The first time I heard the word "prostitute" was in a book -- I was maybe 9 or 10.
Safe travels home, Deborah.
I asked my mother what prostitution was, why someone would do that. She told me that sometimes people need to make money and that prostitution is a reliable way to make it, that prostitution was the "world's oldest profession." She told me that my great-grandmother, Francesca, hung out with prostitutes, and had one hooker friend in particular named Maria. My Nana confirmed this fact about her mother very matter-of-factly. "Yeah, Ma would have the whore over," she said to me, not a trace of malice in her voice.
Apparently, whenever Maria was over, Francesca would call to her children (in Italian), "The whore is over for dinner, set an extra place."
I've always loved that. Francesca called the butcher the butcher and the barber the barber and the baker the baker; it makes sense that she would call the whore the whore. It makes me understand where my grandmother got her no-nonsense attitude.
The Italian side of my family is Catholic. In an old-world, Southern-Italian low-magic, hematite and rose quartz around the house, holy water sprinkled in spirit-infested corners, guard yourself with your patron saint, believe in second sight, talk to God and the Blessed Mother and ghosts, witchy kind of way. This is part of why I've never been able to muster up much rage about Catholicism, unlike a lot of other queer and/or feminist ex-Catholics I know. Well, to clarify: I can get rage-filled about the institution of Catholicism, about the politics of the Church in its current incarnation, about the Church's stance on abortion and queerness and sex and the ordination of women and about a hundred other things.
But when it comes to my family's particular brand of Catholicism, I have nothing to complain about. I'd like to believe that everyone gets the kind of non-judgemental response from their mom that I got when I asked my mom about prostitution. I know that's definitely not the case, especially for most people raised in a Catholic tradition.
It's very hard for me to seperate my response to a political and social tragedy like Palfrey's suicide from my spirituality. It's very hard for me to seperate my history as a queer person, a feminist, and a sex worker from my history as someone who was raised Catholic.
I've lost a fair number of people in my personal sex worker community over the past few years. And, I always do what Nana taught me to do when grieving -- light candles, say prayers, cook a meal for friends, buy some flowers if I can find them fresh, set up an altar. Wish the person well on their way home.
Deborah, I hope you get there with ease and peace. I'm sorry your way out of this world was so rocky, that you were not treated with the grace and graciousness that every human being deserves. I'm praying that Francesca -- or someone very like her -- is there to greet you with a meal, some flowers, and some sweetness on the other side.