SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
This is a question that people seem to ask each other almost immediately upon meeting. I never noticed this until I spent two years on disability after the "crate" incident. The thing that was most apparent to me is that my value as a person seemed to be irrevocably linked to what I did for employment. Because that's what people were asking about. Not what do you do for fun, or in a random moment, questions that can actually tell you much more about a person than how they earn a living. I discovered this because since I didn't have employment during that time I would answer the "what do you do" question with, "I dance in the supermarket aisles and sing along when they play Elton John," or "I read," to which the response would be a blank stare, or a rephrasing of the question in the super ennunciation that one uses to speak to the mentally slow, "No, I mean what do you do for a living."
So I started to make shit up. It was amazing how people would treat me so very differently depending on whether or not I said I was a neurologist, or a cafeteria lady. I was raised in the house of bullshit so I know how to deliver a line like it's the God's truth. Oddly no one ever questioned me when I claimed to be a doctor, but they had a really hard time with the idea of me as a cafeteria lady - something I actually did when I was 15 and worked the line at Clifton's Cafeteria in the Lakewood mall.
A while ago I was at a Press Club event at the Standard Hotel downtown. It was a booksigning for some super hip and trendy guy who'd written a super hip and trendy book, but I'm not super hip or trendy so I have no idea what the title of the book was. I was there with my friend Elizabeth who knew someone who was throwing the event. My motivation was free drinks and food, plus I'd never been to the downtown Standard. Like I said, I'm not trendy. Anyway, Elizabeth and I are standing there amid the throng of trendoid, artsy types with our first drink of the evening and I'm trying to check out the crowd without having to whip out my glasses.
I spotted two guys over near the railing, standing away from everyone else, and they clearly didn't belong. They were crashers who'd somehow made it past the clipboard lady with the headset and the "list". It was still fairly early because I'm a front loader - get to the bar and buffet table before the crowd gets out of hand, and leave when there's no longer any room to move. I looked these two guys over and their Brooks Brother's apparel led me to the assumption that they worked in the financial industry and since we were right near the financial district of downtown L.A., they had infiltrated this uber-hip party but stood out like a couple of frat boys at a poetry reading.
Sans glasses I was staring, well okay squinting, intently at them and the little one must have thought I was wanting him to come hither, because he did. He introduced himself as Matt and his friend was Mike. I asked if they were crashing and they admitted they were. I admitted to being on the list, but feeling like I was crashing all the same because these were not my people. We started chatting, the way you do and Mike took off to go get a drink. As he walked away Matt disclosed that Mike's wife had left him 8 months ago and he was badly heart broken and needed to get laid. I immediately started to not like Matt. He was oily and a good friend doesn't disclose personal business. As far as I was concerned Matt was now fair game for mind fucking.
I suggested we go sit in the nearby super cool patio chairs in dayglo orange and bright white and wait for Mike to return. Elizabeth looked at me like I was crazy. She didn't want to spend anymore time talking to this guy, but she did want to sit down, so she came along. I was sitting across from Matt as he stared down my shirt and asked with a smirk, "I know this is forward, but are your breasts real?" "No," I replied, "I bought them and they're spectacular." Matt's mouth hung open and his eyes glazed over, Elizabeth smothered a laugh. Then Matt asked the question, "So what do you do?" I turned the question back to him without answering and he replied that he and Mike were male exotic dancers at the Spearmint Rhino. And I'm thinking to myself that Mr. Hairplugs, because yes, they were obvious, probably ate lunch at the Spearmint Rhino everyday - and dude, it was so totally on from that point forward. Elizabeth replied that she's a writer and then he turned to me, I looked him straight in the face and said with complete sincerity and just the right amount of enthusiasm, "I'm a sexual surrogate."
Elizabeth was mid-gulp when I said it and she snorted and choked - her drink almost came out her nose. I patted her on the back and smiled at Matt who was doing those cartoon eyes that Yosemite Sam does when he finds gold.
"Whaddaya mean? Like you have sex with people? Did you go to school for that?"
"Yeah, I've got a degree in psychology with a speciality in human sexuality."
"So you go to people's houses and have sex with them?"
"Well I can make housecalls, but generally people with sexual dysfunction come to my office and we do our sessions there."
"Whaddaya mean sexual dysfunction?"
"Well, you know, premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, women who are anorgasmic."
"You have sex with women?"
Matt's voice went up about four octaves when he asked me that question.
"Of course. About 40% of all women are unable to reach orgasm, even through masturbation. I show them how."
Matt was about to come in his pants at this point he was so excited. Elizabeth had recovered enough to go along with it but everytime she spoke her voice trembled - she was like Jimmy Fallon on Saturday night live. And right then Mike came back and sat down and said, "So what are you guys talking about? Matt turned to him and practically shrieked, "She's a sexual surrogate and she has sex with women." Mike looked taken aback and said, "really?" and he was such a nice guy, you know those guys that you meet and you just know they're cool, even if their friends are smarmy, and I couldn't lie to him.
So I copped to making it up and Matt deflated, but he was unwilling to let it go.
"So how do you know so much about what a sexual surrogate does?"
"Because I was reading an article about it today."
"Oh man, I really wish you were telling me the truth."
"Yeah, I bet. That would be masturbatory fodder for at least a week."
At this point I turned my attention to Mike and asked him if he wanted to walk me to the bar. As we walked I apologized for being a bitch and he said, "That's okay, Matt can be an ass, I'm sure he probably deserved it. I don't know how his wife puts up with him sometimes." Matt suddenly plummeted from a harmless lech to a repulsive waste of space. We talked a bit more about how Mike was having a hard time getting "back out there" post divorce, and that's why they'd crashed this event. He was still in love with his wife and really didn't understand why all of a sudden after 8 years of marriage she decides she doesn't want kids. Matt came up at this point and said wanted to "show me something". I was like, you're not going to take me into a stairwell and pull your pants down are you? He smirked again, God, have you ever just wanted to slap someone across the face, and led me over the waterbed pods that are scattered about the patio of the rooftop bar. As he climbed in, showing grandpa sock, (you know how when old men sit down their pants ride up and you can see the skin between their pant cuff and their black socks?) I looked at his tiny little feet encased in their tassle bedecked loafers, and felt incredibly grateful that I was old enough to see him for what he was, an early mid life crisis in full bloom. I tried to feel compassion for him as he bobbed around in the pod looking like a total idiot, exhorting me to "just climb in, c'mon", and I flashed forward twenty years to Matt in his fifties still slipping off his wedding ring and groping strippers at the Spearmint Rhino and attempting to pick up random women where ever he went. All I could come up with was contempt.
It turned out I was right, both Mike and Matt work in the financial industry. And Matt does eat lunch at the Spearmint Rhino everyday.
And his wife has no idea.