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Not long after the massage, the physician started seeing someone. For the first time in his life, he had what was at least the beginning of a serious relationship. He had his final session with Catherine and switched to exercises with his girlfriend. As the final session with Catherine ended, he leaned over to her and whispered, "Still, she's not you."
Many of Catherine's patients fall in love with her, just like Volker's surrogate patients fell in love with her at the time. It's only natural when you have an emotionally wounded individual and someone who's always ready to listen.
"I tell them, 'You don't see me first thing in the morning. You don't have to deal with me when I'm cranky or tired.' "
Catherine always holds a closing session in which she explains that she was there just to model a relationship and that they will do just fine without her. In 12 years, she has had about 30 patients. She's had intercourse with only three of them: two 40-plus virgins and one rapid ejaculator who couldn't last more than a few seconds during intercourse.
After a year off and a move from Fort Lauderdale to Boynton Beach, she's ready to start seeing clients again. She feels like her life is coming together for the first time in years.
She has a good relationship with her sons, the oldest of whom is a captain in the Navy. And yes, they do know what she does. She sat them all down in a room a few years ago and told them she had a great opportunity to help people as a surrogate.
"It's not about the sex. It's about the intimacy," she told them. If they had any questions, she added, all they had to do was ask. The topic has not been discussed since.
She's in a serious relationship now. Relationships are tricky for a surrogate. Before the current boyfriend, she'd had two serious boyfriends. When it came time to talk about her work, she gave them both the same careful, practiced talk about helping people with serious sexual dysfunction and feeling like she had a purpose in life. One ended the relationship immediately. "The other one said he was OK with it, but he basically didn't understand it and wasn't OK with it." They split up a month later.
After that, she didn't date for a while. "It was just easier," she says. "I fell into the same routine I'd always had in life: give and give and give and not get anything back." That's what she did when she was taking care of her younger sisters as a child.
But self-neglect has consequences. "If you don't date outside with this job, it will kill you," she says. So she set up an online dating account. On Yahoo! Personals, she met a man 15 years younger than she who hadn't been in a relationship for ten years. He told her he'd never been in love. On their first date, they ended up kissing in a booth at Bennigan's. This time, she had told him ahead of time in an email that she was a surrogate.
"He really is OK with it," she says. "He isn't jealous at all. He's more curious about it than anything else. He likes to hear stories about different patients I've had."
They just celebrated their one-year anniversary. When she works as a flight attendant now, Catherine has someone to pick her up and drop her off at the airport.
One night, she got to thinking about their age difference. "I know one of these days, you'll leave me for someone younger," she told him, a slight hint of bitterness in her otherwise sugary voice. Her eyes tear up and her voice flickers as she talks about the moment. She thinks about her life spent taking care of others.
"He held me by the hand," she says, "and looked me in the eye. He said, 'You're the first woman I've ever loved. I'll always take care of you.' "