Friday, October 28, 2011


Photo by me

Yesterday was my birthday. I was with my Sweet Petunia all day. She took the day off from her demanding job to be with me. The day started with a pumpkin cake for breakfast, baked by her new daughter-in-law (yummy!) and ended at the sex shop.

Now I am no stranger to sex itself.  I tried it once, and it didn’t hurt too much, and I might even try it again someday, but I have never visited a sex shop. My first visit yesterday was not my idea. I was born in the Midwest, into a rabidly moderate sect of Lutherans and attended a small Christian college (for small Christians). For the whole story of my youth, read my first book, Surfing Vietnam. I am simply not given to public displays of sexuality. For instance, my behavior riding the Gay Pride float at the Ilderton Agricultural Society Fall Fair Parade is extremely circumspect. I wear generously cut bib jeans and never make rude hip thrusts in response to the goading of goggle-eyed onlookers outside the pub. I am keen to demonstrate that I am gay-positive, but positively not gay.

The Sex Shop

It was night. The balmy late October air on the Orange Blossom Trail made me feel drowsy and safe as it streamed through the open sunroof of my Sweet Petunia’s sport scar. She was driving us home from our romantic dinner on the patio of the best restaurant in this here part of Florida. Suddenly Sweet Petunia hung a U-turn in the middle of the O B Trail and slid her sleek machine into the garishly lit parking lot of “Orlando’s Biggest and Best Adult Superstore”. My heart nearly stopped. My sainted mother’s face appeared in the glare on the windscreen and I heard her voice saying, “Try to keep your hands above the sheets when you sleep. You’re a big boy now and will be getting urges.” I saw the face of my old German Lutheran minister appear next to hers and heard his sonorous preacher voice intoning to us Confirmation Class boys his favorite passages from the 1912 Official Boy Scout Handbook—the ones that dealt with “self-abuse”—still, I believe, 99 years later, the definitive text dealing with that subject.

And there I was, in my sixth decade, with my Sweet Petunia, about to enter the hot red neon-encircled doors of the adult superstore. She parked between a big BMW sedan with heavily tinted windows and a full-sized black Hummer.  A “working girl” was patrolling her stroll on the sidewalk in front of the store, baring as much shiny tan skin as was legal, to the endless delight of the endless stream of traffic on the Orange Blossom Trail. I kind of knew from watching all six seasons of The Wire (twice) the kind of person who drove the kind of vehicles we had parked between—the kind of person who employed the kind of person walking up and down in front of the store. I feared that if we entered the store that that kind of person might snatch my Sweet Petunia and offer her employment, drugs with foreign names and a new wardrobe. But enter I did, clutching her shirttails with my sweaty hands.

The store reeked of artificial strawberry scent, that I later confirmed was leaking from the flavored edible undies packages that lined half of one super wall in the superstore. I was surprised that the store was brightly lit—glaring almost. I had hoped for a more subdued atmosphere—one with dark corners, perhaps, in which I might lurk while SP shopped for items I am too delicate to name. The bright lights, I supposed, were meant to facilitate the workings of the dozens of video cameras that infested the store, which I knew for sure were directly linked to the FBI, CIA, IRS, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I envisioned the bored civil servants manning the monitors saying, “We got him now. Nailed the bastard… We always suspected that Hockings character was a f_cking pervert. Let’s audit his sales tax reports.”

After SP and I passed the clothing displays near the door, where most of the mannequins had bodies that put to shame the last three of Hugh Hefner’s wives, we came to two long aisles (four sides, seven feet tall) with nothing but vibrators and dildos. The overwhelming sense of inadequacy I felt looking at the size of the dildos and imagining electro-technical proficiency of the vibrators could only be matched by standing next to Hulk Hogan in the gym doing bicep curls with a pink vinyl-coated five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Yes, that inadequate…

The dildos seemed to have muscle tone. I can tell you that from my observations in the locker room at the YMCA that few organic male humans have muscle tone “down there.”
And as for inadequacy, in the face of the vibrators, well, you only have to ask a modern woman about the joys of technology compared to the sorrows of the organic. Let’s just say I used to read a lot of feminist essays in the 70’s and have never fully recovered.

Not finding what she wanted, my SP asked me to ask a clerk for assistance. Asked me to ask!
Real men don’t ask for directions when they are lost in the desert, much less for help in an adult superstore. Every item in an adult superstore should be intuitively or instinctively obvious to a man of the world. Can you imagine James Bond tapping the shoulder of a bored clerk in a sex shop and squeaking out in the tiny cracked voice, most befitting a pimpled pubescent school boy, “Excuse me ma’m, which one of these has the fastest speed, and which one can you safely use with a silicone based lube?” Pointing vaguely in the direction of 369 vibrators…

“I’d recommend this pink one,” she says indicating a 10-inch long 3 inch thick item with a lot of “muscle tone”.  “And it takes just two popular double A batteries, which I can give you gratis, if you exercise your option to purchase this quality device.”  An English major drop out from FSU working at the sex shop by night and writing a powerful feminist novel by day…

“How do I know it’s really quiet and really powerful?” I asked in my schoolboy voice, staring at the tassels on my Bass loafers.  I looked around for my SP for support in my questioning.  SP was at the end of the aisle reading the packaging of some devices whose function, I am sure, would elude me.

“I can demonstrate it for you.” She adds coyly.

“Gulp.” I said, and after a beat, “Have you tried them all?”

“No, sugar; I’d never make it to work, if I did that.” As she ground here massive breasts into my arm and smiled.  She made her sale.

I looked up at the video camera and wondered what the boys at the CIA were saying.

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