“Is this all there is ever going to be?”
That was the thought that ran through my head as I sat in the back of the police car – in handcuffs – on the ride to county jail for my third violation of probation for Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution. I knew this would be an extended visit. I had really pissed them off this time and I had a feeling there would be no “oversights” or “mishandling of paperwork” that had gained me a relatively quick release the first two times. The bottom dropping out of my life this time had come at a really bad time. I had given up “the life” but still had a lot of skeletons in the closet. I had moved away from the “scene of my crimes”, gotten a great job, had just received a coveted supervisory promotion with a Fortune 500 company that included a company car and an expense account. And even more importantly I was soon to be reunited with the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Everything was going great.
And then the bottom dropped out.
I was driving home after a week away on business the week before Thanksgiving of 2002 when I made an illegal turn and the lights came on behind me. And that was my curtain call. I was going to have to face up to the crimes I had committed, the broken promises I had made and the many many lies I had told to cover my now wholly exposed backside. I immediately started to calculate who I could call, who I could manipulate into getting me out of jail before the weekend was up. Surely there was someone – someone somewhere – that could make a few calls and get my no-bond status tossed aside and I would pinkie swear in front of a judge that I would fly back at the first opportunity.
You see, I had owned an escort service for several years back in San Antonio Texas in the late 80’s and, after being indicted by a grand jury and sentenced to probation – mail in probation no less – and I had violated the same ten year probation about 5 times – each time getting in less trouble than the last. In fact, the last time they had arrested me in Florida – they never even bothered to check with Texas as to whether they were interested in picking me up…Sort of a Southern non-courtesy. This time was different though. Texas made sure that they weren’t going to let go of me until they had a chance to come and get me. So I sat in the Seminole County Jail for 31 days waiting for a ride back to San Antonio. I waited almost a week before I called my parents, having missed Thanksgiving entirely, and it was by far the most difficult call I had ever had to make. My mother was in tears and even though I could hear my fathers’ strong voice on the other end, I knew that I had really cracked his armor. This was not news he was prepared for.
I didn’t grow up in an environment where prostitution was a part of dinner conversation. My parents were senior pastors in a large Pentecostal church and I was protected from anything secular – movies, music, even TV shows that weren’t “Prairie” or “Lassie” related. We didn’t watch Saturday morning cartoons and we played Scrabble and Yatzee on snow days. I was a typical preachers’ kid though. Always looking for a chance to break the rules and felt entitled to special treatment and attention from church members. Mostly I was likable but I had a streak of wild that didn’t go unnoticed. I was a quick learner and I manipulated anyone who would give me a chance. My parents did their best to reign me in but they really didn’t have any idea as to how to discipline me. And I don’t think they ever knew how far I would really go.
At the age of 15 I was (secretly) reading a popular women’s fashion magazine on a monthly basis and poured through the pages gleaning every bit of information I could get about the life and times of women in larger metropolitan areas. Beauty tips and fashionable clothing interested me as much as the articles, the book reviews and the editorial written by a powerful woman who insisted we women could “Have It All”.
Living in a patriarchal society, I was intrigued by the idea of equality with men even though I didn’t really know what that meant. I watched the evening news with my father sometimes and asked about the Equal Rights Amendment and wondered why all those women were burning their bras. As a teenager I was kind of proud that I wore a bra. I was discovering – or rather creating – my identity through the pages of a magazine published far away from the life I lived and I wanted to get there as quickly as possible.
I moved away from home…
A few years later, still treating this publication as the bible for the life I sought, I read an article about a woman who lived in New York and worked as an escort. She recounted the interesting and powerful men she met and entertained, the expensive and exclusive restaurants and VIP access to nightclubs and Broadway shows. She was showered with expensive gifts and had plenty of money to spend on anything she wanted. She had an expensive car that she rarely drove unless it was to provide a beautiful date for a rich man during a summer party at Martha’s Vineyard or a weekend in the Hamptons. Sure – she had sex with these guys but she was providing a valuable service and was well compensated for her time. In fact, she stated specifically that it was her time that the gentlemen paid for – never the sex. She had worked for an escort service before and had gone solo after the famous Mayflower Madam had to close her doors. She claimed to be so satisfied with her life that she couldn’t imagine living any other way. Of course, her identity was never revealed to “protect her clientele” and downplay her illegal activity, but this only increased my interest and I started to discuss the article with friends. I furthered my research by reading the story of the Mayflower Madam and decided that a service of this type was needed in the San Antonio community.
I was in and out of several long term and short relationships for most of my life up to this point and had been pretty battered emotionally and psychologically from each and every one. I seemed to have a preference for men that were either emotionally unavailable for one reason or another and they had tossed around my heart and mind like a racket – hit hard against a wall only for me to return for more of the same. They had little use for me other than a trophy to parade around their friends or a distraction from the committed relationship they were already in. I became colder and more distant to friends and family and eventually ceased to have any emotional availability of my own. Suddenly it just made sense to open an escort service in San Antonio.
It got large pretty quickly and it was almost like a good bad girls club. We would meet at the mall and late night dinners, each girl coming and going as the calls rolled in. It never occurred to me that I might light up the night and get the attention of the local vice squad. We had a good time and made a lot of money before the arrests started piling up. I moved to Florida and opened a similar – much less successful – operation, but San Antonio was not satisfied that I was out of the state. I was indicted by a grand jury and returned voluntarily to be arrested, bond out and await trial in Florida. The case sat on the top of a file cabinet for nearly two years before I was arrested for the same thing in Florida. San Antonio blew the dust off the old case and I returned and pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years of write in probation. I left the same day and never reported again.
And that is how I came to sit in the back of that police car the week before Thanksgiving. I decided that very moment that – should I make it through this and not get sent to prison for the remainder of my probation that I would change my life and stop evading, avoiding and deceiving the people who I came to care about. Of course I was fired from my great job and it took more than three months and an expensive attorney that my father footed the bill for, before I was back home to stay. And I never looked back.
I showed up for every appointment, passed every drug test and actively sought to improve myself. And I had great support from the man I loved and from my family. It took more than 5 years for me to recover emotionally and now I want to teach other women the way out without them having to go through the same thing I did.
I got married in 2004 and my husband and I own a small business in Orlando. We work hard but the rewards are far beyond measure. I no longer live in shame, haunted by regrets and recrimination. We don’t have children but we have two golden retrievers that are the light of our lives.
I have reconnected with my wonderful family and we have all been able to share our stories and I have been able to be a hand up to them in their times of need instead of a disappointment and an emotional drain.
I am living proof that anyone can change their life. It takes work, dedication and the support of people who know what to say when you need it the most. And I know most of all that all during my search for that life described in a silly magazine, my God was watching over me and protecting me – never losing faith that I would find my way back under his care. Like my father, he hurt when I hurt and he felt the same pain I felt and he let me learn my lessons and never stopped loving me.