BY ANASTASIA THOMAS
For a few solid years in between graduating college on the East Coast and navigating my new life on the West, I lived the most responsibly debaucherous you could imagine. Even though I was working full time, I could barely pay rent, buy groceries, and would play a game of how low can I let my gas tank get before I reach my destination? Most of the little cash I had left over after bills was spent (much like my broke colleagues) went to: booze, eating out, cigs. I became a master at figuring out ways to get quick cash. So, when a coworker told me about a close friend of his that ran an escort service, I was intrigued.
In the summer of 2011, I moved out of the city I grew up in, and made my romantic quest out West. To CALI-FOR-NI-YAE. My intention was set--move to Cali and get right. I was heavily involved in the music and underground party scene since 17; I would go out almost every single night, and self-medicate my anxiety with a heavy dosage of PBR. Red-eyed and bushy-tailed, I sold everything I owned, quit my job, and bought a one way ticket.
Within 48 hours, I managed to get a job on the spot, a new bike, and a massive 3 hour sleep delay. As much vitamin D as I was getting, I still, unfortunately, kept up the same lifestyle. The main hurdle was managing the booze and the boys. I loved the sweet, fiery nectar of Jameson...I also loved the adventure of going out and catching a guy named Jameson. Still, I maintained a full time job that required a massive amount of responsibility, the need to always be present. One of my coworkers, M, always had a slew of odd and flamboyant friends with very "alternative" lives. Because of this, I could always expect a crazy entertaining story when we would grab a drink after work. Then, after a grueling day, we grabbed our usual cocktail at the bar around the corner when he told me,
"So I have this friend."
Which translates to, "I got crazy shit to tell you."
"I think I might have told you about her already. She's a madame and I want you to meet her," he said, peering from the top of his glass.
Immediately, I laughed.
"Why on Earth do I need to meet this madame?"
"Well..." He began, adjusting his already perfectly placed shirt.
"She's a good friend of mine, and I think she would like you. She runs an escort service, not a brothel."
Recently, I had been particularly vocal about my financial short comings, and was subjected to living less than pay check to pay check and Michael knew all about it.
"Really, you both are very similar and you should see what she gets her girls. They don't have sex with the men. You just go out to dinners and parties. One guy just bought a girl a $50,000 Beemer.”
Still laughing, I took another swig of my drink and looked into it as if it were a Magic 8 Ball. Michael had sparked my interest, and to be completely honest, I have always been attracted to industries where a woman could simply use her looks to get what she wanted.
When I was younger, I immersed myself in women's studies on my own accord. At 17, I became obsessed with the discussion of feminism, where I fell into this social forum. I books about the scientific differences of men vs. women, and fully involved myself in researching where we had transitioned from 2nd to 3rd wave. Eventually, I came across a non-fiction piece written by a writer who had dedicated most of her twenties to experimenting and working in strip clubs. In it, she experiences everything from a topless bar to a peep show, learning not only about her limitations, but how each woman perceives what they do and why they do it.
As such, I formed two opinions during my young and feverish studies in regards to the big question, "Why?" It seemed to me that this had been divided into two camps. One: Those that stood empowered, looking at the industry from a hustler's perspective and consciously paving out their course and participation. On the flip side, there was the unfortunate, and very serious story, of those who were left with no other option. Again, two broad parts to a much more complex and controversial conversation. Regardless, I genuinely understood both situations. And as much as I wanted to claim that my weird little interest in stripping was due to a sense of empowerment, it was really about the simple joy of performance and dance that resulted in a huge pay off.
Months went by, and every now and again, I would ask him how his friend was doing; he would say, "She's doing well," with a smirk and suggestive eyes. The thought would pop into my head every time I received sub par checks, or when I had to choose between rent and food. Attending a dinner, schmoozing, and getting paid didn't seem cringe worthy at all. Still, I didn't and still, I remained painfully broke. Booze became my nighttime buddy, and together we made pretty amateur mistakes together. One of our favorites was coming home after a night out and getting LOST in the darkest depths of the internet. Nights often ended with a half empty bottle of wine or whiskey, a bowl, and something I found on Pornhub.
One night in particular, I found myself brazen and curious. Yeah, I could do this. I could be an escort. I would be doing exactly what I do already, which is attending social events and partaking in too much conversation. Except this time, I would replace friends with an unknown older gentleman. It really didn't seem so hard.
Shit, if I was going to do this anywhere, LA was the place. I searched the world wide web for a Sugar Daddy site I read about in an article. Didn't seem too bad. It was, of course, what I expected it to look like. Stock photos of mature suitors with salt and pepper hair, sat dressed in a button up and tie that fit perfectly around their square and gorgeous jaw lines--all while young girls sat across from them, presumably in their 20's, threw flirty eyes with pin straight hair and strategically placed makeup. It got the point across, yet seemed discreet, legit, and professional. And so, I proceeded onward...With each new morsel of information I gained, the deeper the gulps of wine I took. Until eventually, I was good and sloshed panning through the confessions of the websites users.
"As a full time law student it's difficult for me to maintain a social life, a job for rent, AND attend school. Since joining I have had so much fun and have met great guys that are willing to provide and believe in my future and dreams." -- Allie
"I never really went out much or had gone to many social events. That is until I signed up and became a member. Now, I go out more than ever! And with some of the best company..." -- Bill
Ahhh, it made sense now. I was hooked, lined, and sunk in their misguided sales pitch. Nothing too strange here. The girls were merely young professionals that needed a little financial assistance from someone who really believed in them. Just like me! The men, their investors.
Hook, line, and sinker.
I'm definitely not going to sign up if I have to pay, I told myself. But just like Vegas, the ladies got in for free. So, I applied, and did so in the absolute dumbest way possible, I told the truth. I told the truth about everything. Firstly, you must know something about me. I don't do online dating, even for real, and especially not for sugar daddies. Years later, I would learn that I excel in the art of Tinder conversations, yet still avoided sites like OKC. I have no clue where the logic stands. I'm sure there is none. Regardless, this was very pre-Tinder and my only other experiences with online dating was through the sketchiest platform one could use. (Rhymes with Bregs Lisp and it was a dark phase...)
So when it came time to post photos and write a general "About Me," I let it all hang out. The photos posted were in no way worthy of what a Sugar Daddy would expect in LA. I had very little selfies and no model-y full body shots like the desired gals listed. Instead, I put up a few photos of myself that showed my amateurish approach, and could also be easily linked to my Facebook account. When it came time to write a bit about myself for my potential matches, I went with what I thought the confessionals had shown.
"New to LA and currently working in fashion but have dreams to work full time in contemporary art. Most of my time is spent going to restaurants with friends and enjoying really strong whiskey."
Something to this effect and forever cringe-worthy.
As I laid there in my bed happily intoxicated and on this strange mission, I looked over what I had so far with my profile. Could I really do this? How exactly does this work? Would I be kidnapped and later killed?
You know, typical thoughts one would think in this situation.
After I sat there with my profile 3/4 of the way complete, I suddenly and quite abruptly hit a wall. I'm sure this was partially due to my body and eyes giving way to the wine induced coma but it was also in part because I couldn't continue on. I felt as if my job had been done. Like when you write a letter to someone who makes you upset, but never send it. This seemed to be some sort of means for me to vent. To have this as an option and know it's in my arsenal if I desired to use it, but never really would. I knew I wasn't going to go through with it, even though I still had a slight desire to, and I backed out. My curious nature seemed to lose this battle.
It's been a few years now and while I write this, a website designed to help married men date on a "safe" and "discreet" website, has been hacked and all of it's information was leaked. When I learned about the hack, I thought of my profile. It hadn't entered my mind since that night I passed out in bed with Two Buck Chuck. Admittedly, I did have a brief moment of panic wash over me. The thought of unanswered messages from The OC's finest and LA's best flooded my mind, quickly followed by a worse case situation of someone I know finding out about my profile and putting me on blast.
Eventually though, I calmed and reached what I like to call the "Fuck It" point. It took me a minute to accept the stupid decision I had made that night, as well as some of the possible risks. Still, I haven't gone back to delete it. Best to explain the many sides of stories like these and leave sleeping cats lie. Plus, my job pays well enough, for now.
Anastasia Thomas is a creature driven by curiosity and the pursuit of truth. Graduating in 2011 with a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, she explores the idea of tradition, ritual, sexuality, and the dichotomy of gender through writing and performance. Currently living in Los Angeles, her time is spent both working full time and assisting two galleries in production and events while reintroducing herself to a studio practice. Whatever down time she finds is spent cooking, listening to podcasts, working off her excessive energy, and immersing herself in local culture.