When Brett goes out to eat in an Arab diner, he doesn't expect the dinner conversation to take a turn into the seedy underbelly of the stripping trade. So when an inquisitive waiter asks him to bare all, he blushes over his chicken 'shish-tawouk'. It turns out this American In Arabia prefers his chicken strippers fully (honey-mustard) dressed.
Saturday night and it was time to eat out with a friend. We picked a nice local eatery, and it was populated like every other restaurant in the Middle East: 3 or 4 Arab families, a table of ‘Borat’ stunt-doubles smoking us out, European tourists with their unkempt hair and waterproof pants/shorts, and then there was me.
Granted, I do look Anglo with my long hair and pointy nose, but at least it’s combed! In my mind, I am the cool American, privy to all the trends from Hollywood to Southern Sudan. Tonight, however, I was going to hear something completely new.
When the headwaiter approached our table, we gave him a hearty howdy at full volume, filling the loud foreigner stereotype well. But hey, I make it a rule to be nice to our garcon --- ‘Happy Waiter, Never Greater. Upset Server, Spit in My Burger’.
We engaged in the usual Arab to Westerner banter: “From where you are?” “I have uncle in New Jersey.” “How much do male strippers make?” I’m from Pennsylvania. Jersey's a cool place. What did you just say?
Just when I thought I had heard it all, from ‘I want to marry your sister’ to ‘the Holocaust never happened’, we got blindsided with this query. Our attendant went on to ask all sorts of heartfelt questions like ‘How does one get started in the Adult film business’ and ‘Do I (Brett) run into any of the porn actors or actresses on the street?’
Apparently, our garcon thought we Americans raise our kids to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or go-go dancers. My buddy and I were hoping for some chicken wings but now we have to protect this young man from a life of certain decadence.
I told him that these professionally naked people, regardless of how much money they make, are not happy. He countered that apparently male strippers are quite content, since he saw an interview on TV with one who was greatly enamored with his job, life and no doubt, his own hairless, oiled body.
On this point, I had to agree with my Salafi neighbor who won’t shake my hand: Curse you, MTV or whatever ridiculous channel that would produce a documentary about a tanned buffoon who gets paid to rhythmically disrobe!
The lingering question remained, why did he ask me about the Rated X lifestyle? Do I look like a porn watcher? Or, maybe, a male stripper? I have been hitting the gym pretty hard lately. But alas, I think the sad reality is two fold. First, no one would pay to see me dance in my boxers on any occasion.
But secondly, and much more importantly, my waiter, and my taxi driver and my accountant, and so many more, are just looking for a way out. He saw me as a resource to help him escape the small paychecks and glass ceilings of Arab world employment. And if his getaway meant stripping, he had one foot already out the pants.
My final advice was to keep your shirt on Ace. That meathead from the stripper interview is going nowhere, fast, and this life will have more opportunities than just nude aerobics for cash. After he served our salads, our waiter thanked us for the career advice and then asked if we wanted any dressing. I said, “I wish you would!”, stuck a folded dollar in his pocket and enoyed the rest of my meal. "Happy Waiter, ..."
By Brett Weer
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Bawaba's editorial policy.