I didn’t see what the problem was. I am a perfectly respectable woman who knows what she wants and has the capacity to pay for it. At 83, I might be a little older than most and legally blind, but generally people are happy to welcome me to their stores and shops and come quickly to offer help.
But here? In this sophisticated sex store in SoHo? It was like a separation of the waters, with me stranded on a distant shore. No one asked me if I needed help finding something. Worse yet, the friend I had specifically invited to review and report on the merchandise seemed to be gone. Had she been magically vaporized in a haze of embarrassment by the panoply of multicolored dildos greeting us at the entrance? What did she expect in a place like this? Variety is their specialty.
I had in mind to buy some delicious toys because I believe in the pursuit of happiness for people of all ages and tendencies. To this end, I was ready to buy, buy, buy, but there seemed to be no one to sell, sell, sell. Visually impaired as I am (as indicated by my playful and decorated cane), one could surely see that help was imperative. More than ever, I needed my companion.
But she had rushed to a far corner. She seemed ready, at the start, to accompany me on this shopping expedition. Why was she balking now? Surely it was not possible for functional adults to be shy because they are in an environment dedicated to pleasure. Such a disconnect would be absurd these days, wouldn’t it?
My motto is: sex for one, sex for two, sex for all who want it. And that categorically includes those of us who are deep in old age.
I find the prudishness around sex shops disconcerting. I grew up in the 1950s, when many of us were overwhelmed by Dr. Freud’s statements about simultaneous vaginal orgasm. In the world of correct sex prescribed by psychoanalysis, the use of accessories would diminish the primacy of the all-powerful male organ. Out of the question at the time. But we are surely no longer bound by the male ego syndrome.
Do we really believe that the poor are so fragile that unless they are the one and only source of a woman’s sexual pleasure, they will lose their status as masters of the universe? Why would we place such a burden on these harassed souls? We all know that every sane person wants to please their partner, friend, passing fantasy or recent acquaintance. Such a person will sometimes, under certain circumstances, be happy to offer to bring in reinforcements.
For some of us, the era of the quickie is over. Still, a solo lunchtime excursion or a tea-time date for one of them might be the perfect fit. Whatever the setting, Toys Can Be Us for adults.
When people denigrate sex shops, they often do so with the cliché that “sex should be natural”. Well, yes, but sometimes sex can be amplified with music, scents, fantasies and toys, as well as touching and fondling. And, of course, all of these additions can enhance a singular feel as well as delicious duets, trios, quartets, etc. Could it be that we are still far from our vaginas? If my shopping companion was overwhelmed or undereducated on such matters, it was my duty to get her back on track.
The rescue was in order. I knew I had to commit and dispel any weird notions she had that was preventing her from fulfilling her mission of being my eyes. Why wasn’t she surveying the scene, deciding on an attractive display of inventory, and making us walk down that aisle with interest? Was it a question of age? His, not mine. She was, after all, only a 40-year-old shoot. Maybe his elusive behavior could just be the madness of youth.
Finally locating my shopping companion, I put a comforting hand on hers. “Speak!” I said. “Why the shyness?
“I thought you were kidding when you mentioned a sex shop getaway,” she said. “We don’t do this where I’m from. The Lord has mercy. “
I could almost hear him blush.
“My dear,” I say. “The total pride of all our adventures is another of my mottos. No shame, no judgment.
Was there a problem with the idea of a blind old social worker as a sexual enhancement guru? Or was the problem my clear voice penetrating the hushed surroundings? I did not know. No need to give him more airtime. I grabbed his arm tightly, and we walked down the aisle together.
Pink, purple, baby blue, turquoise – so many intriguing items in such delightful colors. I will not detail the equipment on offer, as I want to encourage personal exploration trips.
A music bar floats through the window, bringing with it flashback memories. An evening of slow, lonely fun. A scented bath, a self-massage with scented body oil, a special list of games, a special menu to help adjust the rhythms of pleasure. How handy to have that hint of electric power in the nightstand drawer. Instant inspiration. A new modern meaning for the old timeout.
My partner and I have finished our shopping. Finally freed from her prejudices, she got down to the heart of the matter and followed my good example: purple reigns! We walked out of the store swinging twin shopping bags and stood around the corner laughing. Two friends enjoying the snap, crackle and pop of life.
There should be no age limit for the sensual and sexual life. Erotic energy is always age-appropriate. It’s a way of being in the world, a touch of gala that we add to our mundane routines. We flirt with the bus driver, wear a red jumpsuit under a black dress, let a perfect piece of chocolate melt tantalizingly on our tongue.
Our bodies are our friends – not just trays to carry around our heads. We register the world through our senses. Sources of rooting and pleasure. And although in old age we are familiar with impaired hearing and vision, we use our deficits to bring us closer to taste, touch and smell.
We are in the final act. We can let go of so many things. Climbing and effort, for example. Bodily shame, for another. Most of us have accepted gravity, as evidenced by our somewhat altered body shapes. The self-doubt that can spoil even our most intimate moments no longer prevails.
We must center the pleasure: it is our freedom. Always available, our sensory reality locates us. This is how we honor the amazing gift of being alive. We land in the breath, blood and bones of our physical beings. Finally, we belong.
Why not keep the party going with some treasures from a sex shop? I live in the bond of a long-standing love. Two conspirators, living in the comedy of our messy, complicated and beautiful lives. Toys or no toys, it doesn’t matter. What matters is laughter. The humor of our preparations for takeoff. Funny but sometimes full of sorrow. We elders know that we will get lost one of these days. Someone has to go first. I am not nice; I pray for me.
But in the meantime, I am focusing on proximity. I want a union of mind, body and partner to partner without constraint, without inhibition and without attenuation.
In the secrets of our flesh, my partner and I meet again. We dig and find out. He sits on the edge of the bed, takes off his glasses, folds them neatly and places them on the nightstand. It is deliberate, my love. He focuses with intention.
When he turns his head, I can’t see his expression, but I think I can feel it, and I know what’s coming next.
He turns off the light.
Nestled in his arms, I adjust my breathing to his. A contact, a word, a caress. I sink to five fathoms deep. I lie down, I am gathered. I am preparing to fly. We live in old bodies, this man and I, but for now we live – strong with desire, sure of the dazzling joy of our flight.