Things went steadily downhill for a year and a half. Without a job or a career, I descended into the Feminine Mystique: already a somewhat depressive person, the inactivity of housewifery plunged me into despair. I tried going to school, plodding through my studies with good grades, but taking no joy in most of my classes. I tried cooking, but most of the dishes I cooked were unacceptable to Stanley’s unsophisticated palate and I eventually gave up. If I couldn’t do the work I loved and I couldn’t even please the man I loved, what was the point? I looked for straight jobs and ached to return to sex work but I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself to see everything that was wrong. I had embarked, unbidden, on a quest to be what society considers to be a real girl and in the process I had apologized for things I had no reason to be sorry for and given up too much. I expected Stanley to see that something was wrong, to fix it or at least help me fix it, but when I told him how sad I was he merely told me I had nothing to be sad about.
Instead of finding the words to talk to him about what was so wrong and working through it together, I grew to resent him and his blindness, despite the fact that I had it blindness myself. I knew that something had been changing in me over our three years together and that I was no longer what he wanted, yet I was still prepared to give up everything for him. I understood how wrong this impulse was and I was ashamed of myself for feeling it and bitter towards him for inspiring it in me.
Several months ago Stanley and I broke up. We did so calmly, sweetly even, but I was shocked at how painful it was. By the time it happened, I had convinced myself that I no longer loved him, that I could never have loved someone for whom I made so many sacrifices and from whom I received so little thanks, but when things ended I realized how very dishonest I had been with myself. Still more shocking than the realization that I still loved this man for whom I had sacrificed so much was the realization that the one thing that cheered me up even somewhat was the fact that I could finally go back to stripping without guilt or concern, something I did almost immediately. The first night I spent in my new club reminded me of my power. I was free again and more than that, I was invincible again.
I’m in no hurry to find someone else, but I know when I do it’s very likely that the gentleman could take issue with the fact that I wear small amounts of clothing and grind on strangers to pay my bills. I’ve learned from Stanley, though: I know the importance of compromise, but I also know the evil of total sacrifice. I didn’t realize at the time how unhappy my sacrifices were making me, and I certainly didn’t understand how miserable they would make me in the future, but I know now that for the time being, sex work is too important to give up for anyone. I won’t always be a sex worker, but for now I am a proud one. When someone new comes along I know I’ll have to learn to deal with that fact with that person, rather than give it all up.
Cathryn Berarovich is a bit of a renaissance sex worker; she’s currently employed as a stripper (and writer) but has held numerous interesting jobs in the industry. Each week, she shares her stories in Harlotry.