I’d gotten Don off sporadically over the phone for a year before we met on the 8th floor of Saks in the Louboutin section, at his suggestion. He’s a tall, round man. Bald. Bashful. It was my first time seeing him in person. I made him pay me the full amount for our date in advance because he wouldn’t give me any screening information. He’s into financial domination, a touch of public humiliation, and in the right mood, forced bi scenarios. Like many men deep into a fetish, he would tell me what he wanted.
“Should we go to the ATM?” he asked after he paid for my six pairs of heels.
“Should I take out more?” he said after he passed me the first $500 from the machine.
At the cafe, he wanted to know how much it would cost to set up an exclusive arrangement and I said at least $750,000 a year. The shopping bags full of shoes were more cumbersome to carry than children. It was winter, and the wind made doors heavy.
Don is an ideal client because I’ve never been physical with him beyond a kiss and a caress of his pants-clad crotch. Spending time with a paying man without fucking him always feels like getting away with something.
Other clients like to go shopping too but not to the extent he does, and not to the exclusion of any other activities. I think there’s some tension around this point in the “high class” stratum. Lots of women make it out like their clients are eternally splurging on gifts. Maybe that’s true for the blondes, but for me it’s usually a decent dinner followed by sex. I think we all sometimes feel that we’re not as elite as everyone else. Even other escorts can be misled by escort marketing.
I’m not trying to downplay my extraordinary life, which is a charmed one full of generosity and conspicuous consumption. But people with money can have strange tastes, and lots of them are frugal in unexpected ways. My best regular loves Marriotts and uses a velcro wallet. One man used to dress me in elaborate outfits, 5 or 6 over our hours together, but they were ill-fitting, off-brand, and sometimes smelled bad; he got them from thrift stores and eBay. Several guys I see don’t like using any valet service and will circle over and over to look for their own parking. The first and only time a client chartered a jet for me—after I missed my commercial flight—I texted Bea immediately, in total shock. “This is like a Lifetime movie,” she said.
Don likes stories about me being spoiled and powerful, so I accommodate.
“Have you known any other guys like me?” he asks.
“Oh yeah,” I say. Which is true to some extent, but not really.
“How much money did you take from a man the last time you made him go to the bank with you?” he asked me.
“$20,000,” I tossed off. Sometimes it all feels like make believe, including the seedy parts, which makes it even easier to pretend.
The last time I worked with Emma we saw Adam, her only client and de facto sugar daddy, in a hotel suite with a spectacular view. Another of Emma’s friends was there, and they looked beautiful together: fit, made up, dressed in black lingerie and heels. Fireworks went off outside while we put Adam in women’s clothing, spanked him, took pictures. I tried to tell my boyfriend about it later, that while Adam, in a maid’s outfit, crawled to pick up items from the floor, I thought about how quintessentially salacious and sex work-y this tableau would be for outsiders, how provoked they would be by every detail—three women! the cross-dressing! Adam’s wealth!—but how mundane it seemed. It just wasn’t a big deal. It’s easy. Pleasant. Almost boring.
“It’s really not that weird, you know?” I said to my boyfriend.
“Well, yeah…but….it kinda is,” he countered. Such a civilian.
I don’t hear escorts describing their work as “glamorous” when talking shop with one another but I think we’re continually attracted to our own work by the perceived success of others doing it. Even when you’re in it and you know better, when it’s come to be routine and unremarkable like most any other job. That’s what the world glamour means, that’s how it operates. It’s the casting of a spell and spells don’t wear out. It’s reaching one oasis to discover it’s a mirage and, as you sit in the hot sand of reality, becoming all the more entranced by another shimmery faux-oasis in the distance.
Emma’s told me that she wants to work regularly again when she listens to me talk about my appointments because it seems “so glamorous.” And I never brag to Emma, ever. I rarely mention details. I just sketch out travel plans sometimes as they relate to she and I getting together. What’s comical is that her situation with Adam is the true Pretty Woman dream. He’s obscenely rich, says he’s in love with her, travels with her all over the world, and they never have penetrative sex.
Sex work can seem glamorous because it can be made up of elements of glamour: a relatively high hourly wage. A young, attractive woman. A rich man. Sex. The power differential. The heightened femininity often performed for the client’s benefit. The heightened masculinity bestowed by the act of hiring a sex worker. The secretive nature of it all. And so on. An aura of celebrity comes over me when I’m working because it’s a performance, and it loops back on itself. As I project specialness the client believes I’m special, as he treats me like I’m special so do I feel more special, as I feel more special so is my attitude of celebrity increased. That’s when it truly starts to feel like a movie, for me anyway. It’s not about circumstances, like being catered to in a Dolce and Gabbana boutique or fed room service snacks while I soak in an oversized bathtub. It’s about believing my own hype. Getting high off my own hooker fumes.
The second time I saw Don it was for a spur of the moment shopping spree. I’d just finished my overnight with the client I most hate to fuck—yes, the contrast is dizzying—and Don emailed to ask if I wanted to meet at Saks. I had two hours before I needed to meet another client, so I agreed. Only three pairs of heels this time since we didn’t have as long to spend together, and we skipped the cafe but not the ATM. Then we headed downstairs because there was a handbag I wanted. While the saleswoman went to fetch it from the back, Don asked, “do you want me to get out my wallet and give you all the money in it?”
“Yes, hand it to me,” I said.
“Right here? What if someone sees?”
“Well, if it’s a man, I’m sure he’ll recognize how lucky you are. Don’t you feel lucky I’m letting you buy me all this?”
“Yes, but….convince me a little,” he whispered in a pained voice.
I just looked at him, grinning my dumb grin.
“Take it out,” he said. “It’s in my back pocket.”
There was only $400, but I confiscated it. He bought the bag. I let him ride with me in a car to the hotel where I was to meet my next client.
“How does it feel to know you have so much power over me?” He said in the backseat. “I’ll do anything you tell me to. I love you.”
“Sorry to give you this, but it’s trash,” I said to the concierge as I handed over the massive Louboutin shopping bag full of empty boxes. My next client wouldn’t want to see me with a gaudy pile of expensive new heels, so I made sure he didn’t. All I do is manage other people’s impressions of me. What does it mean for a young woman with a messy blowout to cram a small roller bag full of just-purchased designer goods? Why would she do that in a hotel lobby? It speaks to some wealth but not class, and not truly shocking wealth but a lower, tacky level.
At the right times, I like to let my bourgeois roots show a little, I revel in being new money. It makes me feel more beautiful. I want strangers to know I earned what I have through fucking but I want them to think it was greedy and easy sluttishness on my part, not calculated, not clawed out. Let them think it was fortuitous, that I was born with some face and body that paved my way with invitations, and that I’m too stupid to want anything except luxury in exchange for sex. They should see only an edge of the truth so they think they’ve seen it all. Those fools. Distracted by whatever’s shiny.
I want to make my work invisible because then I can feel more powerful than those who overlook it. Cannier. Slippery. A rich witch. A ghost.