The Tabu Social Club in Catonsville, Maryland is tucked behind a nondescript building and a 7-11, but once you see the blue awning with a fancy "T" you know you're in the right place. I remember marveling at how their elaborate black iron gate gave the entryway an almost regal quality. A bit shaky as I climbed the steps of the building, I braced myself for what I might find. For all the talk and joking around I had done with friends about this subject, coming face to face with the lifestyle could be something else altogether.
My husband came with me. He was more scared than I was! I encouraged him to have a few extra margaritas at the restaurant beforehand so he would relax a bit—but that didn't help him much. I had offered to take a girlfriend instead of him but that was quickly rebuffed with a "no way!" So there he was, reluctantly.
A huge bowl of Dum-Dum lollipops set me straight. They sat at the check-in desk, a sight so familiar to me from my sons' pediatrician appointments and dry cleaner visits. How odd they were here, I thought. This gave me some strange level of comfort to continue on.
The outgoing owners, Vicki and Rick, looked like people I might run into at a health club or local take-out joint. They greeted me warmly and introduced me and first-time member couples to our "tour guides." A nice, friendly couple happily approached us and calmly began the tour as if we were checking out a model home or tourist attraction. When they suggested we start downstairs, the newbies and I followed them down a well-lit but long and narrow stairway full of fear. I imagined what sights I would see at the end. Some kind of orgy? Group sex rooms in full force? Whips and chains? Some scene out of a movie?
Not quite yet. It was still early—10:45pm, and the tour began with trips to every "room." Theme rooms, swing rooms, voyeur rooms—you name it, there they were. Red lights above each doorway indicated what was free, and you had to schedule with the hostess—no reserving too far ahead of time (I watched several groups of women trying to sweet talk the scheduler around 11 p.m. for post-midnight bookings, but to no avail).