My girlfriend was a pole dancer

 
Jason Roach | September 30th 2019

The following piece is an adapted extract from Swipe Up: A better way to do love, sex and relationships by Jason Roach

Saturday afternoon along Bromley High Street was a kind of catwalk for teenagers. It was where you went to hang out, even though the only real place of interest to a sixteen-year-old with not a lot of money to their name was McDonalds. And so the focus as we lined up—apart from French fries—was one another.

On this particular Saturday I was strutting… Why? Because I was walking along with my girlfriend. She was tall, dark and lovely. As we walked along, the spotlight was on me, and for once I didn’t care. Holding her hand made my skin tingle, my chest pout and my own personal central-heating system kick in on full power. Bring on the catwalk. Life felt good.

I was “in love”, and I wasn’t afraid to tell people about it—even her mother. I remember her face to this day when I declared my adoration for her daughter in front of her.

A restrained disbelief that melted into laughter. Looking back I can understand her reaction. But whether love was the right name for it or not, the sense of intoxicating connection with this astonishing creature was utterly real. 

And then it broke.

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The bubble bursts

We were at a house party together—the throbbing beat from the basement dance floor satisfyingly shaking the whole house. I’d come up to street level to welcome a mate who had just arrived. As we bantered, I felt a tug at my hoodie. There was a touch of aggression that made me spin round. Another friend whispered in my ear and beckoned me back downstairs.

I arrived at the makeshift dance floor to see my girlfriend in the middle, shamelessly playing tonsil tennis with another guy.

As I stared at her and half the room stared back at me, the euphoric bubble I’d happily been floating in for the past few weeks exploded in a shower of conflicting feelings. It felt like when the landlord turns all the lights on in the pub at the end of the evening. You are hit by stark reality. Our relationship had seemed stable, sweet and serene, but now all I could see was two sweaty bodies and my own stupidity. She wasn’t perfect after all. And apparently, neither was I.

Aftermath

Things dragged along for a little while after that. By now, we’d been together for years and surely it wasn’t worth throwing everything away over that one incident. Plus, she’d said “sorry” with a doe-eyed look of remorse that was hard to resist.

A few weeks later our relationship took a completely unexpected turn. We were walking  down the road where she lived towards the high street, as we often did on a Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, car stereos were booming, and we skipped along to the beats. It was then that she broke the news, out of the blue, in a matter-of-fact kind of way. She wanted to become a pole dancer.

Her reasons were simple. She had worked out that she could earn better money pole dancing right now than many university graduates did. Plus she would cut out the hassle of student debt and study too. And she got to spend the rest of the day shopping. To be clear, she didn’t have to do this because she was hard up or in dire straits. It was just a life choice. She hadn’t broken stride for a moment during this revelation. In her mind there was nothing remotely unusual about her conclusions.

Now she slowed and looked over at me, looking for some kind of affirmation. My mind was momentarily paralysed. And in retrospect I was glad. I’m not sure I would have said anything constructive. Her new path of freedom left me confused and hurt. Why were these incidents so bruising to me and yet almost insignificant to her?

Grown-up girlfriend

A few years later I met someone at work. It had been easy to get to know her in the run of office life. We’d sneak out for coffee and lose track of time. Conversation was easy. Chemistry was powerful. But as our relationship was starting to blossom, I was also learning what it meant to be in a relationship with Jesus.

A group of friends had invited me along to some church events, and I’d begun to read the Bible. As I read and listened, I was blown away by the words and ways of the risen Jesus and got involved with a church. Two relationships were growing side by side.

I hadn’t grown up belonging to a local church, and everything felt a little strange, but the community was kind and welcomed me in. One evening, a small group of us were meeting to hang out and have a look at the Bible together. I was waxing lyrical about my newfound love, and one of the other Christians there began to lovingly probe. Was she a believer? Had we had sex? Did I have marriage in mind? It became clear in an inescapable way that I wasn’t going about things the Christian way. 

I went home and wept.

And then I broke up with her.

I knew in my head that this was what God wanted me to do. But my heart was in a different place. It felt like my body was saying Yes! to this relationship, but that Jesus was giving a resounding No! I felt frustrated with myself for feeling drawn to disobey God and frustrated with God for saying no to what felt so natural and good.

I know my story is not unique. So many Christians today feel this way: hungry for relationships and yet torn between how we feel and what our faith seems to demand.

And often our solution as individuals and as churches is to try and bury our heads in the sand. We want to just forget about it and hope that the problem will go away, but it won’t. And to those who are struggling and to an incredulous watching world, the silence is deafening.

I want to suggest that hoping that our feelings will go away is the wrong thing to do. What changed things for me was realising that I hadn’t grasped the fullness of the Christian story. God has taken me on a journey of discovery in this area of relationships. I’ve discovered that it’s not a choice between passion-free faith and sensual fun. That is not the Christian story. What’s more, God has not left us in the dark about what that story is. Instead he’s mapped it out in his big story told in the scriptures. It has grown my love for Jesus and so enriched my faith.

And bottom line: I think his story not only makes sense but is better than the story the world is telling us.

Discover God's positive vision for sex and relationships in Swipe Up by Jason Roach. Available to buy here

Jason Roach

Jason Roach works at The Bridge, a new plant in an inner-city area in Battersea, South London. He worked as a medical journalist before training for Christian ministry. Jason is married to Rachel and has four children.

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