My current occupational hazard is telling the truth. I do not intend to have this occupation for too much longer, however, so I feel somewhat safe if I can simply manage to avoid my achiles heel, this unsavory compunction to be honest. You see, I earn my paychecks by working as a bouncer at a strip club.

In my many months at this place I have learned one very important rule in regards to this issue, especially concerning strippers: lie. Lie as deeply, sincerely, convincingly and earnestly as you are humanly able. Do not think twice. Do not pause. Lie as though the lives of untold millions depended on it. Lie as though you were inspired by the Lord of Lies himself. Embellish if you are so inclined.

Woe be unto the poor sop who should tell the truth to a stripper, when the oft-lamented "Do I look fat?" question is sent his way. The bloodbaths of the Roman Games pale in comparison. Freddy and Jason are pussycats, playmates to be coddled and enjoyed, as opposed to a scorned stripper.

The short-and-fat (erm... yeah) of it is that she is a bit chunky. Okay. I'm sorta fibbing. Truth is, she had big-curd cottage cheese for thighs and that is patently not an attractive thing, most times. Your mileage on that assertion may vary, depending on which province of human iniquity you happen to live in at any given time. In this case, this is Nashville, so all bets are off, I guess- she's still working there and makes some decent money doing what she does. But she's still, yeah, fat.

She approached me with this question because I had earned a reputation as being honorable, honest, kind, friendly and earnest. She didn't want the truth; she wanted to make a good man squirm and, perhaps, crumble from guilt.

I tried- I did, I tried- three times to change the subject or dodge the question. To no avail. She was not letting me slip out of this. She nailed me with the ultimate, the impossible question that requires an answer- and her tone was stern.

So I said, "Listen, you're working here, in a strip club. No matter how you may feel you look, you've been working here for a long time- and they don't hire undesireable girls to work here, despite what the sign says. But the truth? You could probably stand to take a few weeks of aerobics, but that's it." I inwardly cringed, awaiting an axe or, perhaps, the single-most illustrious example of human-to-human shock-and-awe tactics the likes of which would render the most battle-hardened leatherneck weep in compassion.

There was a fellow bouncer standing not ten feet away from us at the time, overhearing our conversation, out of her field of view. He was waving his hands at me like a cracked-out landing strip technician, slowly and obviously, silently mouthing the words, "NO! DON'T DO IT!" Alas, he was too late. Disaster could not be averted. A veritable death-knell had slipped past my lips and the bell tolled for me like fucking Big Ben on cocaine. When he saw that he had been too late, he hung his head low in remorse, doubtlessly hearing a soft funeral dirge playing in my honor deep within the recesses of his steroid-laden mind.

She left work that night, thirty minutes later, practically drowning in her own tears, distraught and looking at me as though I had killed her closest friend, perhaps a dear relative. After she was gone, long after, the rest of the girls looked upon like I might have some sort of visually contagious form of STD. I was lower than whale shit at the bottom of the sea. Mud looks nicer than I had for the rest of that evening. And she refused to say a single word to me for a month.

This was damage which could not have been repaired with money (though I freely admit to having "overlooked" a few of her dances here and there, not bothering to mark them down for the nightly numbers) or kind words. Time would have to wound this heel.

The Boss got wind of this minor catastrophe and called me into the office. I expected to be read the riot act, dressed down for a venal sin within the strip-club industry: chasing a girl out of the shop (which translates to costing the club money). Instead, he wore a big shit-eating grin and said, "All right, Jay. Pimpin' 101: when a girl asks you if she's fat, even if she is a fucking porter-house steak in heels, you lie your ass off with as straight a face as you can manage. Make her feel beautiful. Make her want to walk past Mona Lisa like the old, painted bitch is yesterday's news. But do not ever tell the truth. Feign sickness if you have to, but don't ever tell the truth. Lesson over. Back to the floor you go. And I can tell you now that the Poor Boy (the communal tip-out for us bouncers, whose coffers are filled by the strippers at the end of the night) will be smaller than an ant's cum-shot."

So I learned two things that night: the first, we've already covered; the second, my boss has an amazing flair for poetic license.