I Don’t Deserve to Be Happy

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.

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.

“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’?

Yes.

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.”

“Why not?”

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.

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

Image credit: CarbonNYC/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. You have extraordinary courage to put into print those things that expose. I wonder how many of us would have the courage to do the same. I would venture to say not many (me included). Thank you for writing from where you write.

  2. Interesting experiment: Flip the genders in that initial anecdote and the author would become guilty of harassment, unprofessional conduct, and up on charges with HR. “He” would be declared guilty of sexual assault, and TGMP would be decried for publishing more apologetics for sexual abusers. Sympathy for the protagonist would be zero.

    We live in an interesting society.

    • I don't know says:

      Perhaps the problem is not that males are brought up on charges is such cases, but that females aren’t.

      • Copyleft & I Dont Know–The incident with my supervisor is used to illustrate how broken I was–a college educated woman, with a decent job, yet still the only way I knew to relate to someone I admired was sexually.

        • Not broken. No you were not broken. There is nothing wrong with having sexual friends nor in seducing. What is problematical is the hope or expectation that there would be a sea change.

          • Rio, don’t you think that “Felicity” is intelligent enough to know herself and why she was doing certain actions better then you know her or why she was doing them?

            Yes, there is nothing wrong with having sex. But when you are only able to relate to others sexually, yes, that is a problem.

  3. I can’t help note the irony that this author doesn’t believe she deserves happiness, while publishing under the name “Felicity,” which means happiness.

    Anyway. That’s a linguistic observation – don’t need to read anything into it. I found this piece interesting and hope the author finds it in herself to resolve her problems.

    • KKZ–I changed my name to “Felicity” 20 years ago when I began my healing journey, and also as a way to distance myself from my family of origin. :-) Thanks for reading & commenting.

  4. “Men I hoped would rescue me…”

    This is very powerful writing….thank you for being so brave…

  5. I hope that this important conversation doesn’t turn into a tortured dialogue about double standards of sexuality and the difference between apologetic position and a gut wrenching level of candor. Because this piece transcends gender and sexual ethic arguments and cuts to the chase. It opens the door to talk about how many of us consider sex a fall-back strategy to cope with feelings of inadequacy and incompletence. If we feel we are losing control over a situation we throw sex into the mix to try and regain our footing.

    Thank you Felicity for your honesty and courage.

    • Amen. Thank you, Felicity, for sharing your stories.

    • FlyingKal says:

      @Jeff C:
      ” It opens the door to talk about how many of us consider sex a fall-back strategy to cope with feelings of inadequacy and incompletence.”

      Then what about when you discover that your inadequacy and incompetence (yes I changed that on purpose) includs our inability to attract and therefore have sex with other people? How deep into the well of “I don’t deserve to be happy” do you then sink?

    • @JeffC…

      Well, you might be right. But, few men can just “throw sex into the mix” without using call girls/prostitutes. That is a privilege that only women have Jeff.

      Only conventionally attractive men can wake up and decide they want to become sex addicts. Otherwise, the reason many men might have feeling of inadequacy or incompetence is because they cannot get sex. More than likely these men will turn to drugs, alcohol,…..not sex.

      Just saying.

  6. …dirty home, crabby husband, unhappy children…what to do? Fix It. I am of the very strong opinion that most of your married clients also had made up excuses in their minds-house too noisy, children too demanding, wife not satisfying my sexual needs….and so, they carried their excuses to you and you fed them with yours too.

    But what’s the solution? Fix It. Clean up your home, work at your relationship with your husband, make your children happy, after all kids are born with a happy-switch-on-button which takes fuel as little as a piece of candy. Work It!. I’m so fed up with people giving excuses for their screwed up lives. Those men’s wives are at home struggling to make their homes happy and their marriages worthwhile, and here you are supporting the wretched men’s excuses with your own. It’s Not Fair. I speak as a married woman who’s been cheated on. It hurts from this other end of the spectrum I assure you. We can’t afford to make any more excuses, and certainly not in this day and age of HIV, AIDS and other deadly diseases. So Work It people, Fix It where it broke!

    • @Joy…

      “Those men’s wives are at home struggling to make their homes happy and their marriages worthwhile, and here you are supporting the wretched men’s excuses with your own.”

      And how do you know this?

      Those men wives could be at home miserable and unhappy. People assume too much about what is really transpiring within a marriage. Nearly 75% of all divorces are filed by the wife. So, maybe the wives are at home plotting their exit strategies.

      I have sympathy for you being cheated on and feeling the hurt afterwards. But, as someone who endured a sexless marriage for over a decade and did NOT cheat, I do understand the men who are suffering in these sexless marriages too.

      Something just seem to go terribly wrong with sex in marriages. The women just seem to lose sexual interest in their husbands. Yet, the wives just expect their husbands to just endure it. Most do. But, it is torment and hell.

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