Save the last dance for me

“What are we going to again?” asked D., my former wingman when he came to pick me up.

“Oh you know, it’s a salon,” I said. “Sex-themed.”

Actually, I had enough idea of what to expect to be as vague as possible in my description.

I’d had enough trouble recruiting someone to come with me. At first, M. was gung ho. But then, predictably, she opted to spend Saturday night with her dog instead. I didn’t feel like bullying Wingy into coughing up the 35 bucks admission, and I would sooner give money to John McCain’s campaign fund than pony up for El Cheapo’s ticket cost. So I turned to D., my former wingman.

We arrived at the space, a fencing studio on the second floor of a building near downtown, early, around 8. Chairs were set up near the front; there was no stage. Kliegs blazed the front area with light. We stepped up to the bar, ordered a couple of vodkas (with blueberry juice—we’re health nuts) and grabbed a couple of seats.

A salon, in the dictionary (and Russian novel) definition of the term, is “a gathering of intellectuals etc. hosted by a celebrity or socialite.” I could’ve explained this to my friend, but it would not have prepared him for what was to come.

Our host–Julia S., a blonde, quite pretty sex educator with a husky voice–got the salon started with a few words about sex, and how from a very early age our natural inclinations are oppressed and suppressed by society and family. Then the first act, a poet, came out, took off all her clothes and stood under a makeshift tree composed of two girls and one guy, all nude, holding up tree branches. She recited a poem about sexuality and nature.

Julia returned and talked more about sex, then introduced the next act. And so it went, over the next hour or so, as we were enlightened by a comedian riffing on how all women are sluts (until Julia objected, and he changed his terminology to “dirty whores”); a 64-year-old BDSM practitioner, who appeared in his chains and leather pouch and extolled the virtues of pain; and a burlesque dancer who, after her performance, talked about body image (she’s rather more voluptuous than the average burlesque dancer). I was quite entertained by the whole thing, but then, I had some vested interest—after all, I’d been dating our host off-and-on since the end of January (thought lately it had been way more off). So when, during the shimmying by a flamenco dancer with a sour expression trapped on her face, my brother-in-arms turned to me and admitted he wasn’t having the time of his life, I figured maybe it was time to duck out for some food.

Following our late snack at one of favourite downtown eateries, Bin 941, the question was, did I want D. to drop me off back at the salon? He was going home to his girlfriend. I envisioned myself walking up that flight of stairs to the dueling academy, and standing in the back by myself watching Julia give her sex talk and introduce a few more acts. Then the salon would be over, and she’d be surrounded by friends and well-wishers. I would stand around wondering whether to help put the chairs away or have another drink.

Eventually, that awkward moment of what to do next would come—and for all I knew, she already had plans that didn’t involve me. Nothing had been said, after all, about what would happen at the end of the night, and I was in not position to make assumptions. Did I really want to find myself in the back of a cab at 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday night, heading home with nothing to show for my night but a stomach full of vodka and a head full of images of naked hippies?

“Ah, I’ll get a ride home, if you don’t mind,” I said.

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