By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
So, what's a nice girl like me doing on a 1-900 line like this?
Two months ago I broke off a long-distance relationship with someone I really liked. He wanted me to have phone sex with him and I declined. It's not that I don't like phone sex. I do. I just don't believe that phone sex has anything to do with real sex, and I thought that maybe someday I'd want to have real sex with him. I wanted him to see my body without comparing it to some highly optimistic description I'd given him over the phone. Similarly, I believed that, since Qwest allows couples to avoid eye contact, it sometimes facilitates intimate confessions too early in the courtship process. I'm a private person. I'm not going to tell anyone about my peculiar fetish for rodeo clowns. At least not until the third date.
Truthfully, though, my fear of toll-free loving probably stemmed from The Incident. One day during grade school, I dialed a 1-900 number a classmate had given me. "The best part," explained my worldly companion, "is that it's a 900 number, so there's no long distance charge!" When I dialed, I heard a tape recording of cooing female voices: "We're hot, wet, and horny, and waiting for your big hard...[blah, blah, something sexy, blah]." I didn't understand the acts that they were describing. So I dialed and dialed and dialed until I had deciphered the code--or thought I had. The only certainty in the whole transaction was that I was in some very serious trouble when the phone bill came. Remembering the moment during my parents' reprimanding lecture when they asked me, "Did that turn you on?" was enough to keep me from glancing through a certain alt-weekly's back pages until I was 30.
Still, I toss this life lesson away. During my next trip to the supermarket, I pick up 900 Lover, a Harlequin "Blaze" Romance by Rhonda Nelson. The heroine, Rowan Crosswhite, is an out-of-work teacher who pays the bills by working as a phone sex operator. She takes most of her calls in the garden while she's weeding. That is, until she and the gardener of her dreams ride off into the sunset. As early as page six, I read that this is the ideal profession for people who want money without really having to do anything-- basically, the entire human race. "The less said, the better," Nelson writes. "Hell, all [Rowan] really had to do was gasp, wince, and moan. Easy to do, particularly when one was, say, cleaning the toilet, or weeding a flower bed, and the guys, thank God, took care of the rest."
That sage advice has proven true enough in my sex life. This is the first time I've ever agreed with a Harlequin novel. Then it strikes me: Of course, Rhonda Nelson knows what she's talking about. A romance writer has the same objective as a phone sex operator. And, while there's nothing particularly romantic about penning stories for a newspaper, I'm a writer, too. The reporter in me loves it when freaky people call me up and tell me shocking stories. Plus, with $10 in my bank account, I need a way to pay rent....
The less said, the better, as Ms. Nelson says. But I think you know what I'm thinking.
SexyJobs.com shows an opening for several phone sex operator positions. I put my name down for three of them, filling out the same type of application forms I'd be completing if I wanted to work as a grocery store clerk. A month later, I get a phone call.
The woman on the other end of the receiver says she's from a New Jersey-based company that employs PSOs (phone sex operators, to us lay people) across the country. She sounds completely generic. No identifying accent. No heavy breathing, funny inflections, or affectations. She is matter-of-fact and well-spoken. Ms. Generic explains that her website, which promotes PSO services, is completely unique because it caters to upscale gentlemen and relies on the "girls" to be classy and educated. I roll my eyes and ask what they pay. The caller shells out $2.35 per minute, she says, and the PSO gets 75 cents. The company keeps the rest.
"Tell me about yourself," she continues. I wonder, Does she mean my real self, or the self I'd play as an operator? They're two totally different people, and I don't think they get along. Plus, I don't relish the idea of talking dirty to my future boss. I opt for the real self.
"I'm a writer," I tell her. "I work from home. I thought this might be a way to pad my monthly income."
That answer sounds good to her. I wonder what answer wouldn't sound good to her.
Less than half an hour after we hang up, I get an e-mail welcoming me to the company.
A young girl with Manic Panic bangs? Not quite. A dominatrix in stilettos? Probably not. A beach bunny with fake boobs? No. Definitely not.
The New Jersey company has instructed me to pick out "character photos" from the company's website. There are about 20 sets of photos available to potential callers. I'm trying to decide which of them looks most like me.