Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Parker (Part 1): New Frontier

When I first met Parker, we were 19-year-old undergraduates at the University of Westminster in London. 9/11 had just happened.

A few days before, I'd been sitting in a London hotel room with my mother the night of September 11, 2001, and I came out for the first time -- as agnostic. Through her careful protests, I shared my ideas about how the universe might work, based largely on James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy.

Then I put my mother on a plane back to the States. I was on my own for the first time.

Parker and I met in a drab college common room on the ground floor of a narrow building in the heart of the Victoria neighborhood in central London. A hundred undergraduates were crowded in for orientation, the anxiety and excitement palpable. We all sat in uncomfortable chairs in a circle around the edge of the room, international students and first year Brits. Our lives were just beginning.

I remember looking around the circle of faces, deciding whom to befriend. In my newly empowered state, with mixed results reinventing myself in my first two years of college, I was determined to do this study abroad thing right. I chose Parker, a gorgeous boy with the cheekbones of a god, and a young woman with a tie-dyed shirt and a pierced labret.

The three of us processed the aftermath of 9/11, ate mushrooms for the first time, head-banged in grungy basement bars and danced all night in cavernous clubs. We also ate meals together, watched movies and wondered about the world. By the end of my four months in London, they were my closest friends.

My senior year of college, Parker asked me with some reverence for a phone date. I was sure he was going to tell me that he was in love with me, which meant he was probably going to come out to me (that was usually how it worked).

Instead, he told me that he was exploring BDSM, that it was a part of him. He could share magazines to help me understand, if I wanted. It seemed important to him that I understand.

This was a new frontier, but I didn't flinch. It was like my friends from high school who came out as gay or admitted to abortions despite our years of Catholic education: I knew their hearts and knew all of the pieces of their decision-making. I could not find fault with them; instead, I needed to expand my perspective.

Something similar happened a few weeks ago. I shared my blog with Parker and he had some things to share with me, too: he'd taken up acting in porn in Berlin and working as an escort. I suspected he was queer or bisexual, too, so I asked if I could interview him.

Parker went to school for architecture and pursued careers in art writing and video game design before embracing a life of sex work within the past year. The new frontier for me here was not the fact of the sex work -- I've known anecdotally that there are plenty of people doing sex work who choose it and enjoy it.

The new frontier was that I hadn't loved anyone in the industry. I hadn't had the chance to see how the work fulfilled them in a way similar to how I feel fulfilled in my own work. I hadn't explored big questions like love, ambition and satisfaction with someone who is both a fantastic critical thinker and has found peace and presence in sex work.

I haven't let Parker speak in this first post, but you'll meet him and read his careful analysis and irreverent skepticism in the few that are coming.

It felt important first, to say: I love him, and I'm unsure if we can ever be truly fair to a subject we love. I'll do my best.

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