“Which character would you most like to meet?”.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about the character I would like to meet. It would be Sugar from the über-talented Michel Faber‘s novel “The Crimson Petal and the White“. Those of you who have been reading my writing for a while should know that I am a cynical, jaded miserabilist who’s impressed and excited by very little. Oh, but this book! It’s 894 pages long, and yet I finished it in two days.
If you only ever read one book again before dying, then it has to be this one!
I’ve also read “Under the Skin” by the same author , and I’m constantly amazed by his ability to write from the point of view of a woman and by the fact that he actually does it well. He understands women so well that I would easily have imagined both of these works to be written by a woman if I hadn’t already seen a man’s name on the front cover.
Why would I so much like to meet Sugar? Well, she’s a self-educated, feisty nineteenth century London prostitute. Those of you who know about me and my past will surely understand why this alone would appeal to me.
The following passage isn’t about Sugar, and the thoughts aren’t hers; this is actually Carolyn, another London prostitute’s point of view:
“Responsibilities, responsibilities. To get enough sleep, to remember to comb her hair, to wash after every man: these are the sorts of things she must make sure she doesn’t neglect these days. Compared to the burdens she once shared with her fellow factory slaves, they aren’t too bad. As for the work, well…it’s not as dirty as the factory, nor as dangerous, nor as dull. At the cost of her immortal soul, she has earned the right to lie in on a weekday morning and get up when she damn well chooses”.
As a former sex worker myself, I can relate to the above passage wholeheartedly. Now that I am no longer an erotic masseuse, I guess that I’m now earning my living “honestly”. People would consider it a “good decision”; that I’m doing the “right thing”. The only benefit I can see to having a regular job is that I’m guaranteed a regular income – that was something I could never be sure of with sex work, especially after the economy went pear-shaped. Apart from that, though, what’s good about it? I earn less money; I’m doing a dead-end job in which I’m not really appreciated; I have less time for myself; I barely make ends meet. And, oh, don’t forget that I’m a contractor, so I’m not entitled to any benefits (that means health insurance, my European friends) or any sick or holiday pay. I could be fired at any point, and once my contract is up next February, I will have to find a new job because the company can’t legally hire a contractor for more than a year – although they can wait six months, and then hire me back for another year of benefit-less joy!
If you’ve got the stomach for it, then, hell, sex work really ain’t that bad in comparison to that. Quite frankly, I miss it.