Monday, May 11, 2009

Selling Sex To The Suburbs - Part II

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a 3 part essay. To read Part I, please click here.

“It’s from your client,” he said. “I think we need to open it up.” I blushed a deep shade of magenta. It flushed my face and left a burning sensation behind my knees. Talking with great bravado about the items was one thing, but using them was entirely another. I pressed my back firmly into the chair. While I am not Mother Theresa in the bedroom, I am not Indiana Jones either, so it was no surprise to my husband when I looked away, shook my head and mumbled, “No.” Internally, I heard my mother’s voice saying, “Do not do it!”

“How can you possibly talk about this service without actually having used any of the products?” he said as the negotiations began. “How do you know if they work?” he said as he ripped the packing tape off the box and ceremoniously pulled out an elegant silver mesh bag.

“We are not The Brady Bunch. This is not the laundry detergent episode where they test the product before they decide to be in the commercial…” my rebuttal was in vain as a fit of giggles washed over me. I was back in Mrs. Anderson’s fifth grade health class on the first day of sex education. “It’s a penis, girls,” she said. “P-E-N-I-S! It’s a fact, let’s all get over it. Get all the laugher and comments out now, before we move down to the scrotum.” Sitting in a small classroom with 25 other girls, I was mortified with shock and embarrassment. I could not have imagined our homeroom teacher, Sr. Catherine, who always smelled faintly of Clorox in her prim navy blue habit, talking to us this way. I collapsed in a hysterical fit of laughter at the thought and spent the rest of the afternoon in the principal’s office to calm down and ponder how I would tell my parents of my transgressions.

Why then, at age 35, after over 12 years of intimate encounters that produced 3 children, could I not look my husband in the eye or explain how I felt, the very same way I couldn’t look or speak about my sex ed. hysterics to my mother. As I spied the bag in the palm of my husband’s outstretched hand, it did not seem so bad. On looks alone it could easily be listed as one of Oprah’s favorite things.

“Aha!” my husband cried, as if he struck gold, panning through the elaborate packing shred and dumping the rest of the contents with great flourish onto the Laura Ashley comforter. There, staring up at me amid a background of pastel cabbage roses, it was – big, purple and plastic - with all the batteries included. I had never seen anything like it up close and I thought I would go blind. This was definitely not what Mrs. Anderson had in mind all those years ago. But, as she was divorced and seemed quite a woman of the world to an eleven year old, I’m sure she would have approved.

Over the course of the next few weeks, my initial mortification paled to the reception I got when floating out my new career at my various suburban activities – dinner parties, volunteer meetings and the bus stop. When asked, “Who is your new client?” or “How’s the job going?” I would take a deep breath and slowly explain the service in broad terms. “It’s like a wine of the month club, or Harry & David’s fruit of the month club,” I would begin, “but instead of gourmet baskets of individually wrapped pears and oranges…” Sometimes the record would just skip and they would get it with an “oh...OHH!” Of course, some people would need more description before the light bulb would go on and the discussion would end promptly when I would state, “sex toys.”

While it was always hard to gauge how people would react, whether I used the items or not was not the issue. To most, I was already guilty by association without explanation or evidence. “I gotcha!” was the quick response and I would feel a slight, awkward twitch as the person moved away. I even detected a hint of fear cross one friend’s face. She didn’t know if she should move or cover the ears of the two-year old in her lap when she asked, “You aren’t doing any of this with the kids at home?” Did she think my laptop was now a 24/7 porn portal? “We do have a lock on the bedroom door,” was my wry reply.   To be continued....

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