The first time was when I was still in high school. I met a guy in a gay chat room, and when he asked me for sexy pictures, I sent them to him. I was 14. He lived somewhere far away, but he offered to buy me a plane ticket. He said he’d pay me thousands of dollars. “How will I explain it to my parents?” I said, playing up my sexy innocence. I knew how much power I had, and it was exciting.
I didn’t meet that guy, but pretty soon I had lined up a new guy, a local who I could tell was into underage boys. He drove to my place late one night and parked his car down the street. He got me drunk and high in his van. Once I was a little loose, I fucked him. His mouth tasted like an ashtray.
As I was getting out of the car, he gave me $200. It was more than we had agreed on, but it would have been dumb for me to argue. Maybe he’d seen how young I really was and thought it would be smart to take out insurance and buy my silence. I didn’t see him again.
I was careful. I told them my real age when I knew it would turn them on and told them I was 18 when I knew they were skittish. I met them in chat rooms, on Craigslist. I bought fancy clothes, but nothing so flashy that my parents would notice. If anything felt too weird, I ended the conversation. I made them meet me in funny places in my suburban neighborhood in California.
Once, when I was 15, a guy didn’t have any cash but he had a bottle of Adderall.
“Do you want me to go to the ATM?” he asked.
“Just give me the pills,” I said. I sold them at school for a profit. It was so easy. Most guys just wanted to blow me, anyway. I was young, cute, and well endowed, so it wasn’t complicated.
It became my backup plan. I could post an ad and know that a few hours later, I’d have a little money in my pocket. I’d always been bad with money and my parents didn’t give me much, but now I didn’t need to worry. If cash was tight, I could make it appear out of nowhere.
We moved around a lot, and in every city, some part of me thought maybe I wouldn’t do it there. Then I’d get broke and end up in the same situation again, some old man tugging down my pants. I didn’t feel as ashamed as I thought I should. I felt empowered. The guys I tried to date treated me badly and made me feel bad about myself, probably because I had such low self-esteem. The guys I slept with for money looked at me like I was a god.
I changed, but the hustle didn’t. I got older and kept sleeping with guys for money now and then. I found a job where I was making a decent salary but inevitably I would find myself in a bind. At that point, I had the guys on a rotation, because I’d gotten squirrellier about finding strangers online. I had a regular job and an apartment, and I was afraid of getting caught or arrested, of something bad happening.
But about six months ago, I overspent again. The cost of living in a big city, student loans, trying to keep up appearances, and traveling home for the holidays had all taken their toll.
I texted my most regular guy, and he said that money was tight on his end, so I posted an ad and slept with a different guy for $100 (less than I wanted, but I was desperate) who told me he wanted to see me again, but when I texted him a few weeks later, he didn’t respond. Maybe it was the universe telling me not to do this anymore. So I didn’t for a little while. I was OK financially even if things were tight. I had extra side income coming in that kept me in the black.
And then something crazy happened. I fell in love for the first time, with a guy who was handsome and successful, and suddenly he was the only person I wanted to be with. I didn’t tell him about my past. How could I? He grew up comfortable, and I knew that he would never understand how I’d been capable of doing those things.
But while I was busy falling in love, the side income dried up. I overspent and my rent check bounced. I scrambled to save up, but I’d never really learned how. I dug myself into a deeper and deeper financial hole. I couldn’t tell him. I wanted to build a life and a future with him, and I knew that my situation was temporary, since it always was. I just wanted a quick fix, and it was within my grasp.
He’s away on a business trip right now, and I could get away with it. I know that I could. He’d never know, and I wouldn’t love him any less. It wouldn’t change anything, except what it would change inside of me. But I want to be the guy that he thinks I am, the guy he deserves, and I want to deserve him.
I try to have integrity in every other part of my life, even if I’m not perfect. In most respects I’m a good partner, a good friend, a good employee, and I’m afraid if I tell him the whole truth about my finances, it will jeopardize our future together, or change his desire to be with me in the long term once he knows what a mess I am in this part of my life.
But I’m so scared of the financial recklessness that I trained myself to always wriggle out of, even though I can’t do that anymore. I’m chasing down the people who still owe me money, but I don’t know when I’ll get paid, and my salary is just barely enough to keep me afloat, not enough to catch me up. I’m trying to budget carefully, but I can’t quite do it.
I don’t want to cheat on my boyfriend, but I don’t want to be broke, either. And I’m scared of what I’m going to do. I’m working on trying to find a solution, but they’re all so much harder than the one that’s worked for me for so many years. I hope I can make it until he gets back, and that I can find a way to get out of this hole. But if I won’t tell him the truth, or my friends or colleagues who don’t know about this part of my life, I had to tell the truth to someone.
I bet I sound selfish, irresponsible, and dishonest, and maybe I am all of those things. But I crossed the line when I was young enough not to know any better, and by the time I developed something of a conscience, it was so compartmentalized that I didn’t feel like I was losing anything by continuing to do it. Imagine if you knew you could easily make a few hundred bucks for sitting back and letting someone pleasure you for a half hour or an hour. What reason would you ever have to stop?
I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done, but there’s a part of me that’s ashamed that it’s something that I still want. I know that I need to stop taking the easy way out. I think I just got addicted to how easy it is.