My desk overlooks an orange tree, a Redwood deck and a BBQ that’s rusting from yesterday’s rain. I’m on a third major rewrite of my book, SPENT. It’s a completely different book than it was last year. It felt like essays before-a catalogue of events happening outside of me.
I’ve always felt terribly inconvenienced and skeeved out by my feelings and have been diligent about stomping them out. That’s when freak brain takes over. Exactly on year after my mom died, I was driving to my assistant job and called a pharmacy to renew a prescription I had for Vicodin. I hate Vicodin and had it because I’d been hospitalized for Typhoid Fever (the mosquito one, not the poop one). While quarantined, they gave me a spinal tap that triggered my puking migraines.
So I had this empty bottle of Vicodin and renewed the prescription. I planned to take the pills. All of them. But, I felt better after I got off the phone with the pharmacy. When I showed up for work at my assistant gig. I worked for a wonderful, kind, successful lady and I idolized her. I bought her dog vitamins and went to all of the super expensive hippie elixir stores for special healing tonics.
“How are you?” she asked. She always asked me that.
“I’m not going to kill myself today.”
“That’s a good start.” I filed her bills and alphabetized her books in her new office. By lunch time, I felt better. Years later, I still have freak brain looking for a way in or a way out-whichever’s quickest.
I loved Melissa Febos’ Whip Smart. I related to her story, more than any other sex worker memoir I’ve read. Not because of her Pro Domme/Ivy League combo but the way she described the grey areas of the industry so well, her addict brain and pushing her own boundaries over time, normalizing the inertia and exuberance and secrets. Hiding pieces of herself in her sessions. Knowing this and doing it anyway. Not stopping, while wanting to.
I loved the way she described the kind of intimacy and confusion that happened when a client became her friend. I related to the power dynamics at play with her own desires, the way she denied them at first. How she separated herself from her clients to feel superior. I related to her quitting and feeling that her identity hat been gutted when she moved away from NY, away from her client base.
I related to her fear of living on the sidelines of life by staying in the industry and outgrowing that, and finally, the fear of being broke and average by leaving it behind. Sometimes she over-intellectualized her experience and I related to that impulse because it’s more comfy than being skinless. But there were many sections that spoke to me in a way that was honest and tender. I entered the sex industry a lesbian man-hater prepared to do battle and come out on top, but the industry was full of men who were too squishy and sad like me only they had more courage. They were honest about what they wanted. I always felt like I had to put on a show to get what I wanted.
I hope more women write about their experiences, especially if they take issue with the stories being told and circulated.
I’ve been speaking with other women I adore about happens when you quit. It’s almost like the women still in the industry feel betrayed. But I’ve only got what’s true for me. I’m true to that. The real betrayal is this culture that criminalizes it, demoralizes the women and hurts them. One woman wished more than anything that she’d saved her money. She made so much money. Squandered it away. She quit because she had to (she got pregnant). I had to quit because I aged out. It’s that simple. It’s that complicated. Quitting. Starting over.
I wrote my letter for the Rumpus’ new epistolary enterprise “Letters in the Mail.” It’s a backwards letter starting with now and ending in childhood. I wanted to write about quitting things. I wondered if people could relate to that.
Today’s wild and fresh with possibility. I’m painting on silky red gloves for Sugar’s Coming Out Party next weekend. I’m teaching students to write content for their magazine. They have to come up with a slogan about how art has added to their lives for a poster contest to win some cash. This is what I learned: making a mess with beads and a hot glue gun burns your fingers. It’s best to resort to a black sharpie and sequins.