Vicious Circle

Vicious Circle, by Arlene Hunt.

From last week’s Irish _Sunday Independent_:

A real-life Pretty Woman

IT’S NOT fun to f*** strangers for money. It’s not fun and it’s not romantic, either. There are a lot of fairy tales and myths about the world’s oldest profession, but unless you’ve done it you can’t possibly know what it’s like to sell your body.
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Arlene is from the same town as the two sisters who were among my closest college friends. Their little two-up, two-down house in Ranelagh was, and still is, headquarters for the kitchen-table chats over red wine that take up so much time in college. Arlene wasn’t a student–she had a baby to look after–but she spent many hours there too, her elbows on the yellow check tablecloth. At nineteen, she was unadorned and extraordinarily beautiful. Her life had no safety nets.

I heard occasional updates about her in the years between. Things went badly. Then life seemed to work out. Her relieved hometown friend told me she had found a job on a stud farm, made plenty of money to take care of her daughter, had found a lovely bloke. She moved to Spain. Later there were rumours of a book deal.

Back in Ireland in December, I heard that her name turned up in one of the hard-boiled crime reporter’s books that sell so well there. This one took a prurient look at the Dublin sex trade. In Hodges Figgis, I flicked through the chapter on Arlene, and it was clear the writer admired her business sense as a self-employed sex worker. Though the writing was flat, I heard the earthy girl from the Ranelagh kitchen table in the tale of the gárda sting operation that finally busted her.
    “Ah, go fuck yourselves,” she said to the guards. I laughed out loud. _A stud farm_. How she must have enjoyed that little private joke on her double life.

Now Arlene is back in Ireland too, doing interviews to promote her first novel. She’s telling her own story, reclaiming it from the mouths and pockets of the journalists. Though I hardly know her, I feel proud of her. She made it. She’s telling the truth. That’s not easy.

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