The boy went permanent at his job today, which made me think of all the various jobs I’ve had over the years. My first real job was working in a bagel shop; but before that if I wanted anything, I usually resorted to bouts of shoplifting. The Daimaru store in the Palais des congrès was one of the first places in Paris to sell Hello Kitty and Sanrio products, and there was a time between the ages of 10 and 12 when I’d shoplift there at least once a week. The last time I tried my hand at shoplifting, I was 17 and trying to slip a Japanese-import Duran Duran CD into my shirt and got completely sideswiped by undercover agents at the Galeries Lafayette department store. I honestly don’t know how I talked my way out of that one, but since my once-honed shoplifting skills had apparently waned, I decided to give it up for good.
In my twenties I had a variety of jobs. I've been: a bartender, a restaurant manager, a prep cook, an oyster shucker on Thursday nights for the Holiday Inn in Ocala Florida, a phone sales rep for broadband internet, a barista, a sales clerk in the hosiery department at Neiman-Marcus in San Francisco. There was also that time I was a nanny for a rambunctious 5 year old whose mom ran a male modeling agency and whose Dad was a gay male model (there was apparently some kind of monetary arrangement made for that deal to come off). The job didn’t pay well, but I got to ogle a lot of hot bods when I would swing by the mom’s office. Not such a bad trade-off for a 20 year old girl. Once I hit my thirties, things calmed down (as they should), and i've been a project manager (the day job) for over a decade as well as co-owner of a small catering company.
Back in 1999 when I was a sales rep for the broadband dealio, I met a girl at work whom I eventually moved in with for a while before the boy and I moved to Baltimore. When I first met A, she was a militant lesbian; hair buzzed short, camo shorts, and wifebeater was her usual outfit. The only reason she let me move in with her is because a mutual friend told her that I was a “sure thing” (never mind that I’ve never had lesbian tendencies and was in a committed relationship with the boy at the time). She was a crappy roommate in that she ate all my food, would use all my toiletries, and once used my toothbrush because she couldn’t find hers. She even gave my direct work number to a random stranger who called the house trying to sell me something. When I moved to Baltimore, we stayed in touch mainly because she decided to try living in New York for a while and needed a place to crash when she was driving to and from Atlanta. I put up with her (well, I did bawl her out over the toothbrush thing), but looking back, i’m not sure why I ever put up with that crap. She would only get in touch when she wanted something (such as a place to crash), and was an all around bad friend.
She changed her mind about a lot of things. Soon after she moved to New York, she was telling me a story about the person she was currently dating, the brother of a famous actor, and I had to interrupt her.
“Wait, you’re dating a guy now?,” I said.
“I don’t know why you seem so surprised,” she said, aggravated that I cut into her story. “Yeah, I’m dating a guy now. I wasn’t a very good lesbian anyway”.
“What do you mean? Did you just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey I’m no longer a lesbian and I want to date guys’?”
“Well, sort of. I never really had sex with women. The idea of going down on a woman grosses me out, so I’ve never done it”.
“Wait. You mean to tell me that for YEARS when you were a militant lesbian and only hung out with other lesbians and had no male friends on purpose and always dated these really hot women, that you actually never had sex with any of them?”
“Yeah I guess. I mean, I’d let them do things to me, but I never did much of anything with them other than maybe play with their boobs”.
“Wow. Just… wow”.
And that was A in a nutshell. All taker and no giver.
On one of her Baltimore visits, she rummaged around in her messenger bag and fished out a brand spankin’ new MacBook Pro, a new iPod, and a shiny new cell phone. Since I knew she had been unsuccessful in finding freelance writing jobs (her latest of many endeavors), I was curious where all this new stuff had come from.
“What’s all this? You have a sugar daddy now?”, I joked.
“Welllll….”, she hesitated. “Not exactly”. She was quiet for a moment then said, “Promise me you won’t tell the boy, will you? This is kind of weird”.
“What’s weird? And I’m not promising until I hear what this is about”.
“Well, I’ve been doing odd jobs on Craigslist. And they’re paying really well”.
“What kind of odd jobs?", I asked. I was starting to get a sense of where this was going.
“Well... I scour the Craigslist ads for guys with foot fetishes and they pay me money to stare at my feet”.
“Are you completely deranged? What the hell is the matter with you? Total strangers? One of them could be a rapist! You could go missing!”.
“No way!”, she laughed. “There is no way. They’re all really nice guys. Plus I do a bit of screening ahead of time. I only communicate with them via email and they have to be emailing me from their work email address, so that I know they’re legit”.
“This is really stupid. That’s not a safe way to screen someone. They could be making up the name of a company for all you know. So what do you do, just show up and let them stare at your feet for a while?”
“Not exactly… sometimes they do a little more. Like I have this one repeat customer. The last time I was over there, he made me kick him for a half hour, then got up and made me a steak dinner. And I got 400 bucks for it!”
“You mean to tell me some fool in Brooklyn made you a steak and paid you 400 dollars to have you kick him”.
“I know! It’s so great. I’m making so much money”.
I put my head in my hands and groaned. “Do they all make you kick them and then make you dinner as a nice big fat Thank You?”, I asked.
“Well, no. Some guys just want to ogle my feet. Some want me to do other stuff. You know”.
“No. I don’t know”.
“Well, one guy has me press my foot into his groin. Another jacks off while staring at my feet. I know you think this is totally weird, but it really isn’t. I swear. And they’re all really nice guys. Like the white collar bunch”.
“Didn’t you read American Psycho? He was a nice white collar dude too, you know”.
“No, no,” she said. “You’re taking this all wrong. It’s really not as bad as you think it is”.
“So you’re whoring out your feet. You’re basically a prostitute”.
She seemed shocked at this. “What? I am not”.
“Oh yes you are.”
“I am not. It is not the same thing. You think it’s the same thing?”.
“Uh yeah. So if you don’t think it’s the same thing, maybe you should tell your mom and see what she says.”
“No way! Wait… you think she’d understand? OH! So I was thinking of getting professionally done pictures of my feet, but I have to go get a really nice pedicure first. That way I have a calling card for potential clients”.
I sighed. “This conversation is going nowhere”.
When thinking back on her (I haven’t seen her in years, our friendship eventually fractured), I wonder what it was about the fetish job that she decided was a legitimate way of life. Was it only about the money? Money is a huge motivator; but she had convinced herself that this was a totally appropriate way of making a living. Perhaps she enjoyed that aspect of power play; being paid for a service that is in part demeaning to either the giver or receiver of goods – or both. I guess I’ll never know.
Honestly though, I don’t think I actually want to know.