Hooters girl

I guess you could say I’m a feminist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m embarrassed, it’s just that the word itself tends to carry a lot of out-dated connotations, you know, like fish and bicycles and stuff like that. I like to think of myself as more of a modern-day, liberated woman, you know, more Oprah than Gloria Steinem. But then again, there was that bra-burning incident back in college. OK, so it wasn’t so much a social protest as a drunken experiment with Sterno (for the record, not a good idea: those underwires can smolder for days like a heap of burning tires.)

But I’ll stop before I incriminate myself and stray any further from the intended topic, which is not pyromania but feminism, or some close approximation thereof. And I swear, it’s not just an excuse to not wear make-up or shave my legs on a regular basis (that’s another social movement all together, which I like to refer to as “mountainism.”)

Anyway, I just want to make that understood before I launch into what I’m about to admit. As contradictory as it all may seem, I, a died-in-my-Smartwools, granola-eating, woman of the mountains who hasn’t the foggiest what a “bad hair day” is, made a brief foray over to the dark side. That’s right, I patronized that American bastion of ESPN and exposed flesh – avian and human: Hooters.

But before I go on, allow me to explain the extenuating circumstances. Let’s just say it involved hockey and free beer, two of my great loves. And addiction to freon can be a powerful thing – downright dangerous come mid-July, causing otherwise sane, middle-aged women to throw caution to the wind, load up the mini-van and head to the Front Range in search of ice – even if it happens to be associated with a restaurant synonymous the world over with T&A

Besides, how bad could it really be? After all, I had never even stepped foot in a Hooters – far be it from me to pass judgment. Then again, I did know a girl in high school who worked at one and claimed they made waitresses wear uniforms two sizes too small (which put her at about a size 0). I’ve heard of corporate downsizing, but that’s ridiculous.

Nevertheless, I convinced myself that in this day and age of family values (let alone in the Focus of the Family world HQ) surely this was no longer the case. Maybe they were now allowing waitresses to carry mace and wear shorts larger than a cocktail napkin. But the real fact of the matter was, I was filled with morbid – all right, lurid – curiosity. Plus, there’s no real way to understand one’s foes without actually studying them, in their element. My trip to Hooters was all in the name of science, sort of a ground-breaking exploration of sorts.

I must admit that walking through the door, the twin owl “eyes” leering down at me, was a bit uncomfortable, sort of like being an unwelcome intrusion on some pre-pubescent male fantasy. One of the first things I noticed, once my eyes adjusted to the neon glare of orange nylon, was that the “two sizes” uniform rule is still very much in effect. Not that anyone noticed with 300 TVs blaring from every direction. We sat down at one of the tables, all of which, curiously enough contained an entire roll of paper towels on a holder. Must get some really big messes, I guess. Anyway, I picked up a menu, which contained s in various positions illustrating the offerings. For example, a blonde with a fishing pole next to the shrimp poppers, a gal in a pilots cap next to the wings (that one took me a while.) I asked the waitress what she recommended, when I realized it was probably a stupid question – not a lot of room for food inside the Hooters uniform. With little to go on, we went with what seemed a safe bet: nachos and mixed drinks. OK, maybe the “Grateful Dead” (how Hooters got away with the trademark infringement on this one, let alone the wrath of Jerry from beyond the grave, is beyond me) wasn’t such a wise choice after all. On paper, it sounded like a free trip on the porcelain bus. But as I soon learned, a little red Kool-aid can make anything palatable, even downright smooth. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of the nachos, which were covered in some sort of orange ooze passed off as cheese. More corporate down-sizing, I guess. Besides, you didn’t expect that those Hooters girls could be vixens and cook?

Needless to say, I soon learned why the “Grateful Dead” was named so. It seems once you have enough (an easy thing to do given the choice between Kool Aid and EZ Cheez), you actually start hallucinating, just like at a Dead show, and start ordering more, convinced they actually taste good. Hell, after enough, even the coagulated orange cheese with a “k” started to taste good.

Now, I wish what happened next was also just a hallucination, maybe the result of a bad batch of the red brew. But alas, it was all too real. As the evening wore on, the restaurant began filling up, to the point where there was standing room only. And even weirder, everyone seemed to be there for a specific reason. Seems we had the dubious honor of patronizing Hooters during the highly anticipated ultimate fighting championship between some guy named Tito, with the face of a pitbull, and the defending champion, Ken Shamrock – Irish I presume. OK, I know hockey is not exactly the most passive sport. But let’s just say that ultimate fighting makes it look like a quilting bee.

I soon found myself surrounded by ultimate fighting devotees, mostly young twenty-something men who openly discussed the use of steroids and “kicking ass.” And that’s when the bad trip peaked. Hundreds of sweaty faces suddenly became rabid with savage excitement as Tito executed his trademark “ground and pound” on Shamrock’s head, beating his face to a fine pulp and smearing it cross the mat like a bug on a windshield. Naturally, the crowd went wild. “I live for this!” some guy shouted as he pounded his fists on the table, veins popping from his neck.

And that’s when I decided I had had enough of the Hooters experiment – but not before I let the Grateful Deads do a little talking on ultimate fighting. “Veins” turned to me and glared, possibly contemplating a “ground and pound” of his own. But before he could do so, I snuck out the side exit of my own volition. The door slammed behind me, sealing in that toxic sludge of cheez whiz, testosterone, orange Lycra and Tabasco. And as I headed home in the cool night air, I was glad to be liberated, for the first and last time, from the clutches of Hooters.

– Missy Votel