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Working Girl: You Can’t Make Others Commit to You, So Commit to Yourself

Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 104: You Can’t Make Others Commit to You, so Commit to Yourself

image by mikamatto at Flickr Commons.

image by mikamatto at Flickr Commons.

My boss Caroline hired another assistant to work alongside me. I didn’t particularly like my job, but I was suddenly worried about losing it.

The new girl’s name was Teresa. Caroline introduced us, all wide-eyed and flush with the excitement of finding a new hire who carried an expanding file-folder everywhere. I felt disorganized with my little notebook full of chicken scratch.

“Teresa’s going to help me write my memoir!” Caroline said.

“Great!” I said.

Her memoir was going to be about her 20 years as a professional escort. It was going to be full of salacious stories about her childhood, her experiences as a prostitute, and her understanding of life, the universe and everything. And maybe about an early sexual experience with her dog. I never did learn the details of that story.

I had been hired several months back to help her write it. But after a few paragraphs, Caroline got overwhelmed with the whole “writing a book” thing. So instead of writing, I wound up working as her personal assistant and providing moral support while she dealt with the everyday stress of sex work.

“Teresa’s a writer and editor!” Caroline said.

So was I, but oh well.

“Now that Teresa’s here,”said Caroline, “you can keep on doing my shopping and cleaning while we write my book!”

Yippee!

 

Moral 101: If you don’t recognize your own value, don’t expect other people to.

 

I sat on the couch, crossing old clients out of Caroline’s black book, while Teresa sat nearby at the kitchen counter and Caroline made coffee.

Teresa seemed nice. “I gotta say, Caroline, you’re sitting on a gold mine with this memoir.”

“I know, right?” Caroline said. “I’m gonna make a fortune!”

Caroline was always talking about making a fortune. It was like she wanted a big pirate treasure to live off of as she aged out of prime-prostitute territory. (But come on, let’s be honest—who doesn’t want a big pirate treasure?)

“Look at this real estate property! I’m gonna get paid a fortune every month!”

“I’m gonna write my memoir and make a fortune in residual income!”

“Leslie, you should let me sell your virginity! Together, we could make a fortune!”

I wondered if she’d attempt to convince Teresa to try whoring. Together, they could make a fortune!

Caroline was excited about Teresa. She really thought the book would get written this time. This time, she’d make a fortune.

Between the three of us, I was the only one who knew that Teresa would not be writing jack squat.

Like many would-be writers, Caroline wasn’t actually interested in sitting her ass down and writing. She was a self-described work-a-holic, and writing a book would take too many hours out of too many work days. What she wanted was TO HAVE WRITTEN a book, not to actually write one.

Moral 102: If you’re really going to do it, nothing’s going to stop you. But if you can be stopped, you will be.

 

So when the short-lived dream of the book died another premature death, what would Teresa do? Probably not whoring. But maybe my job. And where would that leave me? Wouldn’t I be royally screwed without this job?

What I hadn’t counted on was Teresa having self-respect.

I ran errands while Teresa and Caroline stayed at the apartment, ostensibly writing. When I came in with my arms full of bags, they rushed to help me, giggling about something they’d just been talking about. Or maybe writing about. The computer was on, so maybe they were really writing.

But as I put groceries away, their giggling stopped and the conversation fell into silence. I imagined the electronic cursor blinking expectently on Teresa’s screen. Caroline paced across her hardwood floor, tapping her nails against her teeth.

The poor memoir was gasping out its dying breaths. I tried not to feel smug.

Caroline folded her arms and shifted all her weight onto one hip. She bit her big poofy lower lip and looked up at the ceiling, thinking. “I don’t really know what to write about first. Let’s take a break. You can help Leslie clean the apartment and set up for my next client appointment. That’s in forty-five minutes. Leslie can show you what to do.”

“Oh,” said Teresa non-chalantly. “I’ll just come back tomorrow. Or whenever you’re ready to write again.”

Caroline’s eyes settled on Teresa. “No, I’m not sure I’ll be ready to go forward tomorrow, either. It would be best if you helped Leslie.”

“Uhh, not for me. I’m a writer and editor, not a cleaning lady.”

I wasn’t a cleaning lady either, so I had a little trouble picking my jaw up off the floor. Why hadn’t I ever thought to say that?

 

Moral 103: Set your boundaries and stick to them. Because if you can be swayed, you will be.

 

“But I don’t know when inspiration will hit me,” Caroline said. “You better stick around, so if I get inspired you can just jump back on the computer.”

Teresa made a little upside-down smile—a sort of amused frown. “That doesn’t sound very productive.”

“It will be if you help Leslie in the meantime.”

“Well, I wasn’t hired to clean. I have other writing clients and projects to spend my time with. So just contact me whenever you’re ready.”

Other writing clients? How did that happen? I felt stupid for ever worrying that she’d take my job. I felt stupid for having my job in the first place. Did I really think this was the best I
could do?

During the next few minutes, Caroline tried to manipulate and control Teresa, and Teresa was having none of it. Caroline grew increasingly frustrated.

“I’m not paying you for the past few hours, so if you want to get paid you have to stay!”

“What do you mean you’re not paying me?” Teresa asked.

“I pay hourly, as long as the hours were productive. We didn’t get anything written so those hours weren’t productive! So no pay unless you do some actual work!”

In the kitchen, I was determinedly Swiffering the same spot of floor over and over, eavesdropping. Teresa said, “Leslie, do you really put up with this shit?” I stopped Swiffering and looked up to see Teresa and Caroline both watching me with wide eyes and crossed arms.

“Yeah, Leslie,” said Caroline. “Do you?” Uh-oh.

“Um,” I said, caught between my dragon-lady boss and a girl that I actually kind of wanted to be just like. It was a moment of truth. This was my moment to stand in my power and respect myself.

But maybe I could do that tomorrow?

“I don’t really mind so much,” I said, wilting a little inside.

Teresa snorted. Whatever her opinion of me had been, it was now lower. She picked up her expanding file folder and headed for the door.

“If you leave, don’t expect to come back,” Caroline said.

This ultimatum didn’t affect Teresa one bit, except to make her a chuckle a little as she left.

I didn’t blame her. It seemed so childish and desperate, and I realized that Caroline did things like that all the time. She probably tried to manipulate Teresa because in her mind, Teresa equalled the memoir (also, a fortune). Also, trying to control people was kind of Caroline’s schtick. When Teresa walked out that door, Caroline saw herself back at square one.

If I thought Caroline’s bids for petty power were pathetic, what did that make someone who submitted to them? Someone who let Caroline control them? Someone like me?

“What are you staring at?” Caroline said.

“Nothing,” I said, and continued Swiffering nothing.

 

Moral 104: Commit to yourself. Don’t try to force other people to commit to you.

***

Working Girl is going to be a book! I’m winding down to the end of the series, and I’m collecting all the entries into a book, along with additional material and microwave instructions. 50% of the proceeds will go to sex trafficking non-profits for the entire life of the book. It will be released March 25, but you can pre-order it and get more information here! Let’s help people and convince ourselves our lives have meaning!

If I don’t make the March 25 deadline, I’ll dye my hair pink. No, really. It’ll be Jem-tastic.

I’ll also do fun and frightening milestone events. So when we sell 500 copies, I’ll sing a karaoke version of Damn, I Wish I was Your Lover and share it online. But fair warning, I can’t sing. So buy a copy and contribute to my awkward humiliation!

***
L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.

Image by mikamatto at Flickr Commons.


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