ordinary guy could make it as a stripper so he’s gotta be hot.

“I’m so stoked,” squeals Rashi. “I can’t believe the guy is going to take his clothes off.” We try to brush over this comment, as we want to maintain the surprise. Juliette might be horrified at first, but she’ll see. This is precisely the fun she needs.

Steve Assesses the Scene
Missoula is a funny town for a man in the entertainment business. I never know if I’ll get the wild party girls or the hippie chicks or the outdoor types or something else entirely, so I’ve got to be ready to improvise, change my game plan at the spur of the moment, turn it up or tame it down. I guess that’s why I’ve had such success, I’m good at reading the room and adjusting accordingly, and I always get it right.

The apartment is on the third floor of a rambling old house near the university. About twenty or so girls are assembled in the miniscule living room. Space has been set-aside for me and my set up, and I’m jammed in between a bookshelf made of plywood and cinder blocks and a low-slung table holding a pile of ski magazines, a few lumpy candles and a bong. I don’t have much really, iPod, portable speakers and a small set of flashing party lights, so I’ll be able to make it work despite the small space.

As I set up, I check out the scene. Partygoers are perched on mish-mash of seating, from beat up kitchen chairs with pealing paint to old medal folding chairs to an amorphous grey couch. A shaggy blue carpet that has was probably pretty stylish during the Nixon administration covers the floor, ratty posters cling to the wall with thumbtacks and are interspersed with tapestries that look as if they were made in China and plucked out of the bargain bin at Rockin’ Rudy’s. A wobbly card table heaves with cheap wine and Champagne, chips and pretzels exploding from large bags, and platters of limp vegetables and mystery meat. This place is a downer, but the guests seem excited and should be a good crowd.

As for the rest of the scenery, I notice the girls. Some wear short skirts and try to look sexy while others wear flannel shirts and jeans. One of them speaks excitedly with a foreign accent that drives me wild. The birthday girl, I’m told her name is Juliette, is the most put-together of the group dressed in a long black skirt with a soft pink sweater and a demure strand of pearls adorning her neck.

The host Marcie takes control of the crowd and barks out orders.

“Kit, bring me a chair for Juliette.”

“Rashi, refill Juliette’s wine glass, ASAP.”

“Right here Juliette. You’ll sit up front.”

Juliette doesn’t seem too happy, but she obediently plops herself on the hard medal folding chair in the center of the crowd. The only way I can describe her is totally pinched, shoulders thrust back, lips pursed and totally erect posture. There’s not doubt about it, Juliette is far outside of her comfort zone. Although the look on her face isn’t doing her any favors, I can see that she’s a cute gal. I flash her the most charming smile I’m capable of to put her at ease. If that doesn’t work, the music will. I hit play and the show begins.

“I Want Your Sex” fills the room. The 80s mix has always been a hit and after George Michael’s death, folks really dig it, so I know it will go over well tonight. Besides, I have a mullet and it would be a shame to waste it. You see, a few weeks ago I was hired to perform at an 80s themed 50th birthday party. I met the party planner to make arrangements and when she saw my shoulder length hair she begged me to cut it into a mullet.

“My hair is my pride,” I lied to her. “There’s no way I’ll cut it.”

I put up a good argument and knew exactly how to steer the conversation. Before you knew it, ka-ching, an extra $500 was on the table. See, I told you I’m good. So off I went to get a mullet and I haven’t bothered to get my hair cut.

Kit Assesses the Scene
“Is this guy for real?” I wonder as he begins his routine. I see a mix of emotion in the room, a strange combination of eye rolling, child-like giggles, and hooting and fist pumping from Marcie. Rashi is wide-eyed as she takes in another new American experience. “He’s smokin’ hot,” she whispers in my ear. “I love his hair.”

The stripper, Steve in his name, is attractive and in great shape. Angular shoulders protrude from his neck, and his stomach ripples with muscle. It’s hard to miss his hazel green eyes, the boyish dimple in his chin and his fine cheekbones. While his body and face get a pass, his MC Hammer pants have got to go. And his hair. Shaggy layers droop sloppily across his forehead and I’m not kidding you, he’s got a mullet. Steve’s look screams 1985. He obviously did not get the memo. Wake up Steve, it’s 2017.

Juliette sits prissily in the middle of the room, back ramrod straight, hands folded primly across lap. She becomes the center of attention, which usually suits her fine, yet right now she seems really uncomfortable. Juliette’s thin lips form a straight line across her totally inscrutable face making it look as if she’s at a job interview rather than a raucous 21st birthday party.

Will she continue to sit there politely or roll her eyes in that condescending way she has? It would be an absolute riot if she goes along with it and gets into it. Maybe she’ll sleep with the stripper. She’s with both Drew and Luke so why not throw one more guy into the mix.

Steve Goes to Work
As always, I start of tamely and take time to get a read of the crowd. I keep my dancing g-rated, my movements smooth and undulating while the music guides my hips as they gyrate rhythmically. As for my attire, I’ve got a bow tie around my neck and am topless. I dance bare foot, legs covered in a pair of black pants. They're a bit baggy as the floppiness conceals the big surprise hidden beneath.

“I want your sex,” bellows George Michael.

“Listen to the music.” I always tell myself at this point. “Get lost in it and get into the mood.”

You might call me a stripper, but I call myself an entertainer and when I think of it that way, I’m able to bring class to my act. This allows me to adapt a vibe that is undeniably sexy yet cool and aloof at the same time. Trust me, this drives women wild.

Juliette Contemplates
I am going to kill Drew. While Drew is really smart this was a dumb idea. I just want this party to be over with so I can head over to Luke’s place.

Drew. Luke. What do I do? While I love Drew, I love Luke too. But Drew had to leave for the semester and Luke is here now. He was so sweet and comforting when I met him at the coffee shop that I had to be with him. But he’s an English major so what are his prospects? Drew, on the other hand, is headed to law school in the fall, and if he gets into one of a good schools as he should, he’ll make a nice six-figure salary his first year out.

This stripper Steve is kinda creepy. I mean he’s gotta be handful of years older than us yet he’s hanging around this po’ dunk college town entertaining college girls. Loser. He gazes into my eyes with a look that is way too intimate, like he’s trying to undress me with his eyes. That stupid George Michael song thumps on.  80s music is the worst. You may want my sex Steve, but I certainly don’t want yours. Yet for some reason, I can’t look away. Small specks of green dot his chestnut eyes giving them a dreamy hue and the dimple in his chin is undeniably cute. And then it hits me, those feature are exactly like Drew’s.

Drew, away in Paris. Right now I’m madder at him than I’ve been all semester. We’ve been going out for five months, so I thought I knew he was the guy for me but maybe I need to rethink things.

Luke. Luke’s so sweet. Maybe I could convince him to get a real estate license after we graduate. We can move to Whitefish. Sure, it’s not New York City or San Francisco, but he could make a lot of money there and it wouldn’t be that bad, would it? I’ll never get used to the winters in Montana, but with the kind of money he’ll make we could get a place in Mexico and head down there all the time. I could live with that compromise. But Luke says he wants to stay here. Yes, stay right here in Missoula, Montana to get a MFA in creative writing. If he really loves me can change his plan. Right?

Drew, I don’t have to convince him what to do. We want exactly the same things, big city life, big house, nice cars and the finer things. But if a party like this is one of the finer things he’s got it wrong. I’ll have a nice long conversation with him when he gets back.

Drew or Luke? What should I do? It’s all so confusing.

Steve Plods Along
The tempo picks up and it’s time to deliver my line.

“I’m getting so excited,” I declare. “I’ve got a big surprise for you Juliette.”

I deliver these last two lines with a primal grunt to bring on the excitement and amp up the sexual energy. A cord is pulled and my black trousers drop to the floor. The cord is also attached to a miniature plastic Champagne bottled that busts open spraying a stream of colorful confetti across the room. I’m down to a G-string.

Kit Analyzes
“O.M.G! Fluorescent. Banana. Hammock,” someone shouts out and we burst into frenzied laughter.

Although I'm laughing, all I can think is ick. I can’t believe a flimsy piece of Lycra is all that separates his private parts from all of us. As for this recent stunt, big surprise my ass, it’s only a bunch of stupid confetti. The laughter he’s getting is in mockery not because anyone thinks it’s a cool trick. Open your eyes Steve. You’re a has-been and your act is lame.

“Ice, Ice Baby,” the crappy Vanilla Ice tune, comes one. Steve grunts and pumps and strokes and dances around like a petite gorilla while Rashi writes a note in her little notepad. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what part of this scene she thinks is worth recording.

Juliette stares directly at Steve yet her eyes are empty and she seems a million miles away. In Paris with Drew or perhaps she’s closer, across town with Luke in that dumpy basement apartment she’s so willing to overlook.

Marcie is Loving It
This is the best 21st birthday party I’ve ever been to. This stripper is as hot at they come, totally buff with a perfect face and the confidence to match. And boy can he dance, not all stiff and robotic like the college boys who try to dance. He’s one that can really bust a move.

“Work it Steve,” I call out and he flashes a smile that is to die for and winks at me.

80s music booms from the speakers and lights swirl around the room making my apartment feel like a real dance club. 80s music and the 80s in general are the best.

Steve is Confounded
This is where things get good. Or are supposed to get good. The vibe is off and my sixth sense doesn’t kick in. What usually comes next is that I slowly approach the birthday girl and look to her for clues on how to act. If I get a green light, it’s hands on her shoulders, crotch to chest, full on stripper action; yellow light, a quick brush of my hand against her forearm; red light, back off a bit, turn around and flex to show off my broad deltoids and ample pecs. But Juliette’s a black light and I’ve never had a black light before. Juliette stares straight ahead with no emotion on her face. Not a smile or a smirk or eye rolling or anything.

Juliette Loses It
Luke or Drew? Luke or Drew? I won’t have to make the decision until spring semester when Drew returns, but right now I can’t think of anything else. I start wringing my hands like I do when I’m nervous, a sophomoric habit I have to kick before graduation. Ugh. I’m so disgusted with myself. Why did I say yes? With so much on my mind this is the last thing I need. I’m freaking out silently and that’s another bad habit I’ve got to kick. Steve is gross yet in a strange way I’m fascinated and can’t keep my eyes off of him. What’s happening to me? Slowly a lone tear rolls down my cheek and before I can control myself many more follow.

Marcie Tries Not to Freak Out
Juliette bows her head into her hands and at first I think she’s laughing, but then I see her shaking and hear sobs. Tears roll down her face and she’s getting all worked up. Steve has stopped dancing and the room is eerily silent. I want to yell out “Get a grip Juliette. Chill out and have some fun. It’s only a stripper.”

Juliette is so sensitive and prissy I have to tip toe around her all the time. Why did I think tonight would be any different? I’m so angry. How could this be happening? My party is ruined. This was supposed to be my best party ever and Juliette ruined it. Bitch.

Steve Tries Not To Freak Out
Shit. What did I do and more importantly what do I do next? I step away, but Juliette does not stop crying. It’s probably best to say nothing lest something be misconstrued and I find myself in a heap of trouble.

Marcie comforts Juliette and I stand there like a doofus. I feel pathetic. My party-mix plays on. Def Leppard belts out “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and lights continue to swirl in the dimly lit room. Other than the sultry foreign girl who whispers to someone “Why is Juliette so upset? He’s so fly and his dancing is luscious,” no one speaks. With the lights bouncing rainbow colors off of the walls, a sobbing birthday girl, and me standing around in a G-string, it’s an awkward yet surreal moment.

Kit Tries Not To Laugh
Everyone seems so concerned about Juliette and it would be in poor taste to laugh. In effort to keep from giggling, I turn my attention to the stripper. Secretly, I’m relieved the party is over.

“I guess this isn’t our thing.” I tell Steve. “The bathroom’s down the hall to the left.”

Boy, is this unreal, a jilted stripper. It takes him forever to get out of the bathroom. I bet he’s jerking off. Nasty.

Steve Heads Home
In the bathroom, I change out of my ridiculous outfit and back into my clothes. The party is ending early and I feel a bit lost. It would be great to head out, down to Charlie’s Bar perhaps, to decompress, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find anyone. I’m not up for going out by myself, but I’m not in the mood to go home.

I sit on the sink and try to get my head together before I take off. To kill time, I take a look at my iPhone and scroll aimlessly though my Facebook feed. I check my text messages and see that I have one from my roommate. “Ordered ‘za, beer in ‘fridge. Impromptu housewarming PAR-TAY!” Yes! A crowd should be forming at our new apartment and I’m outta here.

I mumble an awkward goodbye and thank you to the girls, who don’t seem to notice, and make the short drive home. While the party was a bust, at least there will be folks at our place. I’m psyched as I walk up the front door to my new pad. It’s a huge old house divided into three apartments and it’s the coolest place I’ve rented in Missoula. All apartments share a common front door, but the lock is kinda fussy. As I try to manhandle it open, a college kid comes up from the basement apartment and shows me how.

“You’ve gotta jiggle the key,” he shows me. “Like this.” Boom, the door pops open. I thank him and he says it’s not a problem, as he had to come up anyway to let his girlfriend in.

“I’m Luke,” he says. “You must be one of the guys who moved into the third floor apartment earlier today.”

“Yup, I’m Steve. Yowza dude, it was a crazy night at work and I’m ready for some cold ones.”

“What do you do,” he asks, but before I can answer I’ve lost his attention.

Luke looks over my shoulder and starts to wave. I turn around to see a young woman coming up the walk. Luke calls out to her excitedly, “Hi honey. How was the birthday party?”

And as she get closer I see it is Juliette, the birthday girl that I stood in front of moments ago in a fluorescent banana hammock.