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Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’

0421150119iIf you had told me a little over a year ago that I’d be thumb-typing a column on a smartphone mere hours before posting time, while waiting for a ferry on an island off the coast from Seattle, I would have laughed at you.  Yet that is exactly what I’m doing right now.  Life is queer with its twists and turns, isn’t it?  Here I am back at work again, making all sorts of personal, business and activist connections, running incredibly late on my deadlines and even using a damned smartphone…and being OK with all of that. It’s been a hell of a year, and I have all my loyal readers to thank for it.

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Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down.
  –  Stevie Nicks, “Dreams”

This was not an easy essay to write, which is why I put it off for as long as I did.  But the events of the last few months made the writing of it an absolute necessity; there’s been a lot of gossip, and a lot of speculation, and I’m sure many of you have suspected something like this for some time now.  I don’t know how to say this in any way but plainly, so here goes:  My husband and I are getting a divorce.

Every Rose Has Its ThornsNow, this isn’t as sudden a development as you might think; a wise and perceptive person might have seen the signs as early as 2007, within a year of my retiring from sex work.  Maybe my retirement changed some of the subtle alchemy of my appeal; maybe it was just the Coolidge Effect.  Or maybe it’s just that, though I’m an easy person to love, I’m damned hard to live with.  I have a tendency to be moody, paranoid and set in my ways; I’m also emotionally intense, incredibly stubborn and often unreasonable, and I tend to get my way all the time without directly demanding it.  He had fallen in love with a glamorous, mysterious enchantress, and perhaps once the bloom was off the rose he began to realize what a damned thorny plant he was holding in his lacerated hand.  And once the money troubles started again the following year (due to the economic crash), I reckon he felt enough was enough; he asked me for a divorce in October of 2008.

To say that I did not take it well would be putting it mildly; “psycho” would probably be closer to an honest appraisal.  The only thing I have to say in my defense is, consider how you would feel if you were a woman who had made her living by being attractive to men, and the one man you had broken your own rules for suddenly rejected you.  I felt as though I had been kicked in the teeth, and reacted accordingly.  He did not expect such an extreme reaction on my part (because men, bless your little hearts, never do understand women even after spending years with one), and backed down from the request; once again I had got my way.  We spent a stormy two years until he asked for divorce again just a few months after I started this blog; that time we went to marriage counseling, and for about a year and a half it really looked like things were improving (my interview with him was near the beginning of this stretch of reconciliation).

But by the end of 2012 the relationship started to unravel again, this time in slow motion.  We didn’t argue at all; in fact we were generally quite friendly on the phone, and he always enthusiastically supported my work.  But he had maintained a second residence (for work) since the summer of 2010, and began to spend much more time there than he did at home.  He was here for only two separate one-week periods in 2013, one in April and the other in July; he made excuses about why he couldn’t come home for Christmas that year, and the only time I spent with him in the whole of last year was a single night when I toured through San Diego.  So it really wasn’t much of a surprise when he asked for a divorce again about a month after I got home from the tour, and this time I agreed.  He insisted on giving me terms more generous than any I had a right to expect; he wasn’t even in a rush, and suggested we do the actual paperwork sometime in the next year (we’ve since agreed to do it this coming July).

Needless to say, I did a lot of deep thinking about what was happening; I was upset and relieved at the same time, and what finally helped me to accept it was the realization that, though I still love him, it was his friendship I would miss the most, and that by being a big girl about it and sincerely wishing him only happiness, that perhaps I wouldn’t actually have to lose it after all.  That’s what it looks like is happening; he’s happier and friendlier on the phone than he’s been in at least two years, and I no longer feel the sullen resentment toward him I’ve felt for seven years.  As soon as I let go of a failed marriage, I found my favorite client again, and who knows?  The stage of our relationship yet to come might actually be the best one for both of us.  Since I fully expect to mention him from time to time, I’ll call him “Matt” from here on out; I obviously can’t call him “my husband” any more, and since I now have two exes I asked him which pseudonym he wanted me to use.

Maggie & Jae 2-19-15After the end of my first marriage, I fended off would-be lovers with the fierceness of Athena until I found myself; this time, the act of letting go was itself an act of self-actualization, and Athena ceded the field to Aphrodite.  My trip to Seattle was, as I’ve already said, powerful and transformative; I knew it was the beginning of a new book of my life, and I knew that it was right and good to be open to whatever it brought with it.  And one of those things, much to my surprise, was love.  I’ve mentioned Jae, a sex worker and activist from Seattle, quite a lot since November; what I haven’t mentioned is that we are much more than friends.  We are, in fact, lovers, and a large part of the reason I’ve come to Seattle is to live with her; in a few years, after my business here is done, she’ll be moving out to the country with me.  And in the meantime, she’ll be traveling with me on some of my trips, so many of y’all will get a chance to meet her.  Yes, we got serious very quickly, but that’s not at all unusual in lesbian relationships (What does a lesbian bring on the second date?  A U-haul trailer.)  Don’t be surprised, dear readers; it’s not like I’ve made a secret of my bisexuality, and if one excludes commercial encounters I’ve actually been with more women than men.

I can’t say that’s all there is to tell right now, because it wouldn’t be true; it is, however, all I want to tell right now and all that I think I should tell right now.  I apologize if the narrative has been a bit less well-organized than usual; it was, as I said above, rather difficult to write.  I’m sure many of you will want to express your sympathy for the divorce, and of course I appreciate that.  But as I said above, this was a long time coming, and Matt and I are both relieved that we can stop inadvertently hurting each other.  In short, three people are happier today than they were in October, and in the big scheme of things that’s something to be thankful for.

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Diary #241

The day is here!  Or more exactly, it will be here tomorrow.  At roughly 10 AM CST tomorrow morning I’ll be headed west and driving all day, to rendezvous for dinner with Dr. David Ley in Albuquerque.  Then on Thursday I’ll be meeting my husband in Las Vegas, and the next day Jae and I will meet up for the trip to Seattle.  I’m not exactly sure when we’re departing or which route we’ll take; she complained that a planned schedule would “take the fun out of the trip”.  So as part of my commitment to loosening up and trying new things, I’m going to acquiesce to her wishes and play it by ear (the sound you hear is my nerves twanging at the thought).  But in any case, we should be back in Seattle by  sometime early next week (though you’ll have to wait until the 24th to read about it because next Tuesday is Mardi Gras.)  Anyhow, today is going to be spent almost entirely away from the keyboard; I’ve done all I can do to keep things running smoothly here for the next week even if I can’t get online very much, and I’ve got far too many real-life tasks to handle prior to departure (including, but not limited to:  a manicure/pedicure, taking the car to my mechanic for a last-minute check, washing clothes, packing the car and transferring all the vital Honest Courtesan files to my thumb drive for portability).  So wish me luck, make an offering to Hermes for me, send me positive vibes or whatever the equivalent is in your belief system; or, if you prefer a more pragmatic form of assistance, donations via PayPal are always welcome!

Incidentally, today’s illustration isn’t an affirmation or mere self-aggrandizement or anything like that; it’s to fulfill a request from my youngest fan, Mancrack’s little boy Storm, who met me when I stayed at her house last August.  Adult readers who appreciate it can direct your thanks to Mancrack.

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‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights.
  –  Gwen Stefani

A few days ago I was talking to Jae about my upcoming car trip to Seattle, and told her that my departure date could potentially be delayed slightly if snow were predicted anywhere along my planned route.  She asked why, and I replied that I’m just not comfortable with the idea of driving in Rocky Mountain snow in Wyoming or Idaho; to this she replied, “You just haven’t shaken off all the boy juice yet.”  That’s an especially powerful image coming from one whore to another, so I asked her to elucidate and she explained that it was her term for the kind of learned incompetence that men tend to (even unintentionally) inflict on women they care about.

woman changing a tireLong-time readers know that I am not a gender-difference denialist; I fully accept that there are many ways in which men and women tend to be totally different, and believe it’s foolish and counterproductive to pretend otherwise.  But there are other differences between the sexes which have little (if anything) to do with biology and everything to do with societal expectations.  Take car repairs, for example; though many women don’t care for getting dirty, there is no earthly reason for a woman not to learn basic techniques that could get her out of a jam or save her money (especially if there’s no man handy to do them).  My father would not let me drive alone until I showed him I could change a tire, and though I absolutely hate doing it and generally prefer the “stand on the side of the highway and look frustrated until a man stops and changes it for me” method (which for me never takes more than five minutes to work, at least in the daytime on a busy highway), I think it’s still a good thing that I know how to do it in a pinch…even if I do (as per Daddy’s lesson) stop as soon as I can thereafter and ask the first convenient man to make sure the lugs are tight enough.  But see, that’s not really helplessness; that’s just recognizing that I simply don’t have the upper-body strength necessary to tighten those babies as tight as they probably should be.  And for all his bad qualities, I do have to give Jack credit for one thing:  he insisted I learn how to perform every simple car repair he could teach me, from changing spark plugs to replacing a brake master cylinder.  Since Grace’s dad didn’t believe in letting her be ignorant of cars, either, I haven’t had to do any of those repairs myself in over twenty years; however, it’s still nice to know what is involved in them.

But even if a woman is as lucky as I was, and has boyfriends and family members who don’t intentionally keep her as helpless as possible, she still has to endure endless societal pressure (not just from men but from women and institutions) telling her not to take risks, not to do anything that might scare her and get her in trouble, not to explore her existence without the help of a man (or worse, of Big Brother).  And though early feminists seemed to be making some progress against that, their successors have embraced it and are its most vociferous proponents.  “Feminists” demand that young women be protected not only from physical harm, but even from ideas or pictures that might upset their delicate sensibilities, rattle their chains or force them to question their preconceptions for five minutes.  And they march arm-in-arm with religious conservatives and police-state functionaries to restrict women’s sexual choices and send armed thugs to hunt, entrap, rape, brutalize and cage them in order to “send a message” that utilizing one’s sexuality to win economic independence is too dangerous an activity for women.  Their propaganda reveals their incredibly low opinion of women’s competence; sex workers are said to be unable to place their own ads online, and touring is reframed as a criminal “circuit” in which helpless, ovine women are passively trucked around by evil “pimps”.  The idea that the female brain might actually be capable of booking hotels and writing ad copy is completely alien to the narrative.

African QueenThe cumulative effect of this pressure to be helpless is both profound and insidious; it even affects women whom one would think would be immune to it.  Case in point one Maggie McNeill, a nervy, hard-as-nails dame once favorably compared to Lara Croft by her admiring husband.  And yet when it came time to plan a cross-country book and speaking tour, the idea of doing it alone never even entered into her head until circumstances demanded her planned traveling companion be elsewhere for the duration of the trip.  Full disclosure:  I was scared, y’all.  I had driven long distances alone, but only if I had friends at the destination point.  The idea of not only making all the arrangements myself, but of then driving alone to strange cities and booking into hotels alone, was so daunting that the only reason I attempted it was because I had no other choice.  But why was it so scary?  What exactly was I afraid of?  Beyond the danger of running out of money, there was little to fear; it’s not like I was going up the Congo on a tramp steamer or something.  No, my trepidation came from only one place:  the social programming that it’s unacceptably dangerous for girls to travel alone far from home.  And now that I’m aware of the fact that this brainwashing is still subtly affecting me even after almost two decades of living outside “acceptable” female norms, you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for it.  That still doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with the idea of driving in a snowstorm, though; that has very little to do with “girls can’t” messaging and a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in south Louisiana and never even saw real snow until I was 34 years old, much less drove in it.

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That which does not kill us makes us stronger.  –  Friedrich Nietzsche

Creepshow thing in the boxI’ve often referred to my “year of disaster”, August 1994 to July 1995, a single twelve-month period of my life which contained enough misfortune and trauma for any twelve bad years.  By the time it was over, I felt as though my psyche had received the equivalent of a sustained beating with a wide assortment of blunt instruments; it took me years to recover from the accumulated stress, and I was still subject to panic attacks (often provoked by unpredictable stimuli) until about 2003.  Even to this day I dread being alone with my own thoughts unless I have something like writing or a book to focus on; when unoccupied by work, reading or conversation my brain is wont to start dwelling upon things best left shut up in mysterious boxes under my mental stairs.  But since those boxes often emit sharp thumps, chilling whispers, horrifying moans and unintelligible muttering that can sometimes be heard through the locked door, a few words about their contents is probably in order on this, the twentieth anniversary of what at the time seemed the most devastating of the incidents.

On August 16th, 1994 I suffered a 22-week miscarriage; in the old days that would’ve been called a stillbirth, but modern medicine prefers more neutral, clinical language.  I was convinced it had been dead for some time, and my OB/GYN saw no reason to argue with me about that.  Some of y’all may find it strange that I wanted children, but Nature is, as I have so often said, a bitch goddess and She often makes us want things that clearheaded consideration would declare absolutely terrible ideas.  I was also very young (27) at the time, and not half as cynical as I am now; however, honesty compels me to point out that anyone who’s ever been a guest in my home can tell you that my frustrated maternal drives have resulted in my compulsively mothering every mammal within reach, all the time.  And anyone who’s ever heard me talk to my pets…well, the less said about that, the better; I have a reputation as a hardheaded badass to maintain.  On some level, it probably even influenced my shift into a kind of sex work where I could directly care for people, and my soft spot for disabled clients.

A few months later my doctor broke the news to me:  unless, as he put it, I wanted to keep having deformed babies, my uterus would have to come out.  I did not take the news well, but like the miscarriage itself the hysterectomy was probably for the best in the end.  My hormones had always fluctuated erratically, and within weeks of getting them out of a bottle instead of relying on my hopelessly-befuddled ovaries to supply them I was marveling at how much quieter my brain was and how much more stable the world outside of my head looked.  But I’m getting ahead of the story; the actual hysterectomy didn’t come until early July, because…well, I can’t honestly remember why I waited that long.  I guess it was because of everything else taking up all of my attention that winter and spring, things like the awful car accident a few days after Easter which left me with five broken vertebraewrist and that rather unsightly scar those of you who have met me in person may have noticed on my left wrist.  Had the surgery not already been scheduled by then, the Memorial Day attack (please indulge me by being patient for a few months until I write about that again) would probably have delayed it even more…but as I pointed out yesterday, I have a peculiar dedication to schedules and once I had made the appointment I wasn’t going to let little things like major sexual trauma and PTSD get in the way of the program.

The last-referenced incident definitely had the longest-lasting negative effects; all the others I eventually came to see as “blessings in disguise” except for the car accident, which I filed under “Just One of Those Things That Happen To Maggie”.  It wasn’t what I perceived as the worst of the shocks at the time, though; that dishonor is reserved for the events of Monday, January 2nd, 1995.  I’ve already described them in detail four years ago, so it will suffice to say that my ex-husband, Jack, used my attendance at a library conference to clear out and take most of our stuff with him.  I was utterly devastated; I’m very phobic about abandonment so I didn’t really take it well when faced with a literal nightmare come true.  It took me two years to come to the conclusion that my friends really had known what they were talking about when they warned me away from marrying Jack in the first place, and were therefore more than likely correct now when they urged me to forget about him and take advantage of my looks (though I did that in a rather different way from what most of them meant).  Twenty years later those looks have not yet faded (not much, anyway), and they’ve taken me places poor Jack’s narrow little imagination never could have dreamed of; I sometimes wonder how he’ll react if he ever sees my picture online or catches me on television.  I’m not the scared little girl he dumped any more, and in a way I have him to thank for that; had he not left me twenty years ago today my life would’ve been much different and certainly a great deal less rewarding.

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Every thing teaches transition, transference, metamorphosis:  therein is human power, in transference, not in creation; & therein is human destiny, not in longevity but in removal.  We dive & reappear in new places.
–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

So here we are again, for the fifth time; I daresay this is becoming a habit.  That’s really not surprising; ever since I retired from sex work in 2006, my life has been bound by habits and schedules, like a cocoon I wove to give myself structure and meaning at a time when the framework that had defined my life for nine years had suddenly been taken away.  That self-imposed bondage was comfortable and safe; it allowed me time to think and to explore, to figure out who I was now and to decide what was important to me and where I wanted my life to go.  And as I slowly, haltingly learned about the power of the internet, I also became aware of a great restlessness and dissatisfaction in myself; I found myself talking about sex work and sex worker rights on message boards that had absolutely nothing to do with the subject, and began to resent prissy moderators who could delete anything I wrote on a whim.  By the time I had been retired for four years, I could stand it no more; I had to stake out a place in this new digital world where I could share the truth about my life, my sisters and the only work I ever loved.  At first, I was extremely anonymous; in May of 2012 I even turned down an offer to host a TV show on the History Channel because I was just not ready for that kind of exposure.  I had not yet broken out of my cocoon, but merely reshaped it for purposes of my activism.

But in the summer of 2012, that all began to change when I accepted an invitation to appear at the Southern Harm Reduction Conference; a few weeks later I agreed to speak at Albany Law School’s symposium the next February.  The cocoon had become too small and much too restrictive, and I was breaking out of it; people began to hear my voice in interviews and see my face at events, and when I decided to go on my tour last summer I shook the last tatters of silk from my newfound wings and proudly revealed my face (and the rest of me) for the world to see.  There’s no turning back now; the die, as the man said in Latin, is cast.  In the past few months I’ve been recognized twice in the small town I live nearest, and that’s just fine with me; I wouldn’t turn down a TV hosting gig now as easily as I turned down the reality show offer I got last spring.  Flitting under my own power from coast to coast last summer was the scariest, craziest, least-scripted thing I’ve ever done, and also one of the most rewarding; this year I plan to explore even more widely.  Sometimes I miss the coziness of that cocoon, but the warmth of the sun and the smell of the flowers and the feel of the breeze under my wings are far better, and the work Aphrodite wants me to do can’t be done while tied up in the dark.

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Diary #234

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo here I am, down to the last few hours before Christmas; I’m writing this on Sunday morning, after making the dough for the pumpkin gingerbread cookies but before making the toffee bars and divinity.  Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter fudge and one kind of Rice Krispies treats (the chocolate ones) are already done, and the pfefferneuse dough has been sitting in the fridge since yesterday (to let the flavors blend before making the actual cookies).  Tomorrow morning (yesterday by the time y’all read this) I’ll make the fruity Rice Krispies treats and then pack all of this stuff into boxes to bring to the businesses that we have a close relationship with, including the mechanic who’s getting my touring car ready for long-distance travel.  He is, BTB, one of the few people who lives in this area who knows my story, and even has a signed copy of my book.  Anyhow, in the process of inspection he discovered that someone had bypassed something in the electrical system, so he’s trying to figure out what that is; it shouldn’t be too expensive but if you want to give me a little Christmas present to help pay for it, I wouldn’t say no!  Just PayPal it to maggiemcneill@earthlink.net.  And speaking of presents, thanks to Daz for sending me a copy of Annie Sprinkle’s comic book (which I’ve always wanted to see), and to Gumdeo for the snakeskin pumps!

In addition to the treats, I still have two more columns to write today and three to post; some of that work could roll over into Monday and Tuesday, but there’s other stuff I have to do those days.  On top of that, I have to finish cleaning the house before Jae arrives Tuesday (tonight, from the time you read this) to stay through the holidays.  Yes, there will be pictures.  Oh, and speaking of pictures, subscribers and gift-senders should have received one from me yesterday; if you did not, it’s because I’m not yet used to doing mass mailings and accidentally left you off the list.  Please let me know so I can add you to the list and get your Christmas card sent out!

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