The Oldest Proffesion

A woman with power finds herself on the receiving end of a come-on that might not be personal.

By Courtney Weaver

Published July 23, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

from the first encounter with Larry, it was clear that he wanted something.

Sarah had seen him before he saw her; he was moving through the crowd at
the bar, threading his way, catlike, to the men's room. "Who is that guy?"
she asked her producer. They were at a party celebrating Sarah's film award
at a too-trendy Italian restaurant in lower Manhattan, and the noise was
deafening. She tilted her head toward him, the only man at the bar not
wearing a suit. He was just her type, she thought -- skinny body, big nose,
a goofy sensibility that was evident even from across the room. Jeff
Goldblum, she decided, before he got all pumped-up and famous.

"Oh, him." Her producer bit into a goat cheese canapé. "Larry Something.
Does stand-up, I think. He's did that little promo for us -- you know, the
one with the egg frying on the sidewalk and the dancing cereal boxes?" She
looked at Sarah curiously. "Hasn't he talked to you before?"

Her producer waved at Larry as he stood scanning the masses by the bar. He
loped over, eyes moving, searching for familiar faces. "This is Sarah,"
said her producer. "She just directed a video by the Fannywhackers ..."

"Sarah! Of course. I love your work." Larry looked at her intently.
He shook her hand and held on just a second longer than was necessary.
"Listen, do you girls want a drink? Red or white? I'll be right back."
He smiled at Sarah, who turned and just caught her producer roll her eyes
at another colleague.

Larry came back within minutes. They discussed work briefly, Larry listing
the next project he was working on and the one after that. It was getting
so bad, he said, pretty soon he'd have to become one of those horrible people
walking down the street with their cell phone, trying to catch up on
returning calls. When her producer moved away, Larry asked for
Sarah's card. He looked deeply in her eyes again, apologized, and said he
had to meet someone. "But we need to talk," he added. "I know some studio
people who are interviewing directors. Ell Ay. Big budget. Artsy stuff,
just like you do."

"I know, he sounds pretty sleazy," Sarah said to me, clearly smitten. "But
maybe, oh, I don't know. Maybe we could just have a fling. The electricity
was ripping around us. He is so, so cute."

"He sounds cute," I said, although what I meant was, "He sounds like your type."

A week went by before Sarah heard from Larry. His telephone voice was
quiet, thoughtful, almost shy. They talked for an hour about restaurants,
comedy, movies. He'd seen her mentioned in Time, he said. Finally, he asked
her if she wanted to get together for coffee. Sometime next week? How was
Thursday? He had the late afternoon free, in between a lunch meeting and a
cocktail rendezvous -- maybe she could meet him uptown at that
bar with the lava lamps on Columbus and 72nd?

"But you work downtown," I pointed out.

"Well, I admit it's not very convenient," she said. "But, well ... you

The coffee hour stretched into two hours. They had a beer. Then
two. That was around the time that they began to talk about sex. Just in
theory, not practice, she hastened to tell me. "Like, what is my position
on mutual masturbation? That sort of thing. I don't know how we got on that
topic." She sighed over the telephone. "He said he'd call again. You know,
it's weird, I know he's attracted to me. The way he looks at me, the things he
says about my hair, my clothes. And I know he's single. But there's
something ... not right."

I couldn't get a handle on it either. "Maybe he just wants to sleep with
you. And he's relationship-phobic. Would you want to have a relationship
with him?"

"I don't think," Sarah said slowly, "that it's in the cards. And I'm not
sure why. One thing he did say was that he's not good at monogamy. And when
a man says that to you ..."

"You believe him," we finished in unison.

Another week went by. Sarah sent Larry an e-mail. Nothing. Then suddenly,
a flurry of phone calls. "I've been so busy," he said by way of apology.
"Listen, you want to get together for tea? I'm going to be downtown on
Tuesday morning, at 10:45. How about Dean & DeLucca? The one on Prince? I
have to meet someone at Jerry's, so that would be just perfect for me."
Sarah happily accepted.

Later that afternoon, a puzzled sounding Sarah called me. "Listen," she
said. "I figured it out."

"He's gay. Married. A serial philanderer. Which?"

"None of that." She sounded angry. "I am incredibly insulted."

"He made a pass at you."

"No!" I heard her bang a cupboard. "How stupid can I be? It suddenly came
to me as he was fishing around for names and phone numbers. He's just using
me! He's pretending to be attracted to me, when all he wants is for me to
hire him! Is this sexual harassment? Which politically incorrect situation
am I in? I'm completely confused."

"Not sexual harassment," I said. "It's called the oldest profession in the

"My God, you're right," said Sarah slowly. "I am being whored. This has
never happened to me before." She started to laugh. "It all makes sense --
the award, the mention in Advertising Age, the new job. Is this how men in
positions of power feel?"

"Maybe The Donald," I said. "Look at it this way. Now you can sleep with
him. He's willing. All you have to do is throw him a little bone -- a
recommendation here, a phone number there. In fact," I was warming up to
the subject, "you don't even have to do that. Just say that you are."

"You mean, fuck him and not pay. That seems sleazy to me."

"Well, sleazy is a relative term," I pointed out. "You're a powerful person now."

Sarah suddenly groaned. "Am I becoming a man? I do want to sleep with him.
I don't want a relationship. I don't respect him, I don't even think I like
him. But I do want to jump his bones." I heard her chewing on something,
probably a licorice whip. "But what if he's not attracted to me? What if
all that beautiful hair and clothes thing is all a crock?"

"Sarah, you are not becoming a man," I said. "Let me put it to you this
way. If you were, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now -- you'd have already slept with him."

Courtney Weaver

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