The truth about "non-pros"

Today, for the first time in a long time, I am a full-time companion.

How did I get here? I graduated from a top university and worked, for nearly a decade, in a high-tech field that was ultimately unfulfilling. A field where women’s advancement was obviously and severely limited, and where layoffs were common and people were treated as disposable. Still, I worked my way up (via job-hopping) to positions where I was paid handsomely to have smart ideas and tell people what to do — the fulfillment of an elite education and plenty of grunt work.

From my very first day on the job, the ink on my diploma still wet, I knew it wasn’t for me, at least not forever. 

When, last spring, I finally gave myself permission to become a companion, it was a revelation. A very delayed, sorely needed exhale. A parting of the clouds. I loved it from the start, and my love affair has only grown over time.

For the past nine months or so, I’ve been straddling two worlds: the terrestrial world of office politics and client calls, expense reports and presentation edits, and the underworld (or the otherworld?) of the luxe, the libertine, the clandestine.

I’ve been juggling both. Emotionally and intellectually, it worked. The yin and the yang of my double life was exactly that: complimentary, a flexing of different muscle groups at different times. Let me tell you — when the vanilla world mostly requires you to sit down and shut up, meeting a client after work is extra sweet.

Mainly, balancing both was a challenge logistically. You can’t simply wake up one morning and be a world-class companion. It requires skill, dedication and commitment: to your fitness, nutrition, grooming, emotional intelligence and resilience, intellectual range, and so on. And you can’t just wake up one morning and have appointments fall into your lap. Website maintenance, ad maintenance, screening, booking, travel, correspondence, gathering deposits…all take time and foresight.

Try showing up at a 6pm appointment fresh as a daisy after you have put in eight, nine or ten hours at the office. After you have changed furtively in a bathroom, refreshed your makeup in a rumbling old train car, then ran up Lexington Avenue at a dead sprint — in 90 degree heat. 

Try booking a lunchtime appointment and sneaking out of the office, weaving through Grand Central with the cold-eyed determination of a great white shark because your day is scheduled down to the minute and you simply cannot keep a client waiting.

Try showing up at the office on Monday after you’ve been touring all weekend: booking and rearranging appointments, navigating unfamiliar trains, highways and streets, showing up for clients who want and deserve you at your very best.

Some days, it’s possible. Some weeks, it’s doable. Overall, over the long term, it’s not sustainable. At least for me, at this point in time, in New York City.

Excellence is important to me. It’s a habit, a way of being. I want to be great, and set the stage (and it’s a pretty elaborate stage) for giving my clients the experience of a lifetime. Booking a restaurant he will love; choosing the perfect outfit, down to lingerie, shoes, hairstyle and accessories; smelling great; being relaxed, energetic, well-rested and open-minded. Minimizing his travel time and inconvenience. Maintaining timely and cheerful correspondence, and confirming appointment details so he feels well taken care of. Perhaps having his favorite drink ready when he arrives. The little things matter, and they add up to the experience he wants and deserves.

It all takes time, planning, determination, skill, and a little luck. And by juggling both pursuits, I was pushing my luck quite a bit. My brain became overloaded, and I’d forget things — keys, wallet, makeup compact — and have to keep returning to my apartment. My coordination would fail and I would accidentally dump out all the contents of my purse. My suitcase, still overflowing with items from a weekend tour, simply sat in my apartment entryway. My sleep went wacky — I’d jolt awake at 3am and obsessively read my emails.

Occasionally, I see providers advertise as “non-pros,” or emphasize that they are in school or have a vanilla job. It’s a way for providers to save face, or cater to clients who feel guilt or shame about booking a provider. It feeds into the myth that being a provider is not “a real job,” or that smart and educated women don’t choose it, or only choose it as a way to supplement “legitimate” income. For the most part, it's bullshit. 

I was that “non-pro.” It was fun, in a way. But overall, it was hectic and exhausting. Being a provider is my pride, my joy and my calling. Why wouldn’t I commit to that? 

Shae Ashbury