“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? … Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:10–11)
When she sat at my table in the casino bar in Vegas last week, I suspected Sienna was a sex worker of some kind since, let’s face it, I’m not exactly any woman’s idea of a catch. I invited her to sit anyway in case I was wrong about her. I wasn’t going to have sex with her either way so it didn’t matter.
We chatted for about 15 minutes about where we were from, the marketing conference I was attending, what we thought of the band — you know, the usual stuff — as I tried to confirm (or, hoping against hope, dismiss) my suspicions about her.
She talked about being a “freelancer.” She talked about how strip clubs in Vegas were different from ones in other cities (without actually saying that she worked in them) and how she didn’t really socialize with other girls “in her line of work.”
Not wanting to deceive her into thinking she had a chance at me becoming a customer, I eventually cut to the chase and asked her what line of work she was in. “Private entertainment,” she said. I let her know that I wouldn’t be a customer of hers. She asked, “Why not?” I replied, “It’s not who I am.”
To the depths of my soul I regret that answer.
I regret it not because it isn’t true, but because, while true, it was all about me. Her entire business is servicing selfish men who are all about, “Me.” I didn’t want her to think I was yet another one. It’s also passively aggressively judgmental. Judgment’s something she probably gets a lot of too.
There’s so much more I should have said to let her know why I wouldn’t be her customer. I should have affirmed Sienna. I should have said…
Sienna, you deserve to be loved, not used.
Sienna, no money could equal your worth.
Sienna, even my life isn’t enough to purchase you.
Sienna, you are infinitely precious, even if you don’t believe it.
Sienna, you are loved more than you can ever know, even if you don’t believe it.
Sienna, I love you. Not in the way men will say that when they want something from you, not in a mushy Hallmark way or a clichéd Hollywood way, but in the deepest, most selfless way that I’m capable. As much as my meager gifts allow me to love in the way Christ wants us to love each other completely and unreservedly, I love you.
But I just said, “That’s not who I am.” Great job.
After she left my table, I watched her seek out other men, desperately hoping she’d come back and just have a normal evening of conversation with a new friend but knowing that she wouldn’t.
So I prayed. Sitting in a casino bar in Vegas smoking a cigar and drinking a beer, I prayed for Sienna, a sex worker, regretting all the things I didn’t say.
I asked Saint John Paul the Great to pray for her. I asked this great saint of the theology of the body to storm the casino with a heavenly army of angels to defend her from the lusts of men. I called on the Blessed Virgin Mary to love Sienna in a way only a mother can. I prayed for Sienna long after she left my sight, throughout the next day, and on the flight back to Austin.
I prayed for Sienna at mass today.
I will pray for her tomorrow.
In that 15-minute conversation was a lifetime of emotions. Elation at thinking a pretty woman wanted to sit with me turned to suspicion that she was a sex worker, which resolved to disappointment when I confirmed that she was.
Then I became sad.
Not just sad that I’d probably never see her again, but sad at how broken she must be to feel like she needs to sell herself to the lusts of men.
Then I got angry.
Angry at those who damaged this precious child of God. Angry at the men whose lust makes what she does possible. Angry at the world for hurting one of God’s masterpieces.
I don’t know what happened to Sienna that night, but she burrowed into my soul and won’t leave. I’d love to be able to report that she came back to my table, renounced her sinful ways, and accepted the mercy of Christ and her calling as daughter of the One True King. But I can’t. It’s more complicated than that. A lifetime of betrayal, sexual abuse, or whatever brokenness got her to this point isn’t repaired with one 15-minute conversation with some dopey guy at a bar. Maybe she doesn’t even want to change. I don’t know.
As a man, it breaks my heart that there’s nothing I can do to protect her.
And so I pray for Sienna. I place her in the loving care of our Mother.
It’s all I can do.
Photo by coloredgrey. The woman in the photo is not Sienna and is not connected to this story in any way. It’s just a photo I found that fit the mood I was looking for.