My mom is holding up the Good Vibrations catalogue. The year is 1998. I am 12.
I know what a vibrator is from watching Slums of Beverly Hills – I especially love the scene in which Marisa Tomei and Natasha Lyonne toss the buzzing sex toy back and forth while gyrating to Parliament’s Give Up the Funk.
“Sure!” I exclaim.
We sit down at the kitchen table and go through the catalogue together, pens at the ready to mark the toys that look most promising. We pick one that’s thick and short, clear and curved to “stimulate the G-spot.” I have no idea what the G-spot is or how this device is supposed to stimulate it, but Mom thinks it’s a good, simple choice for my first time, and I trust her judgment on these matters.
When I was 10, my parents and I traveled to Hawaii and stayed in this amazing resort with a bar in the swimming pool. One day I was innocently floating around, getting ready to order another Shirley Temple with extra cherries, when I decided to take a little break on the side of the pool. As I hung on to the edge, I found myself strategically positioned with a jet shooting between my legs. Suddenly, I was overcome by the most incredible sensation my body had ever known. I had no idea what was happening, but I knew I had to share my discovery. I quickly scrambled out of the pool.
“Mom! I just found the most incredible thing!”
My mom smiled knowingly. “The jets?”
“Yes! How did you-”
She seemed completely nonplussed. I wanted to shout, why didn’t you tell me?! It wasn’t until later that I realized this had anything to do with sex and was probably not the kind of thing most girls would immediately share with their mothers, but this was our relationship.
Growing up, I was very used to seeing my parents’ bodies. They have been walking around the house naked for as long as I can remember, and still do to this day. I mean, they’re a couple of fit 60-somethings, but still. These days I’m used to it, but also acutely aware of trying to avert my eyes from certain key parts of their anatomy. When I was little, my mom kept her diaphragm on the edge of the bathtub and, although I’m sure she explained to me what it was used for, I didn’t realize this was something weird that didn’t happen in every household until years later.
So, when Mom offers to buy me a vibrator at age 12, I really think nothing of it. I’m not even that excited about using it (because honestly, I have no idea how), but what I’m SUPER excited about is telling all the kids at school. Because I know for a fact that not even the sluttiest, meaniest girl in town has a vibrator! Not even her mom is that cool.
When my vibrator finally arrives in the mail, I just stare at it. It’s short and fat and I’m thinking there’s no way that is fitting inside my vagina. I haven’t even tried putting in a tampon, and when I finally do, I get such anxiety that I practically throw up and pass out at the same time.
The day my vibrator arrives, I can’t wait to get to school. At recess, I sit on the bleachers and hold forth about my new toy – how awesome it is and how awesome my mom is for getting it for me. In a less liberal environment, I might have been ridiculed; in this hippie beach town, the kids are jealous and awe-struck.
That night, I try out my vibrator for the first time. I lie in bed and put it down there, not aiming per se, but in the general area. It doesn’t really occur to me that I’m supposed to put it inside (I mean, the thing is HUGE), so I just sort of place it between my legs and let the vibration do its thing. It doesn’t blow my head off but it’s pretty good. Maybe not the fireworks display I was expecting, but it feels faintly reminiscent of the jets. I mean, the jets were my first time so naturally they made quite an impression.
Truth be told, I don’t use my vibrator much. The kids at school ask about it very occasionally throughout the school year, and when they do I pretend that it’s the best thing ever and that I use it a lot. The truth is, I want the real thing. I am a tightly wound ball of sexual frustration and I have epically painful, fantasy-filled crushes. For some reason it doesn’t occur to me that my vibrator is meant to relieve some of this tension. I don’t actually equate the vibrator with sex – it feels disconnected, and I don’t see it ever satisfying me the way I imagine real sex will.
So I put my vibrator into early retirement. It’s not until I’m 17 and start having sex, and then orgasms, with my first boyfriend that I finally understand what to do with this device. This is also when I begin putting certain scenes in certain movies to good use. My porn: the scene in Boogie Nights when they’re shooting a sex scene and Julianne Mooretells Marky Mark to come inside her; the scene in Fear when Marky Mark fingers Reese Witherspoon on the rollercoaster with Wild Horses playing inthe background (Marky Mark is featured in some great jerk off material, what can I say?); the scene in Cruel Intentions when Sarah Michelle Gellar gives Ryan Phillippe a hand job; the list goes on. I had these scenes cued up on VHS tapes (remember those?) I would record at my Grandparents’ house when I visited them in Jersey for 3 months every summer. I would record at the lowest possible quality so I could fit 3 movies on each tape, and I loaded them up with as much sexy material as possible. These parts of the tapes were well-worn and would often skip around, making masturbating and trying to come very challenging indeed, but well worth the effort.
I had that vibrator for a long, long time. It finally died a couple years ago and I was forced to upgrade – to a rabbit, which I have to say is a far superior piece of machinery. But I do have fond memories of my first vibrator, because it was old school and my mom picked it out, and it taught me at an early age to have no shame about my sexuality, that you’re supposed to be horny as fuck when you’re 12 and it’s not unnatural. So, thanks Mom, for so many things, but namely for buying me my first vibrator.