Day 17. Freewriting. Thinking about strength. How I define strength vs how society defines strength. There is always 2 sides of the coin but 3 sides to the truth…
Living in Asia offers countless opportunities. Some opportunities are… a muse and others a vice.
Prostitutes. I had just picked up a slice of watermelon and a slice of papaya from my local fruit guy. I was cutting across a road divider when I was approached by a guy wearing crocs. “You are pretty. Can I play with you?” I didn’t understand. “Excuse me?” “You are pretty. Can I come home with you and play with you?” “No, but thank you for asking.” then I take the scenic route to my apartment and have a heated discussion with my flatmate. This was the first time I realized I was living near a red light district. “Jess, you know there is a karaoke over there, high-end karaoke.” “I know but I just came from the gym, since when do I look like a working girl?” I’m not sure if I was more upset that I was approached or because the guy was wearing crocs. Clearly, IF were in that line of business, I would warrant the high-end clientele. Wait, Jess, are you really upset about this?
Over the next few weeks, I decided to switch my schedule and dine at the local hawker center. Usually, I have ‘da bao’ (take away) but the next few weeks, I dine in. The girls up the street tend to come out around 430/5pm to take their dinner. Most are wearing comfortable clothing, some are already dressed up. Individually, they eat enough to feed a small army. I think they are mentally preparing. Not a lot of socializing. Zero eye contact. Within 30 minutes they disappear up the street. By 7pm, the street is flooded with high-performance sports cars. Sometimes, I’d see girls on the street around the corner but for the most part, the only exposure to the outside world was when they were walking in/out of the karaoke club into a fancy car… Over the next few weeks, I start to recognize some of the girls. I start to pick up on their habits. My schedule is Tuesday/Thursday having hand-pulled noodles with sliced fish and Friday a plate of assorted cut fruits. 430 start time. Every Tuesday/Thursday and Friday for a few weeks. One of the girls sits across from me. She has a giant plate of rice and mixed veg from the Economy Rice stall. (They have delicious shredded pork and some dish that is similar to potatoes but not really potatoes). We make eye contact and finish our meal in silence. The next time, I find myself sitting across the same girl. I suck at keeping quiet… “Hey, how are you?” She looks at me like I have 3 heads then looks down at her food.
A few weeks pass and I bump into my ‘friend’ again. Super pretty dress. She’s tinier than me and I’m in Ironman shape. Where the heck does she put all that food?!
We finally have that conversation that I’ve been waiting for! She’s 22 and from Vietnam. She visits Singapore every few months but only staying a week each visit. She tells me how she provides for her family. It’s easy money and she gets treated better here than at home.
My short temper is exposed when guys are crude to me, I dunno how she deals with the chaos. Our conversation jumps around with a heavy focus on family. She commented how she was fortunate to look the way she looks because it’s easy to make money. I didn’t fully comprehend her words but we wish one another well and part ways for the night.
Over the course of the next year, I see this same girl on occasion. Always immaculately put together. Her smile is bright but her eyes are blank. I wouldn’t say dead, just blank.
Then, for the first time, I saw the same girl in comfortable clothing, not working clothes. No make-up. No heels. I swear she looked like she was 15 years old. Same girl but she looked very different. I have no idea what her name is but we are now at a point where she accepts a piece of fruit from my assorted platter. This time, our conversation was different. I saw her softer side, no walls. She even laughed once or twice.
I wish I had connected with her on social media or taken her contact details. I’d like to visit her at some point, in country. Either way, I’m sure she’s well!
Thinking about my interactions and conversations with my new friend, I have a new perspective on this industry. It’s an incredible strength to have a strong sense of self. To know that everything is connected but also that things can be separate. To use your body as a tool without it affecting your mind or heart. I don’t have that strength. I wouldn’t be able to do the things she does (or did) for her family. I admire her strength. I guess at the endo f the day, we all have a different battle to fight and a different superhero costume to protect us.
My corporate life was filled with conversation starting dresses, heals to turn heads, and manicured nails to reinforce that I care about the small things. I sweat too much so never got into the whole make-up part of the world but my corporate uniform was legit. For sports, it’s an entirely different ballgame once the shoes are laced up or I’m going through my ritual for a bike ride (pump tires, fill water bottles, eat a fried egg and peanut butter sandwich, bandana, helmet, zipper bag wallet, and shoes that’ll make your eyes water).
The uniform this girl had to put on, transformational. It really was a superhero costume. To protect her from the dark side of humanity. To not allow it crush her spirit. To protect her heart with something fierce.
She’s the superhero. Prostitutes have an incredible strength. Not just when they are working but to have the ability to block out the noise around the clock. The noise from others and the noise within… that’s strength. Pure strength.
Everyone has something to sell. What’s the difference between selling your mind or selling your body? Isn’t it just selling time? Time is the thing that everyone sells… No one is better than anyone else. Everyone is a prostitute.
#MorningRamble #WhyIWrite #MentalWellness #Prostitution #Strength #NonConventionalHeroes #Humanity #NaNoWriMo