We were at a prayer meeting when my friend Trixie asked me, “Tell me what you know about Astroglide.”
After being friends for 24 years, this type of thing doesn’t phase me. “You mean the personal lubricant?”
“I prefer the term love lotion, but, yes.”
“I don’t use Astroglide, myself, so I can’t speak as a fan,” I said. “But you just apply, put the pieces together, and hold on tight.”
“Well, it works pretty good the first time, but …” Trixie moved closer and whispered, “If you decide to have second go at it, well, it’s kind of gunky.”
““I’m not familiar with that technical term.”
““Sticky would be a good synonym, but not sticky in a good way.”
We were planning to meet for coffee and dessert the next afternoon, so I suggested that we visit one of the adult novelty stores and sample their wares.
Undaunted, Trixie and I visited Love Shack with our innocent friend Midge (a recovering Pentecostal) in tow. As we entered the store and i saw rack upon rack of rabbit fur-lined handcuffs, cat-o-nine-tails, naughty nurse outfits, dildos, nudie magazines sold in a bargain three-pack, and porn DVDs, a sense of deja vu came over me.
Over the years, I have accompanied many a female friend to adult novelty stores to purchase something they were too embarrassed to buy on their own. One co-worker, Kristie, had begun dating a man after her divorce the year before. While at the copy machine, she confided in me. “When Steve and I are … you know … um … I can’t seem to … you know …”
““Orgasm?” I asked.
““SHH!” She stole a quick look behind her to ensure we were alone. “Yes. I just can’t seem to relax.”
“Is Steve pressuring you in some way?” I pictured him hunched over Kristie, screaming, “SAY MY NAME! SAY MY NAME!” I knew I would certainly find that distracting.
““No, the problem is The Committee,” Kristie said.
““Who’s The Committee? And why are there other people around when you’re having sex?”
““No, The Committee is in my head. It’s the voices of all the people I’ve known my life who judge me in my mind, like my mom, my childhood piano teacher, and the Art Director for the Victoria’s Secret catalog. They say things like, ‘That’s dirty!’ ‘When you’re bent over like that, you look fat!’ and ‘Those keys aren’t clean!’”
I considered how to word my response as I programmed the copier to staple my documents, which seemed oddly appropriate. “Does The Committee distract you when you’re having quality time with yourself?”
Kristie gave me a blank look.
““You know, like when you’re taking a long, hot bath.”
Kristie blinked at me.
I sighed. “Can you masturbate without interruption?”
Kristie turned red. “I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”
Just then the alarm went off on the copier to clear a paper jam.
““Kristie, it may help if you practice a bit on your own. Then when you’re with Steve, you will probably feel more comfortable.”
““Can you help me?”
““Um, I don’t think I–”
Kristie grabbed me by my shirt and shook me. “My future children are depending upon you!”
At lunchtime, Kristie and I drove to Insurrection, a adult novelty shop near our office. As we marveled at all of her options for vibrators, I recalled how my family received a mail order catalog that had various household crap you could live without but made your life better, like doorknob covers and such. It also featured something called a marital aid, which showed a woman, eyes closed, with her cheek pressed adoringly next to a vibrator in a tasteful earth tone. (Hey, it was the ‘70s.)
““What’s a marital aid?” I asked my mom.
She stopped stirring the Hamburger Helper. “It helps women relax.”
““Can women only relax in their bras?”
““What are you talking about?”
““Well, this woman pictured in the catalog is relaxing with her marital aid in her bra.”
““It means that women should do their relaxing in the privacy of their bedrooms.”
““Oh.” I turned the page. “Do men relax, too?”
““Yes, but they don’t need marital aids.”
““Go tell your father that dinner is ready.”
Looking back at that moment, it was somewhat disconcerting that the world has basically been a smutty place all along, but I was too oblivious to know. Why all the secrecy? Why not just break it down for kids and tell them mommy requires batteries and daddy just needs his right hand.
““Which one do you think I should choose?” Kristie asked.
““I would probably steer away from anything that has a pull-start or the words ‘anal intruder’ on the package,” I said. “What about this?” I handed her something that resembled a small nuclear missile in bright purple.
““What do I do with it?”
““Turn it on and see how it feels.”
Her eyes grew wide.
““I don’t mean take it for a test ride,” I said. “Just turn it on and … hold it against yourself somewhere above the waist.”
Kristie switched it on and jumped when it buzzed. Gingerly, she put it against the back of her neck. “Ooh, that does feel nice.” The vibrations from the Gal Pal made her sound like Belinda Carlisle.
““I think we have a winner,” I said.
Later, as we drove back to the office, Kristie said, “Thank you for going with me to buy a Gal Pal. I never would have been able to do it without you.”
““Kristie, you didn’t need me to help you buy an overpriced piece of battery-operated plastic.”
““No, but you listened to me and didn’t judge me and you were there for me. That’s what makes you a good friend I wish all men knew how to be a good friend to a woman.”
I thought about that as I stood there assisting Trixie sample personal lubricants. “This one says it will achieve a sensational texture at exactly the 29th stroke,” Trixie said. “I wonder how they test that …”
I glanced at the tube. “That’s masturbation cream–not personal lubricant.”
““Trixie turned the tube over and read the label. “Huh … I guess that’s why it read ‘Jack off responsibly’ on the back.”
““Check out this lip gloss I found,” Midge chirped.
Trixie and I both turned and read the package and said in unison, “It’s not for the lips you’re thinking of.”
Midge turned red.
Trixie finally decided on a water-based personal lubricant after determining that the silicone-based lube resulted in gunkiness. As she paid for her purchase, I leaned against the counter and sighed. I thought, I’m forever going to be known as the trusted male friend who helps women buy vibrators and love lotion. Could there be anything sadder?
Then an odd man entered the store and approached the counter with a used vibrator. The clerk eyed the Anal Intruder on the counter and bit his lip as he picked it up to examine it. I smiled. There were worse things.