Working Girl: Don’t Obey Orders if it Means Sacrificing Self-Respect

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 86: Don’t Obey Orders if it Means Sacrificing Self-Respect.

I don't want to... by Chiara Cremaschi

Image by Chiara Cremaschi at Flickr Commons

I didn’t want to clean the litter box in my boss’s bathroom.

I didn’t want to pick up the used condom she’d lost in her sheets during her romp with her last client.

I didn’t want to lie to my mom and tell her that my boss, Caroline, was a couples therapist, when she was actually a professional escort.

But this is life and . . .


Moral 82: We all have to do things we don’t want to do.


I’d wanted a typing job. The classified ad I answered called for a typist, so I naively figured I’d be typing. Caroline had wanted to dictate a memoir of her life to me, but it never became more than a few paragraphs on her computer. She just didn’t have the dedication required to dictate an entire book.

So instead of typing for her, I wound up working as her personal assistant.

As for Caroline, she hadn’t wanted to be a prostitute. But the career in broadcasting didn’t pan out. Prostitution seemed like the next best thing.

So there we both were.

Caroline knew I wanted to be a writer. She wasn’t very encouraging about this dream.

“Everyone wants that,” she said. “Everyone wants to write books or be a journalist. And you know how many people actually get published? It’s less than 1%. It’s just not realistic, Leslie. If you want to get anywhere as a writer, I promise you’ll have to suck someone’s cock somewhere along the line.”

I wondered if any of her clients were in publishing.

Probably not. If they were, she would have given them blow jobs and gotten a career in journalism.

Then again, she was making much more money as an escort than she could have hoped for in journalism or broadcasting.

“Come on,” Caroline said. “You’re already doing something you don’t want to do. Do you really want to be working as an escort’s personal assistant?”

“Well,” I said. “She’s not so bad.” Caroline smiled. “But this isn’t the long-term plan.”

Her smile turned into a smirk, but it wasn’t an “I told you so” smirk. It was more of a “What can you do?” smirk. “So take what you’re doing right now–the road you’re on right now–and look down that road and tell me what it looks like in five years. Not what you dream about doing. Not what you hope will happen. What you’re actually doing, and where it leads.”

I tried to look down that road. I couldn’t see anything but dead ends. I guessed that was a good thing. If I could actually see a future in Caroline’s world–even imagine one–it meant there was some small chance that future might come to pass. Maybe I’d wind up as one of the girls she sent clients to. She was always trying to recruit me for that.


Moral 83: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I . . . would have seen 10 more if I had just bothered to turn around.


“What about you?” I said. “I know being an escort wasn’t always Plan A. But now that it is Plan A, do you actually want to do it? Or are there parts of it that you don’t want to do?”

Her eyes widened and she became very thoughtful. “I usually only see clients I want to see,” she said. “I’m usually pretty good about that. But there have been times I’ve accepted clients I knew were a bad idea. And then I’ve just gone along with what they wanted, even when I didn’t want to.”

At the time, I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing something just because a guy wanted me to. Now I think it’s something most women can relate to: being with a guy she knows is a bad idea, convincing herself it’s worth it for some reason, and later on wondering why she betrayed herself.

It wasn’t about him at all. So what was it about? What was she thinking?

What was I thinking?

“There was this one client,” Caroline said. “And I was already disgusted with him on the phone. I didn’t like the way he talked to me. But I wanted the money, you know? I didn’t even need it, really. I just wanted it. So I met him in a hotel room, and I just . . . let him boss me around. He wasn’t violent or anything, but he didn’t talk to me like a person. He just told me what to do, and I did it. I NEVER do that with clients. And then after, when he was just laying there and talking and talking, I was so bored, and he was like ‘Play with my nipples,’ and I was thinking ‘Ugh, do I have to?’ But I did it. I don’t know why.”


Moral 84: Your boss can only boss you around if you let him. There’s a limit to how much you should let him.


Most of us do things we don’t want to do. Things that betray our core values and sense of self. Things that belittle us. We allow ourselves to be treated badly, and we treat others badly. We do things for money. We do them for approval. We do them because we’re told to. We do them because we look down the road, and we can’t see any other way.

I didn’t want to do over half the things Caroline had me do: hide in the bathroom and act as her backup in a fight with a john. Follow one of her girls to make sure she wasn’t seeing clients behind Caroline’s back. Try to rip off store clerks and score free clothes.

But I did them.


Moral 85: Forgive yourself. You’re human.


I was impressed with Caroline that day. She was calm, collected, communicative, and not pushy or tantrumy in the slightest. She was in full swing with her personal brand of insight–which didn’t strike me as actually insightful, but for a jaded prostitute, it passed.

“You’re right,” she said. “I don’t think you have a future down this road. You may not become a writer. But you’ll be a mom someday.”

“I don’t want to be a mom,” I said. “I don’t think I even want to be married.”

“You’ll be married,” she said. “And you’ll be a soccer mom. You’ll have kids and a minivan, and a husband who comes to a woman like me behind your back.”

I snorted. “I don’t want kids,” I said. “And I don’t want a minivan.” I didn’t think I wanted a husband either.

Caroline’s lips twisted in a teasing half-smile. “You’re 20! You’ll change your mind. You’ll be a mom.” I couldn’t believe Caroline, of all people, was one of the “You’ll change your mind about kids someday” women.

This was, and is, a pet peeve of mine. Nine times out of ten, when I tell another woman I don’t want kids, she assumes I have no idea what I’m talking about. There’s usually an awkward silence, as though she doesn’t know what to make of my response. Then she says, “You’ll change your mind. Just don’t wait too long.”

It’s 10 years later as I’m writing this, and I am childless, and my biological clock could give a damn.

I’m starting to reconsider the husband thing, though. That could be pretty cool. And I do have a career as a writer. I’m glad I’m doing it on my own terms.


Moral 86: People will boss you around. Don’t obey them if it means losing your self-respect. But whatever you do, do it because you want to do it.

Quick—What’s the second most profitable criminal industry in the US? First guess, then click.
L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

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