Sometimes I think I’ve taken off
my clothes for every man in Phoenix. I see them at the grocery
store, movies, shopping, even on dates. They see me, but don’t
recognize me with my clothes on in broad daylight. I wonder
is it because I look so different or because they never looked
at my face? I’ve looked most of them right in the eyes.
I hardly take my eyes off theirs during
the entire song. I’m supposed to be dancing, but I’m
searching. With a power so deep within me, I cling to the
purest point of my sinking soul. Maybe out of fear of becoming
the object he expects me to be, the object he pays for and
purchases with cash. Cash I take but refuse to be bought with.
The girls in the back talk about the compliments:
“You’re so beautiful.” “Are you a
model?” “Do you work out?” Blah, blah, blah…
No one ever talks about the compliment I hear night after
night, the one I actually crave. The men say, “You’re
That’s when I know I touched their
soul. I had a hand in that. While a three-minute song played
and women became topless, I silently reminded a man that God
loves him. For some period of time, during those three minutes,
maybe only for a millisecond, but for some amount of time,
he felt it.
He didn’t know what it was, but it
was powerful and undeniable. He thought it was me. Yet there
was nothing sexual about it, and he so expected sexual. This
was more sensual, limitless. It was chemical, intellectual,
and spiritual. But that was beyond his comprehension in that
particular moment, in that particular place. Yet, they all
used the same word, “mesmerizing,” even the ones
for whom that word seemed beyond the style of their vocabulary.
When I had seen these men as they were,
just men, I was fine. At some point I made a shift in my opinion
of them. They were no longer men; they were customers. That’s
when I began to treat them differently. I stopped caring about
them and started caring if I got a dance. Each man became
a number on my goal for the night. I acted nice to make money
and they could tell. Night after night would go by without
me looking even one man in the eye. I didn’t want our
souls to meet. I didn’t want to remind him that God
loved him. I wasn’t sure if God loved me anymore. I
had started to question the one thing I never questioned,
the very thing I had been trying to communicate: “God
I cowered at the thought. How could God
love me? I was misusing a beautiful gift He had given me.
It was mine, my body. I could do with it whatever I wanted,
but God never intended for me to get ten dollars a dance with
it. It wasn’t so much that it was wrong, but it was
like choosing a postcard of the beach rather than walking
Could God love me when I neglected half
of the talents He had given me, and abused the other half?
Could God love me when I was too busy for him? When I questioned
His every plan for my life, acting as if I knew better, trying
to control and do it my way, and then cried, “Why?!
Why?!” when it all blew up in my face? Could God love
me when I had begged unceasingly for answers, and then denied
them when He delivered? Could God love me when I invited Him
into my life, and locked the door just as He began to enter?
Could God love me when He answered my prayers, and I tried
to give back or exchange the gifts He’d given, the very
ones I had asked for?
Yes, God could love me through it all.
However, if I didn’t get out of that darkness, I wouldn’t
be able to feel His love, and I wouldn’t be able to
People congratulated me when they found
out I was quitting dancing. They acted like I was breaking
out of prostitution. “I’m so proud of you,”
they said. “You’re getting out of the life.”
That scared me. It was a life for so many. I never wanted
to be a dancer. I just wanted to make some money and buy some
time. If you get on stage night after night and pretend to
be a dancer, you start to become one, even if you swore you’d
I corrected people in the beginning; “I’m
not a dancer. I’m a girl who dances. There’s a
big difference.” But, I started hearing it so often
it wasn’t worth the battle of declaration. After all,
I told myself, “I don’t care who they think I
am.” I let them think I was a dancer and call me a dancer.
For shock value I told people in public, “I’m
a dancer” just to get their reaction. I learned to field
ridiculous questions so well none of it was shocking anymore.
When I walked into my first topless bar,
I was shocked at how pretty the girls were. Now, a year and
a half, hundreds of dances and thousands of dollars later,
the only shocking thing is that nothing shocks me. Nothing
a man says or does. Not seeing naked women, or drugs, or hearing
about how their boyfriends beat them up, or how they made
a thousand dollars off one customer, or how they just paid
cash for a new Lexus, or how they’re getting another
boob job, or how they slept with another woman… with
her husband… nothing.
What I once could not comprehend I had
become. I always had a pretty good body. I don’t have
the boobs, but I am beautiful. Now, sometimes my face in the
mirror looks like a dancer’s, devoid of feeling, empty,
blank, like a slate to be filled in by somebody else.
In the past, I got the thrill of danger
and excitement through my relationships with men who lived
on the edge in one way or another. They were married, or had
addictions, or problems with the law. Maybe it was the shock
appeal I always craved.
Not anymore, I’m all shocked out.
Maybe that’s what happens to men who live in the fast
lane for so long and then turn out to be committed husbands
and fathers. Maybe there is such a thing as “sowing
your wild oats.”
Is that what I was doing, at age thirty-two,
dancing in a topless bar? Getting garbage out of my system
through some self-appointed therapy? My therapy’s paid
for and my oats are no longer wild. Oh, I want the joys and
thrills of life, but I surrender to the day-to-day serenity.
I no longer long for that red Ferrari or brag that I’ll
bungy jump. I’ve ridden the roller coaster through the
haunted house. Maturity comes in stages, and I guess, sometimes,
on stages, too.