As I approach 22, I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I enjoy the glamour of sex more than the act itself.
I seemed to find the final stage of acceptance last Tuesday at approximately 8 PM with the company of my sister, equally disillusioned with the state of modern romance, and the smell of grease of the carryouts, equally disillusioned with culinary trends involving organic polenta, that guard the strip mall sex shop. Chow mein, manicures, holistic meditation — it’s amazing that the property owner manages to fit all of the deadly sins into one oversized trailer supported over the drainage ditch by a mere collection of wooden beams. Maybe it was the dampness of my freshly-washed hair, the cotton of my favorite Iron Maiden muscle tee, or the crispening of the post-Labor Day air, but the sense of rebirth persisted despite the tried but true seediness of the strip I had stared at wide-eyed from my school bus window as a girl.
Normally I open doors for my sister. Both painfully shy, we always have a sibling spar over who has to embrace the grips of public spaces first. But I let her off this time. My apprehension hadn’t showed up to the party. The clang of the bell caught the attention of a single sales associate, sweet voiced and Monroe-pierced, sipping her fruit punch from her Big Gulp cup. I went to engage, but became too dazzled by the negligees I had always seen in the store windows displays hanging on a circular rack at the epicenter. Organization by size, color, or style was completely disregarded, but I didn’t mind. It was the thrill and satisfaction of the dig, like when I would go back to school shopping at Marshall’s with my mother and find the pair of trendy Abercrombie jeans that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
But it was the wall of seven inchers on the far wall that distracted me. The hard plastic and shine of the buckle on the strap undulled by the overhead florescence — apparently there was something more alluring than nylon and lace. I hurried over, standing on the front rubber of my Vans to reach for the big black one on the top shelf. I stroked it intently, delighted in its smoothness. I pivoted to show my treasure to Julie who was trailing behind me, casually surveying the scene like a teenager at a carnival.
“Ugh, I think I’m in love,” I said, cradling it against my chest.
“Yeah, that looks like you,” she admitted with an endearing exhale. “What size is it?”
I flipped it over and did some examining.
“Oh damn, this one’s only a 6.”
I dropped to my hands and knees to get a better look at the boxes underneath the display. US 10, US 7, US 9, US 7…I began getting nervous. Then, at the very bottom of the stack, I found the glistening 8 at the end of the tunnel. I yanked my baby out, nearly destroying the modest shoe section like a Jenga tower. Glancing over my shoulder, I expected to see the clerk glaring at me like the Victoria’s Secret associates when you make a mess of the panty drawers. But there she sat, politely absent.
I perched myself on the try-on bench and placed the box carefully on my lap, removing the lid and pulling back the already-rumpled tissue paper to see a style even more beautiful than the all-black Mary Janes that had originally moved me. The straps were still black patent, but the three inch platform and spike were clear while “diamonds” encircled the area where the heel meets the sole. Vans off, Lapdance on. Far from a natural, my acrylics struggled to negotiate the latch that crosses over the buckle, which I suppose is a necessity when you have that much pressure resting on a single strap.
“MOM!” I yelled in my Cartman voice in the direction of my sister, who had become distracted by an issue of Bondage Life that was so utterly 90’s-looking that I could have sworn Angela Hayes was the roped-up covergirl.
“Okay, give me a foot,” she said, taking a knee and balancing the spike against her thigh. Her nibble barista-bassist fingers had me fixed up in no time. I elongated my leg to admire her work and couldn’t help but grin softly. Julie insisted I stand up to give myself a full twirl. I let my arms out, fully expecting to need all the help with balance I could get, but was surprised to find I could spin freely without a second thought.
My shoe box tucked carefully underneath my arm, we went on to explore the back maze of massaging fragrances and massive fleshlights. But despite the three-foot dildo that could have passed for one of Harambe’s taxidermied limbs (Editor’s note: DICKS OUT! RIP IN PEACE), I found the most shocking novelty to be no other than the DVD. I’ve seen the bowels of South Baltimore, the infected kitchen piercings of high school friends, and balls so iridescent that they could rival pigeon breasts, but I had never before seen porn outside the context of the internet. A beginning, a middle, an end. An angle to it, and one that means concept and not just “POV.” I felt like I was back in Blockbuster again. Better take your time and pick a good one.
“Seriously, what do you with that?” I asked, pointing to the Harambe dildo, trying to deflect from my realization that I had been unknowingly watching the reduction of the sacred bottom-shelf my entire Millenial life.
“You display that shit,” Julie said dead seriously. “Ashley’s parents used to live next to a hotel, and for some reason all of the guests felt entitled to stare into their side window…so they put a giant dick in it.”
After escaping the funhouse of veiny dildos, I decided that the only device I could fathom having even near my pussy was the five inches of pink glitter gel-plastic. It just seemed right. Julie concurred.
I’ve always said it’s the little victories that make life meaningful, the first and foremost being the mental arm pump that occurs every time my card doesn’t get declined. The last $55 of my $90 gone, we turned to leave when a middle aged couple sauntered by. The woman was lovely. Her chestnut hair was blown out and fell to the top of her black form-fitting shift dress. Her husband walked beside her in an oxford and tie, like they were at the ends of an anniversary night out. Amazon may satisfy a pragmatic mission, but perhaps there will always be a place for the real-life sex circus.
In fact, maybe I would enjoy actual sex more if there was a return to the experiential. I can’t help but consider the generational differences between men. In their 20’s it’s too rough, too fast, too much wanting to prove that the awkward slow motion car boning of their teen years has been escaped. It’s like all of the sudden you’re contorted into one of those poses from that clip on PornHub, designed to look good for the camera despite it feeling like a minor nuisance at best. In their 30’s you might actually stand a shot at getting off, maybe even twice, but there’s this barrier that lingers, like you can’t get “I’m having sex” out of your head, and it just becomes a race to get it over with. In their 40’s is where it actually becomes something. A beginning, a middle, an end. The tragedy is the complication that follows. You lose touch, either because of distance, families, or malintent. But I accept the tragedy as part of the show.
Maybe I’m more old fashioned than I once thought, even in my seven inch heels.