(This was written in 2000 about events in 1973 and 74. I am posting it now in response to the “survivor” lobby trying to make a deal out of pregnant women selling sex, with the usual vile overtones of implying that they must be prevented from having a market and making any money even if it costs them, and their baby, their lives. They need a reality check, and reality is the only drug I deal in.)
I suppose I always used to wonder exactly how a person became a prostitute. I had known many over the years, but I didn’t know them to formula. Their role in my life had not accorded with any stereotype.
When I was 15, and pregnant, the prostitutes, who were my neighbors in London’s Notting Hill, were my wise women. The older women, who took care of me, lectured me firmly for my own good and the good of my baby.
I looked up to them, ruefully, as we do when we are young and run into a wall of something too real to rebel against. They were too “old fashioned”, too “conventional”, like all wise women, like all the good influences of youth.
I suppose that never learning the stereotype made me immune to it.
Maureen, Sheila, they were good women, wonderful mothers, who tried to teach me the rudiments of how to become like them.
They found excuses to give me money, food, at every turn.
I needed it, badly.
The father of my child was a chronic alcoholic, and addicted to prescription drugs too, at the age of 23.
He wasn’t glamorous, far from it. Even that young most of his teeth were missing, not rotted, but pulled by an over-zealous dentist due to some kind of gum disease a couple of years before.
Strange, because I have had every gum disease known to man and a couple no one ever saw before, and no one ever suggested pulling my teeth.
However over-enthusiastic this dentist was, he was not responsible for the stubborn refusal to wear the false set which left my son’s father looking like an elderly man.
What had attracted me?
As Jim Morrison was singing “Summer’s Almost Gone”, winter was coming on. I had nowhere to go. Going back was not an option of any kind, it never was.
This ugly, toothless, early developing loser wanted me. I rather fear more for the want of other options than for any other reason.
That was enough, I settled in and decided to be “in love” with him.
Life fell into a pattern, between three people, we almost managed to get an adequate supply of the prescription drugs he was addicted to from local doctors, a heavy sedative called “Doriden” (glutethamide).
I still feel bitter about that, although he had considerable talent as a loser, he also had plenty of help. He was in a rehabilitation center, they suddenly decided to switch all the inmates to Doriden as a sleeping pill. It was supposed to be the “New, Safe, Mandrax” (much as morphine was supposed to be “safe” laudanum”). By the year he became addicted to it, Doriden had already been pulled from the market, at least once, and had its component chemicals altered because of serious addictive
properties. So this rehabilitation center decided it was the best thing for recovering addicts. Everyone who didn’t palm it to trade with others became addicted; it was as simple as that.
But we could get almost enough for him. The only time that wasn’t covered was one weekend a fortnight, when he would use his disability benefit to drunk himself vicious and senseless. This left no money for food at any other time.
He used to deal in marijuana in a very small way, but if he did that he smoked more than he sold. Additionally, a stream of rather odd and inadequate people beat a path to our door, and stayed for days.
There was nothing resembling privacy, when these people were around he treated me like a servant for their benefit. They brought their own philosophy with them and tried to force it upon me.
I was sick for believing it was wrong to steal. Only a twisted mind would have too much dignity to “panhandle”, beg in the streets. I was so unreasonable for my aversion to dealing in harder drugs, or fraud, lying for a living. There was something congenitally wrong with me for believing women were equal human beings and not objects. Trying to keep the father of my unborn child away from drink, and drugs was possessive of me.
Through all of this the father of my unborn child, raised as a Jehovah’s witness, was now a “Born Again Christian” who declared me to be “Demon Possessed” if I did not effect to believe everything he told me to. At first I did. After a while the demands became too unreasonable and intrusive to go on.
The smoke from the drug hung constantly in the air, a sickly sweet miasma. To this day the smell of Marijuana upsets my stomach.
One day the drug dealing stopped and the odd people stopped living with us. It didn’t stop to please me. What I did not know was that the father of my unborn child had formed a relationship with a woman in rehab. He was discharged before she was, and had come to live in her old flat, until she could join him and arrange to give it up (along with the terrible memories it held for her) so that they could start afresh together.
Did I mention that the father of my son was a compulsive liar? Alcoholics often are, but even so he was an unique extreme.
She was discharged suddenly and came home with a few friends. There was mayhem; it lasted for a couple of weeks. Fortunately these people knew the father of my child well and bitterly had to accept my innocence in this. I forget the details, but they would not see me on the streets. So this woman, who’s name I cannot recall, went to the local council who owned the apartment, and got new accommodation by claiming we were squatting. We all knew this would give us a few months grace to find a home for the baby and ourselves. However, drug dealing was no longer viable. Not with an eviction order hanging over us. It was quite common then for squatters to be evicted by drug raids rather than the courts.
Malnutrition is a terrible thing. Have you ever wondered how women gave birth to live babies in famine? I know.
The unborn child takes all the nutrition first. There is even less left for the mother. There are times when you would take human life for a sandwich. You become less than sane. The need for food is beyond anything you could imagine. It ceases to be hunger, a sense of “running on empty” and becomes a blind craving, like an addiction. I developed terrible running sores all over my body, some the size of a small coin.
You may wonder why I was not desperate enough to turn myself in to the authorities. There could only have been two results:
- a) A mother and baby home where either abortion or adoption would have
been imposed on me against my will.
- b) I would have been returned to my family with similar results, in addition to life threatening abuse, unless my father kicked the child out of me first. The last being the most likely option.
I wanted my baby. Maybe that doesn’t sound rational, but I was only 15, and there was no one but myself I could trust to make important decisions for me.
The wise-women told me I had to leave him, and when I would not, they told me that for the sake of my unborn child I should stand on my doorstep for a single evening, and the money for the food I needed. They begged me to see the sense of it with tears in their eyes. When I would not they shared the little they had with me as often as they could.
The women of Notting Hill Gate were not “Poule de luxe” they were desperate, making money for a basic standard of living for themselves and their children.
The idea of selling sex repelled and scared me. I also lacked confidence that anyone would pay for a hugely pregnant girl who felt uglier than she ever had in her life.
So I did not become a hooker then.
I must admit though, looking back, as is often the way when we are young and think we know everything. The wise-women around me were right, and I was wrong to ignore their advice. As wrong as any other 15 year old girl.