In college, Evan Jacobs—the ‘saddest egotist of all time’—stole his mother’s work phone and retreated to the seedy world of phone-sex party lines. His mom nearly lost her job. Evan got a shrink.
Hi. Uh … I’m Evan.
I’m just looking on here to … uh … huh … get off with someone. I’m touching myself.
Send me a message. Let’s have a fun time.
My loneliness, my lack of social skills, my low self-esteem, can, when left unchecked, completely run over my life and subsume nearly everything. At this point in my life, I’m not sure if I’ve solved any of my problems. But I’ve learned that fees for phone calls to Antigua tend to add up quickly, and it’s much cheaper—and less depressing—to try to pick up women at bars.
When I first discovered phone sex, I was much younger. The problem wasn’t nearly intense enough to be labeled an addiction. It was phone sex with a girl I loved; the long-distance fees were nothing a few months’ work at McDonalds couldn’t cover. I learned actual lessons from that experience: what it means to be a young man coming of age in an atmosphere teeming with sex, and how to prepare an Extra Value Meal.
And then I went to college, struck out with women, came home, got desperate, stole my mother’s work phone, and locked my door for an entire summer.
Welcome to Hot Talk, the sexiest party line on the planet. Here you’ll meet real, live, horny girls who can’t wait to talk to you. These girls are wet and hungry for your cock. Touch-tone phones only. International rates apply. Press 1 to accept.
This is the main menu. If you are a man looking for a woman, press 1. If you are a—
This is the Hot Talk mailbox. To listen to users’ greetings, press 1. To record your—
Heavy breathing. Hi, this is Sheila. I’m sitting here … uh … uh … playing with myself … yeah … just looking for some of that big dick. Hit me up.
To hear this greeting again, press 1. To send this user a message, press 2. To listen to the next greeting, press 3.
Hi, I’m Sarah. (It was actually a man with a deep voice, posing as a woman.) I just wanna hear some of you guys jerk off. I’m touching myself. I have huge tits. I’m blonde, blue-eyed. I love sucking guys off. Send me a—
Hi, I’m Marjorie. How’d you like a—
Hi, I’m, uh, just sitting here, huh … uh … touching myself … yeah. And I think that … you should send me … yeah … a message.
To hear this greeting again, press 1. To—
Hi, I’m, uh, just sitting here, huh … uh … touching myself … yeah. And I think—
To hear this greeting again, press 1. To send this user a message, press 2. To—
Please record your message after the beep. BEEP.
“Hi. Uh … I’m Evan.”
When I say I was desperate, I don’t mean joke-desperate, like, “Oh, my friend can’t get girls.” I mean a perverse, intense, obsessive variety of all-encompassing desperation.
I over-analyzed every interaction to the point of lunacy. Even eye contact—every girl who didn’t return a glance was a rejection, everyone who did was a missed opportunity—which made me the saddest egotist of all time. The thought never entered my consciousness that whatever girl I found in my crosshairs was preoccupied with something slightly more important than a random dude staring her down. Girls existed only to validate me, I thought, and they never did.
It’s not that I got zero attention. I did, in fact, sleep with one woman in the very beginning of freshman year—and then struck out about 30 weekends in a row after that. By the summer, my confidence had completely eroded to the point where it took the following year to recover—and jeopardized two otherwise half-decent relationships.
Back home near Philadelphia, my mom was kind enough and nepotistic enough to procure me a job at her company, a market-research firm for pharmaceuticals. At the time, cell phones were on the verge of becoming ubiquitous. I had a crappy Nokia (has anything changed?) with a black-and-white display and a battery that fell out if you brushed your pocket or had an errant heartbeat. My mother, on the other hand, had a StarTAC—the most advanced phone I had ever seen.
It quickly occurred to me that because the company was paying for my mom’s cell phone, they would probably approve all her charges without actually checking the records. Considering my long-distance problem from two years before, I was wary to use the house phone again, lest Mom find any large charges. But the company was paying me so much for so little, so I figured they probably didn’t care about large charges. They’d assume, because my mother was vice president, whatever she did was kosher.
I Googled “phone sex,” and after wading through pages of credit-card-only results, I found something intriguing: party lines. I’d be talking to real people—not people who were paid to talk to me, which wasn’t attractive. The crux of the issue wasn’t just orgasm—it was validation from another human being.
So late one night, I went downstairs, found my mother’s purse, and snatched the StarTAC. After the moment I came, I was hooked. I was stealing the phone every night and making calls. After two months, I went back to school and braced myself for the worst.
A month passed. No angry calls. I had gotten away with it. The StarTAC was safe in Mom’s purse and I was safe at the University of Chicago.
The call came in October.
“Evan, this is your mother.”
“I know, Mom. What’s up?”
“Evan, were you using my cell phone to call phone-sex lines.” It wasn’t a question.
“Um … what?”
“There’s a 3,000-dollar phone bill for June and July on my cell phone.”
“Yes, multiple calls to Antigua. Evan, do you know how much it costs to make international calls? This isn’t good. I found out about this at work. I had to explain myself.”
“I could have been fired, Evan. Did you call those numbers?”
“Well. I, uh … I … well … kind of.”
“Mom, I’m really sorry. I was really lonely.”
“Evan. Your father and I are really disappointed in you.”
“I know. I can pay it back.”
“Damn right you’re going to pay it back. It was 3,500 dollars.”
“OK. Just take the money I made over the summer.”
“Your father and I think that maybe you should come home for this semester.”
“No! I don’t think that’s the best idea.”
“Then you need to see a psychiatrist.”
“OK. I can do that.”
I hung up the phone. Then I got really, really high.
What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be involuntarily celibate like so many of my friends? Why couldn’t I just jerk off like a normal asshole? How did this lecherous old pervert take over my mind and personality? Were other guys like me? Was I a sex addict?
I didn’t know. I still don’t know. But I felt awful. I felt like a monster. I believed that a mother would be right to pull her child to her side when I passed by them on the street, I believed that any girl I saw covering up her cleavage was doing it because she knew the real me, I believed that with this in my history I would never find love, because no one would ever accept me. Searching for this kind of validation on the phone had had the opposite effect: my self-confidence was in a worse place than it was before.
The psychiatrist was a young, bald man working on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. I had seen psychiatrists before, but it had always been for my ADHD. This was the first time I had ever gone in for something more, well, problematic.
“Hi, I’m Dr. Denson,” he said. “Tell me why you’re here today.”
“Hi. Uh … I’m Evan. I’m here to … uh … huh. Well, I spent 3,500 dollars on phone sex this summer.”
We talked about that. But quickly our sessions just turned into discussions about which of my medications were working and which were not. We never actually delved into the roots of my addiction issues. I’m working on these issues with my current therapist, but much work remains.
Still, I never called a phone sex line again. I don’t miss it—I didn’t even enjoy it when it was happening. My urge for human validation remains, though I now have different outlets for it—friendships, writing, stand-up shows, online dating—and it can have healthy results when focused with care. But to learn control, you have to experience losing control first, like I did, that summer in 2001.
Reprinted from The Good Men Project