“Happy Birthday, baby,” I said, for the third time that day, when I answered the phone.
“I’m still at work,” she said. “The orchid looks beautiful on my desk.”
“I’m glad you like it, ” I said. I glanced at the clock. It was 7:40.
“Are we still meeting for dinner at 9?”
“Yep. I’ve got a table at Ramblas. I asked them to hold us one by the window.”
That’s where we had our first date.
Becca sighed. “That’s very sentimental of you.”
“I know,” I said. “But I need to get going. I’ve got to run an errand on the way.”
“Where are you going?”
“I can’t say. There’s just something I need to do.”
“If you can wait until 8, I’ll go with you.”
My heart sped up at the thought.
“No. Really. This is something I need to do alone. I think you should meet me at the restaurant.”
There was a pause and a sharp intake of her breath.
“Oh, honey… are you… going shopping for what I think you’re shopping for?”
“What’s that?” I asked. I tried to sound confused, but I knew what she was talking about.
“You know.” She lowered her voice. “What we talked about last weekend. When you asked what I’d like for my birthday, and I said… I said I’d like to try a special accessory from the store on that one particular street.”
“Becca, are you having a Yoda Moment? What store? What street? Give this Jedi Knight a clue.”
I could tell I’d embarrassed her into silence. I could hear the squeaking of her desk chair.
“Never mind. I’ll see you at the restaurant.”
She hung up.
So Becca and I haven’t been dating more than a few months. Well, maybe it’s been six. I’ve never been good at keeping track of that kind of thing. But last weekend, when the weather was so hot, we walked down to Maya and had margaritas on the patio.
“This has been good, hasn’t it?” she asked me.
I had to agree. Becca keeps me completely entertained. We never run out of stuff to talk about, and find little to disagree about either. And, I guess I should say, the sex has been completely off the charts. I can’t count how many times we’ve gone to bed on a Friday night, only to crawl out on Saturday afternoon completely satiated, dehydrated, and slightly delirious. I can safely say, we’ve both gone places we’d never been before. And we’ve gone there over and over.
I’ve never been in a relationship this open. I don’t mean open to other people. I just mean open about sex. Becca and I talk about sex. We don’t just hint around. We talk it out, and I know that might sound way too… lesbian… for some people. But trust me, it’s hot. I guess it wouldn’t be if we weren’t having great sex… if we were trying to work out a problem, or something like that. But we’re not, and the on-going patter about our sex life is sort of a backdrop to our more serious conversations. And frankly, it keeps me turned on.
So I was surprised, that afternoon at Maya, when Becca blushed deeply when I asked her what she’d like for her birthday.
She actually had to lean in and whisper it in my ear.
“A leather harness?” I said. “With a dildo? Do you mean a strap-on?”
“Shhh!” she said, turning even redder.
I took this into consideration.
“Would you?” she asked.
“I don’t know… I never thought much about it. I’ve had a few girlfriends who… but I was never the one… the one… driving, if you know what I mean.”
She giggled. “I do know what you mean. I just think you’d be good at it. Really.”
“Good at it? Like I’m good at tennis?”
“No silly. I just mean you’ve already got all the right moves.”
It was my turn to blush. I reached for the chips to buy myself some time.
“Sure,” I said, hopefully sounding cooler than I felt. “I could give it a spin.”
So that’s how it started, and now I was rushing around my apartment trying to decide what to wear for this date with destiny.
I finally settled on a pair of faded skinny-legged blue jeans and a black sweater. The sweater is thin and cottony. I like it because it feels like baby clothes and shows off my tan. It has three buttons in front and I left them undone so the lace of my Wacoal bra peaked out a little.
I put on some silver hoop earrings while I considered my shoe choices. Usually, I’m a sandal kind of girl in the summertime. I paint my toenails red and choose my shoes to show them off. But for this shopping trip I felt like I needed something more substantial. I dug around in my closet and pulled out my black Frye motorcycle boots and tugged them on. They looked a little dusty so I ran a polishing cloth over them and check myself out in the mirror. With the hem of my jeans tucked in, I looked a little long-legged and dangerous. I thought I might even look like a woman who would buy a strap-on.
I grabbed my purse and headed out the door.
When the cab dropped me off in front of the Good Vibrations store at 603 Valencia, I climbed out into the evening air, and stood there for a moment. I wished I smoked so I could light a cigarette and slink around out front, stalling for time. But, it was after 8 already, so I pushed the door open and walked in.
The store was open and spacious. I guess it wasn’t what I had expected. Everything was so brightly lit and cheerful looking. On the left side of the room there was a group of people in folding chairs, maybe 20 of them. And a woman was standing in front of them, holding up a fat pink dildo and explaining something.
I went to the counter. “Are you open?” I asked the clerk, who I’m pretty certain was a transguy, but I can’t say for sure because I was trying not to make too much eye contact. “We sure are,” he said. “For about another hour.”
“What’s this?” I said, cocking my head toward the assembled group.
“Right,” I said.
“What’re you looking for?” he asked.
“Uh, a harness.”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, well, let me show you where they are.”
He wound his way around the group, to a wall alongside where they were sitting. I could feel some of the group watching us, and I thought I had never felt more visible in my life.
“We’ve got about a dozen to choose from,” he said. “There are a bunch of styles. Some of them are really low cut, one of them is a thong, some can hold two dildos.”
“Wow,” I said. “Two.”
“But they all fit differently, so you’ll need to try them on.”
I looked at the wall of leather straps.
“Where’s the dressing room?”
“Oh, we recommend that you try them on right here, over your clothes.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“No. It’s okay, really. Everyone does it. This is Good Vibes. We’ve seen it all, believe me.”
He headed back to the desk and left me there, in the aisle between the lecture and the harnesses.
I studied them as I tried to focus on my breath. In my head, I tried to channel my yoga teacher’s voice saying “in-haling and ex-haling”. I was hot, and wished I hadn’t worn a sweater.
Finally, I took one down off the wall where it was hanging by some standard-issue office binder clips. I took the clips off and set them on a shelf. I turned the harness around in my hands, trying to figure out where the front was and how the straps would fit around my legs. I focused on what I was doing, and was careful not to catch the eye of any of the audience members near by.
“Lubrication is the key,” the speaker was saying. “I can’t emphasize that enough.”
The group nodded in unison. It looked like it was mostly straight couples. Lots of the guys were looking uncomfortable. The women looked studious and attentive.
I looked at the harness I was holding. I realized that like it or not, the moment had come to butch up. I set my purse down.
I stepped one leg into the harness, and then balancing carefully on one foot, the other. I worked it up over my jeans, pulling at the straps and buckles. It seemed short. The ring in the front almost pointed down at the ground. Rookie or not, I knew that wasn’t going to work.
I pulled another one off the wall and looked it over. It was vinyl and the seams were unfinished. I wouldn’t buy shoes like that, so I put it back.
I tried on another harness, and realized it was the thong model. Even with my jeans on, the wide leather strap between my butt cheeks was irritating. I took that one off fast.
The third one I tried on had the most straps and buckles. I pulled it onto my left leg and balanced there as I tried to pull it over my right boot. It caught on the heel, and to my embarrassment, I started to lose my balance. I tried to fall as quietly and unobtrusively as I could manage, and finally toppled over onto the carpet, tangled up in the harness.
“Shit,” I said, quietly.
One of the male audience members stood up and came over, standing over me.
He offered me a hand.
“Wait,” I whispered. “I’m all tangled up.”
I extricated myself from the straps, which had mysteriously bound themselves around my ankles, and he pulled me to my feet.
“Going to have another go at it?” he whispered.
I looked at the harness I was holding. “I guess,” I said.
“How about if I offer you a hand?” he said, eyes twinkling.
“Oh, god no.” I said.
“No, no,” he said. “I meant just for balance. So you don’t fall again.”
Okay. So this is how I found myself in Good Vibrations on a Friday night, trying on a harness, virtually in front of an audience, delicately holding the arm of a straight man, like Cinderella on the arm of her prince.
Once I had it on, he stood back and gave me the thumbs up. “You look good in black,” he said.
I rolled my eyes.
“Really. I don’t suppose you’d like to have a glass of wine with my girlfriend and me?” He looked over at a woman in a shiny shirt, who smiled back.
“Stop.” I said. “This is bad enough as it is. I’m a dyke. Definitely not interested.”
“We both love lesbians,” he said hopefully.
“If I loved both of you, I wouldn’t be one,” I said firmly.
“I see your point,” he said, backing away.
“Anyway, thanks for the help,” I said. “Damsel in distress, and all that.”
He sat back down and I took the harness off. I read the tag carefully and pulled another one, still in its package, off the shelf. Then I wandered over to the dildo display.
The lecture ended and the group began to dissipate.
The guy and his girlfriend walked past me.
“Psst. Skip the jelly ones and go for something firmer,” he said playfully, clapping me on the shoulder as he passed by.
I pulled a big black one off the shelf. “The Stallion,” the label said.
That had a certain marketing appeal. I’m basically a pretty femme girl, but nobody wants to be small, right?
I packed it up to the counter and whipped out my credit card.
“Everything go okay?” the clerk asked.
“Basically,” I said. “I think this is going to work.”
“This is a good dildo,” he said. “It has a bendable core that lets you get just the right angle. And it cleans up with warm water and soap.”
I tapped my card on the counter impatiently. It was 8:50.
“But if you use it for butt play or multiple partners, we recommend boiling it,” he said, helpfully.
“Anything else?” he asked.
I toyed with the little lube packets and a ball-shaped vibrator, feeling oddly at ease and sort of like a pro. After all, I’d survived the worst of it.
“That’ll be $179.83.”
I handed over my card.
As I signed the charge slip, he began to pack my stuff into a plain brown shopping bag, the kind with little paper cord handles. The tip of the dildo hung lecherously out the top of the bag.
“Will this be okay?”
I pictured myself walking down to the restaurant, swinging the bag and the dildo. My heart began to race and my palms got damp. I broke out in a cold sweat.
“No. That won’t work at all. Don’t you have a bigger bag?”
“Actually, this is probably the best one we have,” he said
Maybe it was my reaction to the stress of the evening’s activities, but I felt unexpected panic rising in me. I was having a hard time catching my breath. I leaned over and desperately looked around behind the counter.
“Do you have one back there that I can breathe into?” I gasped a little.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I nodded a little too vigorously.
“You… really… don’t have a… bigger bag? Something… more… discreet?” I caught a big gasp of air and rushed on. “I mean you cover up the store windows for privacy, you’ve got to have some private bags.”
I wiped my palms on my pants, willing myself to chill out.
“It’s bigger, but it’s definitely not more discreet.” He held up a large paper shopping bag brightly emblazoned with the Good Vibrations logo. It looked like it could hold an orgy’s worth of dildos.
“I get it,” I said.
“How about a little tissue paper?” he asked. He stuffed some pink paper in around the dildo and fluffed it up so it filled out the top of the bag, disguising my purchase. It looked oddly festive.
“That’ll work. Thanks.”
I hit the street, nearly sprinting the six blocks to the restaurant.
Becca was already at the table with a glass of sangria.
“Happy birthday, again,” I said, kissing her on the forehead.
I put the bag on the table.
“Oh, goody. It’s a gift in a plain brown wrapper,” she said, winking at me.
I wiped my forehead with my napkin and took a sip of ice water.
“And don’t you dare open it here,” I said. “Please. Save it for dessert.”