So, the other day I boarded a plane from Reno to San Francisco, and I was stoked because there was no one else in my row, and I wanted to read People magazine, but I would never want anyone to see me reading People magazine because I have a serious aversion to freaks who carry on weird, one-sided relationships with famous people. (What!? People is the fastest way for me to see how out-of date my clothes are. That’s all. That’s why I read it. Sheesh, let it go...) ANYWAY. You can imagine my dismay (and also how quickly I shoved Sandra Bullock’s tragic smile back in my bag and pulled out Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day) when someone stopped at the end of my row.
It was a girl, and she was wearing one of those tight black velour matching two piece sweatsuits with fake Uggs. When she turned around to shove her crap in the overhead, her butt said “Juicy” which, in my opinion, has about the same sexual appeal as having the word “Pfffffft” stamped across your rump. But, I'm old, so what do I know.
Despite her fashion sense, the truth is, she. was. gorgeous. GOR-geous! Like, twenty years old, with perfect skin and teeth and hair, and glossy, fake nails on soft, smooth hands. And her body was long and lean and seemingly flawless.
And I immediately did not like her.
Now, I’m not generally a jealous person. Seriously. I don’t really get jealous. I more, like...covet, but I don’t really get jealous, as in envious. Sometimes, I want things that other people may have. I want more money, I want a smaller butt, I want to be 5’9”, I really, really want a maid, and an admin, and a personal masseuse. And if you possess those things, I will probably covet them. But I usually don’t harbor feelings of hostility or rivalry toward people that have what I want, and that’s what I mean by jealous. It’s just not one of my go-to character flaws. Or maybe it’s just not as well developed as my other junk. Either way, it’s not my main thing. But this time, this time I was having these wild, crazy, JEALOUS thoughts. Mean thoughts. Cruel thoughts. Thoughts that were turning this girl, with whom I had never even shared a single word, into my mortal enemy.
I was busy hating her in my heart, when I turned on my overhead light and opened my book, and as the plane started to taxi toward the runway, my stupid light burned out. Then, that awful girl looked over and offered a sympathetic smile, with her perfect, plump lips, and teeth like gleaming white chiclets. We both reached up and started pushing buttons and twisting knobs, trying to get my light to flicker back on, and she yanked on something a little too hard and the whole plastic casing came off in her hand. We looked at each other with huge eyes like “Oooh damn!” and then we both started snickering like third graders in the principals office. Snickering became giggling, and giggling made way for laughter, and by the time we were in the air, we were howling as if it was the funniest thing that had ever happened in the history of the world.
I know, it's not that funny, but that’s how I became instant BFF’s with a stripper from Reno.
We began a conversation that was mostly stupid and boring and, occasionally, intensely personal. And yes, she really is a stripper...I mean, ”dancer"?. She was on her way to California to visit her sugar-daddy. (Which, technically, I think makes her something other than a stripper, er, dancer, but whatever.)
We both pulled out our trashy magazines, and poured over the clothes of the rich and famous. We talked about our lives, as different as they are. And we talked about God. And when we didn’t talk, she pulled out her Sudoku book, and I thought, “Oh, awesome. She’s prettier AND smarter than me.” But, I noticed (because, apparently, I’m kind of a creeper) that when she got bored with her puzzle, she would scroll her name in cursive, again and again, along the edges of the book. Practicing her autograph? Signing her first name with some guy’s last name? Trying out a flashy new stage name? I really don’t know. All I know is that she was daydreaming as she wrote that name, all fat and swirly, over and over and over again with a glittery pink gel pen.
I was struck by how sweet and girlish this was, and it reminded me of how I used to do the very same thing when I was younger. In high school, my friends and I used this stripper name formula to decifer our pole dancer personalities : First family pet + street you grew up on = your stripper name.
Mine is Heidi Oaklawn.
Maybe it sounds weird, I mean, since I’m a missionary and everything, but I could totally relate to this stripper, with her Juicy pants and spray tan. El Chupacabra and I have a little running joke that if our lives hadn’t turned a certain direction at a certain time, today he would be in jail and I would be in a nightclub. We laugh about it, but we know that it’s really not that funny...but it's probably not be far from the truth. If things had gone differently, you could be reading the blog of Heidi Oaklawn, the Very Worst Stripper right now. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. Or maybe you would....
Anyway, when we parted ways in San Francisco, it was clear to us both that we shared some sort of connection. Call it stripper’s intuition, but there was something there, between us. We hugged and quickly said goodbye....*sigh*
Juicy disappeared into the crowd, and as soon as she was gone, I realized that all of my envy had melted away, and only one thing remained. Before we'd gone our separate ways, I wished I'd told her something that had been nagging at me as we talked; I wanted her to know that God is jealous for her.
And that I was jealous for her, too. Not jealous of her, and not the envious kind of jealousy that makes a missionary act like a bitch on an airplane when a hot stripper starts to sit next to her. But jealous for her. Jealous in a different way. Jealous with a longing, loving, hope filled kind of jealousy.
I was jealous for her to know that she’s worth more than the dollar she gets for swinging around a pole in clear, plastic stilettos, or the thousand that she’ll get for spending a weekend in San Francisco with some dirtbag she met on the internet. Jealous for her to feel love apart from sex. Jealous for her to daydream about her own name in a way that didn't have to include fame, or fortune, or dancing naked for men. Jealous for her to know that, if she can do Sudoku? She can do anything!
This is the kind of jealousy that begs for a change in direction.
God is jealous for us to turn away from the distractions of this world and turn toward him. He’s jealous for us to let go of the false identities we hold onto so tightly, and to align ourselves with Him. He’s jealous for us to relinquish the things we allow to define our worth, and grab tightly to our value in Him.
Our God is jealous for her.
And for you.
And for me.
So, the obvious question is, what would your stripper name be?