So we must say Goodbye, my darling,
And go, as lovers go, for ever;
Tonight remains, to pack and fix on labels
And make an end of lying down together. – Alun Lewis
One year ago today I told the story of my last few months in New Orleans. In June of 2006 I was tired and in poor health due to overwork and post-Katrina conditions; I literally hadn’t had a single day off in many months, and the rapidly-shrinking customer pool was being shared among an increasing number of escorts so I was having trouble getting even one call per day, and the long, hot New Orleans summer was just beginning and would certainly exacerbate all the existing problems. So when my husband decided it was time for me to go home, I didn’t put up much of a fight; though I’m incredibly tenacious, I also know when to quit. That time, I was ready; the business had changed, my friends were all gone, and it just wasn’t fun any more. But the first time I retired was a different story entirely.
As my husband told you in the first day of his interview, when I accepted his proposal he asked me to retire from regular escorting; I still ran the agency, drove girls around if needed and did two-girl shows and bachelor parties, but I no longer did regular calls. I agreed to the condition as a gesture of my commitment to him and I accepted that it was reasonable, but there was a still, small voice inside of me that kept telling me I had quit too early, that I had made insufficient investments and that financial difficulties could destroy our plans. As it turned out that voice was right, and in January of 2004 we mutually decided I would return to active escorting, but that wasn’t the major issue which troubled me in the first few months after my retirement; the problem was that, as my good friend Dr. Helena had warned me, whoring can be “addictive” (in the popular sense):
The sheer thrill of being offered large sums of money for my sexual favors was the most intoxicating experience of my entire life. The neofeminists love to pretend that sex work is “demeaning,” but the truth is that a large percentage of women in the trade (including strippers and porn stars) find it more empowering than anything else we have ever done, sometimes even more gratifying than romance.
Basically, I had quit “cold turkey” and was having withdrawal symptoms. It didn’t sink in at first; I thought it was just nervousness due to the greatly decreased cash flow. But a couple of months after I retired, my husband was in town on business and his company had booked a hotel room for him literally one block from my apartment. So as you might expect we were spending a great deal of time together, and one night Doug asked me to meet with one of his girls at one of the downtown hotels (I forget the reason). Anyhow, as we drove into the Central Business District and I saw all the hotels all lit up, a strange feeling very much like homesickness overwhelmed me, and I started to cry. My husband of course asked what was wrong and I told him I couldn’t explain it because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But he’s not stupid, and he figured it out in a few seconds; my male readers can probably guess that he got angry about it and we exchanged words. The argument didn’t last long, and ended with my saying something like, “It wouldn’t have meant very much if I had given up a job I hated to be with you, now would it?”
I dried my tears and completed my errand, and when I got back in the car he said he was sorry and that he had an idea to cheer me up. I still felt awful but I was certainly curious about what he was planning, though I didn’t have long to wait; we went back to his hotel and as soon as we got into the room, he pulled out his credit card and gave it to me. I was unsure of his intention so I just stood there for a moment until he said, “aren’t you going to fill out the credit card slip?” Then I realized what he was up to, and I laughed as I pulled out my papers and charged his card, calling it in to a very confused Grace. It really did work; I felt much better, partly because of his clever gift to me and partly because I knew that in the future I would be able to share those feelings with him without fear of making him angry.
Neofeminists and trafficking fetishists want to believe that all or nearly all prostitutes are coerced slaves who desperately want out of a life of degradation, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Obviously there are some women who are coerced, though the number is very small; and obviously there are some who could walk away in a heartbeat and never miss it, and would do so if they didn’t have bills to pay and mouths to feed. But as demonstrated in yesterday’s column and that of July 23rd, most whores are satisfied enough with their jobs to resent attempts to “save” them from it, and I suspect that like me, many retired escorts found leaving the life, even for the best reasons, to be a bittersweet experience.