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When I was in my early 20s, a year or two before I signed my recording deal with Hollywood Records, I found that the best way to make money while I went to college was to go to school during the day and cocktail waitress at night.
If you had decent looks, a good wit, and were quick with the drinks, you could make bank from the aircraft engineering crews of Rockwell, McDonnell Douglas, and Northrop who frequented the Southern California happy hour scene during the late 80s and early 90s.
I worked many clubs, but my favourite one, required an outfit that was scanty, especially for such an upscale club, pale pink tuxedo jacket, white top with black bowtie, high cut black French panties, nylons and black high heels.
Having been a half-naked rocker girl for years, I didn’t think much about it. Today, looking back at my 20-something self, surrounded by drunk, grouped older men throwing money at me, can still make me cringe, but during that time I knew one thing: I needed money and sex would sell.
The outfit was skintight, reminiscent of Hugh Hefner’s bunny girl costumes of the 70s, and when I walked out to set up for the evening, I could see the slew of male bartenders already thinking, God knows what, and taking bets on who could get into the new girl’s panties first.
The costume brought me about 300 dollars a night in tips, really good money at that time, as I pandered the fantasy of the unattainable blonde bombshell “It” girl, in a smokey club, with Push It Good pounding from the bassy speakers, every 30 minutes, during the short 4-7 Happy Hour shift.
I hadn’t worked there long when one of my close friends, Sylvie, asked if I could put in a word and get her a job too. She was two years into her B.A. and the idea of slinging drinks and
tolerating inappropriate flirting from patrons to make massive tips, sounded like easy money compared to the minimum wage sales positions she had been taking at the local Sears and JC Penny’s helping highly argumentative middle-class white women pick out their support bras and girdles.
When the term “Karen” came out many years later, she actually texted me a meme of a Karen and then called me on the phone and said in a rushed whisper, “That’s them. Those are the women that were so mean to me!” Her tone so accusatory I wondered if she felt they were somehow still gunning for her.
I got the boss to hire her within the week and some of my happiest memories of employment of my youth were centred around shifts with Sylvie and drinking with the crew after hours.
When she finished her training, they gave her ‘the outfit’ and I watched as her face tried not to register disgust, and what seemed to be, a certain amount of fear. I couldn’t quite figure out why she was so tripped up. It wasn’t like she was a prude. She listened to The Damned, dressed Goth in her youth, slept with more than one person at a time while dating, and she knew it would be cocktail waitress attire but still, there was something underneath her reaction. She took the clothing, and we headed outside to chat before we started our evening set-up. “I’ve gotta go to your house,” Sylvie said. “It’s important.”
I couldn’t imagine what would be so important to leave work before our shift started in 50 minutes, but we were close enough to my home to make a quick stop and when a childhood friend asks you to do something with such urgency, you do it.
We got in the car, and I was about to ask what was going on when she said, “It’s nothing serious. It’s just…” she hedged then shook her head and waved her hands in what seemed to be embarrassment, before sitting silently for the rest of the short drive.
When we arrived at my house, she snatched my hand and dragged me to the bathroom and shut the door.
“I have to show you something and I know it may be weird, but I have to show you.” She took off her jacket, sat down her purse, reached under her dress, and pulled her panties down to the floor.
I took a step back, as if something shocking was going to pop out, distancing myself from the impact—hands ready to bat it away—and believe me, I was right to move. I was right to be afraid. Because what appeared was something of a magnitude I could have never imagined: Sylvie’s giant brown bush.
I felt like I was seeing a mythical creature. A holy grail of the bygone past. An iconic image only found in bad 70s porn and historical photos of Woodstock. It was a bush of immense magnitude and comic book words like, POOF! POP! BAM! WOW! Exploded in my mind.
It was at least six inches across, six inches vertical, and a good two to three inches of straight out front. I honestly couldn’t believe that all the years we had been friends I had never seen this bush.
At thirteen, we were lucky to have three hairs between us on our bony pubic mounds. We would often try to hide them from each other, they seemed a betrayal of our childhood, a slap to the innocence we didn’t want to lose and now this? How did it come to this?
Had it appeared during our period years when we were so strapped up with giant maxi pads attached to elastic waistband contraptions that I hadn’t noticed? Had it been like a bulb in
my garden, happily covered in a warm, dark place where it grew in quiet and content to the beauty it was today?
I felt my mind wander to a backyard plant when left untended, spread forward and upward until it engulfed everything in its path as I stood there Sylvie, panties on the ground, dress pulled over her head in embarrassment, her mouth, breathing heavily, a wide fabric “oh”.
Suddenly, I understood. Sylvie had just let that bad boy go rogue and she wanted me to take charge and tame it.
She pulled her dress down from her face and stood there looking at me. The same way she looked at me when she wanted me to pick the restaurant or tell her the best procedure to stop a nosebleed, or the best route to a specific club in L.A. (one which was forever alluding her). “Shit, Sylvie!” I said.
“Don’t yell at me. Just help me,” she said.
Her tone, so desperate, I couldn’t help but laugh. I imagined Sylvie in her new cocktail costume, those unforgiving high-cut black panties with her giant bush fighting to get out, hair plastered up into her pantyhose from side to side, the sexually inappropriate slang of the 80s would lead to verbal bullying of the front of her crotch, politically incorrect transgender cocktail conversation and ladyboy remarks from idiot customers would be on Sylvie’s evening menu. There was no just shaving this beast.
I was going to have to bring out the shears.
I grabbed my biggest pair of scissors, my electric razor, and a clean sharp fresh Bic, and walked her through the procedure much like how I had once walked her through strapping into her first period pad.
“You aren’t going to do it?” She cried.
I dropped my pants, pulled down my undies and showed her my 80s thin rock and roll inch of barely there landing strip and said, “No. And It better look like this when you’re done and I’m going to check it.”
She pouted, still a petulant child after all these years, still the baby to my boss. I left the bathroom, shut the door and leaned against the hallway wall and listened. I could hear Sylvie arguing quietly with herself as she always had.
No, that won’t work.
Oh God, that doesn’t look right at all.
Before I heard the bathtub water running and stepped away to sit in my bedroom and wait. It was at least ten minutes before she called me in to inspect her work. It wasn’t as pristine a strip as my own. She’d left a bit more girth—always the conservative—but it would work for the evening.
She grabbed her costume, we hustled to change, and then hopped back into the car and headed back just in time for our shift.
It was a busy night; packed place, full of smoke, sweat, and loud house music, the beat punctuated by the multi-coloured can lights revolving above the dance floor. Tips would be good and every once in a while, I would catch a glimpse of Sylvie, the way she smiled, the way she moved, I could tell that she was feeling free, brave, and confident in her own skin.
Later that night, sitting on my childhood porch, counting our tips and eating Naugle’s burritos, we would laugh and retell the story of the big bush incident again and again time collapsing around the years of our friendship.
Sylvie and I would be friends forever. Through marriages, through babies, through cancer scares, through the heartbreak of losing parents, and even back to a day, yes to this day, where giant bushes now grow freely yet again.