This is part of my ongoing series of posts exploring what it was like living and working at the Sagebrush Ranch. Today, I was remembering my meeting with the head Madame of the ranch, in which we sat down and forecasted my earnings goals for the year. The conversation, as I recall, went something like this:
- Her: Okay, so, what are your monthly bills?
- Me: Hmm, just my health insurance.
- Her: No rent or car payments?
- Me: I own my car and my condo.
- Her: Okay, mortgage?
- Me: I own it in full and my roomates pay enough rent to cover my HOA fees.
At this point, in my opinion, her expression became downcast and she refocused to reiterating what I made in the previous months, then projecting that out to my anticipated annual earnings. It was my impression that perhaps the fact that I didn't *need* the money was in some way disappointing.
The annual earnings were presented as how much money I booked- so she forecasted 120k in the year. Now, as you may recall from previous posts, living and working at the brothel was not a completely free activity itself- between daily room and board, weekly doctors fees, and paying out of pocket for my health insurance, even my take of that 120k (~60k) ends up whittled away to maybe something closer to 40k, for a 14 hour a day, 6 days a week job. As a social worker (8 hrs a day, 5 days a week) I was making 36k a year (with benefits), so that's more or less my gold standard for bare minimum full time work.
But wait! You may comment. Surely that's not much? Other girls must be earning more?
No, so, the reality is that in my perception, more than half the house, at the time I left, was actually *in debt* to the house for room and board. I was one of the best earners, if for no other reason than that I wasn't in debt. I was pretty certain I was going to be top 5 for January, but I was definitely consistently top 10. When I say in debt I don't mean small change like $100 or $200- I mean, into the thousands.
I remember pulling another girl in on a two girl party at one point, for which our take (after the house split) was roughly 1200 each, and her being so happy about finally being out of debt to the house. It broke my heart in a way: here this girl had literally just worked her ass, to be out of debt to her workplace.
I started doing the math on the competition for top booker of the year for 2016. I don't want to share other people's numbers, but lets say the women in the closest competition were somewhere around a quarter of a million dollars in bookings each. So with this rough approximation, lets say their take was 150k annually. Now, 6 figure income is nothing to sneeze at, but at the same time that's a reasonable salary for someone who has climbed the ranks in programming or usability or medicine. And these women were working their asses off: I remember one working girl I was on vacation with needing to drive back to the ranch mid-vacation because a client booked with her. She rarely had days off, and often had appointments on those days off, at all hours.
How does one build sustainability when working nearly nonstop, in an industry driven by looks? At a certain point, if a woman wants to leave the industry, even if she's doing very well, she's looking at starting at the bottom with an entry level job, because the work pacing leaves so little room for continuing education or experience.
Okay so, save, invest, be practical with your money, one may suggest.
This is a great idea, and exactly what I aimed to do with my modest pile of earnings. However, the pressure to *impress* the clients is incredibly high. The owners very quickly start insisting top earner girls carry Louie Vutton, drive Mercedes, etc -- all the trappings of wealth and prosperity in the public eye, masqueraded as "reasonable business expenses to attract high earning clients." Here's the reality: living at your means is fine if that's your long term plan, but unsustainable if you plan on ever leaving the industry.
In my opinion, everything about the glamour and glitz is for one purpose and one purpose only: to retain high earning girls, and further encourage competition among the others. After all, if we are all fighting for fancy scraps with one another, it's easier to forget just how much money is going to the house.