My Date with The Photographer

Last November, I was in a difficult place. My dad was, for all we knew, dying in the hospital and nothing in my life was certain. I got the news about my father right after running a Craigslist personals ad, and I was going to just turf all the respective “applicants” when I thought it might be nice to get my head off my life and go on a coffee date.

So, I made date plans with this one guy who seemed kinda like my type. Baby-face-ish, cool but not, seemed sympathetic and open about himself. We decided to rendezvous at a downtown coffee place, close to all the shops and places to wander.

I knew I’d return to the hospital and my reality the next day, but I thought I might just have a nice conversation, and maybe that’d make all the difference, you know?

I got there right on time to find my date seated with a hot drink for me. Nice touch (but if I’d been even a couple minutes later, it’d have been cold and awkwardness would’ve ruled the evening, so maybe not a wise plan, the ordering of a hot bevvy for a not-yet-arrived date). Too bad he looked about 15 years older than his photo (airbrushed, obviously) revealed.

We did the requisite small talk and discussed how fortunate he was to make a living from photography. After all, I really admire anyone who can make a living off their loves.

“So, how do you do it?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said, beginning to turn a little pink, “I just lucked into a really good social network and now it’s mostly word of mouth.”

I remember my petty internal dialogue, along the lines of “Mmf, some people have all the luck.”

Sure enough, the guy’s cellphone then rings. He looks at it, pockets it again, but conversation comes to a standstill with the interruption. A couple minutes pass and we’re only just getting chatty again when the phone rings once more. Now, anyone who knows me knows I think cellphones are rude in almost any setting, but DEFINITELY are beyond rude on a first date. I suspect my face conveyed this line of thought.

“Geez, sorry,” he mutters. “A friend of mine… my ex, actually– is out of town and I’m handling her business calls this weekend.”

“Oh. Maybe having coffee was a bad plan this weekend, then?”

“Well, no, I kinda always handle some of her calls, so… I’m kinda always getting lots of calls after hours. I’m just getting a little more than usual this weekend.”

“Ah. And what kind of business is it that you get calls for work on Saturday night?”

He started skirting the issue, so I pressed for more information.

“Um. Well. She’s an escort.” Insert amused pause here. “She owns an agency, actually.”

“And you just take calls?”

“Well, I’m kinda the odd job guy, too.”

“What kind of “odd jobs” does one do in an escort agency?”

Needless to say, he began ducking questions an awful lot while fidgeting with packets of sugar. He tried to explain that sometimes there might be legal issues, or safety concerns, and any number of other things that might come up during a routine week handling the escort agency.

Now, I have no issues with anyone working in the sex trade, but I just choose not to date them. This guy put himself out there as a “photographer”, but it turns out he was doing the pretty-much-porn shots of the escorts for their marketing materials and websites. Okay, whatever, that’s fine.

Then it turns out he’s officially an “appointment maker” for an escort agency. Well, all right. The trouble is, this guy just kept downplaying his roles. He tried to make it seem like he was a cog on a wheel, and nothing more.

That, however, was nothing further from the truth. All of a sudden, it went from him pretending he was just answering calls on this one weekend to him revealing that he was working almost full-time for the escort agency as a “liason” or something.

Our date came to a fast and furious end in the bookstore when I seized the opportunity to make a rather pointed and provocative remark about a book on the sociology of porn. I commented that although I was a big fan of personal freedoms and access to anything your little heart desires, that I thought porn might be having negative effects on relationships today, just thanks to the endless stereotypes of how sex should be done, etc. I wanted a little more creativity and felt a lot of class was lacking, and that sex was more than just action, and then there was the issue of redundant stereotypes and all…

…needless to say, we made our separate ways pretty quickly, our Saturday night date coming to a screeching halt at all of 7pm.

But that’s not the end of the story. How it turns out is, about three weeks later, I was working on a documentary on Vancouver’s sex trade at my former job in the film industry. Guess who was in the show? My would-be date. Turns out he was the guy accompanying escorts to doctors’ offices for tests, helping them with visas, and so forth. The dude was a major player in the documentary, and clearly in the local industry as a whole.

Now, the funny thing was, the guy seemed like a really great guy. Never judged the escorts or their actions, always was there to help in any way. Admirable, that. The trouble is, when you choose to live your life in a more questionable realm than others might dwell in, you more or less have to deal with the consequences of your choices. This guy, unfortunately, wanted to date “regular” girls, but everything about his life was anything but regular.

Someone like me, from the more vanilla side of the road, is probably never going to hook up with a guy like that. Why? Because while I might be a good little girl who likes to play a little less than cleanly, I’ve never engaged in risky behaviour, and no matter how “safe” sex can theoretically be, statistics aren’t perfect and anomalies happen far too often. I’m not going to get involved with someone who’s had a far riskier past than I have. Why up the odds against me? Fate will have a hand in my life without me giving it easier access to my weaknesses, right?

Does that make me narrow-minded? I dunno. It’s a good question, isn’t it? Does it make me guilty of believing stereotypes? Probably. But then it’s likely an Ockham’s Razor argument — the simplest explanation is likely the best, don’t you think? He’s lived a risky life, lives in a risky part of society, ergo he is a risk, right?

It’s difficult, the negotiating of the seas of safe sex. Who’s more likely to be a danger to you, and why? When is a risk too great to be taken? Does one’s behaviour reflect their morals, or are actions too often associated with morality?

It’s interesting. I’ve been asking these questions of myself for a while now, and plan to write a great deal on this in the coming months… how we are perceived versus who we actually are, and the prices we might pay for perceptions.

But why don’t you weigh in? What are your thoughts?

Ed. note: I’ve never been back in touch with this guy. Do I feel bad about it? Nah. We both knew where we stood that night. The difference is, I was honest from the get-go about who I am, while he tried to skate around anything to do with who he was. That alone went against everything I was looking for in someone. If you can’t own up to who you are and what you do, maybe it’s time to question your actions. If you can’t believe in yourself, who else can? But, yeah, there are also the judgmental assholes out there who’ll negate you at every turn, no matter how upstanding you might be.