Why I write

One of my favorite books is Studs Terkel’s “Working.” 

I don’t own a lot of books (though my clients are actively trying to change that, as they bring me books from my Goodreads list all the time). I love borrowing books from the library. If I want to re-read a book, I borrow it from the library again and again. I like the communal nature of library books — the knowledge that others have thumbed the pages before me. I’m even charmed by the occasional penciled note — “WOW!” — or the underlining of a key passage. 

So, though I’m an avid reader, my permanent book collection is relatively small. 

But my copy of “Working” is an absolute keeper. I’ve schlepped it to at least four apartments. Possibly more. Quite possibly I shipped it with me when I moved from the West Coast.

Anyway. 

Terkel’s strength as an author was, mainly, finding interesting interview subjects — in this case, regular working people — and then shutting the hell up and letting them tell their stories. He introduces each subject using straightforward prose — their age, their family and educational background, their employment history.  Even the intros rely heavily on quoting the subjects. Let people tell their own stories.

The book’s subtitle is, “People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.”

Plain-spoken, direct, to the point. When something is innately fascinating, you don’t need to dress it up with fancy language.

“People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.”

What’s better than that?

Sure, we’ve all been at a cocktail party when a person will not shut up about the minutiae of their job. Booooring.

But this book isn’t that. It’s a beautiful exploration of the innate dignity of work — as well as way work can chew people up and spit them out. 

Through the lens of work, we see peoples’ lives — their relationships with their spouses, their self-esteem, the way they view themselves and others, their industry and the entire world changing (the book was published in 1974). Their triumphs, and their disappointments. 

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Why do I write?

Because I feel compelled to tell my own story. 

By writing, I work through my own feelings — sometimes contradictory or mixed-up feelings about this work, this world and my place in it. It’s helped me crystallize my own values; namely, that I am human first; provider second. This is important. It’s very easy to lose oneself in provider-dom; dates, trips, champagne hangovers, room service, provider-to-provider grudges, materialism, the overall racism and classism of the industry. Writing helps me stay rooted in myself. To not lose myself.

I write because I want to show fellow providers, clients and potential clients: I’m human, flawed, and that’s ok. 

I write because I want a contemporaneous account of what I thought, felt, and experienced. Once I’m retired, I want there to be a record, a body of work: Shae existed. Shae laughed and cried. Shae matured and grew. Shae had opinions, likes and dislikes. Shae wasn’t just a caricature, she was a person.

I write because people often view sex workers with a mix of lust, revulsion and reverence. I seek to unpack that, to disentangle it. Lust is fairly straightforward; revulsion and reverence, less so. I don’t wish to be revered; I wish to be understood

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I write because as escorts, we do our best work behind closed doors, with a typical audience of one. We are the keepers of secrets. With rare exceptions, our clients don’t speak of us at all; our existence is rarely acknowledged. Like air, we have a weightless, invisible quality — and yet we have so much impact.

Discretion and privacy are the names of the game but, taken to extremes, they can make providers afraid to tell our own stories. Couple that with the stigma of working in the industry, and a competitive environment that puts a premium on glossy, flawless marketing. There are few incentives to writing honestly about being in the industry. But the fact remains: if we don’t tell our stories, others will fill in the blanks; they will invent their own narratives about what this work is like.

I’m not afraid to confront difficult topics. I’m grateful I have the space and the security to do so. I confront humanity’s heart of darkness eagerly; it’s part of what makes me a good provider. Everyone has guilt, shame, insecurities, things they are struggling with; everyone feels lonely or unfulfilled sometimes. These things make us human. 

In the past, I have levied heavy judgment on myself for feeling a certain way. One of the blessings of being a provider is cultivating a broad base of empathy and, basically, being a walking and talking judgment-free zone. I write to explore what it’s like to live that way — and to hold myself to it. 

Sometimes a client will ask me half-jokingly, “You’re not going to write about me, are you?” The answer is: of course not. I’ll never write about a client with any specificity or identifying details. My clients animate this entire blog — they give me the space and energy to write — but I will never talk about Client X who’s into A, B, and C. I’m most interested in exploring universal themes, anyway. You may see yourself in my stories; I hope you do. That’s the sign of good writing, I think.

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This post was written by Shae Ashbury. If you like the cut of my jib, visit my booking form, gallery, patronage and details, and testimonials. If you found this post valuable, consider tipping me by emailing a Net-A-Porter or Etsy gift card to shaeashbury@protonmail.ch. Thank you for your support!

Shae Ashbury