In Suzy's Opinion
By Terry Malone
THE FOLLOWING is taken from an interview with "Suzy," age 30, a go-go dancer who engages in prostitution occasionally ''just for the money."
She is strikingly attractive, tastefully dressed, and speaks candidly with a clear, almost musical voice that brims from time to time with a light, bubbly laughter. She appears calm, poised and at ease. "Nothing really bothers me," she says. Her voice tightens noticeably and she speaks rapidly only when discussing her mother, with whom she is living while recovering from complications following a recent abortion.
Suzy had her first sexual encounter at 16. "It wasn't really what you would call an encounter I wanted to participate in," she recalls. "I had been drinking. It was just that one time. And I . . . came up with a daughter." Until age 16, she says she never drank or went out with boys. "I was scared to death of them."
That first encounter "never really set me against men or anything like that. I didn't start to go out with them because I wanted to get even. It was just the money.
"When I first started dancing, I wasn't really making a great deal of money, $15 or $20 a night. I really can't remember the first time I went with a man for money. I would be in a bar, and if a person came up with a good figure - $50 or something - I'd go with him. The money I'd make dancing plus going with one guy, that was pretty good money.
"You always have the feeling you're being used. But, you figure, hey, look, I've got to eat, have my rent paid, get my clothes from the cleaners, get transportation money. . . I guess if I had a really good job, made enough money, had food in the refrigerator, could pay my rent, I wouldn't even bother with prostitution. I don't know what other kind of work to think about going into, 'cause I don't know if I'll like it. I know I can't dance all my life. . . .
"I would go mostly with married men who couldn't get involved with me because they didn't want anything known. They had a family at home, children, a wife. A lot of men, even though it's the day of liberation and all of that, still feel a bit inhibited about sex. They put their wives on a pedestal, and they want to keep them there.
"A lot of the men feel some of the things they're doing are perverse. They're not, but they think they are, and that's why they don't want to do it with their wives. Or maybe they're afraid of not performing if, say, they've been drinking. They'll take a chance with a stranger because they don't care what she thinks. They care what their wives think.
"You know, a lot of people are really unable to let themselves go with somebody close to them, and they can with a stranger because they don't give a damn how she feels. . . . Some of them want you to play like you're their girlfriend, and a lot of them don't like the feeling that they're paying a woman - I guess it takes away from their pride.
"I always have a drink first. Some of the things I would say when I was drinking I would never think of saying when I wasn't drinking . . . I' m always scared. You read so much about girls getting killed and stuff. I don't want to hurt anybody, but if I had to I would. . .
"You have to demand respect from these men. Otherwise when you're in public they might try and get you on the behind. I've always told them, 'You don't want your wife to know about this, right? Well, I don't want anybody to know either. I don't want you touching me.'
"I have a thing about that anyway. I don't like people touching me. Even on a bus or subway, everybody's too close. I have to move. Even as a child, I would sit in church and someone would sit on my dress and I would get very mad. You're supposed to be quiet in a Catholic church, right, and I would say, 'Hey, get off my dress. What the hell do you think you're doing?'
"I never let any of these men kiss me, and a lot of them get very mad about that. But I never liked that either. When I was small my mother never did it, my father occasionally - when he was drinking maybe. But when my relatives came they'd be all over you. I'd hide in the closet, under the bed, anywhere, just to keep them from kissing me. . . . When I was growing up there was an old man who used to kiss me on the mouth when my mother wasn't looking. But I was like that even before that happened.
"Now if I was with a warm, friendly group of people and a guy wanted to hug me, I don't know how I would accept that. I'm so used to men touching me because they want to go to bed with me, you know?"
There were 10 children in Suzy's family. "My father was home long enough to make them, then he'd leave. When my mother was well enough he'd come home to see the new baby, put another one there and leave."
Growing up meant going "from my mother to a foster home, to my aunt, to my father, then back to my mother, then to an institution, then back to my mother, then out on my own, and now I'm back with her again.
"You know deep inside that your mother loves you. I know deep inside that my mother loves me, but she doesn't want me. When I was 16 she had me put into a home. . . . When I heard her tell the judge she just didn't want me, I never wanted to be around her again. Not ever. And I really hate going back there. Believe me, I hate it. If I was well I would go right out there today, tonight, and go with a man again, in order to have the money for a place to live.
"My mother knows what I do. She got a hold of me one night and asked me how I could afford certain clothing, a color TV, jewelry. I said, 'I trick for it.' She said, 'What's trick?' and I said 'I go to bed with men for it. I get money from them, and presents.' She just gave me a funny look. I guess I wanted to throw a little hurt into her, but there's no way of hurting her.
"I guess she feels she's got to let me stay with her now because I've got no place to go. But she takes out all her hostilities - like toward her boyfriend, and housework - on me. She's got asthma, true, but she thinks she's got heart problems, emphysema, cracked ribs, cracked skull - she's had all kinds of X-rays that disprove these things, but she takes it all out on me. There's nothing I can do about it.
"When was younger, I know of one time she went with a man for money. But I knew it was to feed us. It didn't bother me. I take just about everything lightly. Nothing really gets on my nerves, except her. Nothing really bothers me. I just take things in stride. That's the best you can do, you know?"
Suzy married at 18, to a man who legally swore he was the father of her child, even though he wasn't. She lived with him for a year and a half, and had one son.
"Whatever man I get with, they always want to cage me in or something. Like if I go out of the house I'm not going to come back. I just feel blocked in, have to get away. Once I'm with a person for a year or two, I lose my feelings for him.
"My husband was a very good man. Religious, everything. He was the best man I could have gotten on this earth. I'll never find anybody as good as he was. But I just didn't feel the love I should have. I guess I was grateful because he had taken me in, and my child. When I got pregnant by him I really didn't want the baby, but I figured I owed it to him.
"I thought it would work, but it didn't. For him to touch me would repel me, I would feel disgusted with him. I had to leave. I felt if I stayed I would hurt him.
''The last time I saw my children was two years ago. They're with my ex-husband's mother. They're all very religious, sing in the choir and everything. It's really very nice.
"Prostitution isn't a good way to make a living. I wouldn't advise it. It doesn't bother me, really. The only thing that frightens me is getting locked up. So far I've never gotten caught. I figure it's not doing me any harm, I'm not doing anyone else any harm. . "I get lonely, now and then. But not really. I mean, you work, and make a little money on the side, and you go home and go to sleep, next day clean the house, go shopping-you're too tired to be lonely."
Suzy is a baptized Catholic, and attended Catholic schools in the South, where she grew up. Although she says she liked going to church, she feels that "the church never gave you a true feeling of belonging." She prays now, she adds, "only when something hurts."
The interview had taken place in the rectory of a suburban parish near New York. When it was over Suzy picked up a small crucifix that was lying on the desk and pointed to the corpus.' My mother used to take these off," she commented. When asked why, she continued, ''I used to, too. . . . I figured he shouldn't be on there."
Later, as Father Depaul Genska dropped her off at the bar where she was dancing that night, he nonchalantly pressed some cash into her hand. He said he would pick her up the next morning to take her to a gynecologist who would examine her for problems related to her abortion. She agreed, thanked him, stepped out of the car, and after a brief, warm smile, turned and went into the bar.
When Genska was asked why he had given her money, he smiled and said simply, "The interview was on her 'working' time." - TM