Love vs. commerce

When I matured from a tomboy to a boy toy, I learned the art of sex and money.

Published October 21, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Oct. 21, 1999

Wednesday, Sept. 1

Jasmine called this morning with curious news. "That letter from the Treasury Department -- well, it's from someone at the IRS -- a Thomas Winters."

"Did you talk to him?"

"Don't be ridiculous. I got his voice mail a few times and I hung up on him twice -- but I think he might be the phone freak! Tom W! Remember? He was pretending to be one of Allison's customers."

When I looked at the letter again, I noticed that the first name was legible while his last name was a messy scrawl -- revealing just the W -- big and flourishy. It's got to be a coincidence. Why would he use that name if he were the caller?

Allison is on her way over with her lovelorn client Jack, so I must make myself scarce. I'm letting her use my apartment for a small fee. It's about time she saw him! The guy is still carrying a torch for her (even if he did sample all her competition during her absence.) There goes my door buzzer!

Thursday, Sept. 2

Yesterday, while Allison was entertaining Jack, I slipped out to the gym -- where I ran into Randy ...

I had resolved not to sleep with Randy again. But while dressing for the gym, I realized I was also dressing for him. I rejected a huge T-shirt for a new exercise top that shows off my waist. Nothing obvious -- it's loose but neat and doesn't make me look sloppy on the Stairmaster.

When I saw Randy his eyes lit up -- enough to show interest but not to the point of being pathetic. Look, if I had any other job, I wouldn't even contemplate having just one boyfriend -- I'm single after all. I like to think that Matt provides an anchor in this sea of maleness. But if you take away the clients and the sex, this is just a job -- so why do I feel compelled to be such a one-boyfriend girl?

For months, I only dated Matt and since he doesn't know I see guys for money, it's just like I was not seeing other guys -- right? So what did it get me? A boyfriend who feels guilty when he sleeps with other girls! If a man I love is screwing around, I'm not content until I've also had my turn -- and it has to be with a non-paying guy. I've always been like that -- even with Peter, my first lover. What's changed is that I've learned not to tell my boyfriends that I'm keeping score -- or that I even know the score.

With Peter, I was a naive tomboy who wanted love to be fair and upfront -- like a tennis match. I was determined to tell him everything, even when I allowed professor Andrews to have sex with me for straight cash ... But Peter, my 19-year-old boyfriend -- who discussed alienation and surplus value with me while preparing green pepper omelettes -- was naive in a different way. Despite his sophisticated patter (which I adored), he had no idea how a budding prostitute feels about love and commerce.

When I told Peter about my adventure with his comp lit professor, he gave me a quizzical look -- I sometimes wonder if it made him realize what a child I was for boasting about something so private, and dangerous to the reputation of an adult. Peter was beyond petty moral judgments -- it would never occur to him to say unkind things about it. I couldn't have asked for a more accepting lover -- but I was too young to understand how unusual he was.

After that, something happened that made me more conscious of our age difference. At the end of summer, I was back in high school and Peter was studying under professor Andrews. When Kathleen, his college girlfriend, returned from her summer in Saskatoon, Peter told me they were sleeping together. I was devastated.

"But you've never hidden J----- Andrews," he said, utterly confounded. "I'm just being honest with you."

"What I do with J-----" -- I was now on a first name basis with prof Andrews, despite having addressed him more formally as a small child -- "is different! He paid me," I protested. "Don't you see?"

"Well, no -- I don't. I would never ask you not to see him," he pointed out, as gently as possible. "Kathleen has been my lover for two years, you've always known."

"But I didn't know she was coming back!"

"How could you not know?" he asked. "She's got another year of grad school left --"

I began to realize that, while having sex for money came naturally to me, relationships were another matter. How could Peter equate his lover with my customer? I instinctively understood the difference between a customer and a boyfriend -- professor Andrews was an object, someone I could (and should) control. But I was still too young to realize that a boyfriend also had to be managed -- and could be -- by a woman's sense of discretion. I discovered that Kathleen and Peter lived in a world of their own that was less honest in some ways but more realistic and more permanent than the world he entered when he was with me.

Friday, Sept. 3

My business phone just rang and then hung up. Then my personal line did the same thing. It gave me such a fright that I called Jasmine in a total panic.

"I think you're right -- about that IRS guy," I said, "He's checking up on me again! But what does he want? He called and hung up -- "

"Just now? That was me!" she exclaimed. "Tom W's passed the stage of making crank calls. I just found out -- Eileen has already been down to his office! She said he read a list of girls' names to her and asked her a lot of nosy questions about her clients. When she played dumb, he threatened to ask her sister and her dad the same questions! When I asked her what she told them, she got pissy and hung up on me ..." There was a thoughtful pause, as she waited for me to digest this. In a calm, even voice, she said, "Do you think she's the type to roll over under pressure?"

By Tracy Quan

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