I am obsessed with strippers lately. I don’t know exactly why this is, as I’ve never been to a strip club or anything. I don’t really know anything about stripping at all. In college I was obsessed with two-toed sloths, which still still hold a special place in my heart whenever I see them in the nocturnal exhibit at the zoo. This thing about strippers is relatively new, just the last couple of weeks, so who knows how long I’ll be unable to go for more than three minutes without blurting “I love strippers!” This isn’t the conversational handicap you’d think it might be, for the most part. Mostly people are tolerant of my little verbal tics.
In my head a bunch of strippers have come to live with me. One day they just show up, four or five or ten or twelve of them, and there’s some bustle about getting all their luggage in (they haven’t brought much clothing; it’s mostly their hair dryers) and finding them sleeping bags and fitting all their stuff in the bathroom but on the whole I’m delighted to have them. They aren’t the sad and downtrodden kind you hear so much about, with various bruises and unhealthy addictions and tight twitchy smiles. These strippers are round and plush and glowing, with long blonde hair and toned upper arms and pretty painted toenails. They do yoga and pilates in the morning and then they have Pop-Tarts for breakfast. Occasionally they drink milk straight from the carton but they are so cute when they do it that I forgive them and anyway I never drink milk (except in hot chocolate) so it’s fine.
During the day they go on long drives up to the mountains (sometimes they drive a 1975 Cadillac and sometimes they drive a minivan with dual airbags) and come home and sit in the sun and read books and listen to music. Sometimes they bring home trashy magazines and we all sit around doing the quizzes together. Generally they don’t strip much when they’re at home with me…maybe we’ll all be sitting around on a Saturday afternoon eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (the strippers always cut them in triangles instead of squares as is only right and proper) and they’ll be talking about work, and then one of them will get up and run for her pasties, the way bellydancers will run for their finger cymbals, and she’ll get up and do a little twirl. Or maybe one day I am feeling rife with body image issues and saying forlornly that I wish I was as pretty as the strippers are and they will say, “Girl, you are totally pretty” and I say back “No, I can never be as pretty as you! I mean, look at you, you’re strippers,” and then they go “Whatever, means nothing. I mean, you can be a stripper too!” and I go “Oh, man, I don’t know” and then they go “Okay, that’s it, get up right now, we’re totally teaching you all our moves” and I’m a little shy about it but after we lock all the doors and pull the curtains they get out their portable pole and a cordless drill with which to install it. We put music on and for a while I just watch them but they cajole me into getting up there my ownself and they are very encouraging especially when I feel clumsy and unsure of myself. We all dance around until we are out of breath and then we make smoothies and take naps.
In the movies strippers have names like Kayla and Destinee but the strippers who live at my house are named things like Organza and Ernestine and Frantique and Begonia and Amytriptylene (we just call her Amy though). They sing me to sleep when I can’t get to sleep and occasionally they give me a ride in to work when I don’t feel like driving. They send me funny emails and tell me they love the journal even though I’m pretty sure they don’t read all the entries. They make messes in the kitchen sometimes and I get annoyed with them for using all the hot water in the shower and sometimes I wish I could just have my house back again, stripper-free and quiet and alone, but most of the time we get along just fine. Sometimes a stripper will feel sad and lonely and miss her mom and her cat and then we all gather around her and coo and pet her hair and tell her it’s going to be all right, everything’s going to be all right. We eat ice cream and talk about everyone we love and everyone we miss and the ways we wish things were different but also the way we’re glad things have worked out mostly the way they have. We pass each other tissues when we start crying and sometimes there’s nothing for it but to put a silly eighties’ movie in the DVD player. If we happen to be watching a movie that involves a strip club or something the strippers are quick to criticize the portrayal thereof, assuring me that it’s not really like that. Sometimes they laugh at the TV strippers’ outfits or moves or whatever, but generally the strippers who live at my house are tolerant of media inconsistency.
They aren’t planning to stay forever, these strippers. I know and they know that one day they’ll pack up and move on, taking their g-strings and copies of Anna Karenina with them. We will stand out in the driveway and I will fluster about, asking if they’ve got gas in the minivan and maps and if they want to take some chips with them for the ride, and they will laugh and say no, they’re fine, and when did I get so maternal? I will hug each one of them goodbye and make them promise to keep in touch, as if we’ve all been to summer camp together. But it hasn’t happened yet, it isn’t time for them to go right now. Right now they’re sitting in my house, looking out the window or making some lemonade with real lemons, telling jokes, incandescing softly, stretching their wings and painting their toenails, surrounding me like a choir of angels, keeping me safe.