When a client passes away …

mourningA friend of mine messaged me recently, asking if I had ever written a piece about a client dying. She has an escort friend whose client just passed away; this friend was looking for resources and couldn’t find any.

That surprises me not in the slightest. We sex workers are supposed to be cold and calculating, compartmentalizing everything, keeping it separate. Why would we need any bereavement resources if one of our clients kicks the bucket? We are not supposed to get attached.

But we do, we do. Sometimes we do get attached, and by that I mean this, from a previous article I wrote: “feeling something positive toward the client, beyond what they’re requesting and paying you to provide them.” I would never dream of trying to speak for all sex workers, but I think it’s safe to say that if we have a nice customer, and work with them regularly for long enough, we get at least a little attached.

If we get attached, to whatever degree, then we will miss them accordingly when they’re gone.

My friend’s friend, at least she knows for sure what happened; apparently a caregiver of her client called her with the news. So many clients drop away, and we so rarely know why. Did they find a new service provider, did their partner discover something, did they move, did they find Jesus? Even in the civilian world, people exit our lives abruptly, or drop off the face of the earth, pull the slow fade on us. That can be confusing enough, but it’s resolvable. If we pushed hard enough, called around enough, we could usually find out what happened, where that person is, seek them out for a reconciliation or renewal or “I missed you” or one final blow-out of fucking. We could do that.

We can’t do that with clients we are friendly with. We can’t follow up with them in any appropriate way. In general, if the client’s email suddenly bounces or their phone line is dead, we have no other recourse. And phone sex, well, no. Even if they would allow it, my dispatcher can’t just call up the last number we had on file for somebody and say, “hey, is everything okay?”

Last year I couldn’t ask my dispatcher to put me through to the old gardener from Alabama, when I was flipping through my cards and realized that he hadn’t called in over a year. He used to call me every three or four weeks; he remembered my birthday and I remembered his. He talked all the time about wanting to take me out to Krystal Burger after naked weeding in his garden. And now, silence for 2.5 years. I will never know for sure, but he was old and sick and he is almost surely dead.

I think of him as if he were dead, but there is no outlet for that unresolved sadness. All I can do is talk about him from time to time. I cannot send a condolence card to his wife, who I think he loved. I cannot send flowers to the funeral home, or a small donation to his charity of choice. I can’t even share this loss with normal people, because they will look at me funny, as if they never considered that I might get attached, that I feel things. As if they thought that my taking money to talk dirty with this guy somehow absolved me from having to feel anything. That it must not mean much at all, if I would only talk with him when he gave me money. The exchange of money buys the client No Strings Attached, but that avails us workers naught when the client fades, and we want to know why, not because we’re losing a moneymaker, but because we liked them. Then, oh then, I long for even one thin string of something to lead me out of the dark.

I want to say to my friend’s friend: I’m so sorry. It’s weird. It may hurt a little, or a lot. Whatever you’re feeling about the loss, it’s okay to feel that. I understand.  I’m still a little envious that you got that call, though. At least you know for sure.

I’m not saying that’s an easier grief. It’s just different.


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  • Dave Todd

    I do respect and admire you, Tonya.

    November 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm
  • Steve

    I’ve heard of this uncertainty several times on the client / escort forums in the UK and recently another UK escort voiced the same concerns as one of her clients disappeared. She knew he had died, could she attend the funeral?

    Also I have heard of forums for escorts and clients vanishing off the air, because the owner died.

    I have an escort friend and I call her friend, we have gone back 10 years now, we do long bookings together. I would love to make sure she knew somehow I had died, to remove the uncertainty of not knowing. Still thinking this one through.

    November 27, 2015 at 6:42 pm
  • Carin

    Steve (and other clients or married lovers of someone other than your spouse),

    Hopefully you have a will of some sort, even if it’s just a letter shared with a trusted friend telling what you want done with things important to you. Even if you’re in perfect health in the prime of your life, accidents happen.

    Part of that will can be a further letter to someone you trust to be discreet, asking them to contact your secret friends and loves to let them know about your passing. Be sure to provide the best contact information you have for them, and keep the information updated.

    This is probably the best you can do. And thank you for caring enough to think about the people who think about you. 🙂

    November 27, 2015 at 8:37 pm
  • Kendra Holliday (@TBK365)

    I’ve been a sex worker for almost 10 years. I read this post, and not even two weeks later, one of my client’s passed away unexpectedly. He was 35 years old with a severe disability. I was supposed to see him again Christmas week. It hit me harder than I thought! I am fortunate that his family was supportive of him seeing a sex worker, so I received a message from his father:
    “Kendra, this is M’s dad. I’m sorry to advise that M passed away in his sleep Mon night. I want to thank you for helping him and being his friend. He needed female attention and touch so desperately. I really don’t know how we are going to go on without him. We always knew this day would come but could not know it would hurt this bad. Again, thank you.”
    So unexpected and lovely to receive this note during their time of sudden grief. They helped support his dreams and desires as a man.
    My partner was so sweet to hold me as I cried. I feel like I lost a lover – because I did.

    December 11, 2015 at 8:07 am
  • nicole

    i would love to see an article about when an escort passes away do you tell clients? do you have any personal advice for me. im lost and DON’T know what to do with my best friends clients who are asking where she is. out of respect for her and i DON’T want to see people bashing her on review boards so right now i am only telling people she knew for really long time that respected her.

    please and advice would be appreciated.

    stay safe. thank you <3

    January 28, 2021 at 1:17 pm
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