Working Girl: Don’t Nitpick Your Body. Because the Little Things Matter.

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

Moral 95: Don’t Nitpick Your Body. Because the Little Things Matter.

Charlotte Astrid at Flickr Commons

Image by Charlotte Astrid at Flickr Commons

I arrived at boss Caroline’s apartment, bearing her morning Starbucks and the New York Times, to find her examining stacks of photographs on her kitchen counter. They were professional shots of her in different sets of lingerie, in a slew of different sexy poses.

I knew she’d recently had new photographs taken to update what we jokingly called her “portfolio”—the sexy pictures she used in her online and print ads to attract clients. It looked like the proofs were back.

Caroline was 45, which isn’t really old, but it’s a little old for a professional escort. Caroline was still beautiful. She ran several miles every day and had microderm abrasion treatments to keep her skin tight, but for all her efforts, she looked a little weathered. She wasn’t a young 45.

The moment I walked in the door, I felt something was wrong. It had to be the proofs. Her lips were twisted up a little as she examined them.

“Hey,” I said, trying to sound cheerful but not chipper. “Those the proofs?”

“Yeah,” she said, and shifted her weight. “This photographer’s a total hack. I can’t believe it. He came highly recommended, too.”

“What’s wrong with them?” I said.

She flung the proofs on the counter and tossed a hand in the air. “They’re terrible! Look!”

I looked, placing her Starbucks on the counter out of the way. The proofs looked fine to me. It was just Caroline in an array of sexy poses and lingerie—wearing black pleather leaning against her window, with a riding crop in her hands and a hat tipped over her eyes; in lilac lace on her tousled sheets, lying on her belly and looking over her shoulder all sensual-like; etc.

I had to be careful here. If I said nothing was wrong, she might accuse me of trying to placate her or tell her she was imagining things. But I didn’t see what was wrong.

“Um,” I said. “Is it the lighting?”

“No!” Caroline grabbed the proofs from my hands. “It’s not the damn lighting! It’s that!” She jabbed a pointed finger at her ass in one of the pictures. “And that!” She pointed at her boobs in another, and then her neck, her upper arms, and her hips. “I do not look like that!”


Moral 91: The camera is a liar.


“Caroline, I think these look great!”

“Come on, these are good for an amateur, but I’m a professional. I look old and used up! I look flabby! Look at my ass in this one. It’s like the panties aren’t even filled out! They’re just loose and droopy looking!”

It was true the panties looked a little big. “Maybe you just needed a smaller size,” I said.

“You bought those just last week for me and I TOLD you to get the smallest size six they had! I knew you didn’t compare the sixes they had in stock!”

“I did!” I said.

“Shut up!” she said. Then she sighed and put her hands on the counter, steadying herself. “Sorry. Maybe the panties are the wrong size, but they’re only part of what’s wrong with this picture. The rest is the crappy photographer. And me. I’ve been thinking about getting butt surgery, so maybe it’s time.”

“Butt surgery?” I said. “Like, an enhancement? But you’ve got a yoga butt.”

“Come on,” she said, and dragged me up her spiral staircase to the second floor of her apartment. She was already taking off her shirt, so I assumed she was just going to put on something that made her feel sexier. She was never shy.

But then she said, “You’re honest. So I need you to tell me the truth. Be harsh.”

Oh no.

Moral 92: When we feel bad about ourselves, we look for someone or something else to blame.


She sat me down on the end of her bed and put on some of the lingerie she’d worn for the pictures. Then she stood in front of me and said, “Okay. Tell me what needs work.”

“Uhh, like . . . what parts of you aren’t perfect?”

“Yeah!” she said. Her eyes widened expectantly.

There were a lot of things I could have said. The paid sex itself didn’t bother me. But Caroline really needed to work on her trust skills. And on being responsible about wearing condoms with clients. She probably should kick the diet pill habit, too. And then she might want to start work on not screaming at people. Or lying and manipulating them.

But that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I squirmed. This conversation was going to end badly for one of us. Probably both of us. Or maybe just me. “Um,” I said. “Caroline, you really look great. I can’t see anything that needs to change.”

“Come on!” she prodded. “I can take it!”

I sighed. “Honestly. Anything I said would just be nitpicking, because—”

“Yeah yeah yeah! Nitpick!”

No no no, do not nitpick.


Moral 93: The little things matter. But you have to know which little things.


“Come on, Leslie. You’re a woman, I know you know how to critique other women’s bodies. Pretend you’re looking at your own. If this” she gestured to her body “were you, what would make you feel self-conscious? What would make you ask someone if you looked fat?”

“I don’t ask people if I look fat,” I said.

She folded her arms, annoyed.

“No, really,” I said. “Because the issue is never one of actually being fat. It’s confidence. And if I can’t wear something and feel confident, I shouldn’t be wearing it at all. So it’s my policy not to ask people if I look fat, even if I want to.”

This was true. It’s still true today. If I don’t feel good in something, I don’t wear it. And it’s not fair to ask people to make you feel bad about yourself. You’d feel bad anyway, so why bring them into it?

Caroline’s annoyed expression became thoughtful. I thought this was one of those moments when she was realizing how different we really were. She said, “Well, I do ask. And I’m asking you. So be a bitch for once in your life. I’m a bitch too, I can take whatever you dish out. I promise.”

“Uhh . . . Well? Maybe your boobs are a little big compared to the rest of you?”

She blinked. “My boobs are supposed to be big compared to the rest of me. That’s why I’ve had them done twice.”

“Okay, right. So . . . your tan looks a little fake?”

“Damn it Leslie! Start with my butt. Do you at least see why I want plastic surgery?”

I thought the reason she wanted plastic surgery was because she was addicted to it, but it would have been a distinctly bad idea to say this.

“Not really,” I said.


I was careful not to sigh this time. “Fine, turn around again.” She did. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her butt. “I guess it could be more bubbly?” I said.

“What do you mean ‘bubbly’?” she asked.

“Well . . . it’s really toned and tight, but I guess if you wanted to fill out your panties more, it could be rounder? Like, instead of muscle it would be . . . perky?”

“Yeah! This is good!”

This was not good.

“Tell me more!” she said.

“Hmm. Well, I guess in some places your skin could be tighter?”


Moral 94: Do your best to trust compliments and positive feelings.


Ten minutes later, she was in the shower crying. The sound of the water running hid most of it, but I could still hear. When she shut off the water, she stayed in there for awhile. It was not like Caroline to dawdle, so I worried what she might be doing. Usually she kept her vices out in the open, as though daring me to judge her. But sometimes she tried to hide doing things from me, like if she had a syringe of something.

“Caroline,” I said through the door. “Will you please come out of there?”

“I’m fine,” she said.

“I only said those things because I felt pressured.”

“No, you were right. Cancel my appointments for today. We need to spend all day contacting plastic surgeons and gathering information and making a plan.”

Sometimes she got distracted by very directed, passionate goals, and cleared her schedule of everything in order to pursue them. This would be an intense day, but it wouldn’t last more than a day. Tomorrow would be business as usual, but I would be expected to keep up the plastic surgeon chase for her.


Moral 95: Don’t nitpick. Because the little things matter.


Quick—What’s the second most profitable criminal industry in the US? First guess, then click.

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.

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