My name means “tied up” in Hebrew. I shit you not. When I was a kid, a bunch of us looked up our names in my mom’s old baby book shoved way in the back of the old, musty bookcase. Apparently, it had been a real party game in the late 1970s, deciding what to name your little bundle of post-Roe v. Wade joy. When we cracked open the spine, a few dog-eared pages pulled us right to our brood’s namesakes. My older brother, Matthew? His name means “Gift of God.” My sister Abigail? “Gives joy.” And my cousin Adam, his name translates into “Son of the red earth,” whatever the fuck that means. Rebekah? “Bound.” Restrained. Confined.
The irony kills me.
I didn’t set out to become a dominatrix. I mean, I know everyone in the sex trade says that, unless they’re lying and/or coked up so high they’d say just about anything to keep the camera rolling. When you’re sitting at that worn wooden desk in third grade, tracing the scratches and graffiti with your finger, all the while cursing the son of a bitch whose etchings cause your pencil to make holes in your papers because the surface below isn’t perfectly flat anymore, you don’t daydream about one day, maybe someday, wearing a latex cat suit and cracking a whip against some thirty-something-year-old district attorney whose suit jacket shoulder smells a little like sour milk and Fruity Pebbles. You don’t go shoe shopping with Mom the summer before you begin junior high and imagine the sales clerk licking the toe of your brown Candies t-strap loafer. You don’t fantasize about hog-tying your senior prom date and stuffing him in the trunk of his dad’s Dodge Aries while you stab your undercooked chicken cordon blue and listen to your best friend whine about her stiletto heels totally killing her feet.
I mean, maybe you do think about all of those things. But you don’t make it a career choice. When Mrs. Zahn, my high school guidance counselor, called me into her office in October of my senior year to have “the talk”—you know, since I hadn’t expressed any interest in applying to college, entering the military, or even pursuing a dead-end career as a Citgo convenience store attendant or IHOP waitress—I had nothing to offer her, not even a half-assed line of bullshit about wanting to become a kindergarten teacher or a famous fashion designer. I simply stared at her and waited out the five minutes of silence that hung between us until the bell rang for next period.
I loafed around community college for a few years, even honed a trade working for an engraver part-time to pay my rent. The place was called “Stanislau’s Personalized Gifts,” and Stan, the mild-mannered owner with the heavy Polish accent, was patient and taught me first how to engrave metal plates using a machine. After a few months, I was using the hand stencils and detailing calligraphy like an ancient stenographer on papyrus. I even tried my hand at stone etching a few times and seriously considered going into the tombstone design business. I still might. It’s an art, transcribing someone’s last identity onto a marble slab. I dabbled in wood carving a bit, too, and was even hired to create a set of “special edition” paddles for Pi Beta Phi’s Rush Week; the sorority liked my work so much that they let me keep one of them afterwards. I still personalize paddles for wedding shower gifts every now and then. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.