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Quitting the Business 

After a 25-year career, an upscale call girl looks back at the grit and glamour -- and explains why it's so tough to get out.

This is the story of a middle-aged woman who spent nearly her entire adult life as a high-class courtesan.

The lifestyle fosters isolation, betrayal, addiction and fear on both sides of the transaction -- fear of arrest and fear that family, friends, co-workers and others will discover one's secret sex life. It sometimes attracts con artists and violent or unstable people.

It's also a lifestyle with a glamorous side: expensive restaurants, five-star hotels, travel, lavish gifts, money.

Upscale escorts can make a good living, but that relatively easy income comes at a price. Many find it difficult to pursue a legitimate career after growing accustomed to trading sex and companionship for cash. This woman, for one, recently left the lifestyle and is struggling to build a future without it.

She agreed to be interviewed on the strict grounds of confidentiality. Names have been obscured and situations have been modified. But she is a real woman, and this is her story.

1. Beginnings

I remember being fascinated by prostitution before I got into it. God knows no one in my family did that -- my father was a doctor, my mother was a professional too, and I grew up in a small Southern town.

When I was 20, I had a friend who claimed she worked for a straight escort service. I knew damn good and well there was no such thing. It took me a year to get her to tell me the truth and set me up with her boss.

The owner of the service went by the name "Judy." She was about five years older than me and very professional. Judy went to college, she was a brilliant woman, yet she had chosen that lifestyle. I know now that she must have had some reason that wasn't good.

A friend of mine, a lady who had been in the business, once said, "Emotionally healthy people do not choose to sell themselves to strangers." I don't think I ever met a girl in the business who hadn't experienced some sort of abuse -- sexual abuse as a child, rape, or a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. I was not forced into the life by unfortunate circumstances, but I was raped when I was 19. It's interesting to note that.

The first time, I was terrified. I thought everything had to be perfect: my toenails, my fingernails, my dress. I was excited and nervous, and I finally got a call.

That's when I began to be addicted to risk.

The client was at a hotel downtown. I remember his name; to this day I can picture him. What surprised me was how easy it was. I had thought it would be difficult. That was almost scary to me, how easy it was to be hired, to actually take off your clothes and do that with someone.

I made more money that night than in two weeks at my regular job. I was tickled pink. I had always been a good girl; I always did the right thing. That was the first time I experienced what it was like to have secrets. It was that aspect of the business that I grew to hate the most, the secrecy, but at the time I was so empowered because I had a secret.

The first mistake I made was to quit my day job. I got sucked into the money. At the time, I was thinking, why should I work my ass off 40 hours a week? But once you let go of that day job, you really have to lie to everyone.

I did try to get out after one situation. A girl I knew had just started at the escort service. The first time she went on a call, no one heard from her until the next morning. She said the guy tied her up and raped her all night. I don't know if that really happened. But it had a tremendous impact on me. I thought, "This is dangerous. I don't want to live like this."

I called my father. My dad and I didn't have a good relationship, but he did have money. I confessed everything to him and asked for help. I said "I want to come live with you. I want to go to college."

You know what he said? He said, "You're stupid. You got yourself into this, get yourself out."

So I stayed in.

2. Job Hazards

I never had a pimp, although I knew some girls who did. That's a concept I have never understood and never will.

There were a few incidents when a client posed a danger to me. They all happened when I was 21 and 22, working for escort services in New Orleans, when I had no control over who I saw.

One guy put his hands around my neck as if he were strangling me -- but he was a little man and I was a big girl, and I threw him on the floor.

Another time was in New Orleans East. The front door was wide open and a huge gentleman was sitting there in a bathrobe in this beautiful home, with the music blasting. Cocaine and guns were scattered all over the coffee table. I said, "I can't stay here." As I was walking back to my car I heard gunshots. The bastard was shooting at me!

There was one time when I had done what escorts are not supposed to do: I gave a client my phone number so he could call me directly, cutting out the middleman. So the next time I saw the client, nobody knew where I was. I didn't get my money up front. He got abusive with me and refused to pay me; he physically threw me out. I went home, called the service, and told them the truth. We found out later he had beaten the crap out of a few girls. He turned out to be a cop from Houston.

The only time I ever left a call without getting dressed was at an apartment in Metairie. The guy just wanted to talk about himself. He showed me books he supposedly wrote, and the picture on the jacket was clearly not him. I thought, this guy is nuts.

When his time was up, I got up to leave. And then he became verbally abusive and started to freak out. I was so scared, I grabbed all my stuff and ran out of there in lingerie and bare feet.

Later, as an independent, I could screen out anyone I wanted. But last year I had to cancel on one new client, and he knew where I lived. He left a vicious, threatening message that he was going to come over and tell all my neighbors I was a whore. I really thought that guy was a sweet old man. This proved to me my instincts are not infallible.

As far as protecting my health, I always used condoms for intercourse. But I did not use condoms for oral sex, so that was not 100 percent safe. The majority of women in the business use condoms for intercourse but not for oral sex. A very small percentage of guys wanted to do things that I didn't consider safe; about 1 or 2 percent. Most guys don't want to take something home to their wives. I've been tested at least twice a year; I've never caught anything from a client. I wasn't so fortunate with boyfriends.

I do know one lady who was rumored to let clients have sex with her without a condom once she got to know them, but that is the exception rather than the rule. This lady was working on her Ph.D., a very educated woman, but apparently stupid and reckless when it came to that. Or just self-destructive.

The only time I was arrested was in 1984. I went to a house in Jefferson Parish with another escort to meet two guys; I went into the bedroom with one, and boom -- I was under arrest. It was quite a moment. I was wearing a teddy, and he's standing there butt-naked as he pulls out his badge. And I thought I had a weird job.

3. The Road to Nevada

After that, I was not comfortable in New Orleans. I moved out West and worked for a fabulous service. By then we had pagers, which made life much easier. But that service got busted too. I never wanted to work for another agency again.

I discovered that the really cool girls were advertising in the massage sections of local newspapers. It had never occurred to me that you could work out of your home. So, I wrote an ad and I was off and running.

Around that time I got married. He was a beautiful, charming, precious kid and I adored him. He eventually got into the business -- he worked with two other ladies for guys who wanted to watch. I ran his ads and set his appointments, and they worked out of our house. It was a very strange marriage.

In a way we were totally domestic. We had three dogs and a cat, and I was going to paralegal school and working as a file examiner for a family law judge. I was also a volunteer counselor for battered women, and my husband and I were the assistant managers of our apartment complex. And yet we were in the adult industry and nobody knew. I didn't have a double life, I had a quadruple life.

Before I met my husband, I had a five-figure savings account, perfect credit, that job at the courthouse -- I really was in the process of getting a life. But we got into drugs, and all that fell apart. I wanted to get out of the business. I wanted to try and have a normal life, I wanted to make my marriage work, I wanted to get away from drugs. We moved to Nevada to start over. The marriage didn't work, but I never touched drugs again.

So there I was in Nevada, making less than I had made 10 years earlier. I had a house payment, and my car got repossessed. I ended up again getting sucked back into the business, this time in legal brothels.

It was white slavery. The money in legal brothels is terrible. It's a 50-50 split, and you have to pay room and board.

I worked in several houses. Some let you work weekends only; in others you have to work from one week to three weeks, so it's virtually impossible to have any other life. You can't go to school. If you have kids you need 24-hour child care for weeks on end, and a lot of these women do have kids.

You're required to work 12- to 14-hour shifts. You have to be dressed according to house specifications, and when the bell rings the ladies line up. There's a particular way you have to stand; it's very military. The floor maid greets the customers at the door and says "Gentlemen, we'd like you to meet the ladies," and you go down the lineup and everyone says her name.

It's a strange situation, but you get used to it. They treat you like children; you can get sent to your room for laughing in lineup. But the flip side is you have someone doing your laundry, cleaning your room, cooking you breakfast and dinner. You all sit down to dinner every night. You file into a big kitchen and they put out a home-cooked meal and all these girls in lingerie and bikinis and slut clothes and makeup all sit down and eat -- it's bizarre. It's the closest thing to a family I've ever had.

The Chicken Ranch was the only brothel I've been fired from. We had to make lineup in pantyhose, so when the bell rang we had to squeeze them on. They woke you up all night there, so we all suffered from sleep-deprivation psychosis. Bathrooms were shared with other girls and clients, so you couldn't always go when you wanted.

One girl had an emergency at home, and they told her if she left, she was fired. I stuck up for her and they fired me, too.

The place known for treating women most like human beings was the Sagebrush Ranch in Carson City. You were not searched, you were allowed to have money, you were allowed to go into town, and as long as you worked there once a month, your room was your room; it was dead-bolted.

I will never forget one day at the Sagebrush. It was a Sunday afternoon and really slow. During those times, you sit at the bar because there's nothing to do. Alcoholism runs rampant around brothel girls.

There was this girl from Texas: pretty, skinny, blonde, Nicole Kidman hair. Her name was Stacey and she was trying to break into country music. She asked the bartender, since it was so slow, could she please bring her guitar out? She was very good, and she sang a song by Collin Raye called "Love, Me." It's a beautiful, sad song in which a kid is singing about his grandfather right after his grandmother died. We sat there riveted and then we all started to cry. I think everyone was touched from the standpoint of: "As long as I'm here, this is a relationship I'll never have."

Well, I didn't want to work in the business anymore, and I moved back to New Orleans. I landed a sales job and was very good at it. And then I got laid off.

I was one week away from homelessness and I decided to return to the business. I had this sense of resolve, like when you know you have to eat the dead to survive -- I felt like I was in the Donner party. I did what I had to do to survive. So, after five years out, I went back.

But things had changed. I had hit 40 and I really enjoyed being single. It's true what they say about 40-year old women; you have the sex drive of a 15-year old boy.

Plus, I wasn't having sex with "old men" anymore. When you're 21 and 22 years old you're having sex with your dad, but now I was having sex with my peers, and it was good sex.

And the class of men was different. That's because by now, everyone was advertising on the Internet. I barely knew what the Internet was; a friend helped me put a Web page together.

Once prostitution hit the Internet, men who would never have called an escort service felt safe contacting you. You had access to this class of people you'd never had access to before. The Internet changed everything.

4. The Internet

Prostitution flourishes in cyberspace. In the 1990s, escort agencies began routinely advertising online while independent call girls, known by their escort names, launched their own Web sites featuring photos, "donation" prices, tour dates (many travel from city to city, booking appointments in advance) and sometimes wish lists for gifts such as cars, jewelry, perfume or lingerie. Some accept credit cards or have customer discount rates akin to frequent-flyer miles. Many escorts' sites feature client-written reviews of their performance, using code terms for sex acts. Escorts work "incall," from their homes or hotels, or "outcall" at the client's chosen location.

These upscale call girls -- known as "providers" -- also began advertising on Web sites devoted to the business. Such sites became common ground for providers and "hobbyists," or male clients who call their predilection for call girls "the hobby." On these sites, hobbyists post detailed reviews of escorts they've hired, while message boards foster lively chats and a community atmosphere among hobbyists and providers.

I used to fantasize that I would have twin girls one day, and I had names picked out for them. When it became apparent to me I would never have children, I chose one of those names as my escort name.

It was not a persona I had for work. I prided myself on always being me, and I think that's one of the reasons I was popular. I didn't do stuff that didn't come naturally.

My price range was $300 an hour, $400 for two hours.

The money issue was always weird. You always got the money up front, and I got advice from a girl who said to take the money out of the room. Boy, did that seem indelicate to me. The last four years, I didn't discuss money until afterward.

Someone really stiffed me once though. He laid the money down when he came in, he had brought champagne, and we had a good time. Then I walked him downstairs, and when I returned the money was gone. He had picked the money back up before he left. It was such a mean thing to do.

I traveled with clients on exactly three occasions and they were all disastrous. I've done very few "overnights." I'm very private, and nobody wants to spend the night at work. I don't want to smell a stranger's morning breath. When I'm done with a client I can't wait to be alone, take off my makeup, get my book and get into bed with my dogs. Sleeping with someone is so sacred. I'd have to like the person and they'd have to pay me a hell of a lot of money. Usually overnights are about $1,500 for 12 hours. Can you imagine paying someone $1,500 to spend the night with you?

I stopped posting reviews on my Web site when I realized the men were writing basically the same thing about everybody. It all smacked of locker-room gossip.

In the beginning, reviews made girls accountable and it gave guys a way to see if they would get ripped off. It quickly went from being a good tool to being a way guys could brag about their conquests and a way girls could abuse the system: "I'll give you a freebie if you give me a good review." And I can think of at least two situations where reviews were used in a bust. For the last two years, I forbade reviews of me.

I also felt that reviews were a violation of my privacy because no two sessions are alike, and I didn't want everyone knowing what's going on in a session. OK, chances are you're going to get laid -- but after that, things are different from client to client.

My favorite example of that is kissing. Everybody saw Pretty Woman -- you're not supposed to kiss on the mouth, and it's illegal in brothels. The real reason girls don't kiss most guys is that their mouths are funky! It's like there's a cutoff with men around age 35 -- they don't floss; they brush their teeth in the morning and that's it. They have bad breath.

Kissing is my favorite thing on the planet and I'm really picky about it. If your mouth grosses me out, you could buy me a villa by the sea and I won't do it. A lot of girls feel the same way.

The majority of my clients were married. Married men understand they're not paying for sex as much as the right to walk away at the end without obligation.

I had two clients whose wives had severe mental illnesses and two whose wives had debilitating diseases -- I was doing a Mother Teresa thing, seeing them -- and guys who were handicapped. But the majority of guys were not like them.

There are guys in decent marriages who have very infrequent sex or no sex, and for those guys, the other options are to have a girlfriend or to split up an otherwise good marriage. So maybe seeing a provider is the least of the evils. But now, it seems to me that most of these guys have good marriages, and they have gotten addicted to the hobby and are risking everything for it.

I think for single men, seeing providers really impairs their ability to be in a real relationship. Providers totally cater to their needs, unlike in a real relationship where it's give-and-take. It gives them unrealistic expectations of women.

It's funny: There are not that many really rich clients, although I have seen some very well-known men. I would say most clients are middle- to upper-middle-class, and if they took a hard look at their finances they would realize they couldn't afford this.

I know this about men: If you don't sex them they'll get it somewhere else.

5. Double Lives

The general rule among escorts is, if you see a client in public, you don't speak to him unless he acknowledges you first. The men are not going to expose you because you could do the same to them. There's a code of honor in the community.

There have been tons of times when the worlds have collided. Only once in 25 years has someone outed me, though, and that was in the '80s. A girlfriend of mine was tending bar at this place where businessmen hung out after work, and I was sitting at the bar talking to her.

One of my regular clients was there with his buddies -- he waved and motioned me over to his table. I assumed we were equally concerned with being discreet about how we knew each other. He introduced me as his friend, and I had a drink with them and went back to my girlfriend.

The bar manager told me later that after I left, my client had started telling his friends not only that I was a call girl, but graphic descriptions of everything we had done together. I was appalled.

I did have some run-ins with wives who found out about me from their husbands' email accounts. Once, a provider from Baton Rouge called to warn me about the wife of one of our mutual clients. This woman had gone to the provider's house, rammed her carport with her SUV, and said she was headed to New Orleans to kill me. I got her license plate number and the description of her SUV.

She cruised my house twice. I was in my yard, but I was wearing baggy jeans and a large flannel shirt with my hair in a ponytail. Honey, I didn't look like any Internet provider; I looked like a lesbian lumberjack. She probably didn't realize it was me.

I usually kept one foot in the "real world," with a professional job during the day. Well, one wife discovered my real name and the company where I worked. She began calling me at work, leaving me threatening messages, calling me by my real name and my escort name, too. That scared the hell out of me. I was so afraid everyone at work would find out.

What was stressful to me and remained stressful 'til the end, and that's why I got out -- is having to lie to everyone on the other side of your life. It puts a glass wall between you and everyone else, and when your life is not integrated it's not healthy. When you're splitting your life apart like that, it's not really living.

I don't know anyone who was as normal on the surface as I was. I don't wear a lot of makeup, I don't dress slutty, I don't have breast implants. I did a lot of volunteer work, I was good at my day job.

I would estimate that more than half of high-end escorts have children. That's what motivates a lot of them to choose this lifestyle. Say you're a single mom with two years of college. You have to put your kids in day care or after-school care because you're working. You're exhausted, they're in public school, and you're going to make $25 grand per year and struggle. Or you can make $60, $70, $80 grand a year, send them to private school, and be home in the afternoons.

It's probably split about half -- there are women who are in some way bizarre and flawed and you would know something was up with them, and people like me who you would never guess.

6. Raids

When the FBI made its now-infamous Canal Street Brothel bust in April 2002, some New Orleanians were shocked to learn that upscale call girls were so readily available here and that they counted so many local men -- some apparently prominent -- as clients. In reality, the subculture had long thrived in New Orleans, in which some respected members of the community maintain elusive shadow lives as hobbyists and providers.

The Canal Street bust wasn't the only incident that rocked the escort world. In the summer of 2002, Florida vice cops infiltrated the popular worldwide "Big Doggie" Web site, arresting hobbyists and providers alike in a sting known as "Operation Flea Collar."

When Big Doggie got busted, it was devastating to the escort community.

Florida law enforcement had created a Web site for a fake provider and posted it on Big Doggie. They set up a few men through that. They told them, "We're not going to tell your family, but you have to help us get some of the girls." They got inside.

That was the end of that Camelot period on the Internet, and it was a big turning point in the business. Everyone was afraid to play. We stopped trusting each other, and a lot of people never came back to the hobby. That bust made CNN. Unfortunately, that wasn't the kind of publicity that worked in our favor. It called attention to what was essentially a subculture.

There were some local scares, too. In Jefferson Parish, they're serious about busting prostitutes and they'll stop at nothing. But if you screen the way escorts should screen if they're remotely intelligent, there are ways to ascertain a person isn't a police officer.

I am mystified as to why prostitution is illegal. I'm no advocate anymore, but it's nobody's business what two consenting adults do with their plumbing. People have sex for all kinds of reasons. I can't imagine why anyone would think it was their business whether compensation changes hands.

The Canal Street brothel was part of New Orleans and it makes me livid that the federal government got involved in that. It happened when some doctor from Ruston was committing Medicare fraud, and he offered to trade that information to the feds for a lighter sentence. Medicare fraud is a heinous, horrible crime, and the feds should have said "F--k you, asshole," but they took the deal.

Both the Canal Street brothel bust and the Big Doggie bust happened just a few months after 9/11. So those investigations were ongoing during the period leading up to 9/11, and in the months that followed. I don't know how anyone could feel anything but outrage to know our federal government, the FBI, was busy investigating call girls when we had this huge national security issue.

After the Canal Street bust they raked those women over the coals. It was completely unfair that the women were the only ones punished. Don't get me wrong, I never wanted to see the client list; I absolutely do not want those men punished, but it's interesting that they weren't. It's always the woman's fault, the woman's sin.

7. Getting Involved

In the last few years, it became obvious to me that I had to get out.

Being a high-end call girl is not as easy as you would think. It takes so much time and energy. Screening clients and making hotel appointments and travel reservations; preparing your house for a client; preparing yourself for a client. It's not just the hour or two that you see them; it's probably a 35-hour-a-week job if you do it full-time.

And there was something else: I always needed a recovery period after seeing a client. In the last four years it really started to drain me. After an appointment, for the next day and a half I would have to stay on my couch in flannel pajamas watching TV and not answering the phone, because I needed total privacy. I didn't want any human touching me. That got to be really unmanageable because there were not enough hours in the week to see the clients I needed to see, and have the time I needed to recover. It took too much out of me. It was like being a sin eater.

I also suffered extreme guilt when my clients' wives found out about me. Those situations cause irreparable damage to families, and I share that responsibility. It is a terrible burden to bear. As often as you feel you've touched a life in a positive way, cost one man his family and that's all you remember.

Being a call girl really altered my perception of people in general. A lot of these men are really unhappy, and I was so used to it that I thought it was normal. Call girls are exposed to cheaters so much they think everyone is in an unhappy relationship. I'm realizing now there are men out there who have never used this service, who are truly happy and satisfied with their partners.

The strange thing is, all my life I have had a strong dislike for infidelity. My dad cheated on my mom. So it's interesting and sad to look back and realize that I made a living enabling cheaters. I wonder now how I lived with that double standard.

I once had a regular client who was married. He was gorgeous and I adored him; I actually gave him a discount because I enjoyed seeing him so much. At one point I was taking my dog to obedience class. In the class was a cute little boy, about 10 years old, who was there with his mutt. The first class his mom and brother came in and sat on the sidelines, and the second time his dad came in. And it was him.

I didn't acknowledge him and he didn't acknowledge me. He never returned, but his wife did. I got to watch his wife and kids, and they were beautiful, and they looked really happy.

In the last class she had a camera -- his wife -- and she walked up to me and asked me to take their picture. There I was, speaking with the wife of the man I'd had sex with on numerous occasions. When she handed me the camera our hands brushed and I was acutely aware of her touch, thinking, what would she say if she knew how many times I have touched her husband? It was one of those moments when time stops.

As an escort you think it doesn't matter -- "I'm a call girl, I'm no threat to her." But just walk in her shoes and see if you feel that way.

I was smart enough not to get involved with clients. I made that mistake once, and it was the hardest lesson I ever learned. It was also the catalyst for me getting out of the business.

I fell in love. That changed things, because it ruined being shallow for me -- it ruined uncomplicated sex, and it busted through my denial. I thought he was separated from his wife. I found out later that he wasn't.

We saw each other on and off for two years, and I was tortured over being in the business and having fallen for someone.

Finally it looked like his marriage was over. I was going to get out of the business. He said he loved me; he wanted me for a life partner. I was in heaven.

Then I found out he was telling his wife he was coming back to her; he was telling me it was me he wanted -- and he was living with another woman, and preparing to move in with yet another who was relocating from out of state. And he was seeing call girls, too!

I know now what it's like to love someone and find out he's seeing a call girl. To know he could have been with you, and he preferred to pay a stranger. That is the ultimate slap in the face. It was the first time I put myself in the wife's place and, oh, karma is a bitch.

I'll never go back to it full-time, and this is the first time I can be certain of that.

When I went back after being out five years, I was desperate and had no choice -- but I didn't have to stay in. I stayed because I loved it. I think that period of time in the business, with me in my early 40s, it couldn't get any better than it got. I could never have enjoyed it more.

I now have a full-time job, and I'm excited. It's a good position and a good company. But there's still a lot of uncertainty. I'm not saying I wouldn't go back if I were desperate, because God knows I might have to. I could get another five years out of it. I don't want to -- that's the difference. My feelings about it have changed.

Before, the drive to escape was about fear of getting busted. It was never about wanting a different lifestyle. I could have used it to support myself while I finished college and got a masters' degree. But I was so spoiled by my standard of living, I wouldn't make the sacrifice.

The reason I'm single and childless is because of the business. I'm middle-aged and I don't have the four things I really wanted in life -- a partner, a family, an education and a career. All four of those were put off by the business. If I have to fall back on it because of an emergency, I'll know it's an emergency that was created by being in the business to start with.

It also kept me from forming real relationships. Ladies who are in the business make a conscious decision to avoid intimacy. I have many dear friends who are former clients. Many. But those relationships are still not complete.

Here's one example: I had a regular client whom I saw for years. I knew him well; he had a damn good reason for seeing a provider. Well, one day he didn't show up for an appointment. I couldn't get in touch with him. Fortunately, he had confided in one of his coworkers about me, and that person emailed me to tell me he had passed away.

I was devastated. I had been intimate with him, and we were so close; I adored him, and I couldn't attend his funeral.

I don't know if those who are still involved with the business will want to remain friends with me now that I'm out. Maybe they don't want to be judged, or maybe they don't want their denial poked at, or maybe those two are the same thing.

Providers are so ostracized and they're in such a strange, controversial, socially questionable situation. You have this common enemy called "the rest of the world." It creates a strong bond. Once that changes for one person, you don't have that bond anymore.

I always thought my clients were the only people who didn't judge me. But they do judge me, and here's how it works: When a client thinks the world of a working girl -- "You're so beautiful; you're so smart; you're so wise ..." what he's leaving out is: "You're so smart," comma, for a prostitute. "You're such a good person," comma, for a prostitute. They're grading you on a curve.

When you're getting these compliments, you're not realizing they're backhanded insults. It's being at the top of one game and at the bottom of the other. The minute you cross over to a "regular woman," you're at the bottom of that stack, and you get 50 points off for having been a provider.

If I get involved with someone, I would have to be honest about my past. We're not talking about something I did a couple times in college, we're talking about something I spent the better part of 25 years doing. So keeping it secret would be a big lie. I am hesitant to tell anyone right away, though. You've got to know someone before you trust them with that information. It can ruin you.

I know that seeing a former provider is a real liability. There can be legitimate problems regarding custody if a father is in a relationship with a former call girl. Or it could damage or even cost someone his job, if it came out.

Worse for a man than career or child custody issues is his ego. A man would rather lose his job or kids than have his ego bruised. Men don't want to be at a cocktail party and have someone come up and say, "Yo, Dave, your wife is a babe! Do you know she used to be an escort and I've been with her?"

I read on Big Doggie about a girl who quit the business and got a job at a casino. One day she was called into human resources. They had found her Web site and they printed out all those pages, plus her reviews, and ripped her apart before terminating her. I have nightmares about that.

My Web site is down, but I'm sure there are things still on the Internet. I usually obscured my face on pictures I posted on the Internet, but the pictures I sent to clients didn't have my face blurred, and my first Web site didn't have my face blurred.

8. Getting Out

I like who I am, and I doubt seriously if I'd be like this had I lived differently.

I am absolutely fearless, I am extremely honest, I'm open-minded. I'm very confident and conscious of my own boundaries. I learned to be comfortable about sex through the business, and I don't think I would have learned that any other way.

The business made me brave. As a kid I was extremely timid, afraid of everything. But when you go knocking on hotel room doors, go in, and spend time with strangers -- there's really nothing scarier than that. I guess I went to the wizard and got some courage through the business.

When I was 19 or 20, another woman told me, "It's just my opinion; you don't have to like it." I thought that was the rudest thing anyone had ever said. Nowadays, that's one of my favorite sayings. I don't think I would have evolved that much without the business; I think I would have been the typical Southern be-nice woman like my mother, and I don't think I ever would have left Louisiana.

I hate this business, and I'd love to say "never again," but I can't. Because it's so very difficult to integrate yourself into society after you've been a provider.

There are obvious reasons: You're used to freedom, you're used to the money, and you have a big lie on your resume, and sometimes a police record.

An arrest in your past is extremely hard to overcome, even 20 years later. People will overlook most misdemeanors, but not a prostitution charge, because it involves sex. And if you've been arrested for felony prostitution, you have to register as a sex offender like a rapist or child molester. The stigma for something as victimless as prostitution is worse than murder in some ways. People will hold it against you forever. That's one reason it's so hard to get out.

Other reasons aren't so obvious. For instance, you feel different from other women; you fear them, in a way. You're certain they'd judge you if they knew. In other ways you feel sorry for them because they're so naïve. There's a wall between you and the rest of the world that I'm not sure ever completely goes away.

There are two careers I really wanted to pursue. I have a mind for legal matters and I wanted to attend law school. I also have a gift for writing. There's not that many things I'm good at, but writing is one thing I'm really good at.

Other people have a lot more than I have -- savings, 401k, families, and I guess I've got my stories. That's one thing you can say about me: I had an interesting life.

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