Accentuate your strengths and hide your flaws — it’s a time-honoured adage echoed by fashion magazines, professional development seminars and real estate agents. For every situation in life, there are attributes that work for us and ones that work against. The goal, presumably, is to make the most of what you’ve got, while not letting your weaknesses get in the way.
Entering the sex business requires a unique version of this self-assessment. When I started pulling tricks, I made a mental plus and minus chart, assigning various aspects of myself to each column. On the plus side, I was tall, had sharp Scandinavian features and a decent-sized dick. In the minus column, I was 25 (which I thought of as old) and lacked the bodybuilder physique of much of my competition. Developing bulky muscles seemed like an impossibility on my frame, so I opted to go the other way. My brand, I decided, would be the barely-legal boy next door.
Though a decade of effective skincare meant I could conceivably shave a few years off my age, I assumed my body hair would get in the way of this task. I would shave my face and chest daily — sometimes twice if I had a client late in the evening. My determined depilation was accompanied by a carefully crafted persona. Along with a veneer of physical youth, I assumed a mental one. I restricted my vocabulary, online and in person, to a functional minimum. I never mentioned having a masters degree or being a writer. The goal was to be a perfect embodiment of young, dumb and full of cum.
George was one of my first clients. A burly, 40-something academic, he was a sweet guy who lived in a tiny, book-filled apartment in the north end of the city. We’d meet every few weeks and I’d give him a massage before he sucked me off. Although he was obviously an intellectual with copious amounts of body hair, I assumed he liked me because I was smooth, glib and moaned loudly when I came in his mouth.
About nine months into knowing each other, I went on a mini-European backpacking sojourn. Trying to get by with only my carry-on and still comply with post-September 11 flight security, I opted to leave my razor at home and buy one when I landed. I don’t know if it was the freedom of the road, simple laziness or the fact that I felt awkward shaving my chest in communal hostel bathrooms, but my dedicated hair-removal regimen fell by the wayside. By the time I came home, I’d returned to my naturally furry state.
George messaged me the afternoon I landed in Toronto, saying he’d missed me and had a tiny window that day to meet. If I was going to make it to his place in time, I couldn’t even shower, let alone shave. I thought about declining, but since I hadn’t been working for a few weeks, my bank account was low and every dollar mattered. I figured I’d just apologize for the body hair and try to give him a particularly good rubdown to compensate.
He met at the door and we headed to his bedroom, stripped down, and climbed onto the bed. I began massaging his shoulders and he asked about my trip. I was slightly crazy after the manic series of stopovers featured in my discount flight package and found myself babbling more than usual. My highly rehearsed client persona started to crack, with words like salacious and trenchant trickling out. After he blew me, we laid next to each other and he ran his fingers through my chest hair. “You’re looking good,” he said. I blushed. “Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t have time to shave before we met.” He smiled and ran his finger along my stubbly chin. “I like the hair,” he said. “I think you should keep it.”
I’m shocked. I’d assumed being boyish was my ticket to financial success. But here was someone I’d already been seeing for a while telling me that embracing my maturity made me more attractive. Perhaps my marketing strategy was all wrong. Following that, I snapped a few photos that better revealed my age and rewrote my profile, mentioning my educational background and intellectual nature. I started getting calls from different kinds of guys, guys who appreciated what I had to offer and who hadn’t found it elsewhere. It turned out I didn’t have to try to squeeze myself into the barely-legal boy next-door box to make money. I can do just fine as an intelligent, articulate man.
Whether it’s love handles, a receding hairline or crooked teeth, we all have our flaws. But sex work has taught me that our perception of what actually constitutes a flaw isn’t always spot on. The things I thought would hold me back were actually my selling points, precisely because they differentiated me from the glut of other guys out there. Embracing my body and my brain as they were made my dates more interesting, more natural and ultimately more profitable. Instead of hiding the things we think of as flaws, we can chose to own them and see them instead as part of what make us unique. As that other, time-honoured adage goes: Just be yourself.