Lap Dance

Nonfiction by Katherine Heiny

(Imaginary conversation with my parents: “This is my daughter-in-law, Brandi. She works at Hooters.”)

I’m not big on holiday traditions. I don’t get up early enough for the Fourth of July parade, carving pumpkins makes me nervous, and my children leave a shot of whiskey for Santa instead of milk and cookies, because Santa doesn’t need the calories but she often needs the alcohol.And on New Years Day, when other families were having black-eyed peas and watching football, we went to Hooters because my sons, ages 14 and 12, had always wanted to go there.

(Imaginary school essay topic: Write about your family’s holiday traditions.)

Right away, Hooters lived up to our expectations, or at least, the expectations of some of us — i.e., there were a lot of very pretty girls wearing not much. Our waitress was named Brandi. She smiled and led us to our table, and my older son, Lucas, followed her in a sort of joyful daze.

(Imaginary conversation with my parents: “This is my daughter-in-law, Brandi. She works at Hooters.”)

Brandi seated us and we all looked at the menu. If you have children and an hour to kill, you might want to download the Hooters menu just for fun because it seems to have been written by a preteen boy: “Hootersizers,” “Training Burgers,” “Strip Cheese Sandwich,” “Have It All the Way Hot Dog.” My boys were in heaven and dissolved in a flood of laughter when Lucas ordered the “Chicken Breast Tenders” although I think that was actually just the name of it and not a double entendre.

(Imaginary request from Lucas to school cafeteria worker: “Could I have a more-than-a-mouthful burger?”)

Actually, I was the one who ordered the burger and it was delicious. I recommend it without reservation. Our conversation over lunch centered on whether Lucas could have his birthday here and whether they had a party room, and if so, did it smell like athletic socks the way the party room at the gymnastics place did?

(Imaginary invitation: “Please join us at Hooters!” I could Photoshop a birthday hat onto the owl in the Hooter’s logo.)

My younger son, Oliver, kept asking if Lucas had enough allowance saved up for a lap dance.
“It’s not a strip club,” I said. “It’s a restaurant.”
“How much is a lap dance, anyway?” Oliver asked.
“In my experience,” my husband said in a loud, expansive voice, “lap dances are not very good value.”
You’ll notice he didn’t say, Lap dances are immoral and degrading to both parties, and your mother and I hope you never have one. He didn’t even say, Lap dances are a waste of money. He said they’re not very economical.
“But how much are they?” Oliver persisted.
My husband looked thoughtful. “In a nice place, maybe fifty dollars,” he said. “Plus the cover charge and some overpriced beer. The whole thing could be a hundred dollars, easily.”
“A hundred dollars!” Oliver said, shocked. “That’s like three Xbox games!”

(Imaginary future valedictorian speech: “The most valuable life lesson I learned from my father was not to spring for a lap dance.”)

The family at the next table was looking at us very judgmentally, and I wanted to point out that people who take their families to Hooters should be a little more accepting in general, but then again, the father at that table wasn’t talking loudly about lap dances. At least my husband had said “nice” places. I gave them a flinty smile and they looked away.

Brandi brought the bill, which she’d signed “love, Bran” and had drawn some hearts near the total.

(Imaginary conversation with my accountant: “What’s this receipt with a girl’s name and stuff?” Me: “It was research.”)

We asked Brandi if she’d be willing to pose for a picture with Lucas, and she kindly agreed. She sat next to him, and was more poised and gracious than I could ever hope to be. I would be proud to have Brandi for my daughter-in-law and now I’m only sorry she didn’t write her phone number on the check so I can call her in a few years. I can also tell you that she’s extremely photogenic and in the photo she looks like a gorgeous if scantily-clad angel. (Lucas, on the other hand, is leering at her and looks like an underage pimp.)

On the way home from Hooters, we had a spirited family discussion about whether to use the photo of Lucas and Brandi for next year’s Christmas card (“Lucas is developing new interests! Happy Holidays!”) and I realized that too much imagination may be a bad thing but a family tradition is a good one. Come Easter, you’ll know where to find us.


Katherine Heiny is the author of Standard Deviation and Single, Carefree, Mellow