Insanely Sane Conversation With Mom

So, I’ve been navigating through the world of helping my mother really come to terms with my work. A post over at Debauchette has led me to reconsider the importance of having a sincere heart to heart with my mother, on the phone, from 2,000 miles away.

My relationship with my mom is incredibly ordinary I suspect, based on stories shared with women my age about their mothers who are my mother’s age. The bottom-line is: our generation enjoys an extreme degree of sexual privilege over women of our mother’s generation. For that generation, dealing with a super-intelligent and highly accomplished daughter who peddles sex and debauchery for pay is very complicated and very personal.

It may come as a surprise to some, but many of my colleagues are out with their parents about their sex work. My friends have had varying degrees of success. One of my favorite stories from a friend who came out to her mother as a professional Domina goes like this: “Mom, I want you to know that I am working as a Dominatrix. You’re welcome to ask me questions about it, but I’m going to answer honestly, so don’t ask if you don’t really want to know.”

Smart. Sensible. Simple. Conscious of how this is going to have both an emotional and social impact on our family and that they need to be able to set their own boundaries. And TRUST. Honesty is a luxury that family relationships so often deprive us of.

We want to ‘protect’ our mothers/fathers/siblings/partners’ families/etc from the painful reality that they’re related to a <em>whore</em>. Not because we are ashamed of what we do, but because it is complex and difficult and we owe the people that we love some patience and support, even when that means we have to face some criticism and doubt. We’re also giving our families an opportunity to demonstrate how sincerely they love us, trust us and want us to be safe and happy.

So we’ve brushed up against this a few times. My parents have seen my television interviews (I’m not sure how many or which ones.) i have the slight advantage of a family that is not very tech-savvy. I’m not concerned that my folks are out googling every incarnation of my name that they can dream up. However, I suspect that my friends families and my partners’ friends and families do. (Dealing with family of a partner warrants its own entire post, coming soon!)

So my mom has called me early in the morning and said “Was that you on that program about prostitution?” I lied. Yes, I know this will actually be a surprise to those who know me. But the first time that I was put on the spot by my mother, I lied. I lied for no good reason. I was afraid. It was also a point in my life where I had been abused by the media in so many ways, I was having my own shame and guilt about it. It’s bad enough that you risk your personal safety and professional livelihood when trying to speak about the ‘other side’ of sex work that the MSM always ignores. On top of that, other sex workers will ridicule and criticize you, especially those who don’t have the huevos to speak out themselves.

So when Mom asked about one particular piece that I did, I froze. I was scared. Not because she’s the sort to lash out and say mean things to me, she really wouldn’t. I’m not sure why i froze up, or even worse, why I lied to her. But i knew that she knew I was lying. Thus, we entered into a mutual state of denial together. That was two years ago. Since then I have tried to talk to her about this on a few occasions. Telling her about specific instances that I thought would make it simple for her. She knew that I had been an exotic dancer, so this really wasn’t such a big leap for her. But the denial was strong. Without actually spelling out ‘I fuck for money’ she just wasn’t hearing me. So I let her sit with it for a while.

A couple months ago my cousin called. My cousin is the first family member I came out to, In fact, she attended a media appearance with me a few years ago, behind the scenes. When the program manager was asking me questions in preparation for the segment and asked “Does your family know?” My cousin cut in and said “Her family is here supporting her.” Yeah, I’m a lucky girl, in many ways. So my cousin called and said, “I just talked to your mom. She said she thinks you’re a prostitute. I told her that whatever you’re doing is not nearly as bad as she perceives it to be. You need to talk to her.”

So I’ve been putting it off. Mostly because I haven’t had the time and resources to fly home and do it in person. And because I’m dealing with lots of other stuff. Which would explain the text I got from my former partner last night: “Ur mom is trying to get a hold of u. U didn’t tell her we broke up?”

Shit. I knew there was something I had forgotten to tell my mom. She’s going to be so disappointed, she was all excited that my partner was male, and white and you know, acceptable. Which wasn’t why I liked him, he’s fantastic in all kinds of ways, he just happened to also be born white and with a penis.

So anyway, I had to call my mom today, and I was newly motivated after reading Debauchette’s post. I think sex worker activism and the real change that it brings happens on a personal lever. The work that Debauchette did on 20/20, my work on other programs, the handful of other brave sw’s who have taken on the media while still in the biz, we are some brave people who deserve support from our community, even when we fuck up. But the positive changes that came from these appearances are not necessarily the ‘public image’ that we present, because frankly, we won’t be seen any different as interview subjects, we’re just fodder for sweeps week.

But the personal conversations that we as individuals end up having as a result of these shows, and maybe the boost in confidence and pride that seeing us on the screen gives to other sex workers that leads to them having meaningful personal conversations, I think that is where we make the most impact.

So I called my cousin first. “Okay, so we all agree that my mom is totally in denial right?” She said yes, and that I should just let it stay that way until my mom is ready to ask questions. And my cousin was sure that my mom knew about the break up, and the call to my ex was a sly mom way of getting more info from a different source. Right on mom, you’ve always been sly like that!

So next I call my mom. Yes, everything is fine, the new place is great, I’m stable and happy. So many great things happening in life that I just haven’t had time to call and check in. Yeah, I’m still a little sad about the break up and had the first pangs of missing him this week. But really, it was a peaceful split, it’s best for us both, we’ll have no problem staying friends. And then she asks: “Are you working?”

“Of course I am.”

“Well, what are you doing?”

“Same stuff.”

“And that is?”

“I’m an escort and Dominatrix.”

“Oh that weird stuff…”

“It’s not that weird, it’s actually pretty common.”

“Okay, well be careful.”

And then onto discussing how beautiful my cousin will look at her wedding, all the plans, bridal showers, etc that I will be missing. And a sincere “I love you” from both of us at the end.

It was easier than I’d imagined, but she had a couple years of priming and I’m fortunate to have my cousin on my team. I’m relieved, things are fine with Mom and therefor will be fine with everybody else in the family. I’m not dreading family weddings anymore. Not that it’s appropriate for me to announce during a wedding reception what I do, but at least my mom will be able to say what she wants to close family members and I can follow her lead, and to everybody else, I’m still just a student. 😉

So I’m going to encourage my mom to start reading BnG. When I visited her a few months ago I was at this site a lot. I guess when I’m not working (I never do in my home town) this is a site where I can come to be close to my people. She told my cousin, in the same phone call when she expressed her suspicions that I’m a ‘prostitute’- “She was on some website the whole weekend about gags and bondage, she’s into some strange stuff.” It will be funny to send her some specific posts and see what she thinks.

Thanks mom, I love you!!!