Chapter 30: Travels with the Exotic Dancer

That got your attention, didn’t it?  I know I’m not the type of person one normally expects to be traveling the country with an exotic dancer, but that’s what I love about travel.  It breaks us out of our bubbles.

And we all live in bubbles, whether we realize it or not.

I like to think that I live in a rather large and diverse bubble, but I know it’s still a bubble.  That was clear when I went to Danville for Christmas with the relatives.  Not a lot of Republicans are in my bubble, but the older relatives don’t have many  people like me in their bubble!

While traveling on business recently, I was delayed on the tarmac in Charlotte.  While we were waiting, the young lady next to me started talking to me.  She explained that she was heading home to Fort Lauderdale from visiting her family for the holidays.  She had been in some town in South Carolina, whose name I can’t recall.  I just remember thinking it sounded even worse than Danville.

She explained that she had been a secretary for a construction company in Fort Lauderdale until the recession hit.  Gradually her hours and days were cut back.  She had started dancing to make ends meet.  It reminded me of the 1930′s movie of “42nd Street” where it was clear if the chorus girls didn’t get a part in a show soon, their careers would be taking on a less honorable turn.  I don’t even know if “exotic dancer” is the correct terminology for her job, but “go go girl” seems rather dated.

I’m not being facetious when I call her a young lady.  She was a lady.  She was well spoken and had excellent manners.  Over disclosure just seems to be something the younger generation does-the Jerry Springer generation has a much different sense of privacy than mine has.  Or had.

She said she enjoyed dancing, so it seemed to make sense for this time and place in her life.  She said she would not have considered it if she had kids, but she was on her own.  She did what she had to do to get by.  She wasn’t proud of it and she wasn’t ashamed of it.  It was just her life.

She was very much like the people in my bubble-except for her career.  We talked about London.  She had spent some time there and had been impressed by the politeness of the people and the sense of history.

I heard her talk to her mother on her cell and it was the kind of conversations everyone has with their relatives on the way home after the holidays.  Thanks for the gifts, etc.  She was holding on to a battered stuffed animal I’m betting she had had since she was a child.

I’ve been thinking about our conversation for several days.  I don’t think I’ll ever be flip about exotic dancers again.  I’ve now met one and had a peak into her life.  She is not an idea or a cliché, she’s a very real person.  I know her motivations and, frankly, I found her admirable in that she is independent and a survivor.  It made me realize that we can’t judge people as casually as we sometimes do.  We shouldn’t let career choices define people.  We can’t put them into boxes- or bubbles.

We are all on the same journey through life.  We take different paths, but we are all people trying to find happiness and security-and hopefully learn a little along the way.  I know I will try not to be as quick to judge in the future.  Unless you are a Republican…


Note:  This is a repost from my other blog,, from back in January.  I’m consolidating my writing on this blog and will be transferring some older stuff over here…)

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