For a year and a half I jerked guys off on the phone–a lifetime’s worth of aural cum shots. Oh my god, doesn’t that sound highfalutin?

I won’t reveal my real name because phone sex is looked down upon, it’s just one step away from being a prostitute in most people’s minds. But I’m not ashamed of what I did. When I would talk about phone sex with people outside the business I started to realize that most people were still very old-fashioned. I would say to one of my friends, “Oh my god, I’ve got to tell you about this guy on the phone today. He wanted me to pretend that he had a dick the size of my little finger…” and I’d look in their face and realize that the friend was thinking I was a bad person; that they were going to hold it against me.

Friends would think I had no morals, and I did have morals, because I felt bad taking money from those sad people on the psychic lines.

I actually started first as a phone psychic. I met a guy one night at Berlin, the nightclub on Belmont–I used to hang out there all the time. It turned out that he and his mom were both phone psychics. I was always asking him about it, so he gave me the number to call. I thought it would be a great way to make money and have a really fun time. There are no tests. No, no, they just hire you on the spot. These people are con artists! There is no Miss Cleo. Don’t you read the papers? I had a deck of old, beat-up tarot cards that came with a book of instructions, and I told them that. I got them at the Salvation Army. They sent me the application, which verified that I had a phone and could speak English. As soon as they got it back they started forwarding calls to me.

The callers don’t bust you because they don’t really want to know the truth, that’s why they’re calling psychic lines. Believe me, they don’t want to face reality. They want someone to tell them what they want to hear. I would usually do the cards, do a spread, and from there they would just fill in the blanks. I didn’t even know what I was doing: I would look at the little tarot card instruction booklet, it was that bad, and I would do the spread that was in the back of the book and as I’d flip it over, I’d say “Hm, this means…” and then I’d have to stall while I was flipping to the page in the book that told me what the card meant. I’d say “This is very, very interesting” while I was trying to find the page.

A typical call? OK, the phone rings and it’s almost always a woman–usually a woman that’s being dogged by a guy. I’d say, “Hello, my name is Shelley, please give me your first name and the date of your birth.” Let’s say the person’s name is Andrea. I’d repeat that very slowly, drawing out the syllables, “Yes-uh, Annn-dree-aaaa, and-uh you were born under the sign of-uh Saturn, which means blah blah blah” and by this time I’ve flipped over the first card and Andrea is telling me that her boyfriend Miguel just smacked her and walked out for the second time that week, taking the money from her hiding place under the vegetable drawer in the fridge.

These people were not skeptical, they were ready from the get-go. They would just give you information. So by now I’ve flipped to the page that says “Page of Swords”–because that’s the card I’ve flipped over–or maybe I’ve just come across that definition by random in the book. Maybe I’ve just lit a cigarette and dropped the book open to that page. It doesn’t really matter because I’m going to tell Andrea exactly what she wants to hear–Miguel is coming back, he’s going to bring her roses because he’s going to win big at the gambling boat, and then he’s going to take her in his arms and make mad, passionate love to her–for ten minutes.

I’m thinking all this out as I say, “Hm, interesting, it’s the Page of Swords card, Annnn-dreee-aaa, that means that you have a cross to bear–but it’s only temporary.” Then I flip the next card, and the next. At this point I’m beginning to add in little things like “He’s done this before, I see the pattern here” and “Oh, it’s been a difficult struggle”–shit like that. You have to keep the caller anxious up to a certain point and then you offer them hope. You basically let them fill in the blanks. I would never really tell Andrea that Miguel is going to bring her roses and money–not in so many words. “I see a dramatic change in the near future” and “The negative forces at work around you are beginning to fade away” is closer to what I would say.

I tell you, I’d be a rich woman if I didn’t have a conscience. All these women are told by society that they’re nothing without a man. You become a crisis counselor doing phone psychic work. Sometimes it would be about looks, but that would lead right back to male approval–stuff like “I’ve gained two pounds so now he won’t touch me.” They’d always sound desperate and weepy at the start of the call. They were supposed to sound cheerful and happy by the end–because I was lying to them, giving them false hope. I started saying stuff like “You know what, he’s beaten you up for two years, right? What makes you think that that’s going to change?” I became the secret anti-phone-psychic for a couple of calls. That’s when I knew it was time to do something else. I was too good at my job! There was something about talking to strangers on the phone that just released me–not that I’ve ever been shy. I just felt free and very childlike playing the Shelley character, but I couldn’t stand the thought that I was ripping people off. I felt like Mrs. Judas taking blood money. So I opted for something where there’s a fair exchange–phone sex. I saw an ad in the paper for phone sex. It was a local number, and I figured “How hard can it be?” Especially after the psychic stuff, and so I called.

A woman answered my call and asked for my address and sent me an application. I filled it out and mailed it back to a post office box in Chicago, and she called, asking, “Have you done this before?” I said no, and she said to go pick up copies of Penthouse letters, Club, some S and M magazines. She said, “The guys don’t know the difference, the stories are all the same. It gives you a guideline on what to say to them, how to do certain things.” From there she started giving me calls. At first she coached me: “This guy is a regular, he likes blue eyes and big breasts.” She would give me the guy’s phone number. That amazed me at first–who would give out their phone number? I got the second phone line because sometimes the client calls you. Some girls use their original phone line, but mine was listed and I didn’t want guys to know who I was. The second line was unlisted. They often start you off with a three-way call–that’s the only way they can listen in. They want to make sure you’re doing OK. Mostly, though, you’re on your own.

The local calls you pay for, but the long-distance callers would call you or you could get reimbursed if you called them. They would have you send in your phone bills–you would take a black Magic Marker and wipe out the information that you didn’t want them to know about you. They would recognize the numbers that were for the business. It’s different with each service because there are some that operate on an 800 number, like internationals. There are some girls that have worked for services all across the country, but I figured I just wanted to pay my rent. This wasn’t a career, I just wanted to make ends meet. I needed time to go to school, I needed time to do my schoolwork, and I knew that working in a coffeehouse wasn’t an option because it wouldn’t bring in enough money to pay the rent and I knew that I was a shitty waitress. But I am a good talker, a fast talker. I had no help from my parents putting myself through school, so this seemed like a great option.

All I ever wanted in life was to be an artist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have other talents or that I don’t like other things. I’d established that I had a conscience and now I wanted to see what this was all about. This would be like an acting exercise–I’d dabbled in that at one point, and it was kinda cool.

Marcia was the owner of the first line that I worked for. She was very fair. She’d let you work for other services at the same time. It worked like this: you’d notify the service that you were available for calls and then you’d be put in rotation–first come, first served, with the exception of requested calls going to those particular girls.

I went up to see her to get my checks; I was always behind in my rent. She lived in a very nice condo in Uptown. A very generic, middle-class looking place–you know, pastels, hunter green, very tasteful. There were always a bunch of toy dogs and kids running around the place. They were other operators’ kids, not Marcia’s. She was enormous–you know, you see people like this on Jerry Springer, they have to cut half the house away to get them out. She was approaching pretty unhealthy–way over 500 pounds. She’d always be on the water bed when I came in to get my check: “Hi honey, sweetie, baby doll”–you know, those sexist things, but they were very endearing coming from this gigantor on the bed. She was always eating takeout Chinese–just scooping it in–dozens of those little white boxes floating up and down on the water bed with her eating and talking on the phone. My checks always smelled like plum sauce. I liked her, but I knew I couldn’t stay with her–I was going broke waiting to talk about sex! I was brand-new, so I’d get like three calls in eight hours. It just wasn’t enough. I told Marcia I was going to sign up with another service and she was cool with that.

Marcia told me to call Estelle–she was the owner of this other service. I think maybe Marcia had worked for her at one time or something. At any rate, Estelle had run her business for like 20 years and she barely left her house, which was on the south side, in the Bridgeport neighborhood. She had buried three husbands; a couple of them were Chicago cops. She never had children–she hated kids–but she had little rat dogs. She had a parrot at one time that I think she got at Woolworth’s. She had a Furby collection–tons of them. It was like that episode of Star Trek–“The Trouble With Tribbles”–these fur things everywhere. So you’re getting this, right? Dogs yapping, bird screeching, phones ringing off the hook. She was very south-side Irish and WASPy at the same time. You’d never know that she owned a phone sex business to look at her. But her favorite word was “cunt,” so what does that tell you? Estelle liked to go to little old lady brunches on Sunday, to what? Kvetch with other little old lady phone sex line operators? Estelle said that you couldn’t work for another phone sex place because she wanted you exclusively. I agreed to that stipulation. By the time I started working for her I knew pretty much what I was doing. She would just kinda say in her little old lady voice, “OK, he likes that you’re a little girl, little Catholic girl in the uniform, about 15 with the kneesocks, got it? OK? Click.”

Most of the services are a sink or swim kind of thing–you either got it or you don’t. Either you can fast-talk or you can’t, and because there’s such a high rate of turnover and because there’s so much money that comes in through the phone, if you don’t get guys to ask for you, you either just don’t get calls or the person in charge like Estelle just stops sending the calls your way. You want the guys to call back and request you because that means money. Your boss wants that, too.

Some services charge the guys by the minute and you get a percentage of that–but with her it was $20 a call and the call was up to 20 minutes. We’d get like half of that. She says, “Hold on, the girl will call you back.” If the guy was on the line for five minutes he still got charged the $20, and then it would work in increments, like if you went 25 minutes you would be charged $40. And she’s got the guy’s credit card number. At the end of the calls, you check in and say, “I’m done.”

I usually only made $250 to $300 a week working part-time. She didn’t take taxes out but I’d get a 1099. I had a job at an art supply store making $7.50 an hour and I couldn’t make ends meet. With the phone sex, I could.

My time on the phone varied depending upon my school schedule. Estelle always needed people during the day because guys would call from their offices. Often I’d hear a knock on the door and the vast majority of these guys would slam down the phone in panic.

But there was an exception to this rule. This guy would calmly whisper “Hold on,” and someone would come into his office and have a business conversation with him. That was always my signal to rattle off a line of filth–it guaranteed me repeat business. He’d love that–the daring, the nerve. His, not mine, of course. Way up high on the 56th floor, Mr. Big Stuff is deciding the fate of some third world country and getting off at the same time. Talk about multitasking. I really liked those calls at first–it allowed me to fantasize about these men’s lives. Would anyone ever know how many times they were calling up Shelley? Did their wives have any idea what they were up to? Did they talk about it with the other guys after their racquetball games? How did they hide these bills? I always imagined that it was written off as a business expense–“services rendered” and all that.

Phone sex is erratic, even more than waitressing. The more you’re available, the better. You make more money. You could have calls that lasted 30 seconds (you still charge ’em for 20 minutes), and then drunks that would be on the phone for hours. The longest call that I did was six hours–he’s talked longer to other girls–but I just couldn’t do any more. I thought I’d kill myself! I can laugh about it now, but my god! That guy was really into control–there was a point where it wasn’t even about sex, it was about how long he could force you to keep talking to him. I seem to remember discussing the weather–six hours with a stranger, where else do you go?

You would feel out the caller to see how long you were going to keep him on the line. There was a girl who stayed on the phone with a drunk who passed out–he was sleeping, snoring away–for like eight hours. She charged him! I couldn’t do that. I’d lose my voice and watch my money fly out the window. If they were drunk and annoying it was hard for me. There was one guy who would just have you come over and over again–very loud–and I would think, “I just can’t come one more time!” He’d be like, “Louder! Louder!” and I’m starting to worry about the neighbors hearing me screaming in ecstasy as my voice is getting hoarser and hoarser.

If it’s a repeat customer that spends $300 a week on phone sex, you drag it out. If it’s some guy who’s had a bad credit card in the past and she doesn’t care about him, you get him off in five minutes. They can call back up and say, “I’m not paying for the call because this girl sucks.” I rarely ever had that happen. There was a guy that hung up on all the girls–that was his trip. I was usually nice and waited until they wanted to hang up. Even if it was clear that I wanted to get off the phone I wouldn’t say “I have to go now,” because I didn’t want to lose my money. Sometimes no calls would come in, sometimes a hundred would, and you’d actually have to speed the guys up. Estelle’d call on the other line and say, “Hurry up and get him off, I got a hot one ready to go.”

The first calls that I got were like straight sex calls, and it was just an age thing–it’s like getting cast. The first calls are pretty close to your own age, and then it turns into you’ve got to be 15, you’ve got to be a 60-year-old woman–and, yes, it does happen–someone’s mother or someone’s sister or cousin. The operator asks what kind of girl the guy wants to talk to, and she lets the girl know before they start the call. If the guy is shy at first–and a lot of them are–then you might spend the first 15 minutes just bullshitting, waiting for the guy to get up the nerve to tell you what he wants.

Once you figure out what the guy wants, you get to the sex. A straight sex call is like this: You’re just some porno bimbo with the big, blond hair, a Pamela Anderson type. You lower your voice, “Hello Brad, I’ve been waiting here all day for you,” and that’s kinda how you start out. “I’m so lonely, why have you kept me waiting,” you might say. The guy’s response leads you on down the path, so it’s either “I’ve been so frightened here without you” or “I’ve had all this time to think about what I want to do to you” or, the most popular, “I’ve been a bad girl and I think you might need to punish me real hard.” Things continue, and usually within minutes you’re going down on the guy or he’s fucking you. There really wouldn’t be a lot of variation. Either you undress yourself or he rips your clothes off, you’re fucking in the missionary position or doing it doggie style. One thing: you never fantasize making love with these straight sex calls–it’s always fucking. All phone sex callers love to hear a woman say “fuck” in her little girl voice. To tell you the truth, I think these were the type of guys who were really uptight because they’re trying to fit into an image of what society tells them is sexy, because in later calls they really start to get into what they’d really like.

The guys are always jacking off–if they can. You get impotent guys who are frustrated and that’s why they call. You veer away from sex for a while and pretend to be interested in their problems. Maybe they’ve had a fight with their girlfriend or they lost a big account at work or their car needed a new muffler–it could be anything. They talk a lot about what the football scores were that day, who was the starting quarterback. Eventually, it always comes back to wanting to stick their supposedly gigantor big dick inside of you.

These calls all happened within the first week with Estelle–pretty fast. It was a week of straight calls and then all of a sudden I got thrown into the kinky ones–it was a trial by fire.

My first kink call was a castration fantasy. The girl answering the phones coached me. Estelle was at one of her brunches, I think. Let’s call this girl Katie. “This is easy as pie–all you have to do is tie him up, beat him, shave him, and tell him you’re cutting his nuts off. He won’t give you any trouble and don’t worry–it’s a fantasy, remember?”

So Kenny the Kink calls up and we go through this castration fantasy of his and he’s screaming bloody murder and coming and calling out for Jesus to take him home and all of a sudden there’s silence on the phone. I thought Katie had lied, that he’d really cut his nuts off–and then Kenny speaks in this Professor on Gilligan’s Island voice, very polite and deferential, “Thank you so much, my dear, that was extremely pleasurable.”

I said, “OK, no problem,” and then we hung up. It was like a big slap in the face. I knew that people liked being tied up and hung from the roof, but this was a new one on me. I had to talk myself down from that call. I took the phone off the hook and made myself a drink. I wasn’t sure that I could go on with other calls, but there was also a larger part of me–and I had to be honest and admit it–that was fascinated by what had just happened. I talked to myself rationally: This kind of sex is taboo, and I’m not really having sex here, I’m not sexually into what I’m doing. I’m providing a service. If this guy wasn’t doing this with me on the phone maybe he’d be acting it out in real life. So that was all the convincing I needed at that point. I was a phone sex therapist!

During the first week I would have to stop and pay attention. I was trying not to burst out laughing over some of these callers. It was kind of nerve-racking. I was afraid of breaking character, because once you do that it’s over–there goes your money. I don’t feel emotionally connected to any of these people and I’m not actually into any of the calls, it’s just talk and I’m acting, so I’m not revealing anything about myself. I’m not even the person that they’re talking to, I’m just a character that’s doing what they’re really into. I had different names and voices: Amber, Gabby, I had an Asian girl named Kim. I had a black girl named Koko–Estelle gave me that one. I did a Russian cleaning woman named Natasha. That was because the guy wanted to fuck his Polish cleaning lady. I wasn’t sure if I could do a Polish accent so I told him that I was Russian and he said, “Fine, fine.” Eventually even if I couldn’t do an accent I would claim to be from whatever country the guy wanted. “I’m first generation,” I’d say, explaining why I didn’t have an accent. There were a couple of times when guys didn’t like me and they’d call back and get me again with a different name and voice. They didn’t know the difference. But it’s not like I’d do something and think, “I deserved an Oscar for that performance.” There’s no artistic or emotional payback for this. It’s strictly about the money.

I started answering the phones for Estelle about six months after I started working for her. She would forward her calls to my two lines. I didn’t understand how this worked, but all her phone lines would come in to me. I wouldn’t do calls if I was answering the phones for her. Estelle trusted me and liked me. Maybe she liked my reliability. She had a persecution complex where she thought everybody who worked for her was stealing business–that’s typical in the phone sex business. She was forever calling me up and saying, “That’s the last time that stupid fucking cunt is going to steal one of my regulars.” I never heard of any male business owners, but I’m sure there are many, many men that own these services–there’s too much money for there not to be.

Katie–the girl that coached me on the kink call–had worked for Estelle for years. She answered the phones and took calls herself. I would guess that she was Estelle’s biggest moneymaker. Estelle felt a bit sorry for her, but she also relied on her. Katie never said no. She was always available to take calls. Katie was heavyset at one time, but when I knew her she had slimmed down and was very attractive. She was this Irish Catholic south-side girl also from the Bridgeport area but a trashier part–one of those houses where they have 40 people living in two rooms. Katie had very, very low self-esteem. My self-esteem wasn’t affected by phone sex. I didn’t feel better about myself when some guy would say, “Oh, you’re the best person I’ve ever talked to,” or bad when they’d complain. There are a lot of girls that do this that feel bad about themselves. Katie was one of those.

She really got into the job–she enjoyed all the attention, and I think she worked like 24 hours a day. I think she thought it made her a sexy, beautiful person. Phone sex was Katie’s life. Then she started meeting clients for money. I don’t know if she was sleeping with them. Estelle assumed she was, and that’s just the ultimate taboo–you never meet anyone face-to-face.

Katie was also a liar. She’d give the girls a call, and then she’d call back later and say, “The guy didn’t like you,” and then she’d mark it down for herself and take your money. I reported her and another girl busted her for taking tricks. Estelle tossed her out and started forwarding the lines to me. I got like $12 bucks an hour for doing that.

Taking calls, I had a steady stream of business, but there were women that did this like 24 hours a day, that made like $600 to a $1,000 a week doing it, easy. Katie was one of those. Estelle hired her back–she was just too popular, she made too much money.

This service–actually, a lot of the services out there–operates because of its regulars. It’s an outlet for these guys; it’s like a shrink for them. Whatever kink that their wife isn’t into or they can’t get a date to do with them–it’s those kinds of guys that are going to call back again and again. You get their real name and number. Most of the time Estelle would give out just their first name and the number, but when I answered the phones for her I knew a lot of personal information on these guys. Most of the callers are middle-aged guys. Young guys want Pamela Anderson, as I’ve said. Middle-aged guys want to still believe it’s real. Old guys know that it’s a fantasy and just have fun. I kept notes on the callers’ preferences when I answered the phones. The notebooks are really important because it makes your regulars think that you remember all this stuff about them. It’s very flattering to them, they would be so thankful–“How thoughtful,” they’d say. It would help with your popularity–which meant more money. I have several notebooks of this stuff in assorted colors. Let me read you some of the notes: Barely legal, ten-year-old girl, size 12 or larger, big feet, ticklish. This guy wants a big, jolly woman. Here’s a kidnap fantasy, hm, here’s a typical S and M call–duct tape, dildo, clothespins, housecoat, belt, handcuffs. I remember that this guy was, like, a Trekkie–he made up his own little science fiction sex fantasy.

More notes, um, big tits, brown hair, two girls, ballet dancer, wants a cross-dresser but no men. Some of them just want to be called by a woman’s name at the outset. Here’s a request for incest, a mommy call–that’s very common, the older woman/mommy fantasy. I did lots of those. There was a mother and daughter that would do calls together. Here’s a guy that called on the day his mother died and then every day for the next ten days. A lot of these guys are calling to relieve stress in their lives, it’s a way to escape.

Some guys would spend so much they would have open tabs, others would have their cards declined and they’d beg for a freebie. Here’s a humiliation fantasy–this one wants to be told he has a four-inch dick. This one wants an athletic girl. So many guys call from out of state. Some call from Japan, where they can’t get someone to talk about this stuff. Some guys would call from Canada, the Virgin Islands. They tell you that they’re rich millionaires and they’re coming to get you.

Guys that were finally comfortable with themselves had different descriptions of what women should look like. Very few would want someone in the media, you know, a celebrity. They were comfortable with their own tastes. The young guys would always start out wanting the bimbo types. But after calling back several times they’d start having you look like their real fantasy. People don’t realize that there really are 31 flavors and that’s what it was really like. You’d think it would be the girls in porn but it wasn’t. That really opened my eyes.

Some guys wanted older, larger, shorter. A lot of guys liked big round butts and hips. That’s another common thing–guys with socially acceptable wives, meaning she looks good when he takes her to the company picnic, she’s a little petite thing but he doesn’t really like that. They wanted big girls. That was a little sad. They wouldn’t want the skinny model types. They wouldn’t want their own stick wives.

I could do other things while on the phone. I’d clean, dust the house, do the dishes, empty the garbage, clean the cat box. I’d be on the computer playing Tetris or Freecell or I’d go on the Internet. A lot of the time I’d do homework, write term papers. I’d eat and shove food in my mouth and use that–like this, oooooooh–they loved that. I remember working on Thanksgiving and taking calls while I was eating a turkey dinner with my boyfriend. Estelle was desperate so I said OK.

Sometimes I’d watch TV with the sound down and snack on trail mix. I remember watching the entire first season of The Sopranos with the sound turned down. After I gave up phone sex I saw the show and was shocked to hear the actors’ voices and all the profanity. I liked the show much better with the mute button on. I used a cordless phone and wandered around my apartment. Eventually, I got a headset, and then I really was able to do other stuff while talking sex.

A very common fantasy is this: men who want to be dressed up like a woman and fucked up the ass with a giant dildo. One of my regulars wanted to be transformed. He wanted me to describe his hormone shots, where he was going to have his sex change surgery. He asked for minute detail: the schedule for the shots, how often he would have to have them, the fabric of the clothes he would have to wear. I would describe walking into the doctor’s office, the nurse filling up the syringe, swabbing his arm, the whole bit. The more detail the better. He would be thrilled having me describe the actual operation. I once recommended that he watch the end of the movie Dressed to Kill, where Nancy Allen describes the procedure in detail. After that, I had a fan for life.

I knew it was a fantasy, but there was a point where he seemed to want to cross the line–have me reveal who I really was–and I would never cross the line. I don’t give a shit about these guys, right? He would keep me on the phone for hours with stuff like “So you’re going to meet me, right?” and “I saw you the other day at Starbucks,” and I would say, “Oh, yes,” and I was nowhere near there.

One wanted to be dressed in regular women’s clothes. I loved him. I’d pick up the latest copy of Vogue and describe a whole new wardrobe for him. “Oh dear, I’ve had an accident down here,” he’d say, “better find something else for me to wear,” and we’d go on to the next designer. He had a passion for Armani suits. I loved his taste.

I had another regular that was just the opposite. He desperately wanted to be a whore and always wanted to be dressed in a purple cat suit. This guy would whisper, “I’m working North Avenue and I’m going to get fucked.” He would whisper in detail how he was putting on the cat suit, how the velvet felt on his skin, blah blah blah. I could barely hear him, he whispered so quietly. My role was to encourage him: “Yeah, honey, you’re going to look so good tonight you’re going to make thousands–everyone’s going to want you. Did you remember to get some new Lee Press-on Nails?”

The Asian character that I did had a guy in the armed forces who said he was into devil worship, and he wanted me to be his satanic bride and have sex with dogs, and then I’d say I was having sex with the dog and I’d be watching Frosty the Snowman on TV, and he’d ask for the name of the dog and I’d say “Frosty.” He’d say, “Is Frosty licking your pussy?” and I’d say, “Oh yeah, oh yeah, Frosty’s a big, bad doggie.”

The Russian cleaning woman guy was a regular caller. He’d want to enter me from behind while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing his floors. I just kept thinking of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest–“I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the dirt.”

Then there was the drunk guy that called from the suburbs–Glen Ellyn? Glenview? Glendale Heights?–that used to go to the Baton that wanted me to be a shemale and he talked about how he hated modern women because they wore pants and I’d be sitting there in my combat boots with a Hole CD playing in the background. I pretended that I worked at the Baton, and he went to the Gay Pride parade because I told him I’d be on their float. I said, “I was there, didn’t you see me?” He always insisted on my wearing crinolines. I’m sure we eventually would have gotten around to a Gone With the Wind fantasy. He was another drunk that would pass out on the phone. The enema guy was also a regular. Some of your regulars would want a golden shower one week and then something different the next. That’s common. That’s why sometimes I have trouble remembering all the regulars. There was one guy who called up who wanted me to seduce his friend, to describe her. So I’d say, “Oh, she’s got lovely, long, blond, silky hair and she’s sitting on the white porcelain toilet and she’s taking a hot steamy shit.” The enema guy wanted me to give myself an enema. I started out by just running the water and he knew I was faking, so then I’d use the Dawn dishwashing liquid bottle to make the sound and then he was happy.

Bondage was pretty common. I was fine with all those calls. No snuff, but I did have a guy that would have certain items that he would want you to use on him–clothespins, safety pins, tit clamps. He would use these on himself while we were on the phone.

Amber was the young teenager. She was the little Catholic girl. I gave her age as 15. I didn’t have a problem with that. I don’t think it’s so morally wrong that a 15-year-old wants to have sex, because they do, and some 15-year-old girls and boys know what they’re doing. There are plenty of 15-year-old girls that date 25-year-old guys–it’s not that unusual in our society. There’s really a social taboo about it, which should probably be there because the girl isn’t emotionally ready for it. So if a guy wants to do it through phone sex rather than have sex with an actual 15-year-old girl, I’m like, so? If they do it through phone sex then that’s not so terrible.

I went as young as 12, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing those calls. I couldn’t go any younger. I found it sick and disturbing. There was a pedophile call or two–I had trouble with that. I could do the dress-up calls and the old lady calls. Each girl would have her niche, and I just didn’t like doing those. I didn’t feel comfortable doing rape calls, either.

We would do two-girl calls. We’d both be beating the guy or having sex with each other while he “watched.” This fantasy wasn’t as common as I thought it would be. The girl and I would talk after the call and laugh our asses off. That’s how I started really talking to some of these other operators. I don’t look like the typical woman that works as a phone sex operator–not the ones I met, anyway. I’m too thin. A lot of the women who do this are large, and they get a kick out of describing themselves as “five two and 98 pounds.” They don’t want to meet these guys in person.

There was one girl named Sheila that was heavy that belonged to a large-and-lovely girls’ club. The club would go to these places where they knew chubby chasers would be–men who liked big girls. These girls were happy with their weight–they had no intention of losing it. So at any rate, Sheila raved about her fabulous job and I’d say at least four or five of these girls from this club started doing phone sex, and they were all terrific at it.

I only really had trouble with one girl, Michelle. She lived with a gay man that really used her, and she didn’t care because she just wanted him on any terms. She started crying to me on the phone one night–she’d caught him with another guy. I talked her down. Big mistake. Suddenly I was her best friend, and she’d call up on any pretense, wanting me to meet her at Berlin or Spin. Then she started showing up at my apartment building. One night she called from a bathhouse–she was sure that he was inside. I very gently tried to get her out of my life. I realized that she was psychotic. Eventually, I had to get tough. Listen, I verbally cut a guy’s nuts off on the phone–I’m not going to have a problem getting rid of someone. That cured me of wanting to hang out with these other operators.

I was dating Henry when I started. It got serious and I moved in with him. Sometimes I’d get ideas for sex from the calls, but it didn’t really affect us. Most of the stuff I’d heard of and it didn’t really faze me. Henry was freaked out about it for the first couple of months. He’d hear me say, “I’m sticking the enema up my tight ass,” and he’d react “Ah, geez!” I’d have to leave the room.

You know, straight guys have this part of their brain, and I don’t quite understand it, where they think it’s kinda macho to be with a whore or a slut, and I don’t know what that’s about. I think part of Henry liked that, but then being up close and personal with it kind of freaked him out. Then he got past it and realized that it was a business. He talked about opening our own line, but I didn’t want to. I had a regular guy who always wanted two women, and Henry would be the other woman in the background. I had a regular who wanted to be a delivery boy–he’d be a pizza delivery guy or the UPS man and when he came to the door we were either having a lingerie party or a Tupperware party where we were all naked. Henry would sort of giggle and chat in the background, so it would sound like other girls were here.

I was a Catholic girl but I never really believed in God–too patriarchal for me. I think there may be something out there. Catholics are really judgmental, and my parents are very old-fashioned so if they knew that I’d done this they’d probably fall over dead.

I had a very traditional upbringing, grew up in the suburbs. Both my parents worked, which was a touch unusual, and my mother is a very strong character. But then, so is my father. I dated in high school and, yes, I went to my high school prom. No mysteries there. I’m a normal girl! Or maybe I’m not, because I didn’t have any guilt about being a phone sex operator. Who knows? It’s not something to get worked up about.

I started doing fewer calls because I was getting burnt out on it, plus after a while I think Henry got sick of it. We don’t live in a big place, and he’d have to be quiet in the background and turn the TV down during The X-Files.

It started to infringe on my real life. I started to be paranoid when I was out that someone would recognize my voice–a lot of the guys would tell me that I had a distinctive voice–and it started to bother me. These guys were developing a relationship with me after three or four months, and some of the regulars started picking up on the fact that I was doing other things–they’d figure out that I was on-line reading the New York Times or grooming my cats. I had one guy who started paying attention to all the background noises, trying to figure out what kind of person I was. A lot of these guys have plenty of money to blow, and they’re not stupid. After you talk to someone for four months, your character starts to drop and they get to see more of you, and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want any relationship with these people.

I also started getting a busier schedule at school and Estelle was pissed about that, and Henry and I just got more involved, and I just started to phase it out. I was burnt-out and I didn’t care. I didn’t need it as much financially. I had the second phone line taken out pretty quickly once I stopped taking calls. That was about two years ago.

I’m sure the guys quickly transferred the relationship to someone else. It’s more about the fantasy anyway. There was probably someone who did it better than I did anyway–I’m sure that they filled my shoes pretty quickly.

I would still answer the phones for Estelle. Then it got to a point where I couldn’t be pleasant to people. I started to become passive-aggressive with the customers. I was just done.

With phone sex you’re not a physical whore, but you’re an emotional whore. When you’re taking part of yourself and putting it out there it’s exhausting. I had to fake my emotions all the time. As it is, I feel like I have to put on a charade depending on where I go in real life. I can’t be myself 90 percent of the places I’m at because if I want to get ahead in life I can’t be me. I have to be like the nice girl for this person, the sweet girl for that person, I have to be this idea of what a young woman is supposed to be. So I understand role playing and what it’s all about and having to do that in everyday life, and with the phone sex it got to be too much. You get sick of it, you want to tell everyone to fuck off, you want to tell them to get a life. Everyone’s like a vampire, sucking your blood. You can’t be yourself anywhere. You start hating everyone and everything. I do miss the new, novel stories. I miss that game–wow, what’s he about?–it becomes a game of prodding the person to try to figure them out and to figure out if they’re acting. I miss that–on rare occasions.

All the names in this story have been changed.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Les Toil.