When I saw the headline that Playboy is getting rid of nudes, I got really bummed. Why? Because my dream of being on the cover one day was crushed in one quick read of the news.
I know this is not the kind of dream a good Midwestern girl who believes in the ideals of feminism is supposed to have, but I have a reason. When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis eight years ago, I made a "bucket list" of sorts, only I called it my "wheelchair list." It was a list of all the things I wanted to do with my body before it failed me.
If you don’t know, MS is a completely unpredictable and incurable disease with symptoms that range from fatigue and memory loss to incontinence and paralysis.
Since no doctor could tell me exactly what the course of the disease would be for my body, I took matters into my own hands. I decided that posing nude would be the best thing I could do to exert control over my diagnosis. However, I didn’t arrive at this idea arbitrarily.
I have a thing for female strippers. Put a girl in four-inch Lucite heels and spritz her skin with baby powder and cheap perfume and I can’t take my eyes off of her. Forget the idea of a man in uniform sliding down the pole at his firehouse, I want a girl who can wrap her legs tightly around four inches of metal and slide down head first past two stories of ogling men. Now that is my hero.
This obsession started a year after college. I was working at a Hollywood production company when, after spending an evening at a testosterone-filled motocross championship sitting next to Pamela Anderson, I found myself with my boss, a film director, and his friend, a soon to be has-been rock star, at a strip club in Anaheim, just minutes from Disneyland.
The neon lights strobed through the foggy air, lighting up the men as they breathed in the nakedness in front of them. I ordered a drink and followed my boss and his friends up to the special VIP level.
While the men got lap dances behind me and the strippers flocked to the notable rock star, I stood at the edge of the second floor balcony watching the women gyrate and contort their bodies in ways I never imagined possible. Two levels of girls danced before me as I studied their every move. One leg on the pole, body twirling. Handstand into splits, top off. Ankles to ears, dollar bills flying.
When I finished my drink I took a seat next to the men and studied their faces to see if they were as intrigued by the talent as I was. I think they were, but probably for different reasons. However, I could care less, I was in heaven. This place was amazing. The sexier version of Cirque Du Soleil. Those girls knew how to rule the room and there was something about the way they moved their bodies with such power that had me in awe.
After my boss ordered me my first lap dance, I was sold.
Hello, Ms. Stripper, take me to that champagne room and teach me everything you know. I want to learn to move like you.
Of course, I never actually went anywhere with the stripper. What was I going to do? Turn to my boss and say, excuse me, mister big time director, I’m tired of working long hours for you and your partner, I think I’ll just run off and become a stripper and skip out on my chance at Hollywood success. No, absolutely not.
So, what did I do instead?
Instead, I waited five years until I found out I had a potentially debilitating disease and decided the only way I could get through the disease was to channel my inner stripper and take control over my body. That’s when I made my wheelchair list. It was a list of all the things I never would have dreamt of doing before, but now that the possibility that one day I might be unable to walk was out there on the line, I’d started to consider the impossible.
Or trying out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Or posing in Playboy.
Or running a marathon.
Dancing and singing on Broadway.
Swimming the English Channel.
Performing with the original Pussycat Dolls.
Anything that had to do with my body was on that list.
It’s amazing what you start to appreciate when someone threatens to take it away. Over the years, I’ve definitely made peace with the body I do have, no longer treating it like a bad boyfriend who completely betrayed me.
Beating it up with rigorous exercise or jumping on the high school diet du jour – anorexia for breakfast and bulimia for dinner. No, once high school was over, I was done with that. I moved to California and gradually learned that a body fed organic food and treated with respect and meditation would not betray you.
By the age of 28, I felt like I owned my body, but when the doctor told me I had MS, all that came crashing down.
Hence the reason why I had given much thought to my list and I knew some of the things on there were completely ludicrous.
Thanks to bad knees, my running days were over, so the marathon was out. And I could still swim, but England was too cold, and I couldn’t sing for shit. So all I was left with was the ability to move my body to the beat and the fact that I could still do the splits (thank you yoga). Meaning, I had to stick to what was actually possible.
Move over Dallas, hello Pussycat… I had to pose for Hugh.
As far as I knew Playboy had never put someone on the cover who had MS, who said I couldn’t be the first?
In case you didn’t know, the MS society has a website where all those living with the disease are invited to post a photo and their story. I think it’s great. It gives us all a voice and allows the world to see that anyone can be affected.
But here’s the deal, when I learned about that website, I refused to post my story. I didn’t want to be the face of MS, I wanted to be the body of the disease. The body that defied all odds. I wanted people to look at me and be inspired. And if that meant taking it all off, I was willing to do it.
Of course, this has all changed now that Playboy is changing. But man, did I have big plans for my Playboy shoot. I was going to get super in shape, like Giselle walking on the runway in bra and panties shape. I would get waxed and buffed to perfection. Tanned and oiled up. I’d ask the hair and make-up folks for the Brigitte Bardot look. Then the only thing I would’ve had to worry about was what my dad would say.
But you know what happened when I told him that I wanted to be in Playboy?
Nothing. Then he reminded me of the photo of the two of us, me as a baby and he as a young dad, together reading the newest issue of the famous nudie mag, and he told me to go for it.
I guess when you’re facing an incurable disease dads tend to look past the idea of photos of their little girl in their birthday suit up for sale at the corner liquor market. Also, I’m pretty sure he never thought I would make it happen, but I haven’t given up trying.
So, Mr. Hefner, if you’re reading this, I don’t know exactly what your plan is for the future of Playboy, but I promise you, give me the opportunity and I will get this body in banging shape. I am still strong and capable and would love to get camera ready. Forget being Jerry’s kid, I want to be one of your bunnies.