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Massage Parlor Memoirs
 Sex work in the 70s

False Eyelashes & Fresh Towels



By nineteen seventy-seven, I had been working at the massage parlor for just under a year, learning the sex trade from a safe spot.  The place was clean, pretty groovy in its décor and best of all, there was a bouncer. 


I started as a front desk hostess.  I’d book the girls’ time slots and make sure they all cleaned up their session rooms after they were done.  I inspected and reported and made sure laundry was done.  I worked reception with this other woman.  I remember how beautiful she was with long dark hair and bangs that framed her eyes in the most exotic way.  She had a very sweet smile and greeted the “guests” as though they were all her favorite. She’d been working there two years when I started, her savings going toward paying the tuition for the degree she was taking.


The place had more red shag carpeting than I had ever seen or ever saw again.  It was the seventies.  Shag was still stuck to walls and headboards.  The lobby was actually cool though, with tiffany swag lamps and nice settees; very clean and inviting.


The rooms were each a theme or so they strived for the idea of a theme.  Mostly it had to do with color schemes.  Each room had a shower, cleaned thoroughly after each client had gone. There were always plenty of clean white fluffy towels and glass doors for maximum sanitary conditions.  The place, at any given time, was spotless.  No mold or damp towels or musty smells anywhere; clean and inviting and very non-sleazy.  To have it otherwise was business suicide in those days. 


Most of the session rooms were done in dark blue walls, massage tables and or waterbeds (it was the 70s), soft flowing draperies and pretty rolled towels. (I once asked the other receptionist why the towels were rolled.  She laughed and said she’d asked the same thing.  She said she was told it was because you could unroll them faster than unfolding them.  She assumed I knew why they’d need unrolling fast.  I did.) 


Clean white linen lay over the table, waiting for the next body, the next illicit act.


Part of my job was to make sure the gentlemen knew what we required.  Payment up front, a shower was mandatory and use of condoms at all times.  


Of course the House didn’t “know” about any sort of sexual behavior.  We were a massage parlor.  We gave body rubs.  If anything else occurred, that was strictly between the young lady and her client.  We assigned them their ladies unless they asked for a specific one.  The girls weren’t allowed to sit out in the lobby.  They were in a staff room at the back.  Fairer that way. 


The women all got along, but you could feel an underlying tension.  Even though we sorted the clients among them equally, they knew why they were here and it was all about the money.  Most of the time, they laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.  They redid hair or nails or gossiped about the latest client.  We kept them quiet, but sometimes it felt like a den mother’s job. 


I remember one woman who was about ten years older than the average woman there and was gay.  She detested men but you wouldn’t know it by her earnings.  She did well.  She had those weird false nails that were so long you wondered if she did herself a mischief when she wiped.  She was bleached blond and wore false eyelashes that were way too long for her face.  There was always lipstick on her teeth.  Red lipstick.  She never wore any other color.


She had her regulars.  We always figured it was the masochists who asked for her.  She was brutally rude to men in general and some of them just ate it up.  She made very good money and I came to know her well enough to know she had the most generous heart.  If one of the women didn’t get any “tips” on a shift she worked, she made sure she bought that woman dinner or paid her cab, whatever was needed.


She ended up marrying a gay guy we all knew.  A sweetheart who wanted to appear straight to his parents.  She had her reasons for wanting to be married…much the same as his.  They were perfect together.  As far as any of us knew, the marriage lasted.


Her eyelashes would always be lifting at the corners.


Lots of us still wore false eyelashes back then.  There was a trick to it and some never got the hang of it.  They ended up with clumps of glue or ends that lifted.  Some of us really got it right and they'd end up looking damn near perfect.  One of the women taught me how to apply them with a method that never failed me. 


It’s funny, the things we remember.  The details. I haven’t worn false eyelashes since the beginning of the 80s. But if I had to put on a pair, I know they’d go on right.






Copyright 2008 - Sex Scrolls
Do not reprint without permission

Part 2  Can you hear me now?

Part 3  Shag Money


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