I got my first vibrator when I was 26 years old. It was a Christmas present from my friend Lauren.
Lauren asked me what I wanted. "A book about insects," I said. Then, remembering that she considered my interest in insects to be "unnatural," I quickly added, "or a space pen." The ink in these pens continues to flow in zero gravity. You can write with them while standing on your head. I did not often stand on my head, but I thought that I just might if I had a space pen.
I gave Lauren candlesticks made out of cement. "Well, well," she said, setting them down with a thud, "aren't they lovely."
I unwrapped what I initially mistook to be a swollen thumb. Its rubbery flesh, however, was not the color of skin. Rather, it was the unhealthy pink of a No. 2 pencil eraser. This color reminded me of the teacher's lounge, and I immediately became aroused. I've never been in a teacher's lounge, but I've always imagined it as a place where the blondest and prettiest of my instructors felt free to shuck their clothing and have sex with whomever was not busy chain smoking or writing vindictive comments on my homework.
"This is no space pen," I said, waving the long, rubbery shaft at Lauren in a threatening manner.
"It's a vibrator," Lauren explained carefully. She clutched my arm and looked pleadingly into my eyes. "Use it."
My life was complicated enough without bringing a vibrator into the picture -- a picture that was beginning to resemble the more naughty illustrations found in religious tracts. Old Testament stuff. Freed Israelites behaving badly in the foothills of Mount Sinai. Dancing girls in short nighties, eyes agog with sin, rubbing up against golden oxen. Moses tossing his hands up in disgust at the whole sordid business.
I was romantically involved with two people and I was having sex constantly. My lovers were divided neatly into two categories: One was a man and the other a woman. Despite this simple organizing principle, however, I found it difficult to keep track of who I was having sex with at any given moment. Sometimes I'd reach for a sex organ that simply wasn't there, leaving me baffled and a bit miffed.
The only sex-free zone was in my bedroom at my parents' house. I had recently moved in with them after being chased from another state by the peeved husband of my former lover, a microbiologist whom I had captivated with my command of germ theory.
My girlhood bedroom remained much as I had left it -- a shrine to my troubled adolescence. The walls were plastered with mementos from proms where I had narrowly escaped date rape and posters of pop stars who couldn't quite keep their tattered shirts buttoned. "They're so smooth," an ancient baby sitter once said, standing an inch away from the wall, examining the boys' furless chests through bifocals.
On the desk was a framed picture of me grinning wildly as I accepted a "Just Say No" Leadership Award from then-first lady Nancy Reagan. According to my high school principal, a man who compulsively sniffed his fingers, I was nominated for the award because "you've never been caught smoking in the bathroom." The next step in the process, he explained, was to take a series of self-awareness classes. These classes, I soon learned, were merely exercises in humiliation that could only have come from the mind of a Republican wife. They were obviously designed to send me racing for glue fumes.
Shortly before I flew to Washington to accept the award, I sat on a bathtub watching my peers snort cocaine off a bidet. Occasionally, someone would lean against the bidet's lever, sending water shooting upward. My friends would madly run their noses across the bidet's rim before the tide washed away the powder. After each episode, Jimmy, whose mother had installed the bidet after taking a French class at the community college, sternly lectured against the hazards of leaning on the lever. The rest of the group, their hair matted with mist, would nod seriously in agreement.
Drugs had fried the cognitive and reasoning portions of my friends' brains. Yet they had little effect on the more primitive regions of their minds. Their reptilian sensibilities were razor sharp, enabling them to operate efficiently in a world of nooks and crannies. They were forever pulling bits of narcotics out of the most unseemly places. When the drug supply, which had been fat and colorful in the early evening, disappeared and a cold panic set in, someone would yell "under the rug" or "taped behind the fourth blind" or "inside the head of my sister's Barbie" and chemical peace would be restored.
Because I had embraced Mrs. Reagan's grim philosophy on recreational drug use, I had never developed a system for stashing contraband. This proved to be a problem when I brought the vibrator into my parents' house. I stopped dreading that my lovers would find out about each other and started fearing that they -- or worse yet, my mother -- would discover Mr. Stubbies, the brand name of my vibrator.
Mr. Stubbies became the Yasir Arafat of sex toys: He never slept in the same place twice. I would move him each morning before I left for work. From my sock drawer to the bottom of my sweater trunk. From under the bed mattress to the top shelf of my closet. From the sleeve of a coat to behind a stack of books.
At the time Mr. Stubbies entered my life, I had never masturbated. I was deeply suspicious of self-pleasure: It just seemed too easy. I considered sex a reward for the coolie labor of love. Sex would come only after I collected each little sacrifice that I'd made to my love -- abandoning friends, clipping my fingernails, reading Melville for Christ sakes -- and sprinkled them like bread crumbs in a trail leading directly to the bedroom.
My own pleasure notwithstanding, Mr. Stubbies had many exciting adventures of his own. I'd take him from his hiding place and stagger him around the room, pretending he was a Barbie Doll with a provocatively shaped head who had never recovered from some bad mistakes made early in life.
Soon, though, I tired of that melodrama. We dropped the mournful doll act, and he took on the new role of a fun-loving penis with a taste for mischief and an eye for the ladies.
Mr. Stubbies began to find himself in the most improbable situations. He loved to disguise himself as a diplomat or polo player and hobnob with the hoi polloi. His disguises were not very clever. He usually looked like a penis wearing a mustache and monocle. Yet, he managed to fool people time and time again. His unfortunate habit of jittering uncontrollably whenever he was around pretty women was his undoing, however, and his true identity was always revealed before he could successfully lure some young heiress into bed. Despite this, he maintained an unfailingly cheerful outlook on life.
A few months after I got Mr. Stubbies, my girlfriend invited me on a cruise of the West Indies. I should have been thrilled, but the thought of leaving Mr. Stubbies alone for a week made me miserable. My mother, a master spy, was certain to find Mr. Stubbies in my absence. I pictured myself returning home, weighted down with suitcases and souvenirs, only to be greeted by my disgusted parents. "Would you like to explain THIS?" my mother would say, pointing to Mr. Stubbies, laid out on the kitchen table, looking surprisingly vulnerable.
Before I left for the airport, I walked to the neighbor's garbage can and tossed Mr. Stubbies in. "Just think of it as another comic misadventure," I told him soothingly. Mr. Stubbies sank into the billows of a plastic trash bag. I imagined him on a garbage heap, trying to flirt with table scraps and wild dogs. I pulled him out of the can and buried him in my carry-on bag.
At the baggage security check, I eased my bag into the X-ray machine with a casualness that I hoped read: "I do not have a sex toy in my possession." The machine's operator studied the screen that clearly outlined Mr. Stubbies' profile. In this harsh light, he vaguely resembled a plastic explosive. "Hey, Pris," the woman yelled to a colleague, "I need you to check this out." I broke out in flop sweat as Pris, a woman who looked like an unbaked cookie, waddled to the screen. I nervously glanced at my lover, who was rocking on her feet, humming a tune, without a care in the world.
The machine operator pointed to the outline of Mr. Stubbies. "Whaddya think?" Pris looked mean-spirited enough to dump the contents of my bag all over the counter. Her chubby hands would linger suggestively in my bras and panties before wrapping around Mr. Stubbies. "Ah ha," she would bellow, lofting Mr. Stubbies over my head, turning this way and that so that everyone in the airport could see. I'd explain through much nervous laughter that Mr. Stubbies and I were just friends -- no more, no less. No one would believe me.
Pris looked at the screen and let out a hollow guffaw. "Yep, that's some weapon she's got there." In a stage whisper, she explained to her colleague that it was "just an ole' dildo." They sized me up and laughed again. "You girls have a good time," Pris said, leering at my girlfriend, who, thankfully, was much too self-absorbed to notice my mounting hysteria.
In all his adventures in my bedroom, Mr. Stubbies had never had a run-in with people employed in the service industry. And it was not an experience I wanted to repeat. I'd have to figure a way to avoid detection on the return flight home. But that was a week and several politically shaky Caribbean islands away. An eternity. Or so I thought.
As we boarded the ship, we were welcomed by a beefy crewman who grabbed our bags. "Security check," he said. My lover smiled blankly as he roughly unzipped her bag. "How can I be sleeping with someone who has nothing to hide," I thought to myself. I made a mental note to break up with her as soon as she picked up the bar tab for the trip.
"I'm gonna be sick," I cried and ran for the gangplank. I rifled through my bag, grabbed Mr. Stubbies and tossed him into the ocean. I waved a quick farewell and went aboard.
I made my way to the bon voyage party on the top deck. As we waited for the ship to set sail, we peered out at the murky harbor, quietly sipping our cocktails. My girlfriend suddenly started chuckling. "Look there," she said loudly, pointing at an object floating in the water. Passengers nearby leaned over the railing to get a better look. "Someone already threw their lover overboard."
It was, of course, Mr. Stubbies. I had never filled him with batteries -- in all our adventures, he'd never gotten lucky with me -- so he was too light to sink. He bobbed calmly on the oily waves, refusing to disappear under the dock or crash into the ship's brutal propeller. "He's gotten out of worse jams than this," I muttered defensively, as people around me laughed at his silly little body and mocked his fate.
As we pulled out of port, I watched him ride our wake into the open sea, where, I hope, he was eventually picked up by a boatload of sorority sisters who were paying their way through college by pirating cargo ships filled with C-batteries. Their boat would run aground on a tiny deserted island. The coeds would attempt to transform Mr. Stubbies into a short-wave radio. When that didn't work, one of the girls would shyly suggest a novel use for Mr. Stubbies and a lifetime supply of batteries.
The girls would never leave the island. In fact, they would never even try to escape.