If you had told me a year ago that I would be bringing mince pie to a hooker party, I’d have used a recipe calling for more booze.

The holidays are a very hit and miss time in the game. My time is not cheap and sometimes my clients’ resources need to be directed elsewhere. If they put a diamond under the tree, their wives ask fewer questions about their late nights at the office the other eleven months of the year.

On the one hand, salesmen and account execs stop traveling, due to unused lieu time and depleted travel budgets. On the other hand, the financial bigshots and stoke wizards are all receiving their stomach turning bonuses. My bread and butter however stays constant throughout the year. I get the lonely guys, men who, because of either their looks or personality have repulsed all potential eligible women and have resigned themselves to a life of solitary company punctuated by the weekly escort. They construct their bizarre lifestyles around comfort above all else, rarely keeping up pretenses of normalcy. They live for years in one bedroom condos or apartments that look like they’ve moved in the previous weekend. They’re usually what we call, “New Canadians,” who have slowly realized Western women are more complicated than what they might be used to. These are my guys. There are more of them than you could imagine.

I don’t look down on them, but I don’t feel sorry for them either. Relating to women is difficult, and make no mistake, it’s easier if you’re rich or attractive. But it also doesn’t take a Herculean effort. The way to be loved is to be lovable. Don’t have high standards, punch your weight and treat people the way you want to be treated. They’re all clichés because they’re all useful in their own ways.

When the call came for to meet Joe in Scarborough, I had a feeling he might be a lonely guy. Once we pulled up to the shitty rental high rise on Victoria Park, my heart dropped. Those high rises, especially the ones outside of the city, are filthy on the inside and there’s no way a woman would willingly go there with a guy. It was clear that Joe had given up.

I wish was wrong. I wish he had just been going through a divorce and worked nearby at Thompson Reuters. I wish he hadn’t had a very obvious hoarding habit. I wish he hadn’t said he spent the down payment for a house on a vintage Thunderbird, because he thought, “I’m alone, why do I need a house?” But I didn’t become a hooker to make wishes; I became a hooker to fulfill the one I already had.

People think dealing with desire is the hard part of the job, but they’re wrong. Sex is the easy part. Interacting with someone’s lizard brain is the easiest thing there is. When the higher thinking stops and instincts kick in, that’s my vacation.

It’s another person’s loneliness, that’s what gets to you, burrows inside your head and taints the tolerable time you spend together, knowing that when you leave that apartment, the next guest he’ll have will likely be you, again, next week, nobody tells you about that mental part of it.

His enthusiasm and downright baffling coital skills were typical of a call like this. He wanted to please me so badly. Why do guys always ask what I want anyway? Is it some kind of deeply ingrained romanticism originating at the genetic level? Is it the desire to pretend I’m here entirely willingly? Or do they just forget? They forget that when they ask me what I want, the truth I say in my head is, “Your money and a good night’s sleep.” The words that come out of my mouth are deferent, pleasant, and somewhat mischievous. That’s the kind of woman they want.

In both of my lives, I learned a long time ago to begin sentences with the question, “Do you want my honest opinion?” If I was going to release one fact upon world, it is this: no one ever wants your truly honest opinion, really. Honesty must be one of the most abundant resources with the smallest demand one the planet. If you think any relationship in your life is based on unmitigated honesty, try to remember the last time you said something unwaveringly true to those you love. An honest person is hard to even tolerate, let alone love.

Joe was one of the guys who liked to watch me in the shower, and afterwards, when I apply deodorant and redo my hair and make-up. It’s frankly fucking annoying that I can’t get a second of post-coital privacy, especially since I possibly have to look just as delicious for the next call. That said the guys who invade my space are few and far between.

It would have been fine if Joe hadn’t followed me down to the lobby. It would have been fine if my driver, Pedro, was on time. But when Joe offered to drive me home, I could feel my dinner reverse in my stomach and tried to quell the panic in my voice while almost screaming, “NO, thank you!” I could have killed Pedro when he finally showed up. I’ll be forwarding my inevitable therapy bills to him from now on.

Joe affected me. He had a cane and some obvious social stumbling blocks. He liked me and probably told himself that one day, when there was a lunar AND solar eclipse AND all the planets aligned, I could like him too. There was nothing I wanted more than to get away from him in that moment. Get away and forget.

That was three days before my agency’s annual Christmas party. It was a gathering of all of the employees that made Adele’s highly profitable business run. The girls who answer the phones, the drivers and mostly importantly, the escorts. I’m not the best at parties. I’m shy and I find reaching for conversations awkward. I’m a better listener. It comes in handy for the job. My life is consumed with work that isn’t worth conversation. If there’s an open bottle often I can muddle through, but I hate being around big groups of people. I much prefer one on one.

Every time in my life that I’ve had difficulty dating men, I thanked my lucky stars I wasn’t a lesbian. Women are insane, especially the hot ones. I was regretting RSVPing already.

I asked Conor to drive me to the party, in case he needed our dented, decade-old Chevy Cavalier to do his Christmas shopping. Or to start his Christmas shopping, rather, seeing as there were shipping deadlines to get gifts back to Ireland. He gleefully refused to participate in the oldest of Christmas traditions (shopping) while I was at the party.

The party was at the home of one of the drivers and his wife. The first thing I noticed as I walked in were the kids. There were at least five under the age of four running around, dressed up, knocking bottles from low tables and generally hamming it up, the way children do when they know pretty girls will pay attention to them. The party was in the most unassuming house I’ve ever seen, on a quiet street 20 minutes out of the city, with the most sexually liberated group of people that could possibly exist.

Adele approached me, handing me a small box with the Swarovski logo imprinted on the front. While the other girls tore into the boxes with reckless abandon, I chose to hide mine in my purse.

More importantly, it wasn’t always clear who was an escort at the party. A solid 70% of the women wouldn’t turn heads on the street. It was no surprise they looked like bartenders and waitresses that are hired for decoration because so few of them were the real fantasies I would associate with escorts.

It’s occurred to me in the past few months that I don’t really have many escort friends. I have friends, who know I am an escort, and I have met other escorts, but only one has really become a close confidant.

Kelly is a sweet girl who sometimes does drugs with me. She’s an escort. I do a special type of call, known as “doubles,” which is getting two girls for the price of two girls. I met Kelly on a double, where the client hilariously psyched himself out and ended up disappointed. We were friends from then on.

Kelly’s worked for a long time. She’s seen it all, every fetish and every body type. I was relieved when I saw her at the party, as it meant that I wouldn’t be stuck for conversation. Kelly is attractive, in great shape and has that somewhat-bitchy attitude around clients that drives men crazy. I took to her life like a frenzied student, scribbling feverish notes on my hand.

I wished I had invited Kelly to the parties Conor and I went to. But how could I possibly even allow her to be there, even if she wanted to come? Kelly was also my protection at the party, as she knew the girls better than I did. As a fairly solitary and shy person, I have very few friends, period, much less female friends. I work with one other female technical writer who has said fewer than 20 words to me in six months. I work constantly, so I don’t have the time to keep in touch with the friends I actually want to be around.

“How have you been?” she said, air kissing me, “How is Conor?”

“Gearing up for the holidays. So good to see you.”

Kelly reached out and held my arm and instinctively, I held hers. A wave of guilt swept over me. She’s a good person, I thought, looking around the room, they’re all good girls. But I couldn’t wave at them on the street if I was with my mother or boss.

At that moment, though, instead of regret or sadness, I felt like part of a community for the first time in a long time. They all knew the same fact or felt the same way. I might be a big part of their life here, in this very nondescript house in South Etobicoke, but they couldn’t know me.

They couldn’t even know my real name. There would be no Facebook friends, no coffees, no movies together with any of them, but they knew something about me that no one else would know. They knew how it feels.

After three glasses of wine, the host came around with pot brownies. Never one to shirk casual drug use, I had two. In fact, I think that due to their addictive nature, my mince pie should be a controlled substance, but I had indulged enough in those. It was at this very inopportune time that Adele cornered me in conversation.

Adele is like the Don. You can’t break away from a conversation with her. She is one rich (former) ho. You wait until something else grabs her attention.

“When are you going to work for me full-time?” she asked.

“You know I would love to,” I said, (I would!), “But Conor won’t let me quit the tech company.”

“Maybe you need a better reminder of what you’re worth.” She cooed.

It’s funny that she said this coming up so close to Christmas, as it’s the only holiday that reminds us of what we’re worth to those around us. Your present is a reflection of your presence in someone’s life. The better it is, the more you’re worth to them. The anticipation leading up to the 25th is not related to the things themselves, but the value of the things and how that value reflects on our relationship.

So maybe, for escorts, every day we work is like Christmas.