I recently spent four months in a gentleman's club. Nope, not that sort. There weren't any poles and I didn't bob my breasts in anyone's face. I did, however, soak up a lot of male sweat.
I was working, not in a lap dancing club, but in a private members' all male gym. Didn't know they existed? Neither did I.
It was mid-morning when I went for my interview and the club was so quiet that the absence of women was no more notable than the scarcity of men. I'd have been none the wiser if the manager hadn't paused as he showed me round, casually throwing it out there, "You do know this is a gentlemen's club?"
I was surprised, but I wasn't bothered. I'm a former Bunny and having worked for Playboy, I'm used to a predominantly male clientele. I've dealt blackjack in a black basque and bunny ears to stag parties on the lash. I've worn heels and a full face of makeup at 6 in the morning, dealing roulette to screaming gamblers. I've had my nipple accidentally pop out to the delight of a French guy who sent me Fette di Amore macarons in appreciation.
I was done with it all; I was hanging up my cuffs. This was a fresh start, my first foray into personal training. So when I was offered the job, I snapped it up.
The members of the gym, all of whom had been proposed and seconded, included Olympic medallists, some actors from television, the titled and an abundance of partners in law firms and hedge funds.
One of them farted in my face as I gave him a glute stretch -- one of the services included in the £7K annual membership. He told me my name sounded like a porn star's and badgered me for my email.
On the club's presentation night, he turned up with a sore-faced woman whose skin hurt to look at. And as his wife made her way up the stairs, he pulled me aside, bewildered that I hadn't emailed him back.
Another member, let's call him Dobby, made allusions to golden showers. He was 86. On my second day, he held me with an unanticipated grip and chewed my ear as if it were a soggy rusk.
As the weeks went on, he harangued me for my trainers. Yes, the ones I wore for seven hour shifts in the gym. He wanted them. He bought me three pairs of Nikes in an effort to barter, then froze me out when I wouldn't share his bed on a power boating weekend in Wales.
A crabby Canadian, persistently harbouring the illusion that he was the only member of the gym, would bellow at me to turn off the fans -- the closest thing the club had to air conditioning.
This went down particularly well with members on the VersaClimber.. and the treadmills... and the rowing machine. Air conditioning? When you're sweating your bollocks off? Nah, who needs it?!
As the PT he had the least intolerance for, he not only rewarded me with recreating global warming in the gym, but also treated me to a friendly pat on the ankles as I took him through his stretches.
A knighted CEO resembling Toad of Toad Hall, walked past me with his towel wrapped round his moobs, in the style of a lady-who-spas. Word from the locker room was that Toad showered wearing his club issue jock strap, with his heart rate monitor strapped to his chest. I can't say I welcomed the image of his buttocks framed by grey elastic, especially when teamed (as the fashion mags say) with his DIY bondage strap.
Did I say club issue jock strap? Oh yes. The members wore a uniform, consisting not only of a T-shirt and shorts, but also socks and a jock strap. At the press of a buzzer, a Laundry Lady would appear at the hatch, to hand out initialed trainers and uniforms from piles labeled S, M, L. That's right, generations of ballsacks had nestled in those pouches.
My fresh start was beginning to seem as fresh as a dose of crotch rot. Which, tbh, a few of the guys may have had. I did my best to steer clear of their bits, but fell at the hurdle of the crotch stretch.
This was a perk of membership, along with a resident barber and a well stocked bar in the changing room. I resolutely excluded it from my repertoire, but some of the guys picked up on the omission and asked me to relieve their ache.
The crotch stretch consisted of the guy letting his knees fall apart, pretty much how most guys sit on the tube. Picture that, but imagine he's lying on his back, wearing shorts, with my hands on pressing down on his thighs.
I was advised, on my first day, to throw a towel over the guy's crotch, "Because sometimes they've had sex that morning then come straight to gym."
"Don't touch the Bunnies" had been the Playboy mandate, but here I soaked up sweat from multiple men. I'd finish a shift covered in other people's perspiration.
I was earning just 40 percent of my take-home from Playboy and I’d resorted to doing my Sainsbury's shopping on my credit card. The club’s revenue from membership alone must have been in the region of £2 million a year, yet the hourly rate the club paid PTs was less than half the price they charged members for a chicken salad.
I left. With sadness, because I was a little bit in love with a few of the guys, some of whom were charming and funny and goofy and taking five minutes out before the next operation on their four year old or the next round of IVF with their wife.
I left and I missed them. But not for long, as reception raffled off my phone number. Hello again, boys!