HE NAMED ME CARMEN. I didn’t know that the first piece of me I would lose inside the dark walls of the strip club would be my name. I had already auditioned and been hired (that’s a blog for another day), and now I stood inside an office in my pink Abercrombie t-shirt wondering what would happen next.
My clothes back on, I could still feel the hands of unknown men tucking money into my thong. My head was buzzing with frantic thoughts while I stood there struggling to look like this was a normal afternoon. I had this moment where I wanted to flee, to pretend like the last hour had not happened, but I instead stood frozen to the floor. I was present, but I see now that I had already started to disappear.
There were television screens showing different places inside the club where management could keep an eye on what was going on; where they could watch women sacrifice themselves over and over to men who never saw them at all. I looked at the screens, seeing images I had never seen before, and somehow I couldn’t see that soon that would be me.
“What will your stage name be?” he asked. The question broke the silence in the room and the noise inside my head. I replied that my name was Stefanie. Because I had never been in a strip club before, I didn’t know about stage names. It was explained to me that women use a different name and that it was for their privacy and protection. I could pick any name that I wanted. As I stood there trying to come up with a name to replace the one I had known for thirty years, the manager opened up a book.
The book was full of names of dancers who had come and gone; a log of the lost. I began to wonder about them. What was their story? Where did they go? What were their real names? How soon will it be before I, too, became an entry in a journal of lost women? He chose Carmen. So that is who I became.
It took only a couple of weeks to begin to respond to the name of Carmen more quickly than I responded to my own name. In no time at all, Stefanie became the mask I wore when I was out in the “real world.” I wanted the people who loved me to believe that this job wasn’t changing me, so I pretended I was okay. Carmen began to rule, though, because the darkness is a powerful thing, and in the dark it is very hard to see the truth. In the end, there was nothing left that was recognizable of my life. And it all began when I lost my name.
WHAT IS MY REAL NAME? Stefanie means crown and victorious. I willingly threw away my name and in doing so I forgot who I was. Living in the darkness, I lost sight of the life I had once dreamed for myself. Taking back my name, taking back my life, was the beginning of a life of freedom. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
The more important question to ask is who does GOD say that I am? Who does God say that YOU are? I am not the sum of what I have done, and neither are you. I am not a fantasy here to make the dreams of others come true for a price. I am not a whore, I am not dirty, and I am not nothing. GOD calls me chosen, redeemed, beloved, daughter, forgiven, new, whole, clean, worthy, restored, precious, a jewel, a treasure, and he calls me a CHILD OF THE KING. And NOTHING and NO ONE can take that away from me or from you. I encourage you to get to know God, and in doing so you will get to know the precious person He created you to be.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1