The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you. – Kendall Hailey
Like everybody else, whores have families, and every family is different, including those of whores. Some families reject prostitute daughters (or else would do so if they knew), whereas some are accepting or even supportive. And others carry the principle of family togetherness to a level I daresay few people would feel comfortable with.
As I mentioned in my column of July 30th, my mother did not take well to my becoming a stripper; in fact she stopped talking to me altogether, and despite several attempts at reconciliation (by letter) from me, we haven’t spoken in almost 13 years. So one can only imagine what her reaction would have been had she learned her eldest daughter was a prostitute; she would’ve had a fit. Or perhaps not; it’s possible her extreme reaction was due to her equating the two jobs in her mind, so that becoming a stripper was the same to her as entering harlotry. Well, she always hoped I would be a writer someday, so in a way she got her wish; it just didn’t happen in the way she would’ve liked. The only members of my family who knew about my career were my second sister (the one who looks and thinks most like me) and one male cousin I’m close to. I’m sure my cousin Jeff would have been supportive; he applauded my decision to become a stripper, and had he lived a few years longer I’m sure his reaction to my taking up “the world’s oldest profession” would’ve been similar to that of another dear male friend: “I was wondering how long it would take you to get around to that.”
From what I’ve seen, my situation isn’t at all unusual; most working girls I’ve encountered hide their profession from their families. Those who weren’t from New Orleans had the least trouble because their families were in other states, but I can remember at least two times when a girl had to take off for a week because her parents were coming to visit. I know that I was several girls’ “good friend Maggie” when they needed to make excuses to their families, and one girl actually told hers that she was a drug dealer because their priorities were so screwed up they actually thought that was better than being a hooker! One common cover-up is to take a “regular” job and pretend it pays better than it actually does; I had one girl who did this for years. Her degree gave her a job which was long on prestige but short on both hours and hourly pay, but she let her family believe it was not so and made all her real money as an escort. And back when Grace was escorting in Atlanta, she simply told her mother she was a stripper (which was actually true since she did both); her mother didn’t like it, but did not equate the trades as my mother apparently did.
Whores who are close to their families yet can’t tell them the truth about their work sometimes encounter the problem of a mother or sister dropping in unexpectedly; whenever such a girl answered her phone and started spouting inappropriate blather at me, I would know she had unwelcome visitors and would simply ask, “Can you get rid of them to take this call?” Sometimes they could, and other times they were forced to pass, but I had one girl who tried to have it both ways. She was a very pretty Arabic girl and the customers liked her, but her family would drop in without notice and she could never get rid of them. I could’ve worked around that, but she had the bad habit of setting up appointments and then simply not showing up; when I called to find out where the hell she was there would be no answer, then the next day she would call to tell me her family had suddenly and unexpectedly dropped by her apartment before she could leave to go on the date. Sometimes I could replace her with another girl but at other times the call was lost, and though I charged her the fee anyhow one simply can’t run a service like that, so I soon let her go; do you know she actually had the gall to try to argue with me about it?
Some other girls’ families are much more accepting of their profession; as I mentioned in my column of August 29th, Barbie’s mother and sister would babysit her children while she went on calls, and Florence’s mother knew what she was doing to raise the money for her son’s therapy. I had another girl who lived with her father, a jazz musician; though he wasn’t happy with her career choice he really couldn’t say much because he didn’t make enough to pay the bills alone. And I had a couple of girls say they suspected their mothers knew what they did but wisely avoided the subject.
Even when parents are kept in the dark about their daughters’ careers, sisters are often in on the secret; my situation was not at all atypical in that respect. Sometimes the sisters are escorts as well, and I had such a pair working for me for a while. Well, I really should say they worked for everybody; they were so well-known in town that most agencies simply referred to them as “The Sisters”. Sorry to smash your fantasy, guys, but they never worked together; in fact they specifically told agencies that they wouldn’t. Neither minded knowing that the other worked, but they weren’t about to work in the same room together, much less in the same bed! And even if they had, nobody would’ve believed they were sisters anyhow; they were of mixed race, and the older sister strongly favored the mother’s race while the younger favored the father’s just as strongly. Their personalities were also quite different; the younger sister was a good, dependable worker while the elder was a typical “empty box” type (see my column of August 24th) whom I soon stopped using and advised to return to stripping.
But their level of mutual acceptance was as nothing compared to that of another family I knew. I first met the mother when she was house mother at Rick’s Cabaret while I was a dancer there; I doubt I would’ve remembered her but oddly enough she remembered me, and reminded me of our previous acquaintance when she first applied to me for a job. She wasn’t the prettiest employee I had, but she would do just about anything and was willing to work the weirdest hours, and since the clients to whom I sent her seemed satisfied she got plenty of work. Then one day when she was calling on (i.e. letting me know she was available) she said to me, “You know, my daughter works, too.” Well, I certainly thought that was interesting but not so weird; it’s actually not all that uncommon among prostitutes from working-class backgrounds. I told her I would have to meet the girl and she agreed, then asked “You don’t have male escorts, do you?” I assured her that I did not, and she continued, “Because my son is a gay escort.”
Now, I’m as open-minded as the next madam, but I must admit that surprised me. Some families have a hard time accepting a gay son or a prostitute daughter, but this woman was so accepting of her gay prostitute son that she didn’t mind helping him find work! As it turned out, the son worked for Doug, and when I mentioned it to him later he said, “Oh, yeah, it’s a family business with them.” It wasn’t long afterward that I found out just how true that statement was; I heard through the grapevine that the rich cokehead I’ve mentioned several times before had hired all three of them one night, and that as part of the festivities he had them put on a show for him. All three of them, together. I hope y’all don’t think me a prude for admitting that I find that just a little bit disturbing. OK, I’ll be honest; not just a little bit. There’s just something icky about it which somehow goes beyond the mere incest angle. Talk about family drama…
Yet at the same time, I have to say that whatever one might think about their sexual behavior, their family dynamic was remarkably healthy in an Addams Family sort of way. They accepted each other without reservation or judgment, and clearly were totally honest with each other; isn’t that better than having to lie to one’s mother because she won’t accept one’s choices? And even if one questions the way in which this woman raised her children at least she loved them for who they were, which is more than I can say for my mother.