24 Mar Here’s What I Know
I’ve been going through something the last month or so and have been deliberately avoiding coming in here to talk about it. But it seems like I need to and that now might be a good time to do it.
As you may or may not know — it’s an easy google search if you don’t — the situation with that case is different now, but at a standstill from the outside at least. So I have periodic meetings with my lawyer just to touch base and discuss where we are and any changes or developments. The last time this happened though, the meeting took a turn I wasn’t expecting and I was told that I should not be anticipating a return to companionship as a career. Ever. That I needed to find something else to do with my time. This news was also accompanied by the observation that it would be better for me personally too, to seek out some other form of employment, since “no one will ever take [me] seriously in life if this is what [I] choose to do.”
Now, none of these things are shocking news or even conversation I’ve never encountered before. I’m accustomed to having to put myself in the shoes of someone who is usually only saying things like this because they care about me. Like any nuanced job or career, what I do isn’t fully understood by people on the outside of it. Other industry peers and clients likely have the closest approximation of what the work involves and what the costs and benefits are, but really, only I know what goes on and what the price to me is. It’s very individuated that way.
I tend to think of it the way I imagine an actor’s or singer’s career might be; lots of similarities to peers, and lots of people on the outside who imagine they know exactly what the job is like, but in reality a situation that only that performer really understands. Choices and circumstances that affect only them in ways that only they can decide the value or cost of.
I don’t know why, but it strikes me here that it might be important to reinforce the idea that what I do isn’t illegal. I think that’s where people get tripped up the most when I tell them what I do (and where my attorney is coming from with all of this life advice). Part of that is vocabulary. Movies and books and tv shows have laid out a situation where there’s no real words that accurately describe what I do, because everyone quickly associates all those words with prostitution. And I don’t accept (nor have I ever accepted) money in exchange for sex. I set a price for my time and that’s the beginning and end of it. What happens in that time is different in every. single. circumstance. It’s dinner or a show or a movie or takeout in a bed watching Murder, She Wrote. Or it’s a couple hours with someone talking about the parts of their world they’ve spent a lifetime being (a)shamed about. Or the relationships that are so tightly bound up with their waking lives that they have literally no one else to vent to. What I am is clever and confident and able to intuitively create a rapport with many people that helps them to feel comfortable and express themselves in a way that they simply can’t with most others. What I’ve done is set a value on that skill set and spent time and energy developing a business model that offers that skill set to people who might benefit from it.
It’s not fundamentally different than a therapist or a nurse or a bill collector. There is some learned skill and experience required, but more than anything it is emotional labor that gets compensated. It’s not the seedy world of paid sexual activities in dark alleys (or wherever people imagine such things happen) that leave me and the client feeling tawdry or embarrassed afterwards, and which compromise either of our health or day to day lives. I’ve never had that. The idea of that makes my (heavily risk-averse) mind reel.
This is where it becomes difficult to explain to people on the outside. It’s hard for someone who has no experience in this work to imagine a situation where that time has the value that is attached to it. It’s hard for most people to imagine a time in their lives where they didn’t have a partner who met all their needs, or a friend they could share painful stories with, or a feeling of isolation or differentness (caused by anything from physical deformities to celebrity status) that forever looped them out of ordinary social interactions. And so they assume that it must be about sex. That it must be about someone so desperate for sexual interaction that they’re reduced to buying it. That it has the price it does because it’s illicit and naughty and you might get caught. And that might be true for some people. I don’t know. I can’t speak to that. It’s never been the case with anyone I’ve known.
The talk with my lawyer where it was explained to me that this work was frivolous and silly, and that I might never in my life be able to have a real and meaningful relationship (how could anyone ever trust that I was being sincere and not just behaving as though I were “on the clock?”), put a dent in my confidence as a companion and as a man. And I allowed that to let in a lot of insecurities that didn’t even feel like my own. They felt like other peoples’ insecurities that were somehow now in my house and needed to be dealt with, even when they didn’t apply to me.
At the end of the day, what I know is that I’m good at what I do.
I have long and genuine relationships with clients and have been so fortunate to watch some of these people move on to interactions with others that they never thought possible. I know that I am not paid for sexual interaction. And I know that working in this world – this amorphous, and murky world that includes so many things that I don’t have any interest in for myself, but which are still somehow allowed to define me – will always be difficult. It will always be complicated. But has also been more rewarding than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. And I know it won’t prevent me from being with someone, when and if that circumstance ever arises. It will help me to understand that person’s needs and the realities of spending an extended amount of time with someone as a partner.
I’m not destroyed by this work. I’m not damaged by the choices I have made. I am likely much, much better off because of them. I have a safe and homey place to live, and health insurance that allows me to take care of myself, and I have friends I would never know without this work. I have an education in sexual safety and disease prevention that exceeds probably anyone you know. I get to be comfortable and save money for retirement and pay my taxes and get haircuts that are probably overpriced because I like how they make me feel. In living this roleplay, being this character, I’m allowed to be more myself than my “real life” often allows. It’s improved my confidence, my relationships, and my ability to imagine a future for myself that isn’t the drudgery my parents suffered in their professional lives.
I love what I do.