ost of my clients are normal people. I choose them and my intuition hasn’t betrayed me so far. The man I’m about to discuss was no exception, not at first. But he eventually raised a different question: what if someone tries too hard to please? Answer: it can be really annoying, and worse.
This client liked me from the start, in the end showing something that bordered on an attachment. Though he was careful and respectful, sex with him was… unpleasant.
Let me count the ways, with kisses first. It felt like he was trying to eat my face, literally. Kissing him was like kissing a beast that’s a step away from eating you alive. The way he went at sex was intense enough to hurt. He didn’t seem to notice.
Calling him clumsy (he was) misses the little details, as in hitting my eye with his knee during oral sex. Again, he didn’t notice. I did — and had to make an effort not to start swearing in my native language.
Despite it all, he remained a regular client. Each time I swore off him, I’d take his call and arrange a new meeting. Maybe it was cash (repeat clients are a security blanket) or maybe, despite it all, I appreciated his … effort.
But each time we met he managed to come up with something even more annoying. For example, he liked kissing my feet. What became clear to me was that he was lonely and desperately craved a person to take care of. He had no children, and in me he might have been seeing both a lover and a child. So he tried playing father figure.
I first noticed this when I told him I was looking for a new apartment. He insisted on giving me contacts. A nice gesture, but it didn’t change my seeing him for what he was: a polite client who treated me with respect. I wanted nothing to do with him on a day-to-day basis, particularly when it came to something as intimate as where I might live.
But his efforts didn’t stop with the contacts. One day, he called me to say he had a friend who had a good deal on a rental. Then came a line I really didn’t want to hear: “So, one of these days we can go there together and take a look.”
We? Together? I turned him down in split-second.
After which came inquiring text messages: “Ciao! Come stai? Buona giornata!” Or in the evening: “Che fai? Ti chiamo?” The more controlling he tried being, the more I pushed him away.
His effort at tender loving care began sounding suspiciously like preaching. He started telling me about how to develop my career and would close out admonishing me for not having taken his contact’s apartment: “Even though it’s not in your favorite part of town, you’d be able to work less and still live alone. You can’t have everything at once. You just don’t understand it.”
I was furious.
Yes, I’m young and maybe too ambitious for my age, but I take my personality seriously and I’m loyal to it. For better or worse, it’s my character. When I make mistakes, I try to learn from them. I just don’t take orders from strangers, and it’s an aspect of my life I treasure.
As he continued bearing down, I thought I’d reached my wits end. But he was just warming up.
Next, he bought me a coat. Though this was a man I saw relatively regularly and knew what I wore, he managed to get the most tasteless possible outerwear, something a woman three times my age wouldn’t wear. That was it. I refused the coat because I knew the next step was wearing it to please him. And something snapped.
I realized that my relationship with him marked the first time in my life that I’d ever felt like an immovable doll while having sex. “Please let it end,” I’d tell myself, while thinking about a “Dexter” episode I’d watch when I got home or what I’d wear the next day. With him, I broke my policy of giving a man some part of myself each time. I had nothing to give.
Unconsciously, I realized my own irritation would eventually rub off on him and he’d know it had to end.
The last time I saw him we had sex and he gave me a ride home. That was it. More text messages came but I didn’t answer. He called but I didn’t pick up. I just couldn’t bear the sound of his voice. The next day, I threw his coat in the garbage.
Call me a bitch, but I’ll take the insult over being called a girl who puts on a fake smiley face whenever there’s cash on the line.
— Lia Io is the assumed name of a young woman worked briefly as an escort in Rome and wrote about her experiences for The American.