UPDATE 7:00 PM:
Before I forget: two more things that set up this mad second-guessing–
A woman I work with at the Studio, “Katherine,” is in a new relationship with a guy she met through a popular online dating site. He is a professional chef who also shares partial ownership of his own restaurant.
They met in the Spring. He’s crazy about her.
She hasn’t told him that she works at the Studio. He thinks that she works in “customer service.” While that job description is not necessarily untrue, it is not, shall we say, fully representative. I like Katherine quite a bit, but she is engaging in a lie by omission.
It’s stressing her out…but that doesn’t make it okay. I am telling her, Look, the later you wait, the worse it will be.
And then I was supposed to go on a date this weekend with a professor and writer who also works at my tutoring center. Nothing major, just a dinner-and-movie date. We were going to see this new documentary film (I love documentaries) Blackfish, about an Orca whale in a Sea World hell in Orlando. The Orca has killed three people. I feel sad for their families, but as far as I’m concerned, GO SHAMU GO! If I was a porpoise, I’d kill humans on basic principle whenever I had the chance.
They are intelligent and emotional creatures. They shouldn’t be living in a fuckin concrete bathtub. I guess the performance-trick-training gives them something to do with their energy and big brains rather than only languishing in the SeaWorld Supermax Prison they’re in, but FFS.
Anyway…I thought about the date…and I thought about the conversations it could include. I could never tell him about what I do at the Studio. He could blab about it to other colleagues. If I don’t mention it, and things go well and something develops between us…do I tell him later, and risk rejection? Do I hide it and hope he never finds out? I am very, very good at hiding things.
All I wanted to do was see a movie, man.
Finally: I’ve done a significant amount of politics and campaign work. The Census, Planned Parenthood, internships, Campaign Corps, journalism. Protest movements. Other stuff.
I couldn’t do it the last two election seasons because I knew that if I was exposed, I would bring shame and scrutiny down upon my candidate/party/organization.
Must think about this…
* * * *
I met a woman in AA who was in the Biz for over ten years. Not prodomme, but as an escort and sensual massage. She quit doing it seven months after she got sober, when she was approximately my age.
I took her out for lunch. I wanted to hear what she had to say.
She did not mince words.
“You have to get out as soon as possible. You cannot stay sober in that industry. There is no excuse.”
I glared at her from across the table. I did not like being told by a complete stranger what I am and am not capable of.
“You have an excellent education and credentials. When I quit, I had a High School degree and I’d never worked in a 9-to-5 job. I was terrified because I had no idea how I was going to support myself. Do you have any idea how crazy you sound to have all of the education and skills that you have, and to still be doing this?”
I felt defensive and a little angry. Crazy? Me? Compared to who? All those fruitbats in the Rooms? Half those crazy bitches in the Studio? Compared to this middle-aged woman sitting across from me, who in addition to being an alcoholic also had a major cocaine problem and just told me stories about being a full-service escort and also having a pimp at one time who would beat her up? I teach in a classroom! I teach the GRE! I’m a nice normal person! A nice sane individual!
“I just do it part-time. I have other jobs. It supplements my income,” I said.
“Rationalization. You can supplement your income by working as a dog-walker. You don’t need to be doing this. You have no idea how this is truly affecting you.”
“Please do not patronize me. What, are you saying I have false consciousness or something?”
“That is exactly what I’m saying. I needed ten years of therapy when I got out.”
Well, maybe you were crazy to begin with, I thought, but I didn’t say that. I didn’t want to be rude.
“Look at what you are doing,” she went on. “People are paying you to abuse them. Or they pay to abuse you.”
That pissed me off. “Please! I have morals. I don’t hurt anyone. This is not abuse.”
“What is it, then?”
“Look, I know the way sadomasochism looks to outsiders. I know that it looks either scary or absurd. But it’s not necessarily bad. It is enjoyable.”
“It is entirely possible to enjoy abuse and abusing others.”
“I’ve had abusive clients and I’ve been in abusive relationships. I can tell the difference.”
“What is the difference?” she asked.
“Abuse hurts and degrades the soul. I don’t feel bad when I have a good session with a client. I feel good. I feel happy.”
“You are black and blue, Margo.”
“What am I supposed to do? Change my entire sexuality? This is the way I was imprinted. It is crucial to my sexual functioning. Why should I give it up if I don’t have to? It gives me joy.”
“Obsessions can be fun. As alcoholics, we both know all about that. Tell me: why are you doing this professionally?”
“Repetition compulsion and the money is helpful.”
“Exactly. You are acting out. You are spinning in place. You cannot do this and move forward with your life. If you want to get better, you will have to quit. Even if you don’t drink, you are not engaging in sober behavior when you do this. Margo, you are out of control. You are still stuck in it, so you don’t see it clearly, from the outside.”
I was furious. Alcoholics don’t like to be told that they can’t drink. They go: mind your own fucking business. I’ll quit when I’m ready. I’ll quit when I’m ready, and not a day before.
She continued: “My best advice to you is that as long as you keep doing this professionally, you need to be doing a lot of AA at the same time. It will support you and sustain you, give you perspective. You need to keep one foot in the normal world while you do this. You are in great danger, Margo.”
“What? Violence? Like a client could hurt me?” All sex workers fear violence. Or at least all the ones I’ve talked to about it.
“That too, but also emotional danger.”
I know in my heart that she is right. I’ve known these truths for a long, long time.
The Awful Truth. This is holding me back. I’m stuck in a holding pattern like a jet over an airport, waiting for clearance to land. I cannot move forward in my career–you know, what I went to college for–as long as I keep doing professional S&M, because if I’m exposed, it will nuke my professional reputation.
I cannot have love in my life, because no healthy man is going to put up with it (me doing BDSM with a lot of random guys, even if they are clients). And if I am spending so much energy doing this, what am I going to have to give to another person?
And sex work is isolating. It is, and not just because it’s illegal or verboten to talk about. And isolation is lethal. Isolation will get you in the end.
But you quit when you’re ready.
You quit when you’re ready, and not a moment before.