Stuff and nonsense
Pondering, as usual.
This time about relationships and sex work.
I've always had a fairly down-to-earth attitude about love. I think it's rooted in my childhood of horses. Every time I out grew one pony, we would have to sell it in order to buy another. And every time I thought I might die. Because I loved that pony so goddamn much. But then I got a new pony, and got to know it, and fell in love with it, completely and utterly. And though I remember each and every pony I had throughout my childhood, and each and every horse I've had throughout my adult life, every single time the sadness and intense feelings of loss have faded away. Fond memories remain, but my intense and consuming love was transferred to another.
There's something terribly unromantic about it, but I feel much the same way about relationships. It's pragmatic and almost abstract. I don't believe there's "one right person" for us all. There's probably hundreds of people that we'd be happy with. For a while. (Read Alain de Botton's The Course of Love for more on this. Amazingly accessible insight into relationship therapy. HIGHLY RECOMMEND). I always think about love being a verb, not a feeling. Love is a decision, a series of acts. Not a feeling that will sweep us away and sustain us forever. And unless you're prepared to own your own shit and look very deeply at your own flaws, it seems very difficult to negotiate and maintain across a lifetime. (Therapy is good. Also HIGHLY RECOMMEND, he he).
In that light, I find myself wondering a lot recently why I got married. I think that was less about my husband than about an unresolved ache for security—for never having to wonder again, am I loved enough? After an adolescence/early adulthood full of deep insecurity (and therapy ), it was like utilising a full stop instead of a question mark on at least one deeply emotional issue.
Except, of course, that marriage doesn't really work like that. In itself, it doesn't mean anything, except for signalling an intention. I often think of the song lines:
"And you know that I love you,
Here and now, not forever.
I can give you the present,
I don't know 'bout the future,
That's all stuff and nonsense."
I feel like that's a sentiment closer to my heart, but wildly unpopular in our culture, and difficult to reconcile with my other work as a romance author—bound to a HEA (Happily Ever After), at least in my commercial attempts at writing—when all I really believe in is a HFN (Happy For Now). And reading back over my earlier writings, it seems I have always felt this way. I sometimes think love is like religion: relying on something external as a first point of call, rather than taking full responsibility for ourselves.
To be clear—I have absolutely experienced love as an answer. And my thoughts on the matter change. But I am an atheist, and as a provider and receiver of therapy, I would absolutely say that reflecting on ourselves deeply is the start. Everything else needs to come after.
If clients ask, I'm open about my relationship status. It's a non-issue. But at the same time, it's also more complicated than that. Otherwise, I would see every client who contacted me, because it's just a job, right? But no, that's not the case. I don't want to see just anyone. I don't see just anyone. I would rather not have income for a week than see someone who I feel less than enthusiastic about seeing. I want to have great sex, meaningful connections, and longevity as a sex worker, and I trust my judgement absolutely in guiding me in this (while at the same time bearing in mind this, which made me laugh..). ("It annoys people how freely and relentlessly I forgive myself.” ).
I realise I am privileged in being able to work like this. But it does seem to infer that I get something out of sex work, that I will give freely and enjoy completely. And if I don’t, well I don’t have to see that client again, do I?
This is extremely complex, and extremely interesting to me. There’s many benefits of sex work, for me. Freedom, mainly. I work when I choose, I see who I choose, and I have the headspace to give my time and attention to my children, one of whom has additional needs. I am so, so grateful for that. But I also love my job. I go home from a good booking on cloud nine. I wish it didn’t take me so long to own that and come back to it. (Of course, I don’t wish away the experiences that social work has given me. And I understand that not every sex worker feels like this). Also, importantly, I don’t feel guilty about that.
This is a complex statement, too. I find sex very hard to separate from my emotional world in some ways—and completely disparate from it, in others. But to be the subject of your own desire requires some degree of self-knowledge and self-confidence, things that took me my entire twenties and some of my thirties to find my way around, and I consider all of these things a lifelong project. Our culture doesn't help girls to become women in this regard, and I still, to my complete chagrin, find being desired unbelievably sexy and a sure-fire turn-on for me (with some caveats, of course). What exactly do I like, outside of this? I'm still curious. And I'm grateful that I can experience new things with new people in a safe way. Does that muddy the waters of fidelity any more than the unique, deeply open emotional connection with S (my best friend of the fortnightly parma dinners...) does? I know the majority will shoot me down for this, but my husband does not know me the way that she does. Our relationship is different to that. And I can enjoy that connection and those conversations with her, without them being a threat to my marriage.
So, coming back to sex work I suppose is opening up a lot of pondering about fidelity and monogamy for me. There's a lot of grey here, I know. Because on the one hand there is a lot of work being done to position sex work as just a job like any other. My husband isn't threatened by it (or even curious about it, to be honest). But I accept writing jobs from people who I don't like. I have worked with many clients as a social worker who I didn't particularly like or pushed buttons that I found extremely challenging. In these situations I can be perfectly professional and present no differently, whether I like someone or not. And yet, I don't accept sex work in that context. Does that make it a lifestyle choice? Am I just insanely privileged? And it's not newbie-related rose-coloured glasses—I've done this before. It's not new to me. My enthusiasm is undoubtedly partly because I can do it on my terms, around other work, and it offers me the freedom to spend time on things that make my heart sing. But it's also related to self-knowledge. And that fucker is hard-earned.
So I guess I'll think about it more. In the meantime, I'm just going to carry on having banging hot sex and feeling very fortunate to have wonderful clients, a wonderful family, and the freedom to write books that speak to me…amongst the trashy romance that speak to a somewhat larger audience .
Til next time,
P.S I umm-ed and ahh-ed about writing this. Is admitting you’re married bad for business? You tell me :). Preferably in a booking...;)