01 Feb The third crisis, as defined by money-attitudes, makes sense
(This entry continues a chapter I began in which I described the first and second crises. I recommend the reader look over the first two paragraphs of the previous entry, to understand the context of what follows, below.)
The third crisis begins when the other people in her life realize she’s got money and—approving of her career or not—they want some. The persons asking might have dire needs (medical bills, eviction notice, etc.) or might not. It might just be that it seems to them she’s the one who’s got loads, so she should pay for the dinner out, the plane ticket to come visit, a really nice gift, etc.…every time, as in always….
Some escorting women tell me those making the request can sound quite entitled. Other times, if it weren’t obvious that the requestor is clearly being serious, the way the request was phrased would be ridiculous, “Hey, remember that time (back in high school) when I lent you $20? Well now I need you to loan me $_____,” or “Hey, remember (that nice thing I gave you/ did for you before I thought you were rich)? I need you pay me for that.”
Note that the crisis is neither that persons are asking for money (who hasn’t been asked for money by a stranger on the street?), nor because negotiating financial terms is stressful (negotiating financial terms is part of her business). The crisis arises specifically because of what the request means to the escorting woman when the request comes from the particular requestor. In her psychological state before resolving this crisis, the request means one thing to her; after resolving the crisis it will mean something different. The crisis is resolved because she changed her psychology from the “before” position” to the “after” position.
An escorting woman in the “before” position, upon a family or friend asking or implying that she pay, feels angry, resentful, or frustrated. These emotional reactions result from her viewing the request as unfair: On the surface, it seems unfair to her for any of three reasons.
- Because the requestor is hypocritical (You don’t approve of me or how I earn, but you want my money anyway.)
- Because the request is a threat, type 1: In effect, the requestor has taken the relationship hostage. (If I don’t pay, our relationship will be damaged.)
- Because the request is a threat, type 2: The escorting woman is left with the logical implication: If I always give in this situation, then eventually I will have given all my money away.
This crisis is difficult to resolve because the conflict is real. Money matters because capitalism exists. Hence, those who have the least money get treated the worst. Yet this crisis is not itself capitalism; capitalism just creates the predicament. Even before the predicament materializes—before the family member asks for the money—the escorting woman’s psychology is already in the “before” position. Then the predicament comes along and makes the “before” position’s limitation evident, in the form of emotional pain upon finding herself in this predicament.
What is her psychology in the “before” position? In a nutshell, she’s having thoughts like, “Goddammit, I work hard, and I didn’t do it just so you could mooch.” Why is she psychologically in the “before” position? Why do these requests seem unfair to her? Because she is holding any or all of three core beliefs.
- The first core belief might be a scarcity mentality, the belief that, “If there is more for you, then there is less for me.” A scarcity mentality is not a moral failing. It is not a character flaw. She holds it because it has seemed valid and true in her life; it might have been important to her survival. In other words, it is completely understandable that the world seems this way to her; this core belief has met a psychological need. Many women will not be ready to relinquish this core belief until the needs and experiences that gave rise to these needs have been re-examined from the new vantage of where she has arrived in life, her new self rather than her old self.
- The second core belief might be “happiness blur,” a mentality that does not distinguish between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness when making spending decisions. Hedonic-spending happiness typically results from purchasing something material rather than an experience, and for oneself rather than for someone else. Eudaimonic-spending happiness might result from purchasing an experience for oneself, yet typically results from spending for someone else. (There is a whole body of research on this. And prominent researchers, such as Martin Seligman and Sonja Lyubomirsky, have made all sorts of interesting conclusions, including that not only is one happier in the long run, but one also derives improved health by eudaimonic spending, even when subjects reported the same reported level of happiness at the time of a hedonic or eudaimonic purchase. Further evidence that the difference matters: hedonic happiness does not relieve depressive symptoms, while eudaimonic happiness does.)
- The third core belief is already familiar to the reader, an incompletely resolved second crisis: In the second crisis, after an escorting woman has achieved, from her own point of view, so much mastery and success and pride that she feels she is becoming a new person, she experiences the conundrum itself. It hits like a pang, “Who can I tell? Who will be joyous and proud with me? To whom can I reveal the new me, what it is I want to own and treasure about being me?” Deep down, she wishes her parents could be the ones. However, typically her parents are not going to celebrate and embrace the new her. So making money and spending the money, in effect, substitute: The earning (and the re-counting) and the spending of money feels so pleasurable, so self-affirming, so empowering, because in the absence of being able to celebrate and embrace with friends and family, she relies on these experiences as a means to enact and consolidate the new her. (Really, one must not underestimate how important a drive it is to want to feel like a whole, self-possessed, self-approved person. Just ask anyone who decided to come out of the closet.)
What is different about the psychology of the “after” position? The third crisis is resolved because the request means something different to the escorting woman than before. When the request is made or implied, however ridiculously phrased, however entitled, the escorting woman has already arrived at that moment with a new mentality, so she feels no anger, resentment, or frustration. Her sense of her new self is consolidated, so she does not need to make big-reach purchases in order to enact or celebrate the new her. She is already convinced that she is the new her, and for that she has her own approval. She is no longer limited by a scarcity mentality, because that mentality is no longer necessary for her survival and she no longer sees the world through the lens she had at an earlier stage of her life when that perspective met psychological needs she now meets in other ways. And she understands, from her own experience, what other researchers, such as the Princeton Study authors concluded: once one has an income of about $75,000 per year, more money does not correlate with more positive emotions (joy, love, humor, fun, etc.). So what does contribute to positive emotions? Well, for one thing, eudaimonic spending. And because she’s on the lookout for opportunities to do nice things for people she cares about, to her a request or an opportunity to spend in that way is welcome; she is genuinely happier for spending to be with or in order to directly benefit someone else.
Having arrived at this “after” position does not mean that the escorting woman now always agrees to the requestor’s ask. What is new is not that she always pays in such situations; what is new is that such situations no longer cause her emotional pain. She understands clearly what is not at stake when someone asks or implies; she is psychologically free to choose what to do. And whenever one has greater emotional autonomy, one feels happier. This is a lesson any of us can learn from the psychology of escorting women.