I hate it when I have to lie, and I particularly hate it when I have to lie under heavy sedation. It's such a handicap when I'm mentally sorting through all of my available answers to the question, "What do you do for a living?"
Anyone who's a sex worker knows what an awkward question this is. I realized it afresh recently when I underwent some surgery. My case wasn't anything serious, the doctor was running late, and the nurses were chatting brightly to me as I lay on the OR table. The anesthesiologist came in and hooked me up to an IV bag. "I'll just give you something now to help you relax while you're waiting," he said.
Now, I'm sure it wasn't really black tar heroin he injected into that drip, but you couldn't have proved it by me. Soon I was completely high--giggling to myself, singing little bits of songs, not a care in the world. And then one of the sweet-faced nurses said, "So, what do you do for a living, dear?"
Uh-oh. I stopped singing and thought about it. Way at the back of my head there was a sober voice screaming, "Lie! Lie!" because as out as I may be in most circumstances, sometimes you just don't want to deal with telling random strangers that you're a dominatrix.
So I've got a selection of lies about how I make a living. There's the sort-of-a-lie--"I'm a self-employed consultant"--I use for things like business licenses and tax returns. But in social situations, that answer just provokes more questions. There's the lie I tell people like my partner's mother--"I'm a photographer." That's easily sustained, when I'm clear-headed. But I feared that, if questioned in my uninhibited state, I might start telling the OR nurses stories about porn shoots. There's a raft of in-joke answers, like, "I'm a professional snake charmer." But those seemed inappropriate. So after a minute or two of consideration, I replied, "I work for The Stranger."
Then the anesthesiologist, with exquisite timing, put a mask over my face. Saved, I thought, and then everything went away.
I woke up in the recovery room. The nurse sitting beside me smiled. "Do you know where you are? Doing okay? Good." She patted my hand. "We'll just sit and talk for a little while until your boyfriend comes to get you. So, tell me, what do you do for a living?"