Friday, January 9, 2015

Taking chances

I've just started reading a book on memoir writing. The author stresses the need for a writer to take chances, to be unafraid of criticism or offending people, your basic “let 'er rip” philosophy. I realize I can be very biting, borderline cruel in my criticism of some people. That’s not nice and I try to keep those evil thoughts to myself. But I don’t hesitate to make fun of myself. I thought of a piece I wrote that More posted on the online version of the magazine several years ago. I got some creepy responses and because the staff at More was horribly uncommunicative, when I finally got their attention I asked to have all of my work pulled from the magazine’s website. There was nothing smarmy about the piece I wrote; actually I was making fun of myself, of my naiveté.

So. . . ? Should I take a chance and repost it here? I did post it on this blog several years ago and it didn’t blow up in my face. At least I can control what is here, as much as anyone can control what is on the Internet. I know I’m delusional. So, just to honor my "craft" I’m taking a chance. Here it is:

Yesterday I needed to go to the local office supply store to get a three-ring binder for my French class, an errand that normally wouldn’t have much potential for getting me in trouble. Before I left the house I was reading a magazine article about stimulating creativity. One of the recommendations in the article was to do something out of one’s comfort zone, do something unusual and observe all the unfamiliar details. Motivated by the recommendation in the magazine, in a noble quest for creativity, and with feigned confidence, I left the office supply store and walked halfway down the tired little strip mall, heading for Night Dreams, the adult toy store, something far, far out of my comfort zone. Don’t be coy—you know what that is. I’m an old Catholic grandmother and even I know what it is.

I thought I knew what to expect at the adult toy store. Last year I was invited to one of those silly home parties where instead of selling Tupperware they sell vibrators. Before bringing out the merchandise, the hostess made us play inane, slightly bawdy games in order to get everyone relaxed and giggly, probably in hopes of increasing sales. A saleswoman named Candie speed talked through a description of her wares and passed things around the room for all the women to examine. It was like playing hot potato. No one kept anything for long, but quickly passed each item to her neighbor. Maybe it was supposed to be amusing but I hated the plastic penis party. It reduced a bunch of middle-aged women to junior high girl awkwardness. Sorry, I don’t mean to be disrespectful of junior high girls—they probably would have been totally cool with the whole experience. But if nothing else, it was my introduction to the wacky world of vibrators, leather thongs, and all sorts of things that bump and grind in the night. Still, being in a friend’s living room with a group of women did not prepare me adequately for the full-throttle experience of sauntering alone into a sex shop.

So yesterday I boldly ventured forth in the name of creativity. As I passed Starbuck’s on my way to Night Dreams, an overweight, unshaven foreign man with heavy chest hair who was drinking espresso at an outside table with another man looked at me, grinned, and said “hellooooo” like he knew exactly where I was going. My confident veneer was cracking.

I should have called the hello man’s bluff and ducked into the Jenny Craig weight loss center next to Night Dreams, but I wasn’t thinking fast and my boldness had not entirely evaporated. Yet.

There were a couple of mannequins in bondage and discipline outfits in the window, but for the most part the front of Night Dreams is covered with paper to conceal what’s inside the store. I entered and avoided making eye contact with the other people in the store, just stayed focused on the array of products on display. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a big burly man only a few feet from me and I wondered why he was looking at the merchandise in the women’s section but I had no intention of making idle conversation with him.

Although there were three clerks working in the store, thankfully it was a young woman who walked up and offered me assistance. She was dressed in black leather, heavily tattooed, and heavily pierced. The other two clerks were young men, also dressed in black leather, heavily tattooed, and heavily pierced. Perhaps they were required to dress that way to promote the corporate image.

I asked the helpful sales clerk about a product whose packaging claimed that it received a rave review in Oprah’s magazine, said it was the “Rolls Royce” of those things. Oprah uses these and she admits it?!!! I wasn’t exactly sure what it did, what features a shopper would find useful, so the nice bondage and discipline clerk explained it to me in specific gynecological detail. Being a confident woman and a savvy consumer, I looked down at the floor and said, “Oh, okay, I see.” I still don’t understand why one needs to have an appliance that changes color and what’s with all the cute little bunnies and butterflies? And I kept thinking about my experience with men and realized if I did buy one of those things surely it would soon move to another state just to get away from me. The devices looked formidable enough to call a taxi and head for the airport on their own power.

The clerk left me alone so I could browse through the store at my own pace. There are devices for men to use alone, devices for women to use alone, devices for couples, for groups, for people of any sexual orientation, for people with a wide variety of kinkiness. I really don’t know what people do with all of those devices but I didn’t have the nerve to ask the clerk about them and, having heard all the public health messages about safe sex, I didn’t want to touch anything without protection. Any vestige of boldness gone.

You can believe one of two things: (1) that I bought something and I would never admit it, or (2) that I completely chickened out, thanked the nice young lady, and promised her I’d think about it and get back to her. Take your pick.

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