Warning: If you are prone to tisk tisk’ing; if you might run into me in the grocery store and wonder; if you are friends with my kids; if you are an in-law or relative; or, if you are one of my kids, please skip this one— in fact, if you are one of my kids (biological, exchange, or “other”), absolutely stop reading now. Trust me; it will be worse for you than it will for me.
Every time I drive down The Guide, the main road past our ridiculously lame mall, I pass the store Lovers. It sits perched on a hill, right at a busy traffic light… where those of us stopped— on our way to other, more respectable stores, can’t help but see the giant purple sign, the bold purple tiles on the roof (apparently purple is the color of lust, sex, toys), the provocative window displays and the giant sale signs. For years now it’s winked at me as I try not to look in the windows, or guess what’s inside. “Hey you! Yeah, you, stop acting like a prude… I know you’re curious,” it calls to me, as I try to not let other drivers see my cautious glances; “Just come in for a minute…” I watch the light turn green and continue on to Costco. I’m not actually a prude, but I was never willing to go public with that fact, by traipsing into Lovers, and risking my neighbors seeing me. Never, until two weeks ago.
Call it a twofer awakening; the first came in finding out I’m not as progressive as I’ve always fancied myself. I was with a group of women and one of them brought up the subject of vibrators. Needless to say, it was a colorful conversation… but the worst part by far was when it became apparent that I was the only woman there, that didn’t own my own “toy.” Maybe it was my deer in the headlights look; or the fact that I was nodding along, smiling anxiously, but clearly didn’t seem to know what they were talking about; or, maybe these savvier women can spot us less sexually sophisticated chicks, pick us out in the crowd? Either way, all eyes turned my way, and I found myself back-pedaling and making excuses, as the comments flew my way. “What!” “Really? You’re serious?” “You haven’t tried a vibrator?” “Never? Ever?!” “What do you do?” The looks of pity and shock were almost more than I could bear. Geez! You’d think I’d admitted to being a virgin, and that my kids were adopted. I admit it; I felt like a lesser woman for that half hour or so. They all were clearly stunned, and I was embarrassed.
What can I say? Have I been curious since then… maybe through the years? Of course. But really, are there millions of other women out there who are so familiar with this all important toy, and I’m the only 50 year old sex-toy virgin? Really? I just haven’t seen the need… or, maybe I’m missing some big thing that I should know more about? Honestly, when one of them started talking about clitoral orgasm versus deeper, g-spot orgasm, my eyes glazed over and I’m sure I looked like the totally lost sheep in the flock. Clearly I was, lost, given the direction the conversation had veered and my utter confusion. I know what an orgasm is; I’m not that clueless— but it was all getting so damned complicated! I quietly rationalized to myself: Maybe I don’t need a toy to keep things happy in happy land. Laugh away ladies (you know who you are!); maybe I’m just so much more advanced that I don’t need toys? Or, maybe… Oh God, I’ve been missing some giant womanly thing that all these other women know about, and I’m cruising toward later life and will die dried up and not knowing about the real big bang? What if I am missing out!! I went home distressed, to say the least.
I’ll admit it, that idea of missing out got under my skin; and, I began to wonder about all of this. I looked in the mirror and wondered if others could see that I was lacking this sexual sophistications component. Yeah, it got under my skin, and there I was at the light on The Guide two weeks ago, trying not to look at the Lovers store, when I had the second awakening: I hadn’t been in a sex store. The two issues came crashing into each other, in that moment and I found myself doing a sharp turn onto the side street where Lovers is and pulling into their lot. Let me clarify, lest you be laughing at me more than you already were: I have been in stores that have sex toys, stores that have adult humor, etc. I’m not that
prudish clueless pathetic unaware. I’ve seen dildos. I’ve seen porn. I know what’s out there… or, I thought I did.
I pulled into the parking lot at Lovers, and immediately worried that someone might see me going in. Ok, prudish. But, I pulled up my big girl panties and
skulked snuck walked confidently hidden by the bushes toward the front door. Maybe I moved a little quicker as I got toward the entrance and realized that anyone at the stop light could see me, but that’s because it was hot outside and I wanted to get in the cool store. That’s all. When I went through those doors, any vestige of prude in me was melted away, and my eyes were seared by the instant sexual deluge of images. If I looked like a deer in the headlights with my savvy lady friends, I must have looked like some truly lost soul, to the two sexual Goddesses that greeted me.
“Can I help you today?” Goddess #1 asked, as I pretended to know my way around and tried to find the toys, without looking as utterly lost as I was. Um, no, thanks. I’m just looking, (Oh shit! Did I just say I was just looking? As in peeping, as in deviant, as in I actually do come here all the time, and I’m just looking this time…), I told her coolly, as I walked the way women are taught to walk in cities… at night… alone: hands in fists at your sides, like you know where you’re going and with a clearly determined look on your face. No, I’m fine thank you, I added again, as she came out from behind the counter. “Is there anything I can demonstrate for you today?” I stood perfectly still for a moment, trying to figure out what the right answer to that question was… in a sex shop. (Is there a room where they show you these things? Is there a real demonstration? Shit! Shit! Shit!) No; thanks a lot. I’m just looking at a few things. I’ll let you know if I need any help… I mean, if I can’t find something… Uh... “No problem, just call me if you need anything.” She smiled and walked to the back of the store, sure I was clueless. I saw Goddess # 2 smile at her.
I tried to look totally nonplussed, like a woman who has g-spot orgasms all the time, and comes into sex shops whenever her vibrator needs replacing. They do need replacing, right? You don’t keep one forever, do you? That seems icky. I walked among the items and kept my face neutral. Cock rings, dildos, vibrators that you can wear all day, under your clothes— Um, really? Really! So, you go to the grocery store and you get off in produce, and then calmly proceed to cereal? Really? There were pillows to make certain positions easier
for the man for couples who like that kind of position. There were flavored oils and lubricants— so, all this sexy stuff doesn’t get you lubricated enough? There’s a flavor for this and a flavor for that. You know what “this” and “that” is, ouí? There are balls to put in you, balls to wear on you, things to clamp on your balls, and all kinds of things to have a ball with. There are things to put your parts in: mostly men parts, and with really weird faces and plastic faces and fake vaginas or other openings. There are things in all kinds of happy colors, that must be good, because, well, they are so colorful. Things that bend, things that wiggle, things that send, me into giggles… Oops, a slip into Seuss there.
(Images from internet— What? You thought I’d take pictures? I would have lost the very last vestiges of self respect, that I barely had. Trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.)
Fifty Shades of Gray is big in sex stores, I discovered. There was actually a display at Lovers— buy the book, along with your clothes line, hand cuffs, feathers, whips, gags, blind folds and all kinds of other stuff… none of which was gray. There’s probably a gray lubricant, since lubes seem to be very big in sex stores. For the record, I still haven’t read Fifty Shades. Yeah, I’m that out of touch. After my utter humiliation at Costco a few months ago (read here), it has remained tucked under a pile of stuff… It’s not all about the gray though. There were all kinds of apparently sexy garb: maids are still big; nurses (a bit cliché, no?); and more blatantly sexual gear. Just for the record, there’s a lot that women are apparently supposed to wear, not so much for men. I tried to keep moving; not pick anything up, lest it be something I wasn’t prepared to touch (most of it); and, did not ask the two Goddesses for help.
If I was confused in the rest of the store, the vibrator section was totally unsettling. There are a lot of toys out there, in shapes that made my head spin… with heads that spin. This thing that everyone refers to as a rabbit, didnt’ really look like a rabbit, if you ask me. They come in a dizzying assortment of colors; they come smooth or bumpy; they come with multiple speeds, water-proof and not water proof; they come unGodly large and frankly, a little small. But I remained calm. I didn’t ask for help, and I made sure my jaw didn’t visibly drop. I acted like an adult woman who knows what she’s doing, and what size and shape will work… mostly.
Then it occurred to me that a truly sexually sophisticated woman would not hesitate to ask for help, right? Women like us can say things like “Does this provide g-spot stimulations as well as clitoral?” And keep a straight face. We earn the respect of the Sex Goddesses, when they know we know that they know what we all should know. So when I came up to the counter with my selection— Yes, I bought something; no I won’t clarify further— I simply smiled and said, This looks like a really good product, right? “Oh yes! You have great taste; this is by far our best seller.” She said this very matter-of-factly, as if she has these conversations every day (Ok So maybe she does) and because she is a sexual Goddess and is totally comfortable with her lady parts and any other parts she encounters. I basked in her
twenty something divine Goddess approval. Well, well… take that judgers. Snap! You elitist sexual connoisseurs! I am apparently a natural at selecting sex toys. No experience needed; I chose the best seller, all on my own— I thought as I handed her my purchase, and sent a silent prayer up to baby Jesus, that we could be done with all further conversation.
And then she opened the box, and I stood there frozen. “We like to make sure these are fully charged for you, and everything works properly,” she explained as she plugged my toy in, something very akin to the Verizon store, when they charge your phone for you. Um, there’s really no need, I
stammered said. I can charge it at home in the privacy and hiding place of my choosing. “Oh no! We want to make sure it’s in full working order for you before you leave the store.” Right, of course. Thanks. She unplugged it after what seemed like far too little time for something to charge and do all the things it promised to do, and held it up for inspection. Shit! Put that thing down! Someone might walk in and see me with that thing! My brain was exploding! Thanks. Thanks a lot, I said calmly. “Do you want me to show you how it works,” she asked again, as she held it up. Seriously? Really? How on earth do you demonstrate a vibrator? I give. She switched it on and held it toward me, “Here, would you like to feel it?” I tried not to look at the wiggling device; really, I did try to look composed. I adjusted my big girl panties, which were feeling distinctly like Depends, or little girl panties with the days of the week on them, or some variation of the two by that point, and said, No, thank you. I think I can figure it out on my own. I kept myself from screaming: Put the damned thing in that bag, right now!
“Can I get you anything else?” I must have looked lost, or whatever it is that all those other women noticed, when she asked, because she picked up some little packets and said, “Lubricant?” No, thanks. She looked at me like I didn’t get it, and admittedly, I was becoming increasingly aware that I don’t get it; haven’t gotten it, and may not ever get it, but I shook my head very confidently: the confidence of a middle-aged woman who just doesn’t need lubricant, I suppose, and waited for her to put my toy in a bag. “It’s just that sometimes lubricant helps,” she added. Ok, I could not take this one more minute. I may be clueless, but I was not willing to discuss flavors or types or anything else about lubricants. And I truly believe she was starting to get a kick out of my efforts to look savvy, when I’m not. She smiled, held my toy up and began to demonstrate how to clean it, and while I may not be savvy about toys, I know what that hand motion looked like, and I know I turned bright red. The gig was up.
Ok, thanks. I appreciate all your help, I told her. I haven’t bought one before, but I do know how to read the instructions, and at this stage, I think I really would prefer to just take it home and figure it out. There was absolutely no point in feigning savvy any longer. The red face was a dead give away, and probably the way I had begun to stutter; we both knew it. Kind of the way we all inevitably imagine people having sex, the minute they tell you they’re trying to have a baby, she knew that my trying to figure it out at home, would involve certain things, and she just smiled knowingly and put the lube down. Honestly, I just crossed off two bucket list items today, I tried to regain a thimble full of dignity. I finally bought a toy, and after sitting at the light out there and wondering about this place for years, I can say I’ve been in. The two Goddesses both laughed— no longer that laugh that tells you you’re not in on the joke, and did a fist bump. “Good for you! Would you like a punch card too?” Shit! Do people really get punches for this stuff? “Actually, you earned 7 punches with this purchase and that’s a big savings next time.” I got the punch card. Maybe there’s something beyond the G-spot that I don’t know about either? Now that I’d earned some respect back, I wasn’t asking that, but I do love my punch cards, and I’ve got a discount coming… next time. I hadn’t even looked at the price, and when I did, I put the receipt in my purse like I do this all the time (even if we all knew I didn’t), and took my bag. Thanks. This is great, really, thanks. And for the record, for the price, I should get alimony if this thing doesn’t work. I’ll admit it; I felt really Kool for making the Sex Goddess laugh that hard, as I headed for the door.
When I walked out, I stood taller and
ran a little slower went to my car. I hid tucked the bag under the groceries and drove away, no longer a sex store virgin, or an outsider. I am now a punch card carrying member of the toy club. I know what’s what, and I know where to buy it.
* * *
Dawn Quyle Landau lives in the Pacific Northwest, with her husband, her three children (as they leave and re-enter the nest) and two spoiled dogs, Gracie and Luke. She is an avid traveler, but live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. When she’s not busy watching the colors change over the San Juan islands, she writes three times weekly for her blog, Tales From the Motherland, works on a novel, volunteers for Hospice and an organization fighting childhood sexual abuse, and plans her next adventures. Her work has been published in Bucketlist Publications, SLAP’D (Surviving Life After a Parent Dies (an online support site for teens), Cascadia Weekly, and in the anthology Tangerine Tango, Women Writers Share Slices of Life. Connect with Dawn: Tales From the Motherland, Twitter, Facebook
Note: I have been trying to figure out how to write about this, and not lose face, for weeks. Not possible. When I saw that Emily and Ashley’s prompt for this week, on the summer blog hop, was Remember the time… you were an outsider, I knew where to plug this in. Trust me, there are so many times I could have written about being an outsider, but this is the most recent time… and it needed writing.