There was a time in my life that I was fascinated by whores.
For one thing, they seemed to have stricken the word "shame" from their vocabulary. As a young kid who grew up in a Chinese household, a common weapon of choice by parents would be to instill shame in children, the better to leave a lesson's mark on. (Which I gather is something shared with kids who grow up Catholic. The difference being, adult Catholics are still susceptible to this form of torture. And quite effectively, seeing how our politicians bend over backwards in order to appease that religion's headmasters.)
So it has always come as amazing - to me, anyway - that anyone would have no inhibitions whatsoever.
In my (young) eyes, these are some of the characteristics that defined a whore.
The brassy, loudmouthed, cant-stop-from-cussing mouth, the type my mother would most likely slap at any chance she could get.
Bubblegum optional. Cigarettes mostly for show.
Clothes that always seemed "too much": too gaudy, too short, too loud, too much cleavage.
Accessories and "jewelry", plied on their persons, as if tomorrow they would never see a single one of those "precious stones" again.
Heels that would announce how "talented" they are in their trade.
A shade of lipstick deemed inappropriate in circles that would feign horror at the mention of prostitutes, but secretly (?), some members of that clique have been known to enjoy the services of those they deem "unmentionable" in polite society.
(I never knew that there were male prostitutes then.)
I've always heard of prostitutes peddling their sob stories in order to "get through life". They had no choice, they had no other way to earn money. I suppose this explains part of their "charm" to me when I was doe eyed. (Yes, there was a time I once was, you can wipe off that smirk, thank you.) They seemed to be "working" so hard, for causes that were so "noble": an unfinished college education, sending 10 other siblings to school, paying for mom's medical expenses.
I was reminded of this nostalgic frame of reference when I recently crossed paths with a prostitute who I have known for almost a decade. In that span of time, this self-confessed whore has transformed into something verging on "respectability": a steady job, a nice condo, a mid-range priced car, and a "husband" who is oblivious to all the talks around detailing the sexual proclivities with various strangers of his "spouse". (They live together but are barred from being legally married.)
And ever since we made an acquaintance, I slowly began changing my views on whores.
One, they are ruthless. The very word seemed designed for them. Me against the world, so take no prisoners. Everyone is a bug just waiting to be crushed in order to take that next rung up the social or financial ladder. If you have something of interest, the whore will entice and then discard once its objective is met.
Two, they prey on the insecurities and fears of individuals who do not recognize their own self-worth. They are masters at sniffing this out. This particular whore acquaintance of mine - by no means a friend - has stated, repeatedly, how the gym is such a veritable marketplace to work the trade. (I guess whores have a leg up, in this scenario: A large percentage of people who go to gyms are dissatisfied with their looks, which generally means a not so firm grasp on the contentment scale.) One look, one glance, that's all my acquantance needs. Then the dance of seduction begins - hopefully not consumated right there and then! - and just to give you an idea of this whore's "powers" - two victims that have fallen include a well-known local writer as well as a former foreign service official to our country.
Three, their timing is impeccable. They know when they have to leave the dance floor, and move to another club, so to speak. The nature of their work is such that there seems to be a sell-by date, an exasperation date, so to speak - when the "escort" is hinging low on the "charm scale" and the victim realizes he has no more "finances" to speak of. (I wager they would do well in comedy as well.)
And four, they recognize that sex is a basic human need, and that there will be no shortage of "customers" willing to pay for a little happiness. In this respect, they are streetwise pseudo-psychologists, ably attuned to what makes people "tick", and playing into this knowledge to serve their own purposes.
Back to my whore-acquaintance: suddenly, this being feels some form of superiority over me, owing to the financial and occupational (the regular "respectable" work, not the "sideline") success achieved after years of clawing and tearing people's lives apart.
I'm not sure if I should laugh out loud or just look condescendingly with pity at the whore's delusions. Suddenly, something flashed in my mind, something I learned from Desperate Housewives. I gave the whore a smile. One that was incomprehensible, and infuriatingly enigmatic.
Nothing is more ambiguous than a smile that cannot be read.