Life experience

On Opportunities Not Taken

In the early days, just about the only kind of writing that ever made me money was the kind that, in this age of digital publishing, is now almost-sorta-kinda legitimate. That’s to say, I was writing 50 Shades of Grey before it was cool. That’s to say again, but a little clearer, I was being paid to write sex stories for magazines.

It’s easy…I don’t know why everyone isn’t doing it.

From such auspicious beginnings, I came home from my day (non-porno) job and there’s a message on my answer machine (like I said, this was the early days). I’m invited down to London to interview for the Deputy Editor position in a well-known gentleman’s magazine. Dreams do come true, young dreamers, so keep dreaming.

I buy my train ticket (expenses will be refunded), call in sick in my non-porn job, and head to the Big City. Behind me, back in the repressed and puritan North, my mother is telling anyone who is interested that her youngest child is interviewing for a job teaching English as a foreign language, a curiously specific cover story that may work as a euphemism if we all work hard enough.

Central London, map in hand, I end up down a long alleyway, looking at a plain door in a plain wall. I’ve been standing there for about 20 minutes, watching normal-looking young people casually pressing the intercom button and being let in. It’s now or never; don’t want to keep the porn barons waiting.

I walk over, press the button, explain I’m here for an interview, and walk in.

If you didn’t look at what was on the desks, you wouldn’t know this was anything other than a perfectly normal publishing office. There are secretaries, editors, writers, some tech guys. I don’t know what I expected (possibly nudes on the walls and rampant sex going on in the break room), but this is reassuringly normal. Aside from it being OK to have naked women as your monitor wallpaper. Apparently.

The editor is a tall, angry-looking guy who doesn’t seem to be that interested in meeting me. He gives me some projects—write captions for these photos from a fetish ball, edit these articles using previous editions as your style guide—and retreats to his office. No one else talks to me so I keep my head down and try to impress using only my English-language skills and inability to be shocked.

The mail arrives—a huge sack full of true stories, photos of readers’ wives and young hopefuls—and it’s someone’s job to look through it. I’m putting together my own style guide and trying not to stare at the naked women on my monitor. At lunchtime, a young blonde lady in a fluffy coat appears and goes into the editor’s office. In 5 minutes, they both appear, he tells me that he’s going for lunch and then he leaves. I don’t see him again.

I have nothing to do. I’m way too intimidated by the locals, going about their business and being so cool about working in porn. I sit and look busy, leaf through some old copies, try to look relaxed. I am probably not fooling anyone.

I ask an editor in another office if he has anything I can work on and he gives me some busy work but I’m starting to understand now that a new life in the Big City is not going to happen for me. They let me leave early and I get the next train out of town, back to home and fully clothed office environments.

And dreams of what might have been, as eventual kingpin of the UK erotica industry.

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