It was my first day working the phones at an escort service in Salt Lake City, and Violet, a perky, nineteen-year-old redhead, returned from her date looking like she’d just stepped off the stage of a high-school musical.
Garmies, she explained, were sacred undergarments that devout Mormons wore under everything, a cotton undershirt and shorts to their knees to protect them from the world. Magical. Secret. Steve Young, the 49ers quarterback, received special permission to take them off when he played football.
I was working on an MFA at the University of Utah when I answered the classified ad for a phone manager at an “entertainment company.” Flexible hours, good pay, fun environment! I had just been dumped by my long-distance boyfriend of five years. I was reeling and alone, and what I wouldn’t have done in San Francisco seemed like a great idea in Salt Lake.
strong work ethic and family values. About three-fourths of Utah residents belong, and for most of them, Mormonism is a lifestyle steeped in self-control: no alcohol, no tobacco, no caffeine, no premarital or extramarital sex, no R-rated movies, no MTV, no sunbathing, no masturbation. Life is everlasting, and marriage performed in a temple is “sealed” for eternity. Young people, sixty thousand at any given time, are traveling the world on two-year missions.
Can’t Do: intercourse, handjobs, blowjobs, any touching of sexual areas, give a massage, masturbate, encourage masturbation (just don’t say anything about it).
Can Do: kiss, cuddle, caress, tease, strip, take a shower, nibble on ears, give a bubble bath, tell sexy stories, play with his nipples, sexy poses, get a massage, model lingerie, talk dirty, role play, tickle, talk about fantasies, lick chocolate off him, kiss his thighs, put on baby oil, moan and groan, tell secrets, tell jokes, dance, kiss his neck, lick his nipples, have your toes sucked and do anything else not on the can’t do list.
“Girls who escort in other states I don’t hire,” Paul said on my first day of work. “Because you can’t go backwards, they are too easily tempted to give a handjob for a little extra.”
At twenty-eight, I was older than most of the girls. They counted on me to tell them to be careful, to save money, to take their vitamins, to have a plan. I once told an escort named Mimi — who’d just blown her day’s earnings on a dress — that there was more to life than new outfits and attention from boys. She replied, only half jokingly, “You’re just jealous.”
Jenna, with Nordic light hair and eyes, was from Bountiful, home to the purest of Mormons and the recently prosecuted Kingston polygamist clan. She was kicked out of her parents’ house at thirteen for smoking pot and had been living on her own ever since. She started busing tables, then she was a hostess, a waitress, and, at eighteen, an escort. She wore short skirts and swore like a sailor, proud to have escaped her oppressive upbringing. But she also seemed caught in the throes of delayed adolescence, a little innocent, a girl who’d never been outside of Salt Lake.
Michelle was twenty-five, married with a five-year-old daughter. She used to live in Utah but her husband was in the Navy and
they had moved to Southern California. She flew to Salt Lake two weekends each month, and she was always booked backed-to-back. Naturally tall and blond and unnaturally buxom, she did everything by the rules and was always on time. She dressed as if on her way to a bank meeting. Men liked her poise and polish. They liked that they could have met her at work. She told me her husband thought she was a part-time flight attendant. She even had a fake uniform.
The usual escort date took place in a hotel room downtown. One of the favorites was Little America, a tidy place where LDS families stayed when they made pilgrimages to Brigham Young’s grave. I sent Jenna there to meet a man on his lunch break. Young and married — he kept his ring on — he told her he had two kids. His seeming lack of embarrassment about being married was one of the curious things about some Mormon clients, one that I think hints at the lingering legacy of polygamy. Although the church now strictly espouses one man and one woman, Mormons still believe that God did grant Joseph Smith permission to have multiple wives two hundred years ago, which might help rationalize straying from one’s wife today.
Because I had gone to college, Paul liked to run his business ideas by me. They were never good.
I was flirty on the phone because it helped men commit to dates, but it was also a way for me to experiment without having to follow through. Sam, a carpenter from Provo, was someone who called just to talk with me. At first I liked having a fan. He was good-natured and quick to laugh. He pushed me to meet him. I entertained hackneyed Pretty Woman fantasies about how he was different, about how we might go on a real date, even as his calls grew too frequent, too persistent and too creepy.
The last time I was in Salt Lake, I drove by the Executive Escorts office. It was gone, an insurance company in its place.
©2006 Rae Meadows and Nerve.com.
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR:|
|Rae Meadows’ stories have appeared in Mississippi Review, Flyway, 580 Split and Fine Print. Her first novel, Calling Out, will be published this month by MacAdam/Cage. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin and Brooklyn, New York.|