After a year in the trade, the edges around her private life started to fray. Leading a double life was exhausting. She felt, she says, “like Batman”. She had six email addresses. She had trouble sleeping – her head was spinning so much in trying to double guess scenarios and in covering her tracks. Her mother complained to her that her phone was always going through to voicemail. She always had to think twice about which name to use when signing a form at the bank. Her code for taking business calls in front of the family became conspicuous.
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“You’re meeting your bank manager a lot these days,” her son asked her innocently one day.
Things came to a head one day when the young boy had an accident. His father, who was looking after him, called his mother from the Accident & Emergency ward. She was in bed with a client at the time, but fortunately had left on her personal mobile phone.
Around this time, too, she picked up some part-time office work, which she could do from home, and noticed she was being priced out of “jobs” by a flooded market as the recession in the country worsened. Today, she has a few regular clients and knows how to drum up a nixer quickly if necessary.
“It’s the easiest cash I’ve ever got,” she says. “I know that sounds dreadful, but it is. You need a few hundred quid because you’ve an extra expense. How are you going to manage that? Oh, yeah – an hour’s work.”
She admits that the thought of her family finding out terrifies her. “They’d be horrified, absolutely devastated. This is Ireland, everybody knows everybody. In some respects I don’t delve into it too much. Otherwise you get too emotive about it and that doesn’t help for making rational decisions. I pretty much think I’d have to leave the country.”
After all the ins and the outs, as it were, she has no regrets about her experiences. She has never been hurt. The worst thing that happened to her – bar a client who freaked her out because his behavior was so shifty – was that a guy tried to shortchange her once. After pausing for a few seconds, she says, if anything, her self-worth is higher now than before she became a prostitute.
“I would say it’s higher,” she says. “Your self-esteem can be pretty rock bottom when you have to say ‘no’ to absolutely everything your kids ask for – when you can’t afford to pay for the milk they get at school or for a new pair of runners or new uniforms or their books for the year. That can affect your self esteem as well. People say selling your body is the lowest of the low. How could you? An awful lot of other things to do with your mental health are related to how you provide for your children.”
Between the Sheets by Scarlett O’Kelly is published by Penguin. It costs €12.99.