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Posts Tagged ‘anecdote’

You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. – Sam-I-Am

Green Eggs and HamTwo and a half years ago I published “Due Consideration“, in which I discussed issues on which I had changed my mind due to the persuasive arguments of others:

Despite my steady progress toward cronehood, I find that I still do change my mind on some things from time to time.  Really, this isn’t surprising; while most people become steadily more conservative as they age, I have become steadily more radical.  The reason should be obvious:  as many of you have observed, I am unusually pragmatic and unafraid to follow ideas and observations to their logical conclusions…

But that column only discussed areas in which my political ideas had changed; my personal ideas hadn’t shifted at all, not for a very long time.  And while I guess that isn’t especially unusual, neither is it conducive to personal growth; there were some things I had done the same way, or refrained from doing at all, or felt a certain way about, that were supported by absolutely no good reasons…or at best for reasons that ceased to be relevant twenty years ago.  In fact, some of these things were counterproductive, impeded my happiness, or were downright harmful.  So when I started looking at myself last autumn in the wake of my tour and my impending divorce, I began to see clearly that there was a lot of emotional, behavioral and psychosexual baggage best left behind at the station when I boarded that train for Seattle last November.  I resolved to open myself up to new ideas and experiences; to refrain as much as possible from continuing to do things merely because I had always done them that way; and to recognize that “I’ve never done that before” is an argument for trying something rather than an argument against it.  Though all of my friends (including Matt) have encouraged me in my journey of discovery, Jae & Matisse have been instrumental in making it happen; Jae encourages (some might say “goads”) me to keep an open mind about things and refuses to let me sell myself short, while Matisse is a genius at making me comfortable and providing me with irresistibly-attractive opportunities for exploration.  You might say that Jae pushes, and Matisse pulls, and my other friends cheer me on or even strap roller skates to my feet, and in the end I nearly always discover that I really do like green eggs and ham, after all.

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Although you go through great lengths to conceal your lesbian interest and proclivities, how do you deal with the compartmentalization psychologically and intellectually when you have a session with a client while knowing in your heart that you are a Lesbian?  Although you probably have always known for quite some time, what are the mental techniques that you employ while doing your job as an adult companionship professional to protect yourself emotionally but also give yourself an outlet to whom you really are?

I must admit to being rather confused, amused and befuddled by virtually every part of this question, and I don’t think I was alone; Cabrogal replied to the first part with, “If Maggie’s in a closet it’s a glass one surrounded by neon lights with a painting of Sappho on the side.”  And he’s completely right; I’ve never (not since graduating from high school, anyway) made even the slightest effort to hide my bisexuality, and wrote an entire column on the subject when this blog was barely two months old.  I’ve referred to it repeatedly, featured lots of pictures of beautiful babes, and otherwise advertised my interest in my own sex to at least the same degree in this blog as I have in real life for over 30 years.  I don’t think I could conceal my lesbian side any less if I went around wearing a T-shirt with “DYKE” on the back and a picture of Melissa Ethridge on the front.  However, I’m bisexual rather than wholly lesbian; I have no aversion to males at all, and in fact was married for 14 years to a very dear man to whom I will gladly give a freebie (if he is so inclined) every time we find ourselves in the same city as each other.  We can argue about exactly where I fall on the Kinsey scale, but it’s certainly no higher than 4; to say that I “know in my heart that I’m a lesbian” is simply not a reasonable approximation of the truth.

The questioner’s misunderstanding of all this could merely be a case of leaping without looking; he might simply be a new reader who didn’t peruse much of my back catalog before asking.  But the rest of the query is not so easily explained; it derives, I think, partly from a lack of understanding of the differences between male and female homosexuals, partly from a desire to cram reality into a Manichean duality that doesn’t actually describe it very well, and partly from an underestimation of the degree to which individuals can differ from one another.  Human sexuality is not like a standard light switch, which has two and only two positions; it’s not even like a dimmer switch, with an infinite number of subtle gradations along one linear path.  It’s much more like a faucet, in which two kinds of water can be mixed to produce many temperature gradations while the intensity of the flow can also have many levels.  In fact, if you can imagine a shower where the water can be directed to come out of either the lower faucet or the shower head or a movable nozzle or jacuzzi jets, that might be a model a bit closer to the truth.  Though modern Westerners  like to pretend that everyone falls into rigidly-defined boxes of “straight” or “queer” which they occupy from birth until death and never leave, the truth is that this does not adequately describe many, perhaps most, people’s sexuality.  Kinsey understood that there are many gradations from “totally queer” to “totally straight”, and though most men seem to fall toward one of the ends, a large fraction of women fall toward the middle.  Whether this is nature or nurture is hard to say; any sex worker can tell you that a lot of self-declared straight guys fancy transwomen, or crave being pegged, or otherwise display a fascination with penises that would seem out of place in the standard “all or nothing” interpretation of male sexuality.  And women are, if anything, even weirder; we can apparently float all over the Kinsey scale in response to stimuli or environment, so I might be queerer right now than I was in 2013, and much queerer than I was in 1993, but not quite as queer as I was in 1985.  The only “compartmentalization” that occurs in many people’s sexualities, and virtually all women’s, is that imposed by the individual or the society in which he or she lives.

shower in Ciragan Palace IstanbulFinally, though I obviously can’t speak for anyone else, I find the last part of the question to be highly overstated.  All sex workers have to have sexual contact with at least some clients they find unattractive; it’s only a matter of degree.  So while a straight escort might find only most of her clients unattractive, and a lesbian one might find nearly all of hers so, I hardly think that the latter is going to result in some special kind of emotional trauma requiring special techniques to overcome.  I’m sure that lesbian sex workers probably do get pretty sick of seeing guys after a while, but given that most sex workers burn out eventually I hardly think that represents a unique level of emotional trauma.  And though some people certainly identify as “queer” before anything else, I’m not one of them; I don’t think my relative preference toward male or female sex partners defines “who I really am” any more than does my preference for science fiction over “realistic” fiction, probably not as much as my preference for kinky sex over vanilla sex, and certainly nowhere near as much as my sense of self as an individual.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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Memory will lay its hands
Upon your breast
And you will understand
My hatred.

–  Gwendolyn Bennett

Today is the twentieth anniversary of an event I’ve alluded to often and described once, and though I did say I was going to write about it again today, I have changed my mind.  Perhaps I should’ve realized this would happen; as I wrote in the last-linked column,

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…

I don’t often have panic attacks any more; not from flashbacks to the Year of Disaster, anyhow, and I’ve learned to contain them well enough that only people very close to me can tell something’s wrong.  But though my intellect says it’s ridiculous to let a specific day on the calendar affect me to that degree (no matter what else is going on in my life), I woke up in a depressive, uneasy mood Monday morning, and it took Jae hours to get me out of it; I suppose next Memorial Day will be the same, as it has been for the last 20 years.  I still prefer to avoid thinking or talking about that part of my life even when it isn’t the last week of May, so it probably won’t surprise you when I tell you that even though I had the opportunity to write this essay earlier in the week I kept putting it off and doing other things instead.  As of this writing posting time is only six hours away, and I can’t procrastinate any more…but neither do I have to punish myself further by dwelling upon awful memories.  I don’t think I will ever be able to forget the violent execution of the last pathetic vestiges of my faith in any kind of government actor, but creating more tragedy porn won’t serve any constructive purpose.  As much as it’s humanly possible, I’d rather leave those memories to howl in their crates and never give them the satisfaction of knowing with certainty that I can hear them quite as well as if I were sitting right on top of them.

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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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