Sex addiction and cheating are signs of deeper issues for Felicity Hodgman.
I am terrified of my supervisor, and I also want him with an urgent desperation. Before I began working for him, back when I was still in Reception, I was warned: “He’s been accused … ” the other girls said, and ended their remarks with meaningful, hard looks.
He is focused and brilliant. I scurry after him, trying to keep up. Trying not to disappoint. I want so badly to do well. He doesn’t seem to have any interest in me, until the day I stand in front of his desk and hook my thumbs into the string of my thong panties and wriggle them at him.
He leans back in his chair, arms out, hands clasped behind his head.
“Who put you up to this?” he says.
“What? That’s not nice. I can think for myself,” I say. He is twenty years my senior. I just want to absorb the radiance of his genius. Through my vagina.
Next week, he has to get his company vehicle fixed and can I pick him up at the mechanics’?
I meet him there and drive him down a dead-end street and he asks what I want from him.
“I don’t know. Does it have to be defined? I’m attracted to you.”
This was my solution to being ill equipped for a life that always felt like it belonged to someone else. I always fell back on the one thing I was sure of: my ability to fuck. I drove back and forth to the office every day, trapped in a crippled elliptical thought loop. Something was wrong. Something was always wrong: dirty home, crabby husband, unhappy children. I couldn’t figure out a way to get all the pieces to fit. Everyone’s needs were different and I was failing to meet any of them. The best solution I could come up with was to just stop talking. Please, God, let me be mute. Later this prayer would become more grim: Please God, a car accident. Let me go. I can’t do this anymore. When my suicidal thoughts shifted from I don’t want to do this to my kids, to I don’t want my kids to be the ones to find me, I knew I needed help. But first there was a terrible wreckage to cause.
After my boss, there were others: lovers, men I hoped would rescue me. Men I believed I could love permanently, who would love me back forever. The enormity of that mistake, plus many bottle of anejo, cast me into an episode of depression that I failed to recognize, even though I could only sleep in my truck, parked at the beach, all day, day after day. From that failure I downshifted towards a more significant destruction.
For several years before my straight office job, back when I was independent, a single mother of one, a college student, a barmaid, unaware of my strengths and successes, I spent time with a therapist. She was short and had long hair and wore macramé wedge-heeled shoes. We had the same conversation week after week and every week I would say, “Why am I coming here?” It was the same broken thought loop I would encounter later, only this time out loud, with another participant: I want to leave David. I can’t leave David.
One day the therapist asked me why I couldn’t leave.
“Because I don’t deserve to be happy.”
Blurred images of my naked father and my sister smeared across my brain. I got the hell out of that office and never went back.
Eventually, I quit the nice, straight, office job. Somewhere in that thought loop, which perhaps had become an unlit tunnel, it made sense to leave my day job, with benefits, so that I could work as a part-time, indie escort. Sex work seemed to make sense. I was available to my children and I might be able to afford an apartment on my own. I made a lot of money for minimal effort, and I enjoyed it. I glossed over the obvious risks and discounted any possible long-range fallout.
I had a reliable set of regulars, Most were married, white-collar professionals and they were sweet, gentle men. For a single man, it made more sense to spend money on me and be assured that they would get laid. For a married man, it was easier to pay me to satisfy them than to risk the complications of a full-blown extra-marital affair. Although I excelled at separating my brain from my body, I did spend some time thinking about my clients. I tried to puzzle out why a man might stay married to a woman who wasn’t willing to satisfy him sexually. I hit my head against that wall again and again. I would finally just shrug my shoulders and remind myself that I had no business trying to figure them out when I knew my own life was a monumental train wreck.
Willy was one of my regulars and because I was sloppy and tired and lonely, we became friends. What caught me entirely off guard was that this man seemed to actually give a shit about my life. I didn’t understand this. But I spoke freely to this client, my friend.
“I want to leave my husband … he shouts at the kids and he’s always angry and tired. I want to go back to college. Actually no, all I really want is to make jewelry and sell it from booths at craft fairs.”
“How did I get so lucky?” He would say.
I would laugh and roll my eyes. “You’re delusional.”
But even I liked the person Willy liked. The woman he knows seems to be smart, beautiful, and charming.
“Why don’t you just leave him?” Willy’s remark was offhand. I was standing in front of an empty bureau, facing a mirror, pushing my earring through my earlobe.
Why don’t I just leave him? The excuses tumbled around in my head like a pair of dice. I don’t have enough money. I certainly don’t have enough money to survive in New York… I don’t quite trust my income … If I move far away from my husband, to a less-expensive area, how will our son see his father? If I move far away from my husband, I’ll be the bad guy.
I’ll be the bad guy? Who am I kidding? I already am the bad guy. I don’t deserve to be happy.
Willy was flipping through news channels on the television. Maybe he didn’t think his question required an answer.
I don’t deserve to be happy? I’m transported back to the macramé-heeled therapists’ office.
“I don’t know … Am I seeing you on Monday?”
Why Do Good People Cheat? is the result of a joint call with elephant journal love and relationships.
Image credit: CarbonNYC/Flickr