I told you something. I regret that now.
“Where’s your self-respect?”
Right here where it belongs, stalwart, and unaffected. I wish the rest of my feathers were as difficult to ruffle.
You are ashamed of me. That’s a shame. You taught me that what society considers normal isn’t always right.
You told me it would almost be better if I was desperate and believed I had no choice, that I was not a self-confident young woman who does as she wishes with her body - despite the restrictions put upon her by society.
I am stronger for what I did. I enjoyed it. I am allowed that.
You might be disappointed in me but I am disappointed in how conservative you turned out to be. I thought you were a rebel yourself. I suppose you were.
Is free love only free love when it’s free?
Can’t I choose to charge? Somehow adding one kind of value reduces another. That’s why there are two kinds of priceless.
You seem to think that my self-worth must be somewhere in the gutter for me to stoop to such an act.
But you also expect me to believe that I am so much more than my mortal shell. If I am so much more, then I wasn’t selling myself - I wasn’t even selling my body.
If anything I was renting it out to do a job. Except in this instance I wasn’t trapped by 9 to 5 drudgery, I was liberated. My actual job, which you and everyone thinks is respectable and normal, makes me feel more used, belittled, and powerless than I ever did while ‘breaking the rules’.
I thought I was lucky enough to have the kind of relationship with my mother where I could share that.
I was wrong.
I am sorry that I hurt you, sorry that I embarrassed you, sorry that I disappointed you, but I am not sorry that I acted for my own pleasure.
I am not sorry that I was completely in control of a sexual transaction for the first time.
I am not sorry that I recognised that my body is a tool and not a temple. And even if it were, what kind of a temple does not demand a token or sacrifice in order to enter?
For the first time in my life I was living for myself and I loved it.
“What might your future husband think?”
“If you have children, how will you explain it to them?”
My body is mine! I can do what I want with it! I hurt nobody. I broke no laws. I even researched how to pay tax on my earnings! I was safe. My network of friends knew everything I was doing, when, and with whom. I kept a dossier on every man I met and photographed their number plates.
If I had no self-respect then I would still be with him. The bully. The closest chance I’d had to becoming the wife and mother you seem to want me to be. He broke me down but I managed to drag myself away. Despite my crippling sadness and self-loathing I limped out of that home and created a new life for myself where I was in charge. Where I could make choices for myself.
Upon hearing that I’d left, the hardest thing I’ve ever done and for which I am incredibly proud, your first question was – “Is he okay?”
You might like to live your life for everyone else around you. The martyr sacrificing everything for family. That’s your choice. But it is not mine. To imply that a woman should live for others is not progressive or liberal. We are more than potential spouses and incubators. And what I did doesn’t mean I can never be those things anyway!
When I told you, we spoke about how every generation breaks the rules, how if we’d been in another time I might have eloped from Brighton, left the regiment and married a Wickham. And about how all interactions between the sexes are transactions of some kind. As Elizabeth said when asked when she’d first realized her feelings for Darcy had changed – “I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Things have changed a lot but nowadays a woman can have nice things without shackling herself to a man for life.
How dare a modern woman want money? How dare she go about getting it herself? Using her attributes to attain it in an honest and upfront way? It is one thing to say that a woman should not be judged entirely by her looks and quite another to say that she should not be allowed to profit from them. I was born with my looks the same as I was born with my brains and yet you’d be proud of my making a living from one and not the other.
What I did was a feminist act. Any act of a woman refusing to be constrained by our patriarchal society is a feminist act. Free the nipple – fine. Reclaim the night – fine. But don’t you dare tell me that my body is mine and then dictate what is acceptable for me to do with it.
Perhaps it sounds ridiculous but turning thirty gave me my first glimpse of my own mortality, just glimmering on the horizon. It made me take stock. I decided to stop letting myself be shamed and bullied into the life I lead, I decided not to waste what was left of my youth. I decided to do the things I’d been afraid to do. I was brave. I was unafraid. I was finally living. I was a rebel. I wish you’d been proud.