5th August 2005

When Heather comes to visit, I suggest that we stop by Good Vibrations, a local highbrow sex shop, for a quintessential San Francisco experience.

We amble through the Mission, passing forty-two taquerias along the way, and finally arrive at our destination. I’ve been to Good Vibrations a dozen times — for bachelorette supplies and the like — and have never known one of the employees to approach me unbidden; they’re incredibly discreet.

Heather draws immediate attention. She’s approximately 6″4′ in heels, and is wearing a skirt that clearly shows her legs stretching up to her armpits. Also, her mouth is so agape that her jaw is getting rug burn. Every few feet she gives a Southern-drawl stage whisper, What is this? and then withdraws in horror when I explain.

We look around for a few minutes, select a set of superior pink vibrators, and are snickering over the flavored body oils when a butch-lesbian store employee approaches.

BLSE: Do you mind if I ask you two something?

Me: (Looking around to see who she’s talking to.) Us? Oh! No, not at all.

BLSE: OK. Why did you both decide on the same vibrator?

Heather and I look at each other questioningly, and then guiltily, like perhaps we’re planning to do a kinky, synchronized stage show involving hot-pink vibrators, knock-knock jokes, and dancehall costumes.

Me: Um.

Heather: Um.

Me: I don’t know. I guess we just liked the same one. Why do you ask?

BLSE: It just seems like women who come in together always leave with the same vibrator.

Me: Huh.

The truth is I insisted that Heather could not leave town without a vibrator, as I knew she’d never owned one, and I didn’t see any clean, well-lit, sex-toy shops last time I was in Salt Lake City. Heather protested that she didn’t need one. I pointed out that it was not a question of need, but a quality-of-life issue. She reiterated that she wasn’t that interested. I shoved the vibrator into hands and switched through each one of its seven pulsating channels.

She took one.

And now the clerk wants to know why. Why did Heather select that particular one? The one that I shoved into her hands, the one that I told her she could not leave the store without. Heather looks at me expectantly. I give a nervous high-pitched squeak and begin to study my shoes.

Heather: Uh I’m from Utah.


Heather: (nervous laugh) I’m a good little Mormon girl. I don’t know anything about any of this stuff.

(Mormon ancestors everywhere bang their heads against coffin lids. From 735 miles away, Heather’s mother hears her daughter, who has publicly and venomously sworn off the Mormon Church for years, and speeddials a church Elder. A few days later, he will meet Heather at the airport with a Book of Mormon and a plate of Rice Krispy treats.)

BLSE: Oh. I see. Well, do you use any kind of lubrication during sex?

Heather’s eyes are locked on this woman. She is trying hard to look serious, and calm, and knowledgeable. I know she doesn’t want to answer, and yet she does answer. Heather very obviously wants her answer to be the right one, the best possible answer regarding vaginal lubrication, so that perhaps this kind and helpful woman will go away.

BLSE: I see. Well, there are all kinds of things that affect lubrication, time of the month, arousal levels, energy levels. Do you ever find?

Awkward conversation ensues that reveals far too much about both my and Heather’s sex lives. This woman is coaxing us into saying things we would blush to tell our husbands. Suffice it to say that we spend the longest five minutes of our lives discussing the intricacies of vaginal lubrication with a complete stranger. Both of us are doing everything we can to indicate our discomfort, but the conversation lunges forward.

BLSE: Also, do you ever experience pain during sex?

Heather clears her throat. I move away, feigning fascination with a colorful butt-plug display. The BLSE doesn’t budge, she is clearly engaged in a mild flirtation with Heather, whose eyes are darting wildly around the room.

Heather: Uh well. I’m a recovering Mormon. I mean, I, I Uh I (deep sigh)

For the first time in recorded history, Heather Armstrong — the woman who has told the Internet about the cabbage she stuffed in her bra to relieve lactation pains, the months she went without sex after giving birth, the times she has had to remove her own feces from her rectum with her hands — is officially speechless. I swoop back in.

Me: OK. I think we’re fine now.

BLSE: Well, it’s just that

Me: We’re good. We’re good. Thank you!

BLSE: I mean, I was just saying

Me: OK!! Thanks for your help! I think we’re fine on our own! Thanks, though.

BLSE: (clearly annoyed)I didn’t mean to be pushy or anything.

Heather and me: Oh, nonononononononono. It’s fine. Fine! Thanks! Thank you!

Heather and I retreat to the far side of the room and take several deep breaths. Once we’ve regained our composure, we step up to the counter and purchase our Doublemint Twins vibrators. Then we step out into the street.

We are grinning, silent. I turn to Heather, I can’t believe you told her you were Mormon.