“It’ll be fun,” she said. “All different ages,” she said. “You won’t be the oldest.”
So I unclicked the MAYBE box and changed my RSVP to YES. I’d never been to one of these home parties. Sure, I’d attended ones where you buy jewelry, cooking gadgets, even couture clothing. But never one with dildos and lubricants.
It was nice of her to ask me and the other moms from work. Oh, sure, she and I are more than just co-workers. We’ve been for drinks together. We joke about who stunk up the first-floor bathroom. We exchange off-color stories. (Mine are from 20 years ago. Hers are from last year.) But it’s one thing to get along well with a much younger co-worker and quite another to peruse vibrators in her living room.
Still, it wasn’t a pity invite. And I do appreciate the occasional night away from helping with homework, doing kids’ bedtimes, and retiring on the couch with my lovely husband. So, I drove the fifteen minutes away from my cornfield suburbs, through the autumn night and off to her downtown apartment, which was decked with strings of pretty white lights. Ah, the city life. Oh, to be twenty-something again. And she was right: There were women of many ages, all sipping on beer or wine, nibbling on chips and wraps, and seated in a ring around some professional party hostess that was older than I am.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. There were some big vibrators there. A few looked like miniature submarines. Others had tips fashioned to resemble, I think, tiny woodland creatures. But it wasn’t all vibrators. There were pretty lingerie pieces, too, and pretty sparkling lotions you could rub on your décolletage. Or your vagina. (The paid hostess assured us that this is a great trick to play on a partner just before heading out for a dinner date, just a quick little seduction to leave him with proverbial egg on his face—or glitter, as it were. Heh, heh, heh. Look who doesn’t know he’s got a sparkling moustache!)
At one point, I let said hostess smear scented lube on the back of my hand. I rubbed it in and sniffed at it like the other ladies in the room. “Mmmn!” I agreed. “That does smell good!” I did this on the tail end of her most embarrassing sales pitch of the night:
“Let’s face it, we’ve all had dolphin sex, right?” She was miming a bedroom scenario in which there was a last-second mix-up in entryways. Lurching slightly forward with a dreamy expression, then suddenly snapping her eyes open wide, she flapped her arms and screeched like Flipper. If I’d been given a safe word when I got to the party, I would have shouted it right about then.
Don’t get me wrong. I did have fun, partly because it was interesting to listen to how the younger women talked about sex. Whereas they were intrigued with a magic spray that instantly spirits away wet spots on the sheets, I was fascinated by a sweet little, gel-filled, heart-shaped massager that warms and firms up when you bend a metal disc inside of it:
Dear 20-somethings: This gel-filled heart will make you yawn ALL NIGHT LONG.
So, I bought one. It promptly went to live in a drawer.
Fast forward a few weeks, when my son came down with explosive diarrhea and violent vomiting. This wasn’t just any stomach bug. It was third-world. He spiked a wildly high fever. He had to sit on the toilet with a bucket at his tiny ankles so that he could unleash the curse of the damned from both ends of his body at one time. “I’m so cold,” he said, shivering in his bed in his fourth pair of underwear for the evening. “My skin hurts.” I couldn’t find the heating pad. We don’t own an electric blanket. And then I remembered THE HEART. Boom! Magic! He slept with it against his belly. He cuddled it to his face. We boiled, cooled, and activated the thing over and over.
The next evening, it was my turn to battle the bug. It never fails that I get these stomach viruses more violently than any one else in the family. Every time, I think I might die. I lose four or five pounds. I can barely walk. At one point, I was on all fours, crawling across our cold tile from the bathroom, dizzy and thinking of cholera. “Stay away from me,” I moaned at my husband, who was shouting out offers of help from the next room. “I don’t want you to get this thing.”
As I tried to catnap on the kitchen floor, I started thinking about the heart. I really wanted that thing. But it was all the way up on the counter. I bargained with God. My skin was so freaking cold. My belly was cramping in agony. Dragging myself up to standing, I grabbed the heart, pressed the metal disk in it, and watched it warm up. Then I rubbed it’s silky-soft warmth all over my aching, green-tinged skin. Oh, yeah, baby. I could do this all night long. Mmmmmnn.
Right around midnight, my condition started to improve. I was about to go to sleep when I heard low, miserable groaning upstairs. “Mommmmm, my belly huuuurts.” Now it was my daughter’s turn to dance with the devil. She spent most of the next six hours with the toilet and a bucket. At this point, I was still holding out hope that my husband would be spared, so I soldiered on, playing the part of nurse, rinsing buckets, wiping away tears, cleaning up towels, and heating and reheating that heart.
By morning, my husband was hit. He’s got a powerful immune system, rarely gets sick, so I figured it would be a mild case. Even when he had H1N1 several years ago, he seemed to be enjoying his time off. Not today. He was literally moaning in pain. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my poor, strong man boiling that pink heart. Ahhhh, he said when I rubbed it on his skin. Mmmmmmn.
You want to talk about intimacy? The Norovirus can make anyone sound like a 500-pound man straining to lift a 1,00o-pound barbell. And no amount of Poopourri is going to cover things up. Try this: Try having gut-wrenching dry heaves and explosive diarrhea within earshot of that special someone. It doesn’t get more intimate than that.
So, yeah. Against my first instinct, I went to one of those parties. I let a stranger rub something called Coochy cream on my forearm while I pretended it wasn’t weird. I handled all manner of so-called adult toys. I even bought one. And I can tell you, it was worth every single penny. Talk about blurred lines.
Was that good for you? Get more true stories of beauty, shame, and horror, in my book, After Birth: Unconventional Writing from the Mommylands (Possibilities Publishing, 2013), available in both Kindle ($4.99) and paperback ($8.95) formats. During the month of March, 80 percent of profits go to the Restoring Hope Transplant House, a home away from home for transplant patients and their families.