Thursday, July 5, 2018

I Don't Want to Belong to Any Club That Would Accept Me as One of Their Members - Snapshots from my Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Days as an Escort at a Women's Clinic

(Escort names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Opinions below are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the leaders who run our team. In other words, if you have an issue with something I've written, talk to me. Absolutely feel free to share. Links to previous entries in this series: Start here with Day 1. Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6. Day 7. Day 8. Days 9/10/11. Day 12. Day 13.  Day 14. Days 15/16. Day 17.)

(Day 19)
"You know, I'm not surprised that you brought that up, probably because you found it on Google."

After a miserable Spring the weather is finally gorgeous - a perfect day to be doing something, anything, other than dealing with the crew of protesters outside the women's clinic in Englewood. For the first time in several shifts I start the morning out on the wing, but as we hit the halfway point Lexi has moved me back in by the door to give the guy who'd been there a break from the screamers. Alex is quick to renew our acquaintance, so to speak, and quick to pounce when I mention that the current screamer is violating Biblical law by wearing clothes woven with more than one fabric.

"See, you're wrong, and I'll tell you why." He's not shouting and his voice is earnest. This is clearly something he deeply believes in. "The Ten Commandments, those are God's ultimate laws, and they always apply. What you brought up was part of the laws for the Israelites, and those don't apply anymore."

I *am* wrong, at least according to the unknown (to me) tenets of his religious sect. It seems like yet another case of Biblical cherry-picking at work, wherein they adhere to what they like and ignore the rest, but getting into deep discussion of the true meaning behind Leviticus 19:19 or Deuteronomy 22:9-11 really doesn't interest me.

Later they tell Lexi that she needs to read my blog because I'm planning on usurping her position as leader. I hadn't been planning on it but she *is* wearing socks that are clearly a blend . . .

* * *

(Day 19)
"So that's Fake News. He writes in his little blog, fills it with lies."

What, no 'Keyboard Warrior' this week? I'm hurt.

Parker and Alex are standing with someone named Don as I lean against the wall of the clinic, the former pointing in my direction. I've seen this guy around before - must be someone important to the protesters, given the way they defer to him - but if I did there was nothing memorable about the experience.

I'm always a little tickled when they refer to me as 'Fake News,' since their accusations are patently untrue. Allow me to use this space to make an offer: Protesters - the ones reading this, like you do - please feel free to call me out on anything I've written about that you think I made up. I will gladly admit that while I attempt to get our exchanges down verbatim there's no way I've gotten every word exactly correct, but I haven't lied about anything. Fire away.

"Do you know who Norman Bates is?" The question comes from Don and it takes a second to realize he's addressing me. Muttonchops is taking his time getting set up for his turn on the speaker - no complaints here - and there are no patients in sight. That's when the protesters usually target the escorts for abuse and this morning is no exception.

I want to make sure I've heard him correctly because this seems pretty far out of left field. "What?"

"Do you know who Norman Bates is?" he repeats, half-smirk already in place. This is a loaded question, no doubt, but I simply have to know where he's going with it.

"The character from Psycho? Uhm, yes."

"Yeah, he was a legend in his own mind too!" The three of them break into braying laughter as I glance over at  Lexi, nonplussed. The Queen of the Sidewalk - although by morning's end they'll have demoted her to Princess, the heartless cads - has no answer for me, offering a bewildered shrug. Was it a joke? I think it was a joke. I suppose I should treat it as a joke.

I nod for a few more seconds before barking out a laugh. "Oh, I get it!" Pause. "You think you're witty!"

From his sour expression it doesn't appear he appreciates *my* sense of humor either. A little while later he sidles up next to me. "See, it's funny because -"

I start laughing again. "You're explaining why your joke is funny? Dude. If you have to explain it . . ." I trail off and shrug as he moves away, muttering. Turns out his joke was fake news.

* * *

(Day 19)
"What? You're wrong. In fact, that's why Toys R US went out of business!"

You might need to borrow a springboard if you want to join Alex on this leap.

He's chatty today, trying to make me see the error of my ways as often as possible. It's not quite as amusing as The Runner continuing to incorrectly tell the male companions she's harassing that it's Father's Day, but at times it gets close. He's been going on about how every baby is a gift from God and how important they are, and when I mention that babies are one thing in the world there's no shortage he pounces with the line above.

Lexi and I manage to both look at each other and roll our eyes simultaneously. "That's not why, Alex. They were bought up by vulture capitalists who then rolled the debt into the company as they sold off assets and bled it dry."

"Yeah, but there being less kids is a part of it. Even a small part is a part."

There are times when you're involved in an intelligent discussion that you'd like to continue. This is not one of them.

* * *

(Day 20)
"See, you keep changing your answer! You keep moving the goalposts!"

Part of the problem with the buffer zone being gone is that there's more opportunity for interaction with the protesters. Almost invariably they try to drag you into their well-rehearsed 'logic' traps, which only count as logic if you're willing to accept that at any time they'll pull out the God card and insist that means they've won. It's even more tiresome then it sounds, and the fact that it's already above ninety degrees this morning makes it even less appealing. The guy currently trying to weave his web of words is new to me, a youngish guy who earlier was desperately trying to escape Our Lady of the Theater. He's got on black jeans and a shirt under a long-sleeved shirt, which given the heat and humidity seems like a modern version of flagellating yourself with reeds.

Josh - I think his name is Josh or Joshua or Who The Fuck Cares - is coming at me on two fronts: he wants me to admit I can't have moral objectivity without God while also demonstrating how human laws are fallible. He's trying to accomplish the latter by using slavery as an example, which is going over about as well as you'd expect. The goal is to draw a parallel to how it was morally repugnant but legal then, just like - say it with me - they consider abortion to be now. It's a facile argument at best, but one he sticks doggedly to when not veering off to ask me when a fetus becomes a human. I make the mistake of changing my opinion from the end of the second trimester to when it's viable outside the womb, which leads to a whole new attack angle that eventually follows the circular argument back to where it started, yet again.

Later I'm gently admonished by my team leader for engaging too much. It's difficult to disagree with her assessment.

* * *

(Day 19)
"Ladies, before you go in there to murder your baby let me tell you about Hagar."

My eyes widen. Really? He's going with Hagar? I'm dying to hear how Don is going to spin this one.

"Pregnant, she went off into the desert to die, but there she found God, who told her that if she worshipped him her son would have twelve sons and they would all be princes! And that's what happened!"

Ah. He's going for a full-on ridiculous version. Got it.

"Hey," I ask, "what did they become princes of?"

Don stops and stares at me. "What? Have you not heard of Abram?"

"I asked what they became princes of. A prince is royalty. I can't imagine there were twelve openings lying around waiting to be snatched up, so what exactly were they princes of?"

He stares for a moment before dismissing me with a wave. "Look it up, it's in the Bible."

It's not, though. At least not in the versions I know, which has to be taken with a grain of salt because it seems like each new branch of this cult cherry-picks and sanitizes their own version. There's a good chance their holy text does indeed grant the fantasy that they all became princes, but in any case it's a very strange choice of story to use to try to dissuade women from having a child they don't want. I mean, super bizarre. 

For those not familiar with the tale, let's take a quick and magical ride through Don's choice, which (trigger warning) features slavery, abuse, and rape. FUN. Abraham (or Abram) is in his eighties and decides he needs to sire a kid. His wife, Sarai (or Sarah), has insides that are rocky and infertile, so she offers her husband her slave Hagar (or Agar) as a brood mare. Abraham gets Hagar pregnant through what is unlikely to have be consensual sex because SLAVE but hey, he's going to have a kid so it's all good. Hagar is none too pleased about this - can't imagine why - and her attitude ticks off Sarai, who starts carping at Abraham about it. The doting father-to-be is such a good and caring person that he more or less washes his hands of the situation,  telling Sarai that it's her slave and she can handle this however she wants. Sarai 'mistreats' Hagar, which can be interpreted in a number of ways but let's assume physical and emotional abuse. THESE ARE SUCH GOOD PEOPLE.

Hagar, deciding she's better off possibly dying in the desert than staying near Sarai, flees. She meets an angel, who is *surely* not a hallucination caused by dehydration, and is told she should trust in a god that is likely not one she worhips (she's Egyptian). Her son will have 'descendants without number' which serves as enticement enough for her to go back to a horribly abusive situation. She gives birth to Ishmael and everything is great until Sarai gets pregnant (!) and has a son of her own. After catching Ishmael teasing the kid she demands that Abraham throw them out and disown his firstborn, which of course he does. With God's encouragement, no less. Are you charmed by this tale yet?

So Hagar and Ishmael go wander the desert for a while. Then Ishmael has a dozen kids who all become tribal chiefs, which seems legit for the unknown son of a slave to accomplish. Chiefs, not princes. THE END of this inspiring story.

I'm less concerned about Don exaggerating about princes than that he thinks this is a good story for changing women's minds about unwanted pregnancies. Maybe it's more effective if they're slaves.

* * *

(Day 19)
"Yeah, we do stuff for foster kids. Absolutely we do. We do."

I'm a little shocked at how unconvincing Alex sounds. I can't possibly be the first person who has asked him why he and his brethren seem to care more about unwanted zygotes than actual living, breathing children, but he seems caught off guard by the question. 

"I mean, I don't understand why you wouldn't focus your efforts on helping kids that are already alive and need a home. You keep telling patients that you have couple who would love to adopt their baby. Why not have those people do something for the kids already in need?" As he starts to formulate an answer I add, "Do you care more about the embryos than actual kids?"

"They're not embryos, they're children. And yes, they're more important to us."

I do an actual double-take. "Really? You think it's better for you to be here?"

"Absolutely. There's more of a crowd for us to spread the gospel of Jesus and help save these people from going to Hell. Like you." He looks for a second like he wants to pat me on the shoulder, but wisely does not. "I pray for you all the time."

"Okay," I say with a dismissive wave. "So what you're saying is that fetuses are more important than kids in foster care, but preaching your doctrine is what matters most?"

"Yes, because we can save more souls that way. We got to many places where there's a crowd."

So. Women struggling with a difficult decision are shamed, mocked, belittled, spoken down to, and pelted with guilt in what amounts to a recruiting effort for the protesters' particular sect of the cult they follow. Would Alex's words be echoed by his cohorts, or is this just a personal tack for his own zealotry? I try to wrap my mind around the concept of thinking that I want people to join my club so very much I'm willing to say horrible things to them, to dance as close to edge of the law as I can to impede them, to make them feel like some kind of monster. 

 I can't. I lack the faith, I suppose.

Or maybe I just don't want my own Hagar.