For love and for money

Since I was a teenager I have let money rule my life. Now could it ruin my prospects for love?

Published October 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Oct. 14, 1999

Friday, August 27, continued

Matt was hinting pretty heavily that he'd rather sleep over at my
apartment, but I pretended not to hear -- anything to avoid showing
him the envelope from the U.S. Treasury Department.

As we strolled down Second Avenue, I had the feeling I was
choreographing disaster. Why tell him about the envelope if I'm not
ready to show him the contents -- or see them myself? Part of me
wants a boyfriend who can fix things -- another part won't let him
get close enough to do so. I've known, from the minute I opened my
mailbox, what the letter might be about, but when I told Matt, I
feigned innocence.

"Taxes." Matt says the word dismissively because financial matters
come naturally to him. But taxes scare me, government forms are
emotionally overwhelming and money has always been the one part of my life I simply couldn't quite control. I love it when a venerable madam like Liane gets
the impression that I'm "obviously in control," but she
hasn't seen the half-completed tax forms in my hat box next to the
cashmeres in my closet ... nor has anyone else. And Matt has no idea
how flaky I am with money -- he doesn't even know how long I've
been out on my own. I'm always vague about those precarious
but enchanted years when I ran away from my dull Canadian hometown
to explore the hotel bars of London.

At 15, passing for 20, I picked up clients at the Hilton
on Park Lane -- and knew I was making per trick what real adults
earned in a week. Ignoring the older girls who advised me to save
money, I blew it on restaurants and clothes, indulging my whims.
Three days after turning my first trick, at 13, I'd spent the
entire sum -- but that's not really where it started, either.
Before I became a teen hooker, I frittered away my baby-sitting
money on boarding-school stories and ice cream cones, then -- as my
tastes evolved -- on foreign magazines, French pastries, handmade
Turkish delight and the occasional schoolyard Quaalude. No matter
how much I spent on these "delicacies," there was always another
baby-sitting gig. The local parents thought I was wonderful!
Responsible and mature. I was, but not when it came to money.

My mother's efforts to teach me about money management in exchange for an allowance just made me
want to turn down the allowance altogether. I was determined to earn all
my own money so I wouldn't have to listen to anyone. When I became
a hooker, I learned to hide my spending habits. Most girls think I'm super-professional
because I fanatically meet my self-imposed weekly quota, pay my
cuts on time, possess a good, steady business. But I sometimes wonder: When
will I grow up? The magazines and pastries have been succeeded by Hermes scarves and handbags but it all springs from the same girlish appreciation of instant gratification. It's
easy to get caught in the cycle of being precocious. You wake up
one day and realize you're not some smart little 16-year-old
passing for an adult and -- uh-oh.

When Matt disappeared into his bedroom -- forbidding me to watch him tidy up -- I nursed a glass of
merlot in his living room and thought about what he might be trying to hide. The look on his face when he returned was unmistakably that of a persecuted boyfriend. What was he doing -- hiding another girl's panties? Changing the sheets? I remembered how I felt when Matt almost found out about my secret phone number -- then found myself saying, in a dry but reassuring tone, "Housekeeping isn't supposed to be your thing, but I'm glad you have a conscience about it. Shall I pour you a
glass?" He looked relieved that I was politely rooted to the couch, not snooping around his apartment.

As the wine mingled with the absurdity of our mutual evasions, I
started to get teary. Matt disappeared into the bedroom and came
back with a box of Puffs -- not his usual brand of tissue -- then
sat gently holding my hand while I blew my nose into what had to be
another woman's post-coital tissue supply. I didn't have the heart
to point it out. If he has been involved with another girl, my
affair with Randy should make us even -- but when do we ever really
feel even about these things?

"I know I've been traveling a lot -- and I don't always have
enough time for us, but I love you," Matt said, touching my face
with his fingertips. "You have to know that," he added.

"Why now?" I asked, grabbing another tissue. "Why are you saying
that now?"

"I don't know why I say things when I say them -- I'm a guy!"
The dorkiness of this response cheered me up a little. The banality of cheating!
Here we are in this ridiculously common predicament together. Neither of us
wants an inquisition because we don't want to stop seeing each other.
Without wanting to say it, we find each other alluring because we aren't sure what the other is doing at all times ... The other day, I felt transported -- possessed -- by
Randy's desire, but last night Randy became sort of alien. I felt
bound to Matt by our strange code of silence -- we had both decided
to be adults, not to talk about something, to preserve what we

Randy's got a protective streak, but I could never tell him about an
envelope from the Treasury Department -- he's a kid. Matt understands official channels, interest rates -- the serious business of living. I'm afraid to tell him about my
knowledge of the unofficial channels, all the men I've been with,
but I keep returning to that feeling: This is real, in all its
dishonesty, and maybe even because of it. We both feel invested.
What I have with Randy is a spending spree, not an investment. Randy's
not investing -- he just hit the jackpot. But Matt's flawed, tender
gaze was the look of a guy who's invested in me -- or maybe an illusion of me.
For one crazy moment, just before I kissed him, I looked into his eyes and
wondered: Could I give it all up for you? Not just the flings --
like Randy -- but my clients as well? My freedom?

Friday, later

My afternoon session with Milt brought me back to my senses -- and
tested my patience. When he finally came -- in a condom, with the
help of my mouth and my right hand -- he admitted that this was not
his first orgasm of the day. As if I couldn't tell! "I tried not
to have sex this morning -- but what can I tell you? Marriage is
tough. I couldn't exactly tell my wife I was saving it for our

When I told Milt about the envelope -- and Matt's desire to help me
-- he sighed. "Show it to a lawyer -- and let your boyfriend
concentrate on wining and dining you."

"A lawyer?" I said, startled. "Why?"

"My guess is, if you're afraid to open it, you may need a lawyer,"
he said. "This is a steady boyfriend, right? The guy you go to the
Hamptons with -- the guy you sneak around on. He's got a good job
and you could have a future with him. Don't screw it up, Suzy. Be
careful about what you tell him."

I was about to show him the envelope. Then, I realized that it
was addressed to "Nancy Chan" -- after seeing Milt steadily for
five years, it would be awkward to suddenly reveal my real name, to
acknowledge that all this familiarity was built on regular visits
to a girl whose name he didn't know. I'm a little embarrassed about
hiding my name -- after all, I know his. Funny, but he's the only
client who makes me feel that way.

By Tracy Quan

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