Is never enough?
Is too much?
How’s the saying go?
I have to preface all of these posts with references back to my origin myth (described here, here, and here), my descent into the rabbit hole, and now my first visit to a “happy ending” massage parlor. This post isn’t so much about firsts as it is about how easily my first “massage” became the first of an untold number.
In my last post, I told you that less than a week passed before my second trip to see Phoebe. Only on my second visit, I didn’t see Phoebe. I saw someone else. And this is where my memory starts to fade.
There were so many visits to these massage parlors (and I describe the various sorts of such places in this post in particular, and in these posts, in general) over the coming years. Honestly. Hundreds. Some visits, I remember; some women I remember; some “massage parlors” I remember. But as a whole, they’ve merged into one dark, seedy, sad blur. There’s redemption in the blur, of course – I no longer am out of control, and my years-long romance with the commercially provided handjob brought untold lessons about my desire, my sexuality, my understanding of myself. But on the whole, my memories of the journey are opaque, distorted.
Over the years, I went to these massage parlors. Sometimes once a week, sometimes twice a day. It ebbed and flowed, without any evident correlation to the external circumstances of my life. I lied and evaded and avoided. I spent gobs of money, gobs of time. The list of people who could claim rightly that I stole from them (even though I never overtly stole a penny) is long.
I didn’t really understand what I was doing, but I knew that I was on something of a quest. More than anything, the quest was to learn just what it was I was seeking. I have to repeat this, because it feels so important: my quest was to learn just what it was I was seeking. Sure, I thought I just wanted the next handjob. But that’s not right: I was seeking the answer to some unanswerable question, and I was looking to these 20-something women to tell me. (There’s a whole ‘nother story to be written – and perhaps I will someday – about the stories I told myself, the lies I believed. Reasons why what I was doing was ok, why it even was good for my marriage, for my wife. And yes – somewhere in this progression I met my wife, fell in love with her, and we got married.)
The journey was so compelling to me because I was always seeking something other than what I was finding – I wanted a better massage, a more perfectly satisfying interaction. And of course, life being what it is, the nature of transient experiences, of fulfilled desires, is that even when they’re perfectly satisfying (which they rarely are), they then are suffused with the sadness that follows their ending. (cf. the Buddha)
And slowly, slowly, I learned what I was seeking – or really, I learned what I like.
Here, an aside: I was really engaged in two only coincidentally related projects. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in retrospect it’s clear. One wasn’t at all sexual – or at least, not explicitly so. I desperately craved interactions with women who didn’t judge me, who were interested in, and even more, impressed by me. This is pathetic, I know: I’m a narcissist. More on that in a moment….
I learned their “names,” and often, their names. I got to know (about) them, their studies, their lives. Their other jobs, their relationship to this work, their relationships to the other women who worked where they worked, their histories as sex workers, their likes and dislikes, you name it. With one (Sarah) – a petite, busty blonde who reported that she had worked in dozens of such places while she put herself through a Ph.D. program – I even fantasized, with her – together, about writing a sort of his-and-her expose of the massage industry in New York.
I’m not claiming any sort of unique intimacy with Sarah, or any of these women. I suspect that the nature of this work is that, when a “client” is prepared to interact with you as a human, and not simply as a sex object, that is for some, a relief (and for others, totally unwelcome). In short, I think that sex work is work just like any other, and that (many of) the people who do it bring their personalities – and their need to connect with other humans – to it.
And then there’s me: I was (and am) insatiably hungry. Hungry for interactions with women in which I didn’t, in which I don’t, feel shamed; interactions in which instead I felt appreciated, respected, even liked. For a variety of complex (and not-so-complex) reasons, I’m a classic narcissist. Not in the conventional sense of the word (it’s not that I think I’m so great, or even that I love looking at my own reflection more than anything else), but in the psychoanalytic sense of the word: I used my interactions with these women to bolster my self-esteem, to medicate my wounded sense of self.
Somehow – this was true then, and it’s true now – the soothing balm of a woman’s non-judgmental interest in me is better than just about any drug I can imagine.
In the shadowy world of rub-and-tug massage parlors, I discovered a bottomless supply of women who would be interested in me, nice to me, interested in my sexual desire, and, at least seemingly, not judgmental of it, or me.
This was like crack to me.
And so back I went, over and over. The erotization of these interactions – the conjunction of the orgasm, of the stroking of my cock, of the sexual connection, such as it was – was, in retrospect, almost entirely accidental. If I instead had simply discovered a restaurant where I could sit down across from an attractive, interested, non-judgmental woman, I think that would probably have served equally well.
But that’s not how my story went. Instead, as a result of the conjunction of my horniness and my need for female interest and approval, I found myself in a spiral: I craved something, desperately, which the massages provided a tantalizing glimpse of, but never the real thing:
I wanted a woman to be interested in me, non-judgmental. To desire me, to desire my desire. And not just one woman. I had (and still have) an infinite appetite for this.
And so, to return to our tale, I found myself returning to these massage parlors with increasing frequency. Sometimes, it was once a week. Sometimes, twice, or three times a week. At times, it was as often as two or three times a day.
Through it all, I was working hard, and starting a family. I stole time and energy – and money, at least implicitly – from everyone and everything to which I owed it.
I kept lists of all the women at all the massage parlors I frequented. I sorted them in Excel. I updated them. I synced the lists on my laptop, my Blackberry. I deployed my considerable organizational and taxonomic skills in service of maximizing the likelihood that, at any time, I could obtain a handjob from a provider I liked.
And slowly, slowly, I learned what I liked.
I learned, for example, that the whole massage part was wasted on me, that what I really wanted was a 60-minute handjob. Typically, when I lay down, I would start rehearsing in my head the line, “Would you flip me over as quickly as you can bear?” I wouldn’t say it – I would just think it. Some sessions, I would spend the whole time – 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 55 minutes – prior to “the flip” replaying this thought in my mind. Sometimes – sometimes – I would say it. But mostly, I would just think it, steeling myself to say it. And failing.
When I did say it, there were a variety of possible responses. My favorite, of course, was, “Would you like to turn over now?” Or even better, “Ooh – fun – we can spend the whole time on your cock.” This response was infrequent. But it was priceless when it happened. And if it was accompanied by a touch that I liked – varied, slow, fast, hard, soft, not just up and down and up and down jerking – then that was a keeper, a woman whose schedule I’d get to know, whom I’d try to frequent.
And over the years – and it really was years – I discovered with more and more precision the things that I liked.
I like constant attention to my cock. I prefer my cock’s being teased through boxers, through pants even, for a while before it comes out. Most of all, I prefer women whom I believe are genuinely enjoying themselves, not faking it. (I’m sure occasionally I was fooled – a good sex worker, I imagine, communicates that she’s having fun whether she is or she isn’t – but I saw enough over the years – in strip clubs, in massage parlors – to think I became at least somewhat discerning.)
I do think some women enjoyed themselves. Some got turned on by turning me on. Some allowed me to turn them on with my hands (and later, my mouth) in return. Some tolerated it, or asked for extra money. This, I never did. (More on the relationship of money to my desire here.)
And I was a zombie. I woke up in the morning, fantasizing about whom I might see that day, went to bed imagining the next one.
Memories were just fodder for anticipation. I didn’t pause to enjoy what was happening when it was happening. Often, even as I was on a table, my cock in a beautiful woman’s hand, I would be imagining my next handjob.
I’ll write more in the coming days about the other things I did, the further depths to which I went. But in terms of sheer volume – of time, energy, encounters, money – this was my “favorite.” From the very beginning to the very end.