First me.

15Dec08

I drove home and the money burned a hole in my wallet. I kept glancing over as I drove, as those the money would just disappear, that the whole experience would be gone. I don’t know what kind of bills they were. As time wore on, one hundred dollar bills were no longer a novelty, but an inconvenience.

Taking the slow, loping turns through the historical district. It was dark. A friend called me to meet for drinks at our favorite bar. I wasn’t of legal drinking age yet, but no one there ever checked my ID. I never got drunk or caused trouble. I just argued loudly about politics. I treated myself to what passed at that bar for a nice dinner, having recently become accustomed to this idea of eating a full meal and not immediately vomiting. My friend that I joined didn’t know. I had just done my first job in sex work.

It felt like I had crossed a very distinct line. As I spent the next couple of months crisscrossing the country to work, that line, the culture I had been initiated into by my first job, was all I could think about. I would sit in airports and wonder, Does anyone here know I’m a whore? Is anyone here a whore? Someone has to be.

When I crossed that line, remarkably, I only lost one friend. Well, really, a friend I could stand to lose. I remember the argument, the slammed car door, and how furious I was when he suggested I could no longer call myself a feminist. This is my body, I remember yelling through tears, the whole expressing my emotions in a proactive way also incredibly new to me. I got out of his car and we did not talk again.

That time, that first time, is stepping over a chasm. Once I had started sex work, the thought of not being a sex worker anymore was ridiculous. I left for a time. I did not work for years. Then, frustrated with being broke all the time, with menial minimum wage work or slinging drinks, I went back. The line between being a current and being a former sex worker is much finer than the gulf between being a sex worker and not being one.

Some researchers will tell you that the vast majority of sex workers want to leave the industry. Sure, some day. I left and came back. I wonder what the statistics would look like if you polled servers and bartenders. God, I never felt like more of a whore than when I had to wait tables. Once I’d crossed over into sex worker territory, it was easy to cross back.

It was not like the first time I had intercourse. I spent the rest of the day after fucking for the first time waiting for a wave of holy shit I’m not a virgin! to wash over me, but it did not. Instead, I kept asking myself, That was it? The Big Deal that is sex failed to impress me. Sort of like my first one night stand. Once I realized I’d pulled it off successfully, shutting the door on his sorry ass, I wondered why it mattered.

Unlike the first time I figured out I could puke. I was deeply self-satisfied. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had opened a Pandora’s box that would continue to linger up to even today. Or the first time I did drugs, realizing that the D. A. R. E. people never prepared me for how much I was going to like it. The first time I hurt myself on purpose. My first hospitalization, most of which I remember like a bad dream, in flashes, with a twist to my guts, when I least want or expect it.

The first time is a defining moment. Some are ambiguous, requiring you to define what path you will move down, like that first time I sold erotic services. Some hurt deeply. And some are that moment when you step out of yourself into who you ought to be.

The first time I got into school. They send you a thick packet if you get in, and a normal business envelop if you don’t. I checked my mailbox everyday, throwing envelops into my desk drawer with tears of frustration, until one day, there it was, a packet. An offer of admissions. And, inevitablity, the first time I decided that I could not go to school. The pitcher of shitty beer I drank and then the first time I was too hungover to work.

The first time something I wrote was published. The first time I drove myself someplace in a car I owned. My first apartment. And then my first apartment living by myself, surrounded by boxes while the realization that I was completely alone washed over me, a mix of terror and excitement, the very possibility of it all getting me drunk. The first time I left the country. Standing in the airport, trying to interpret the sign with my limited working vocabulary, knowing that I was thousands of miles from everyone, alone, and how giddy I felt. (Or maybe it was the three cups of coffee and restless night in economy.)

It was has been years since that first night. And granted, I don’t think we celebrate firsts until we look back. Isn’t that the whole cliche about hindsight? You know it’s significant because you look back? Certainly, there are things I thought at the time were important firsts which aren’t now. So, I want you to first me. Tell me a story about the first time you (____). Good, bad, stupid, ugly. Just do it.

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One Response to “First me.”

  1. Ooh, this is a great idea for a post. I’ll do my firsts over at the Salon. It’ll give me something to do tomorrow.


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