Seeking Derangements is a monthly column by 20-something Arielle Edie, who shares dating confessions as a sex worker in NYC.
It’s June 7th, and as hints of the ever-looming apocalypse creep in, a different version of myself takes control of my budget. The sky starts to smell like s'mores, so I re-download Depop. By the time the first yellow cloud has rolled in, I’m shoplifting a journal and pens from the Williamsburg CVS. By 2pm, the full clouds are out and about, and I’m scrolling through Zillow while trying to de-thaw the credit card I said I’d never touch again with a hair dryer so I can buy the $400 silver manc bag that matches the $300 manicure I’ve booked myself that I will probably sleep through because I just downed 40mg of Adderall and it’s 5pm. ($300 cancellation fee too of course).
“How are you going to afford a $400 purse, babe?” asks my on-again, off-again boyfriend Jason. His questions are never really questions so much as nervous accusations.
The sky is falling, and I am ovulating. This is not a time for hesitations, no’s, or what about–shut up!! This is the time for YES. We need to milk as much dopamine out of these final moments before the air runs out. We need to fuck, we need to make, and we need to do it right now. RIGHT NOW.
$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $
“$18,” the pharmacist says.
I shoot him an eyebrow squish. I’ve never spent less than $50 on a Plan B. Is this gonna make my uterus fall out?
The pharmacist is familiar with this look, apparently. “It’s the same ingredient, just off-brand.”
As I dry swallow my suspiciously cost-effective freedom vitamin, I feel the high of the end times wear off and the boring, sobering present sink in. I cannot afford myself anymore.
I’ve been without sugar daddy money for a couple months now. I’m living off unemployment and the table occasional freelance gig. I’ve gone from making about 7–10k a month to making 2,000 and change. My boyfriend is happy, my dad is relieved, my mom still won’t talk to me like a normal person, and everyone thinks I’ll be able to make just as much living a 100 percent vanilla life, but still I feel so… Declawed.
Giving up pretty-woman money is not the feminist act some people like to claim it is. Though talking to men has never been a job I particularly loved, I’ve also never particularly loved any other job I’ve ever done either. Putting 20 hours of work into an edit that pays me a thousand dollars feels equally, if not more, degrading than a two-minute blow job or sex that lasts literally three pumps. BUT, on the flip side, of all the women I’ve met who did this job in their 30s, none of them were living lives I know I’d feel comfortable in. It’s a luxurious life, but it’s also a lonely one, even if you do “retire” into marriage. So I need to get used to civilian life now while I’m still young enough to adapt.
During a debrief with another fellow hottie actively dodging the cult of kept-womanhood in favor of an honest writing career, we discuss the humbling humiliation that comes with rejecting men’s money and trying to “get it yourself.”
“I feel like such a struggle-love, pick-me bitch for saying this, but for me, it’s not even worth it to put up with someone you either aren’t actually in love with or who is actively cheating on you most of the relationship, which is unfortunately the case for most women I know who marry into this lifestyle. And I feel like such a loser for saying that sometimes, but that’s where my heart’s at,” I tell her.
“I feel like all my friends aspire to do is bag a rich guy. Like they don’t think they can get it themselves.”
Can they get it themselves? I tell her yes because she’s younger than me and I want her to keep the faith. Just because I can’t doesn’t mean she can’t. But more than likely, barring any miracles, I can’t. I’m never going to be able to afford the lifestyle I once could or the one I thought I’d have.
My parents are broke, and I’m shit at math and science. So, unless I marry a rich guy, New York is never gonna be hospitable to me or my offspring. And I just absolutely cannot feel attraction to a career man. I blame my mother for that. As much as I would like to say I refuse this option for feminist reasons, the reality is that I refuse the option because my insecurities are much more aligned with those of my clients than those of my friends.
I don't feel useful or valuable in my relationships when I am financially struggling. I was never the person who could remember every birthday, and I was never the person who knew exactly what to say, but I was always the friend who could send an Uber if you were crying in another borough and wanted some company. I was the friend who employed people during pandemic furloughs, and I was the friend who sent takeout,flowers, or e-gift cards on hard days. And now I have to be the friend who actually makes people feel good with nothing but words and vibes, and I don’t think I’m capable of that as much as I’d like to be. Money just makes love so much more efficient.
I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that leaving this life means that I will never make as much as I did in my early 20s. Financially, I have probably peaked. Does that mean I have peaked creatively, socially, emotionally? I really fucking hope not.