I Became an Escort

Felicity Hodgman treated affairs like a drug, and men as disposable.

When I was sixteen, I had a boyfriend that I didn’t cheat on. Our relationship lasted perhaps six months, and then he broke my heart. After that, I made sure to always have an understudy nearby. I don’t do “alone”; the second I think I am single, or may be abandoned, I begin hearing—and believing—the echoes in my brain that say I am fat, old, ugly, and will be lonely forever. I used to believe that having a boyfriend—or a husband—was armor against an unsafe world.

The characters on “General Hospital” were my role models growing up. I had no reason to believe that people were anything more than their genitals and that all relationships were primarily sexual. My parents had several divorces between them; my mother had many overnight “friends” and tended bar, and my older sister was a topless dancer. I learned very early that men were a disposable commodity. And I was an ugly girl who had to be grateful for any attention.

I knew I was using sex and men to soothe a need but it never occurred to me that my choice might not be healthy, or that anyone else was doing anything any differently.

I cheated on my first husband before we were married, with a man who got drunk and frightened me. Despite being scared, I went back for more. The infidelity was easy to justify: Ray, my future husband, was withholding sex as a way to punish my bulimia.

We got married shortly after I became pregnant, but even that didn’t seem to be a reason to begin practicing fidelity. I practiced my eating disorder and nurtured our daughter and Ray got drunk and wet the bed on a regular basis. It took me two years to decide to leave and even that wasn’t for myself, but because I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking this was what marriage looked like.

If infidelity was something to outgrow, I was stunted. An epic telephone battle with my father sent me out to a bar in search of sex one night. I never paused to consider my actions. I knew I was using sex and men to soothe a need but it never occurred to me that my choice might not be healthy, or that anyone else was doing anything any differently. I wasn’t even sure about what would trigger the desire. I just knew that when I was meeting a new man and getting laid, I felt both high and worthwhile. I was still pretty enough to fuck.

The night of the telephone battle, I met David. When I passed out drunk in his arms, he mistook this for trust and decided he loved me. Our relationship was never healthy. He read my private journals repeatedly and smoked pot every day and although I broke up with him over and over, he wouldn’t stay away. I mistook his tenacity as a sign that we were meant to be together. I cheated on him furiously.  There never seemed to be any other way to behave and since everyone laughed when I freely joked about it, I thought it was funny. I thought I was being honest: just not with David.

I created so much distance between us by cheating and lying that I might as well have been alone. But then there was another child and there was money and I was always struggling to meet everyone’s needs. The backlash was that cheating became a sweet secret I gave myself, something that was just for me. I always hoped that somewhere out there I would find the answers to my entire life: something to make eating okay, and the Right Man to make monogamy possible.

Before I understood that I was punishing myself, or that the answers to whatever my problems were might lie within me, I pushed cheating as far as I possibly could. For the last two years of my marriage, I worked as an escort. My husband never knew, or chose not to know. I left when I realized that I was waking up every morning wishing to be dead. I still wasn’t looking at myself, but running away because I believed that David deserved better.

Even the running away wasn’t enough: I took all my problems with me. I began therapy and discovered alarming things about my past and about my early sexual experiences that helped me to understand my behavior. I’m still learning how to forgive myself.

I try to take responsibility for what I’ve done without blaming myself. I’m not very good at that. The reasons for my cheating: my fractured soul, my anger, and my ignorance, offer little solace when I consider the people I’ve hurt. But even now, when I am feeling badly, I make up lists of men who might still be willing to sleep with me. If there’s any sign of growth, it’s that I haven’t called any of them.

 

Read more on Why Good People Cheat on The Good Life.

Why Do Good People Cheat? is the result of a joint call with elephant journal love and relationships. Begin reading their series with  the hit first piece, How to Be a Cheater.)

Image credit: Cea./Flickr

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About Felicity Hodgman

Felicity Hodgman currently lives in Vermont with her husband and two rescue dogs. She spends her time with a tribe of writing friends who often rescue her from herself. Felicity's work is included in the Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks anthology and can also be found in Fifth Estate magazine. When she's not wrestling with words, Felicity enjoys hiking, skiing, yoga, and dance. Felicity's blog is located at www.risingsunhouse.blogspot.com.

Comments

  1. Good for you for figuring it out. And very well explained. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Bo. I’m definitely *still* figuring it out.

  3. “I don’t do ‘alone’….the second I think I will be single or abandoned, I begin hearing the echoes in my brain that I am fat, ugly, old and will be lonely forever….”

    Powerful stuff….I hope to read more of your writing here in the future….

  4. Thank you Leia…I appreciate your supportive comment.

  5. seventhsisterhood says:

    EDITOR’S NOTE: This comment is in violation of our published commenting policy and has been deleted.

    • Seventhsisterhood…I don’t know you personally, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if you understood the scrubing and scouring it takes to write something so personal so that others might learn or find their own salvation you might not have written such a harshly worded response.

      What more do you want of someone past “I made a serious mistake and I’m working hard to fix it?”

      Why write a response that to the author to de-moralize a situation she has already confronted?

      I hope you can show a bit of grace if you lack the knowledge of her situation, or understanding.

    • Seriously?

      The men she slept with had a choice too. They fucked up their own families.

    • Michael Rowe says:

      Good for the moderator.

  6. Seventh, Thank you for taking the time to read and reply. I don’t know about the men or their families, and I can’t take responsibility for that. If Ihadn’t been available, someone else would have been. I feel grief, regret and remorse daily for the things I have done and the hurtful choices I have made; but the only thing I can do now is go forward and do better.

  7. This was very powerful. If it’s any consolation, I think stepping forward to tell your story and walk away from the past takes TREMENDOUS growth.

    Please never stop believing in you; and please never apologize for what you’ve been through. Forgive yourself because that’s what matters most…

    Blessings!

  8. The Wet One says:

    Not to be harsh (well, yeah it’s kinda harsh, but being harsh isn’t my intent, pointing out flawed thinking is), but doesn’t this ” but because I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking this was what marriage looked like,” strike a rather ironic tone.

    I mean, no matter what marriage you’re in, you’re going to be 50% of it right? As such, you can’t, without more, avoid having you daughter think that at least 50 percent of mommy’s relationship with a husband is “what marriage looks like.” That said, I’m sure you know this now and have taken the appropriate steps to remedy the situation. Right?

  9. The Wet One says:

    Now that I’m finished reading the article (I couldn’t resist calling out the above comment before finishing), it sounds like you’re on your way. Good luck and Godspeed.

  10. The Wet One says:

    Also, just remember we’re all royally screwed up in some way shape or form. You’re not alone in that. Heck, read my past posts scattered about the GMP. I’m sure you’ll see that I’m messed up too (as are all of us here and elsewhere). We are all merely human and deserve as much slack as we need (barring criminality, but even then…) to get being a better human right. Christ didn’t die on the cross for nothing after all, though this is very often ignored when it is most pertinent.

  11. Wet,
    Thanks for commenting. I’ve read and re-read your comment and I’m not sure how to respond appropriately. Are you asking if I blamed my first husband? No…we simply weren’t healthy together, for many reasons. What I have tried to consistently model for my daughter is the drive to “get things right”–even when that includes painful self-reflection. I’ve always tried to own my own stuff, even when I couldn’t quite figure out *what* my own stuff was. I hope I’m answering your question clearly here…

  12. I have enjoyed reading all the comments (I didn’t get to read the one that was deleted). I take a little issue with Wet’s comment about ‘we’re all royally screwed up in some way shape or form.’ That would imply that perfection exists and somehow we missed it. We go through life making choices all day long. Some good, some not so good, but whatever the choices were, one was made. To grow is to recognize that we all make less than stellar choices at throughout our lives, but hopefully learn enough to not make them again. I don’t believe that makes us screwed up, it makes us human. Looking back and wishing to change something is not productive. What is productive is seeing it for what it was, saying ‘thank you for the lesson’ and moving on. Thanks for a fantastic article.

  13. Rose, thank you for taking the time to read & respond. I appreciate your thoughts! :-)

  14. Christine says:

    Sharp. Both the delivery and personal insight. Each of us could have a field day with our own foibles and misplaced motivations if we all had the courage to face them with open eyes. Yay for you. You’ve taken the scariest step.

  15. there is nothing wrong in that.you are living life on your terms

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  1. […] piece appeared under the title I Became an Escort, at content partner The Good Men Project as part of elephant love and relationships and GMP joint […]

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