- In 2010 a tabloid outed me for having been a sex worker before I started teaching.
- The article made me lose my teaching career and humiliated me.
- I ended dating one of the reporters of the tabloid years later after we matched on OkCupid.
As a former sex worker, I’ve spent the better part of the last two decades fighting the assumption that people’s jobs ought to define them. I made the argument most publicly in 2010, when a tabloid outed me as a then former sex worker-turned-public school teacher.
Despite the fact that my former occupation as a stripper and call girl had no bearing on my current profession as a teacher, the publication humiliated me and I subsequently lost my teaching career.
What you do — or in my case, did — for money isn’t who you are. Still, it’s true that some jobs are sleazier than others. Prostitution was difficult work, but there was nothing morally corrupt about it.
So the fact that Michael worked for the very publication that had ruined my life just two years before he and I met was not insignificant. Michael and I matched on OkCupid, which was a popular dating site back then. I was in my 30s, four years sober, recently out of a long-term relationship, and excited to be single. After a lifetime of drama, I had zero interest in any sort of toxicity. Still, I suspended my judgment when he told me where he worked.
He supported me
My sex-work past, on top of the scandal, was a lot for potential dates to swallow, and so I’d learned to hold off on revealing it until the fourth or fifth date. In this case, though, I told Michael who I was right away.
He hadn’t worked for the publication during the time of my scandal, he said, but he recognized my name and knew the story. He expressed disgust at what his employer had done, as well as sympathy and admiration for me for having the courage and wherewithal to endure all that I did.
His reaction seemed sincere, and so we met up that week for dinner. From there, we started casually dating and fell quickly into an exclusive relationship. Michael grew up in Berkeley and had a sort of California coolness that stood out as unique in New York. Beyond the physical attraction, there was an innocence about him that I found compelling. He was polite, funny, clever, intelligent, and exceptionally well-read. Even though he was considerably younger, he had his own one-bedroom apartment in the East Village, which struck me as responsible.
There were so many things we obviously liked about each other. Still, the fact that he worked where he worked played an undeniable role in our attraction.
All the hurt the publication had been responsible for over the years weighed on him. In dating me, I think he was looking for a kind of absolution. For me, while I wasn’t ashamed of my sex-work past, there was definitely still a part of me that yearned for acceptance. Part of me also wanted vindication.
He broke up with me
That Thanksgiving, Michael flew me to meet his parents and stay with him in his childhood home. By then, we had been dating exclusively for around six months. Still, Michael remained somewhat enigmatic. Any other guy, I’d have thought he had another relationship, but not Michael. From the start, he always felt a little at arm’s length. It was just his way — except for that holiday. I felt closer to him than ever before. I remember one evening in particular; we had seafood takeout in Malibu and walked along the beach in golden sunlight. Up until that point in my life, I had never felt happier.
Just as things were heating up, Michael started cooling off, until a week or so before Valentine’s Day, he sent me an awkwardly formal breakup email. I was devastated; no one had ever broken up with me before. I was still a little heartbroken three months later when I met the next guy I seriously dated — the man who ultimately became my husband.
Today, I am happily married with children. I have what I wanted then, and I give my relationship with Michael some credit for showing me how it felt to date a truly nice guy.