Monday, April 28, 2008

I Feel More Alive

I became a working girl two and a half years ago, when I was twenty-one years old and in my senior year at a very prestigious U.S. university.

Money played a large part, though maybe not in the usual way. I grew up in an immigrant family with a father who had a Ph.D. but difficulty finding work in the States. As a child, I had all the love and intellectual stimulation in the world, but no money and no real sense of money. I went to public school, never ate out and always bought the cheapest clothes, but so did everyone else I knew. Clipping coupons was just what people did.

Then I went to Very Prestigious University. And my peers changed--they were now scions of privilege, people who hailed cabs without a second thought, flew home to their families in first class and thought nothing of dropping a couple hundred dollars on a dress. What I envied was not their material goods (being a daughter of a financially-strapped intellectual, you learn to look down on those who are too flashy with wealth) but their sense of ease. They never thought about money; I worried about money all the time. I didn't quite articulate it to myself at the time, but I wanted that freedom. I wanted to never think about money.

In my personal life, I had been dating an extraordinarily good man for the previous four years. He came from a background very similar to mine and we immediately understood each other. He was beautiful and smart and the sex was mind-blowing; to this day he ranks as one of the two best lovers I've ever had. There was every reason to marry him, and we were very much headed that way. But I was twenty-one, and I was itching to explore other sex partners and other relationships. For a while he put up with this. I wanted to sleep with girls; he let me. I wanted us to date other people; he grudgingly tried to oblige. But it wasn't enough.

So I became an expensive hooker. It wasn't that easy, of course--I did a lot of research by reading blogs and online forums, worked for an agency briefly, contacted a couple of women already in the business and made them my mentors. In retrospect, I was an excellent little aspiring whore. My college career counselor would have been proud.

For the most part, the men have been gentle and shy and they stirred very little feeling in me, either emotional or sexual. Occasionally I'd meet someone with whom I got along like gangbusters. In that way, it's very much like dating in the real world--nine times out of ten there's no spark, and once in a while you make fireworks.

But the experience itself is always, always fun. I love the ritual-like preparations: showering and shaving and smoothing myself with lotion; selecting the evening's lingerie; putting on eyeliner and doing up my hair while admiring my mostly-naked self in the mirror; throwing condoms, lube, and breath mints into my purse; slipping on my clothes and heels and running out the door to hail a cab.

I'm always dressed a little better than I would be for a real-life date. I'm always a little quicker to laugh, a little more patient and empathetic a listener. It's like being on stage, playing a girl who's just a little more seductive and interesting than yourself. I honed my sexual skills and I loved that too, loved being able to make a stranger's toes curl. Sometimes I didn't succeed, sometimes I could tell that he was disappointed in me, but that happened only two or three times.

The whole time I'm with a client, I'm at a heightened state of awareness. I pay more attention to all my senses and do everything with more care, and in the process I feel more alive.

And then I'm in a cab again, driving home with a nice heft of hundred-dollar bills in my purse. I get home, strip, climb into bed, and masturbate. In part this is because I've got leftover lust--I orgasm easily but it takes a lot to fully satisfy me. In part it's because the whole experience turns me on, and in part it's a kind of reclaiming of my body. At the end of the day, my cunt belongs to me and I'm the one who gets to enjoy it. After I'm done, I lie in bed naked and count the cash. It's crazy and surreal and beautiful.

Of all the things I've done in my short life, this may be the one of which I'm most proud. It's because I've done it entirely for the right reasons. Most of the choices I've made in my life--studying hard, going to a good school, getting on a proper career path--have been at least in part to fulfill the expectations of others, and this has been one-hundred-percent for me. I've been successful and now I have enough investments and such that I never have to worry about money again the way I once did. Two and a half years ago, the world of money and privilege still intimidated the hell out of me, despite my pedigreed education. Now I feel like I can traverse that world with ease.

My relationship ended shortly after I started working; I told him and he was appalled. Fortunately, we have since managed to create a strong friendship out of that wreckage. I've told two girlfriends what I do and both have been incredibly supportive. Recently, I've started dating another man who I've also risked telling about my secret life (the other one of the two best lovers I've ever had). His reaction was better than I dared to hope for--a little titillated, a little turned on, mostly very happy that I'm opening up to him. We're still seeing each other.

I am now twenty-three and trying to coax myself into retirement. I worry daily about the fallout to my family and my budding career if this should come out. I am terrified about the possibility of my picture being splashed across the tabloids, a la Ashley Dupré. I worry about the impossibility of ever sustaining a serious relationship as a working girl. But the experience is so seductive, it's hard to leave. I've resolved to retire soon, and I know I'll miss it.