Her tone was cavalier as usual. But her Friday night date with the Georgetown lawyer turned out to be dreadful, Jessica reported in her blog. He wanted a kind of sex that physically hurt Jessica. Only this time, for a change, Jessica refused, and the lawyer became so belligerent that she went home without even getting an expensive dinner out of the deal. The next night, she went out with her girlfriends and got so drunk that she passed out on her floor. Come Monday morning, Jessica struggled to make any of it sound remotely funny.
"I am done with [him], for real this time," Jessica posted on Monday, May 10. "The whole situation depressed me so much, I turned down a free dinner and asked him to take me home. He peeled off a few hundred from that roll of cash he carries around, and put the hundreds in my hand as I was getting out of the car. I acted indignant, like I don't need his help, but I kept it: why punish myself?"
Jessica Cutler says she is trying to look on the bright side of her notoriety.
(Photograph by Kyoko Hamada)
Less than an hour later, Jessica's blog announced a change of plans regarding the lawyer. He "just e-mailed me, 'How was your weekend? Thinking of you!' "Jessica noted. "Ugh. I wrote back, 'From now on, we should go out drinking before we go back to your place. I think that would improve everything.' I know I said it was 'over,' but it's not like it matters either way. What can I say, I like money."
The lawyer wasn't the only man giving her cash. She'd been meeting a married Bush appointee in Washington hotels for months. She genuinely liked him, she says. The first time he handed her an envelope with cash in it she says she was surprised, grateful and more than a little embarrassed. "I wasn't a hooker charging him," she insists.
"I felt guilty about the money," she says. "The whole premise for that was that he's married, we cannot go out together, we cannot be seen together, there's no future . . . So the money was like consideration for that. It was really like a gift. Unfortunately, I became dependent on that income." She was only earning $25,000 a year, she says. How could anyone live on that?
Jessica's friends weren't shocked by her talk of sex for money. They knew she was writing about it in the most exaggerated, offhand way possible to amuse them, and they weren't about to judge her. "It sounds bad, but it's really a perspective thing," Robertson says. "These were guys were giving her money for reasons of their own. She never asked them for money. She never said, 'If I do this, you give me that.' "
Although Robertson wasn't outraged, she was confused. She couldn't keep all the men in Jessica's blog straight. She suggested Jessica post some kind of guide.
"By popular demand, I have finally created a key to keeping my sex life straight," Jessica wrote on the afternoon of May 11." After producing a brief description of each man identified by his initials, she lamented: "I'm [having sex with] six guys. Ewww."
ON FRIDAY, MAY 14, Jessica informed her readers that her former steady boyfriend had visited her apartment the night before and discovered evidence that she was still cheating on him. "He will probably never speak to me again," she wrote. "I feel bad about what I did to [him] and I feel like our relationship deserves more than a short write-off, but we both need to move on . . . So I called [the committee staffer] after [my old steady] left in a huff. I ended up sleeping over in Bethesda for the third night in a row. He wants us to get tested together so we can stop using condoms. Isn't that sweet? Hope I don't have anything! So I don't know if it's getting serious or what. We're seeing each other every day now. I like him very much and he likes me. But can it go anywhere, i.e. marriage? I don't know. He's Jewish, I'm not . . . But we work together, so there is an incentive to stay together and avoid an awkward breakup. And after a few months, people around the office will start 'hearing wedding bells.' I really just want to be a Jewish housewife with a big rock on my finger."
They had been dating one week.
In California, DeLuca was starting to think the impossible: Jessica might just settle down with the committee staffer. "Right before all this happened, she was on the phone to me saying, 'Allie, I'm really crazy about this guy. I know it's only been a week, but I'm not going to see anybody else.' " Jessica was even thinking about giving up the blog, she told her friend Robertson: If she was going to go steady, the blog could get pretty boring.
Jessica had a previously set lunch date for her birthday. She was meeting the married Bush administration official at a hotel. "I just took a long lunch with [him] and made a quick $400," she posted at 2:10 p.m. on May 18. "When I returned to the office, I heard that my boss was asking about my whereabouts. Loser."
She dreaded tackling the boring stack of mail on her desk. So she went to the Senate cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. It was her birthday, after all.
She hadn't been back at her desk more than a few minutes before the two instant messages popped up on her screen in rapid succession:
"Oh my God, you're famous."
"Your blog is on Wonkette."
Plenty of people in Washington believe Jessica was angling for a book contract from her first blog entry and engineered Wonkette's discovery of the blog. Jessica says that's not true, and Wonkette, aka Ana Marie Cox, backs her up. Wonkette received an anonymous tip about the blog, Cox says.
"I have no reason to believe that Jessica was the tipster," Cox writes in an e-mail. "I suppose it's possible that Jessica is some kind of a publicity genius and engineered the entire thing without my knowing, but if she was that brilliant, then she probably would not have had to have gentleman callers help subsidize her income. She'd be the PR rep for Kenneth Lay or something."
Cox, who is 31 and lives in Arlington, didn't get a book deal out of the scandal, but traffic on her site exploded, with more than 1.5 million visits in May. All the attention didn't hurt. Wonkette was hired to cover the recent Democratic National Convention for MTV.
JESSICA IS DRESSED IN WHITE. She walks through her all-white apartment. She is a vision of American purity: pure commerce. Dress by Gap. Bedding by Martha Stewart.
On the kitchen counter there is an empty bottle of Southern Comfort. On a shelf sits a pop art portrait of Jackie Kennedy. Jessica evokes another iconic female: Holly Golightly, the heroine of "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
"There are certain shades of limelight that can ruin a girl's complexion," she says, quoting the book she read in high school. "That's how I feel. Can't get a job. Can't get a boyfriend. And this did ruin my complexion because I'm dehydrated."
While Jessica was on a recent stroll with girlfriends, some guy recognized her and yelled, "Hey, Washingtonienne." That was kind of cool. In bars, men ask her if she's Jessica Cutler, then give her their business cards and tell her to call.
Jessica has an agent. She's busy writing her novel. "It's kind of 'The Devil Wears Prada,' only set in Washington," she says. "I can't say how it turns out because my agent would kill me."
She can't fathom how her own story will end.
It's 10 p.m. on a Wednesday. She is going out. On the way to Saki, an Adams Morgan nightclub, Jessica seems uncharacteristically forlorn. "I had six boyfriends, and now none of the guys really want to have anything to do with me," she says. "I guess none of them really cared about me in the first place."
She's embarrassed about posting that gushy stuff on her blog about wanting to be a Jewish wife with a rock on her hand. Reading that now makes her feel very exposed. Really, she says, she can't quite imagine a life of matrimonial bonds and monogamy.
"I think people are -- and this isn't something I came up with, I heard it somewhere -- people are as faithful as their options," she says. "If you think there's no chance of getting caught or something, you'll do it. I'm sure not everyone is like that. I know that I'm that way."
Outside the nightclub, there is a line of people waiting to get in. Jessica, who is being followed by a photographer snapping her picture for this story, sweeps past the line and heads for the bar in the basement of the club.
She has friends there waiting for her in a coveted corner table. The table is a perk some deejay has arranged. He sits next to Jessica. The club is loud. The thumping music and flashing lights are jarring. Jessica looks self-conscious as the photographer snaps frame after frame of her.
Before long, a hostess gives Jessica, her friends and the deejay some bad news: They are being dumped from their corner table. "Somebody who is going to spend a lot of money wants it," Jessica says.
She shrugs. "I never had a table before." It was cool while it lasted.
April Witt is a staff writer for the Magazine. Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this article. Witt will be fielding questions and comments about this article at 1 p.m. Monday on washingtonpost.com/liveonline.