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Love & Sex: Lessons Learned in a Panamanian Bordello

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By Delilah Derringer

I was mistaken for a prostitute on my first trip to Panama.

It was March and I wondered: had the Midwestern winter made me a little too eager to shed my clothing? Was my Spanish so good I could pass for a local? Or was every young woman in Panama City employed in the sex trade? I had to find out.

I said something to my husband like: “Honey, I want to go back to Panama to visit with the prostitutes.” He said something like: “Okay.”

Our taxi driver/underworld tour-guide delivered us to two brothels where, he emphasized, the girls were “clean” and “nobody” would “bother” us. We encountered four girls that night.

At the fancy, French-owned brothel—where the girls wore a uniform of white-lace bra and matching boy-short and gathered around the patrons on the hour to do a Latin-American version of line-dancing—we sat on a red velvet couch. Women kept sticking their aureoles in my husband’s ears. My husband, who does not speak Spanish and is uncomfortable with aggressive women other than me, was drinking heavily to cope. He kept yanking my arm to point to this or that girl and say “she keeps putting her boobs in my ear.” Meanwhile, I was trying to find out what I had in common with “Julietta.” Julietta was an unsmiling 22-year-old Colombian woman with thin brownish hair of middling length, bad posture and braces on her teeth. Julietta was understandably preoccupied with the practicalities of the evening. “I don’t sleep with women,” she said. Repeatedly. She followed this up by saying, “I will sleep with your husband for 240 dollars.”

I thought we might end our visit with a table dance. Julietta did not sleep with women and she did not give table dances. She called her friend over to dance for me. Her friend’s name was “Giuliani,” also from Colombia. I tried calling her Giuliana, because I felt ridiculous calling the most beautiful (and compellingly nude) girl in the world “Giuliani,” but she corrected me—sternly. As sternly, anyway, as a nude 18-year-old can correct anyone.

I was getting restless. I had not been mistaken for a prostitute on the basis of anyone’s having met Julietta or, for that matter, Giuliani. Was it really as simple as my looking like my Colombian mother?

I needed a few more—as my engineer husband would put it—data points.

The second brothel was much less, er, fancy and the cover charge included an all-you-can-drink special. The women here had uniforms, too, but they performed in stage shows with elaborate costumes—think Carmen Miranda—and the girls here smiled.
I beckoned a young woman named “Katzumi” to our table. Katzumi was attractive—not show-stopping like “Giuliani”—but lissome, dark-haired and even-featured all over.

Katzumi had none of Julietta’s hang-ups. She would have been happy to service us both for 450 dollars. She spoke cheerily about her daughter back home in Colombia, her fiancé, her hopes for the future. She even invited me to go dancing with her—as friends. I was busy falling in love with her when her colleague, “Tequilarosa,” showed up. Tequilarosa was a lively, big-boned girl from Calli, Colombia who planted herself directly, uninvitedly, in my husband’s lap. The arm-yanking resumed in earnest this time. “She keeps grabbing my dick. Help me!” pleaded my very drunk husband.

I was loath to interrupt my conversation with Katzumi. I said to Tequilarosa: “You’re making my husband uncomfortable,” and continued chatting with Katzumi. Yank. Yank. “She’s still grabbing my dick.” So I said to Tequilarosa: “My husband wants you to stop touching him,” and turned back to Katzumi. Yank. Yank. Only this time it was Tequilarosa yanking my arm. My husband had fled to the bathroom and Tequilarosa sat alone in his seat. She turned my face to hers with her hand. She said: “You have a very good husband or he’s very afraid of you.”

I am only half Colombian, born in the USA, but when I speak Spanish it is with a Colombian accent. The sad truth is many Colombian women enter Panama on temporary “work” visas and are “sponsored” by “nightclub” owners. The average office worker in Colombia makes 240 dollars—a month.

The happy truth is that I do have a very good husband.

Love & Sex: Pounded

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By Marla Seidell

I must confess that I despise Valentine’s Day with all my heart. Like Christmas and Halloween—crack for children, and a major nuisance for adults. As a child I adored the giving and receiving of valentines. There was a balance between the sexes. Even though the cards from the cute boys contained no special messages, just their scrawl of a signature, they filled me with happiness. But come adulthood my feelings about this holiday have gone from dismay to jaded, owing to an extremely large pound cake I made for a guy in 1998.

I was living in Washington, DC at the time, fresh out of college and living in a group house with eight other housemates. I was dating a Polish fellow named Micha, or something like that. Short, sexy and dirty blond, Micha was straight from Poland, a graduate student at American University. We met at a party at my house, where due to my Puerto Rican roommate’s efforts we were all doing the merengue. We met on the dance floor and he whisked me off my feet. He wore a button-down shirt that exposed a bit of chest hair. Soon after the party he called me, and voila—we started dating, or something like it. I didn’t see him very often—mostly we went to parties in large groups, where in between mingling we met on the dance floor. After three weeks of this tentative tango he invited me over for Valentine’s Day dinner. I was as excited as the little girl receiving a card from the cute guy. He liked me!

In anticipation of the big night, I decided to bake. My roommate baked heart-shaped cookies for his date, and cooked her dinner. Being overly ambitious I decided on a pound cake. I even bought a new Bundt-cake pan. I used a Molly Katzen recipe that called for four sticks of butter. At some point between the butter and enormous pan I realized I was in over my head. Yet I was determined to see the outcome, which turned out to be a heavy and enormous cake. I had grown up eating the small rectangular Sara Lee version, so I had no idea the real deal was a bowling ball. I packed my small child of a cake into a plastic bag and heaved it in a cab to take over to Micha’s house.

When I arrived, Micha greeted me at the door with an oddly perfunctory kiss, and I handed him the monstrous cake, which he placed on the counter. When he moved I could see we weren’t alone—his roommate, a tall blond guy from Atlanta with a slow Southern drawl, was seated at the table set for dinner, smiling at me. “You midwestern girls, wow, baking a pound cake from scratch,” he said, while Micha didn’t say two words about it. Hopes for an intimate tête-à-tête dashed, I took my seat at the table. The meal was nothing special—fake pierogis made with tortillas and mashed potatoes and a salad. We skipped desert and prepared to go out on the town. While his roommate was getting spruced up in his room, Micha delivered the preview to a breakup. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. What had I done? The enormous cake was pressuring him, that was what! I should have made simple, heart-shaped cookies like everyone else!

I remember tears, and then the three of us going out to some club with Micha’s rich European friends. When the night was over Micha and I shared a bus ride home. I got out at Garfield Avenue and he stayed on, peering at me from the window of the bus. I stood on the corner, watching the bus lurch into the darkness. I never saw the guy or my cake plate again.

Love & Sex: That Thursday Night at McGees

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Photo by Evan Sears

Photo by Evan Sears

By Nicole Briese

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I am doing what any normal single girl does—wondering why I, of all people, am dateless—unable to celebrate a holiday made for hopeless romantics just like me. I consider myself to be a fairly decent catch—I have all my teeth, no hair sprouting in places it shouldn’t, relatively intelligent…so what’s the problem? Then I remember “That Thursday Night At McGees”—the night that clued me into the fact that may be the problem. Not so much me.

I went to McGees on a Thursday night with a coworker—two single ladies out on the town. We were minding our business, sipping our $1 Bud Lights when Bachelor #1 approached. We felt his presence before we saw him—a tall dark shadow fell over our table. We looked up… and to our dismay, saw what can only be described as an, ahem, interesting stranger. With hair that had never seen a brush a day of its existence, a long brown coat with a fur collar and crooked teeth, he was no Brad Pitt, to say the least. But it was what came out of his mouth that was really appalling. Turning to my friend, he uttered the words he clearly thought every woman wanted to hear: “Shorty, what’s your numberrrrr?” She managed to politely decline his enticing request for her digits before falling into a complete fit of laughter. Seeing he had been rejected, he backtracked and asked for her name. “Hope,” she replied through giggles. Fed up with her lack of seriousness, he turned his attention to me. “Joy,” I said. Realizing that he wasn’t making much progress here, he left, searching for a new victim to romance.

Less than two minutes later, Bachelor #2 approached. His appearance was not so faulty—he looked like what I like to call a “granola guy,” ya know, the type that Paul Rudd played in “Clueless.” He paused, and we leaned in to hear what he might have to say. “So,” he began. “I’m kind of retarded. I get really drunk, and ask strangers for cigarettes.” Believing he was seriously just fiending for a puff, we told him we were not smokers, and therefore had no cigarettes for him to bum. Then his friend approached. “I’m sorry,” he began. “My older brother is kind of retarded. He likes to get drunk and ask beautiful women for cigarettes.” At this point, it became painfully obvious that this was a set-up—they had clearly huddled together, decided that one would approach, and the other would swoop in two minutes behind. Wait just a minute, I thought. You actually planned this encounter, put thought and effort into it, and the best opener you could come up with was, “Hi, I’m kind of retarded” between the two of you?

I couldn’t help but begin to think I’d been enlisted for an unsuspecting role on “The Pick-Up Artist.’” You know, that show on VH1 where a douchebag in fur, eyeliner and goggles by the name of Mystery “coaches” socially inept men on how to pick up women using the lamest lines imaginable. Enter Bachelor #3. We couldn’t help but laugh the second he approached—we, like most young women, have had our fair share of bad come-ons, but three in a row? Were we the only females in the bar? What the hell was going on?

This guy looked fairly normal, and didn’t say anything wrong—but he was so nervous, he could barely get through his question. “Uh, so,” he began. “Um, my, uh, friends and I were, um, sort of wondering…oh shoot, um….why, uh, you guys, might, ya know, um, be here, sort of um, you know, not really talking to any guys?” Not wanting to be bitchy, we listened patiently, if only for his nervousness—we don’t consider ourselves the type to be nervous about by any means, and dude was literally sweating bullets over here. “We’re actually just coworkers out enjoying each other’s company,” my friend said politely. “Oh. OK!” he said before practically running back to his friends. He was clearly relieved to have completed his mission—he needed stay no longer.

When I was tapped on the shoulder again a moment later, we couldn’t help but roll our eyes. “Excuse me,” said Bachelor #4. “I just want to know what that guy said to you girls?” He paused before continuing. “I just want to know what NOT to say, because I just watched you shoot down three guys in a row, and I don’t want to be the fourth.” Needing to share the strangeness that had just occurred, we humored him. We told our stories, shared some drinks, and eventually parted ways. He took a liking to my friend, and with no real spark between his friend and me, I was left, quite happily, alone.

I suppose I could continue to mope about my Valentine’s Day singledom—perhaps I am, plain and simple, too damn picky. But if that night at McGees is any indicator of what my options look like, I can quite honestly say that I, for one, will happily celebrate Valentine’s Day this year a single woman—at least until Mystery comes up with some better material!

Love & Sex: On the Strip

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By Garin Pirnia

Last winter, my friend Auriane was looking for a means to support herself. Eschewing an office job, she decided to pursue a career in stripping. It made sense because Auriane is tall and buxom with long, flowing hair. And she can dance. One weeknight, she dragged me to the gentlemen’s club VIP’s. We walked into the lobby where she received an application to fill out. As she was filling it out, some guy with a foreign accent sauntered up to her and offered her money, but we couldn’t decipher for what. Auriane thought he was asking her to go to the mall. After he stumbled away, she asked the woman at the front desk what he said. “Oh, he wanted to know if you’d kick him in the balls for money.” “Oh! I totally would’ve done that!” Auriane exclaimed.

We sat in the lounge area and drank overpriced drinks while we waited for the manager to come out. The place wasn’t very crowded. I was astonished at how acrobatic those strippers were. I secretly wished I could tackle a pole like that. I wondered what it must be like to have men (and women) constantly ogling you. I also wondered if the strippers got to pick their own music. Honestly, I didn’t want my friend to succumb to stripperdom, but I tried to be supportive. The manager finally came out and interviewed her. He comped our exorbitant drinks and told her he’d call her. I was relieved to go home.

Auriane finally came to her senses and embarked on the more clothed occupation of bartending. During this time, I joked to a guy friend that I was considering stripping. He launched into an angry tirade telling me that stripping was immoral, that I should continue to write and that I should move home before ever stripping. I was surprised at his sternness.

A couple of days later, we hung out at his place. He didn’t quite believe I was kidding about becoming a stripper. He half-jokingly kept saying I should give him a “private show.” I guess a “private show” was acceptable to him, but not stripping in front of strangers. The next thing I knew, we were in his room. He sat in a chair and demanded that I strip. I still didn’t know if he was serious or not, but I called his bluff—I removed my top. He became nervous and said he didn’t want to make me do something that I didn’t want to do. Even though he apologized, he was somewhat titillated. Suddenly, I understood the allure of stripping: all that control! There’s nothing quite like turning a guy into putty with a flash of your body while watching his eyes fixate on you. We heard his roommate rummaging around in the other room, so the strip tease abruptly ended. But during those brief moments, everything became lucid.

However, I have since retired from going to strip clubs and giving private shows.

Making Progress

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Wanting to provide a Valentine’s Day alternative for their overlapping clients, the neighboring establishments of non-profit fair trade store Greenheart and Yoga Now have teamed up to host the Chocolate and Yoga Valentine’s Progressive. Starting with a raw, vegan, fair-trade-chocolate-truffle tasting and ending with a detoxifying ninety-minute yoga class, the Progressive “provides something you haven’t done every other Valentine’s Day,” says Talia Hagerty, outreach coordinator for Greenheart. While the Progressive does involve exercise and healthy treats, it is not something to be immediately dismissed. Organic free trade wine will be provided and participation doesn’t demand a complete alteration of world-view. “I wouldn’t say that we were out to oppose the consumerism of Valentine’s Day, but that we are out to promote responsible consumerism every day,” Hagerty says. “You don’t have to be a total left-wing environment hippie to enjoy this event.”

Slap Happy: Film Row Cinema plays the dating game

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moxie1The credits roll. The lights come up. The curtains close. The projector in the rear of the room shudders to a halt and quiets itself. At the exact same time, the audience applauds.

Seated in Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema, the audience has finished viewing P.T. Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love” tonight, followed by Cinema Slapdown: Extreme Dating Edition. Here, two contestants will stand at separate podiums and answer questions asked by a potential datee, seated behind a curtain where only the audience can see him or her.

The first round is for gay men. Columbia faculty member and event host Ron Falzone introduces the contestants to the audience, though without giving any names for an effective single-blind. The Datee takes his seat, then asks questions one by one and reacts to their responses behind the curtain, knowing the audience will see his every reaction.

Question number one: “If we started dating and your sister or brother didn’t like me, what would you do?”

The audience responds with a very audible “Ooooh,” then quiets to wait for the response. “Well,” he begins, “I like my sister very much, but who I’m dating is who I’m dating. I respect her opinion, but at the end of the day I’m the one who has to go to bed with you.”

Applause from the audience, and we can see that The Datee is laughing behind the curtain, though covering his mouth to avoid being heard. The applause simmers down in anticipation of Contestant Two’s answer.

“I don’t really value my family’s opinion,” he says. He speaks with a little less panache than Contestant One, and the audience can see that The Datee already doesn’t like him as much. The game continues with questions to the contestants about their opinions on the film and its possible relevance to their lives, and the audience remains relatively quiet throughout all of it.

In the end, Contestant One is chosen. No surprise. Falzone asks The Datee to come out from behind the curtain and formally introduce himself to the contestants. Finally they have names and faces, to go with the voices they’ve heard, and there are smiles all around.

Round two is for two straight contestants and a female datee, while round three is reserved for three gay women. Quirky answers like “Dollar menu at Wendy’s—whatever she wants!” as an idea for a first date and “If we went to the theater on a date and you asked to see ‘Marley & Me,’ I would walk out on you” are thrown left and right as the audience boos and awws to each answer. Every time an answer goes over a minute, though, Falzone blows his whistle like a referee.

At the end of the night the contestants seem satisfied. They win prizes and gift certificates to spend on their upcoming dates, each excited that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. (Micah McCrary)

Have a Car-Free Summer: Metra-sexuals, No one needs a license for love

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It might seem like living car-free would make dating difficult. But as Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay’s steamy El-train scene in “Risky Business” shows, alternative transportation can actually rev up your love life. Here’s testimony from Chicagoans who really get around.

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411 Seven Days in Chicago: Eco-nerds

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The environmental craze has not only spawned awareness of eco-issues among the masses, but it’s brought out something few thought they’d ever see: Green nerds. April 16, Nerds at Heart, a dating event devoted to bring together all different kinds of smart (nerdy) people, hosts “Dating for Nerds: Earth Day Edition” at Erie Street’s J. Patrick’s Bar and Grill, which celebrates the upcoming Earth Day with green games, prizes and giveaways. What exactly qualifies as a green nerd? “We get the ‘Am I green enough?’ question a lot, but really there is no litmus test. If you think you are, you probably are,” says event co-founder Bathsheba Birman. Birman says these events usually bring in everyone from average-looking “nerds at heart” to your stereotypical “Revenge of the Nerds” type, and it ends up creating an inclusive, no-pressure environment. Partial proceeds from the event will be going to the Community for Alternative Sources of Energy, a student-run organization out of Northside Prep High School. Briman’s best-case scenario: “Hopefully people will lock eyes with the nerd of their dreams and make little nerdy babies.” All the while helping the Earth.

Love & Sex: Killing Time

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He was telling me about an ex-girlfriend, or a current girlfriend, or someone he wanted me to know without revealing the truth. He talked with quickness, an almost urgency, and I felt a need in his voice even while we laid in darkness.

“She wrote me this poem, she writes poetry, you know.” He was whispering this into my ear, stroking my hair, kissing my neck. “She writes beautiful poetry. I write poetry, sometimes. But her’s—she’s so intelligent. Smart.”
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Love & Sex: Conference Call

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He comes over to you and flashes his seductive hazel eyes and kilowatt smile. You’ve been co-workers for a couple of months but until last night’s company outing and accidental sleepover, had never met. You know it’s bad to embark on a secret office romance, but it seems like a good idea at the time. Every time he walks by your cube, you feel butterflies and your palms begin to sweat. A couple of days later, he appears distant. He isn’t responding to you like he did the first night. You decide to call his extension, 2020. You think it either symbolizes perfect vision or hindsight 20/20. It’ll take you a year to figure out it’s the latter.
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