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How a Prostitute Saved My Relationship

When I saw the prostitutes smile at me, I felt my face flush and my stomach dance with the same butterflies I got as a teenager -- I was hooked.
 
 
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This story first appeared on the Good Man Project.

I met my ex-girlfriend by replying unironically to an ironic Craigslist ad seeking a man who had scored highly on the SATs. She told me I’d intrigued her. Half Czech and half Colombian, she had cute, squinty eyes and hair like liquorice. Her body was soft and curvy; her wit was sharp. On our first date, we ended up at a bar that seemed to attract only polo-wearing ex-frat boys. About 90 minutes into it, she asked, “So are we going to make out, or what?”

By our fourth date, we were dipping our toes in the ocean of couplehood. There was only one problem: I had made a decision weeks earlier that had me excited, even obsessed. I was days away from a two-week trip to Amsterdam, and I was going to get a hooker.

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Being an overachieving Jewish social outcast had warped my sense of self-worth and my definition of a healthy sexual relationship. My love life did have its successes, but more often, it had spectacular failures: girls who had never showed for dates, denied me their numbers (or even names), or pulled their heads away when I went in for a kiss.

But now I was in New York, the land of the single-and-looking. I was set on reversing course. I was determined to outshine those charming and attractive guys from my young adulthood who never had my problems.

To this day, I have never been to a strip club (even a Hooters). Being so close to raw objectification makes me uneasy. But Amsterdam had something New York didn’t: a completely legal and regulated sex industry whose workers are healthy and don’t answer to pimps. If anyone was going to be objectified, I thought, it was going to be me.

I was young. There was a whole world of experiences out there -- some innocent, some vile -- and I wanted it all. The seedier elements of society had always fascinated me. And because I was paying for the sex, I could take the opportunity to try things that I had been too embarrassed to propose to anyone else. How could I not do it? I convinced myself I would regret it if I didn’t.

I had never cheated on a girlfriend and didn’t plan to start, but the girl I was dating was not technically a girlfriend yet. We hadn’t discussed being exclusive, although I was, and I suspected she was, too. Still, I didn’t feel right withholding my agenda from her.

One night before I left, I told her my plan. She reacted with calm kindness, telling me she completely understood, and had she been going, she would probably get one as well. Yeah, right, I thought. But I convinced myself to take her word for it.

♦♦♦

On the first day in Amsterdam, my friends and I walked through the red-light district. Each street was tiny, coated in dust, and lined with glass doors. Women stood behind the doors, watching, beckoning, sometimes standing with their hands on their hips, sometimes dancing.

Some doors had the shades drawn, signifying occupancy -- or maybe a lunch break. There were groups of giggling frat brothers at some windows, businessmen at others. Occasionally, I’d see a middle-aged man walking alone, smoking a cigarette, making eye contact with nobody.

It was at this point, this first encounter with the red-light district, when I realized I was actually going to go through with my plan. Part of me had hoped -- expected -- that I would back out at the last second. I had changed my mind several times on the airplane. But when I saw the prostitutes smile at me, I felt my face flush and my stomach dance with the same butterflies I got as a teenager -- I was hooked.

 
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