December 1, 2018
Johannesburg, South Africa
It would not be completely accurate to say we had been planning for this day, but we all knew it was coming. Thankfully, T remembered to send an invite over WhatsApp the night before, so when Bob and I woke up hungover from the party the night before to the high holy mess in our house that morning, we still had time to clean up and prepare for the first day of a messy Dezemba.
Place: our house, because our landlady has a pool.
Time: half past eleven for one thirty-ish.
T showed up at a few minutes to one, shouting out her car window, “Are my kids here yet?” She had told her five nieces and nephews who were staying with her for the week to walk over from her house, one street up from ours, while she rushed to Pick n Pay to buy party food. They hadn’t arrived yet. After waiting twenty minutes, she went to pick them up.
On arriving, the boys wasted no time. Everything they were holding was dropped on the grass between the gate and the pool, and they stripped down to their underwear faster than I had seen any of them move in a while. They would not need any other entertainment until sundown.
This was my first time on the other end of a kid’s birthday party: an apparently responsible adult amongst other apparently responsible adults, always keeping an eye on the kids, frequently insisting on their rehydration, trying to be strict about no swimming for half an hour after eating, but also trying to party with the other adults.
It looked like most other parties we’d held: braai stand prepped, futons moved outside, meat, pap, salad, weed, beer, co-parents, old friends, new friends. For the most part, we were seated in a circle. Bob was tending to the braai, I had to keep checking on the onions that were being caramelized for a salad and C, who I met for the first time that day, was sewing letters she had cut out of some beautiful fabric onto an orange tank top to spell out STABANE. She was making it for T to wear to the Global Citizen concert the next day. T periodically reminded us that she was going to watch Beyoncé’s first show on the continent live.
The older kids, too cool to swim, lingered on the fringes of both parties, although Vee, who is 15, eventually took over the speaker and moved it to the other end of the garden to play the music the rest of us were too old for.
At some point, somebody mentioned they might want to try acrylic nails. The questions, mostly directed at K, a doctor, started out mild, because many of us were clueless: What are acrylics? What’s the difference between acrylics and gel? Do most people who get their nails done get acrylics? Once it was established these were not nails one just took off at will, the shock was more evident: But what about sex? Can you put your finger in a vagina when you have acrylics on? Surely something will tear? Nobody had any answers, so I tweeted our dilemma:
It was a hard pass from everybody—no aesthetic was worth that amount of effort.
We moved on. Evening plans were in the making. Bob and I were waiting for G, who had left earlier to go fix a bike, to come pick us up so we could go to an annual party in Yeoville. Throughout the day, almost everybody else had been speaking about going to The Summit; we had not asked about it because Bob thought they were talking about a gender summit like the disastrous one that happened last month, and I assumed they meant a Global Citizen-related event, so our friends had a good laugh when they invited us to come with and found out what we thought was going on. Finally, somebody drew a breath long enough to explain to us homebodies that The Summit was a strip club in Hillbrow. Bob and I changed our plans immediately. We piled into T’s car; B drove.
Summit was a brand-new experience for the two of us, but our friends had been before. They let us have two of the slots they landed right up at the stage. They almost unanimously agreed their favourite dancer was Fire, who was entertaining a private table at the other end of the room; T said her favourite was the dancer with the dreadlocks, although she did not know her stage name.
The first groups of dancers looked bored, the audience was just barely interested, and beers were pricier than I was used to. But then a solo dancer got on stage and changed my mind. After her, two more. After them, three others and after them, four. The main show featured six dancers. All clothes on stage were discarded, except the hella high heels. Most of the audience, when I remembered to look, was often zombified. B kept our drinks coming and we asked no questions.
The showerheads on stage periodically spurted warm water onto massive amounts of bubble bath—a young man and older woman mopped up in between shows. Bob, K, and T tipped the dancers; the dancers tipped each other; one of them let K take off her g-string while yet another grabbed B’s head between her feet and expertly pulled it between her thighs, three times, while he kept a straight face. When I went to the bathroom, one of the dancers was openly hitting on T; another told me to tell B that she wanted him. A few signs on the wall reminded patrons that the partial decriminalization of marijuana did not extend to these premises. T got on stage at some point to empty a bottle of bubble bath onto one of the dancer’s torsos.
Right after the main show, the DJ—who had interrupted every single track on his decks with asinine commentary—called for the newcomers to show themselves, just like they might still do at every church I attended in my childhood. All the patrons who stepped forward and onto the stage were men; I was shy. The DJ played Idibala as a warm-up competition before each man was approached by a dancer and given a lap dance. Finally, each man was tasked with entertaining his partner, at which point I stopped being shy because the men were boring. I vaguely remember getting up, getting on stage, chasing the dullest of them away, and dancing with the woman with a particularly long wig. It was fun; it was way too short a dance.
I cannot remember what time we left; I do remember telling the DJ what I thought of his work. He was not amused. We had to wait a few minutes for T to ward off all the attention she had garnered by that point, and then B drove us all home.