During our first year together, I was the most casual of all sex workers. I did some small fetish work, but mostly I modeled for photographers and hoped ends would meet. I spent my time trying to shore up the bliss of our honeymoon period and fighting the sense that I’d lost something. I tried not to remember the feeling that I could take on the world after I burned a man’s feet with cigarettes.
By the end of the first month of living together, things were no longer going so well. While I hadn’t become a prostitute again, Stanley had still managed to develop a jealous streak a mile wide. I found myself constantly reminded of Desdemona–’Alas the day! I never gave him cause.’ But jealous souls will not be answered so and over and over again I cried, my heart breaking as he raged at me for imagined slights and infidelities. I don’t know if his assumptions were based on my former profession or not, but with the faith of first, desperate love I made excuse after excuse for his frankly inexcusable behavior. I told myself that it was understandable, considering his history of relationships with faithless women and his abusive mother. I told myself that he would eventually see that I was faithful and devoted and because I could not find it in my heart to turn him out of our house and onto the street I stayed. Then, for a while, things got a little better.
We had been together a little over a year when I took a job at a peep show and Stanley started talking about going back to active duty service. We decided that if the army took him back, it would be best for us to get married. I thought of a house and steady money and pretty dresses and possibly children and convinced myself that my heart didn’t sink a little bit when I considered leaving the sleazy little peep show with its closet-sized dressing room full of girls talking shit and sneaking cigarettes. I wanted to marry Stanley one day and I did want to make a life with him, but I wasn’t sure that this was how I wanted to do it and I was frightened by the prospect of being ripped from my life, my friends, and my work in Chicago and suddenly forced into the full-blown adulthood of marriage, a house, and a family. I was nineteen years old, and while I thought I was much more grown up than I really was, I knew on some level that I was not ready for a truly adult life and I certainly wasn’t ready to spend my life waiting for the man I loved so desperately to come home from a foreign country, hoping he would return in one piece.
Stanley eventually changed his mind about going back to active duty and we never married, but the peep show did close. I discovered how much I loved stripping, but I moved on to phone sex when Stanley expressed his discomfort at my moving on to a normal club where I would be giving lap dances. I hated phone sex and missed stripping, but I was determined to make as many sacrifices as were necessary to keep the relationship going. I loved him so much, and I had convinced myself that the only way to show that was to give things up until there was nothing left to give. I told myself that I would be rewarded for my self-immolation. There was no way I couldn’t be.