Little Red Riding Hoods Rude Awakening:

Those big, silver glass doors shut behind me makes me realize that this is real. The opportunity to work at this place with “gentlemen” is so enticing. I had previous bar experience working a few nights a week. But not with “gentlemen.”

We are led down a dimly lit passage by Ms Glamour Girl. She really is gorgeous, and I could not help but stare at her and the confidence that seemed to cling to her like a second skin. You have to bear in mind that the most glamourous girls I saw or knew existed only within the confines of a magazine or tv program.

I was in awe. “Come this way,” she huskily instructs as she glides across the passage in heels far higher than mine. 

“Life is great,” I tell myself as we are led to a room where the mirrors have those big bulbs surrounding it and boas are draped across red and black chairs. I felt like Liza Minelli in Cabaret or (for the younger generation), like Christina Aguilera in Burlesque. I look around still nervous and realize that people who own bars could take a lesson from this man. Just look at the cloakrooms he makes available to us. 

Coming from abject poverty where the only glamorous dress you have laid your eyes on is the white wedding gown of a childhood friend, this was beyond anything my mind could ever imagine. “Have a seat and you will be called up one by one to be personally interviewed by George,” *not his real name.

After the third girl went for her interview, they never came back to the cloakroom or dressing room. I tentatively sat on a leopard print chaise (love seat). I didn’t lounge back, I sat stooped forward.  

The last girl gets called and I am all alone. She is led away by Ms Glamour Girl.

Immediately I jump up and start practising my “ramp model walk,” more like a duck walk but that’s a story for another day. I reapply the hideous fire engine red lipstick and grab one boa and lovingly drape it over my shoulders. “Sigh,” I smile to myself. If only my mom could see me now!

I prance up and down, smiling, throwing my head back and laughing to my mirror image. 

“Do you like that,” I hear a voice boom behind me. Startled, I guiltily drop the boa across the nearest chair. My cheeks by now are as red as the rest of my outfit.

“Uh! I was just….,” I stumble across my words. “Don’t worry girls like that,” he smiles. There’s something odd about his smile but perhaps it’s my nerves. George explains that Ms Glamour Girl is training those girls so he will interview me. 

“Keep it together Thesna,” my inner voice says. “Remember rent next month!” 

“Turn around and walk up and down” he instructs as he lounges on the chaise. I comply. 

“Shoulders back and chest out,” he says. “Don’t be shy.”

“Ok well you know how to serve drinks so you will be behind the bar and don’t forget to smile at the customers,” He tells me in a soft but firm tone. “The more you smile, the more tips you get and try wiggle as you bring them drinks.” 

Wiggle? Oh, heaven help me! If I can’t walk like a model, how am I meant to wiggle? The image of a pregnant duck flash across my mind.

“The more you wiggle your bum, the more tips you will get,” 

Wiggle it is then. 

“Sorry mama,” I silently pray. At least I am not walking around naked. Nudity is such a forbidden thing where I grew up. We weren’t even allowed to look at our own bodies and big breasts were almost “vulgar.” Harsh I know but I never knew another life. Though township life gives you closeness and community, it is harsh in its judgment when you’re seen as different. 

I am led down the passage to what they call “the club.” 

It’s dark with a few lights that somehow brings an intimacy to the place. The girls are standing in the middle with their trays precariously balanced on their hands. They are wearing red micro-mini skirts and bikini tops. By this time, I am feeling overdressed in my bodysuit. Although it is tight. I notice a few old men. (I’m young, 40 is old to me), scattered around the room, nursing drinks from small whisky tumblers.

“So here’s the deal,” I trade with my good Catholic upbringing self, “ as long as you are working behind the bar, you’re ok, besides this is Johannesburg, (the London and New York City of South Africa), so you need to grow up.” 

“The doors will be opening soon ladies so get ready, George bellows out across the room.

Suddenly what sounds like a rumble seems to come from what I remember to be those silver glass entrance doors. I hear laughter, conversation and what felt like five minutes later, every couch, stool and table were occupied by men in suits, decent looking, successful men who seem friendly.  

“What the heck…” My eyes almost popped out of my head. “What is going on here?” I think. 

What felt like a matter of minutes the tables were rearranged and those same girls with their red bikini tops and micro miniskirts are now dressed in red, silk or sequenced thongs with….

“Are those nipple caps?” My mind can’t seem to catch up with what my eyes are seeing. 

The music is loud and sultry and those “decent” men are touching the girls around their waist or pulling them down to hug and kiss them. “What is going on here,” I finally close my mouth that has been left open since I saw the transition of the girls.

I’m sorry I told you “Catholic” upbringing. We are reared on guilt. 

I am innocently but warily serving drinks to some men hanging around the bar when I see George come towards me. “And this is Thesna,” he tells the men at the bar. Geez, thanks George now everyone knows my name. “She’s new,” he continues.

Suddenly, I have what feels like thousands of eyes peeled on me. “Why is the bar area so crowded now?” More tips for me, I guess. And no this was before the days of Coyote Ugly. “Wiggle,” George whispers as he leans across the bar. 

I wiggle. At that moment there was not a better wiggler than me.

I hear coins being dropped at almost the same time in my tip jar. “Oh, yes, I can wiggle people.” 

I bend to get more beers from the bar fridge and the sound of coins dropping into the tip jar increases. 

I’m in my element. I don’t care about what type of place this is. People are so quick to judge. George seems nice and Ms Glamour Girl (although not the friendliest) is polite. I heard she was George’s girlfriend. That’s ok, George (Not being mean) is no Hollywood heartthrob so she is welcome to her boyfriend.

It must have been about a minute later when I look up into a bright light that is shining on me. The DJ welcomes me and… “WAIT! Was that a drumroll?…

Caught like a deer in the headlights….

Please tune in to the final part of Little Red Riding Hood.