After filling out the forms, the volunteer health worker took me into the examination room. Under normal circumstances, I’d be left there to disrobe and the exam would commence, but I suppose these women’s health collectives work a bit differently. (And I am not IN THE LEAST complaining — I think it’s totally cool that these things exist and the workers there encourage women to be in touch with their bodies, though I must admit I was taken aback when, later on, I was asked if (a) I wanted to insert my own speculum and/or (b) a hand mirror so I could see my cervix… but I digress.) So the health care worker got to the section on the forms about self-love and proceeded to attempt to talk with me about this, which made me extremely uncomfortable. Not that I had an intrinsic problem with masturbation… it was just something I didn’t really think was necessary. In my mind, I’d tried it, it hadn’t worked, and so the solution was to just keep finding guys — because I had this idea that the only way I could get off is with a guy. And even if a guy was horrible or had zero technique or was completely unattractive, I could always get off because I knew what to do and how to do it and blah blah blah. I guess I convinced myself that if I were getting enough sex, I didn’t need to worry about all that self-love crap.
And so when the health worker asked me if I wanted suggestions on techniques and tools and what have you, I blushed and stammered and said, uh, no thank you, and she said something like, well, self-love is an important part of building self-esteem and taking care of yourself and staying healthy, and I was still all, like, okay, thanks a bunch, can we get on to the part where you examine my vag now? and that was pretty much that. And later on, when I was over at L.’s house after W. had gotten caught shoplifting and she and Anima Sola prevented me from both killing him and drinking myself to death, we laughed about it, and I’m sure they were both thinking I was pretty uptight to be freaked out by someone taking a feminist and concerned interest in my sexual health apart from making sure I hadn’t contracted gonorrhea or chlamydia or something like that.
So fast-forward a few weeks and partially because I’ve vowed not to have sex with a man (or, uh, woman) until at least September 26, 2008 (my one-year sobriety anniversary) but also (and infinitely more so) because I’ve been hanging out a lot with Slavegirl and The Master and they both make me feel like I’m the biggest prude since, well, prudes were invented, but I’ve long been thinking that I just need to figure out what this masturbation thing is all about. Not that I hadn’t been haphazardly trying for, oh, forever… I’ve taken classes, I’ve tried using various implements, I’ve had dildos, I’ve used oils and lubricants and blah blah blah. It just wasn’t happening. And I had so many people give me advice — including, oddly, Mr. Big, who suggested I use the jets of a hot tub, and I actually did just that when I was at the spa in Santa Fe last year, but either I wasn’t doing it right or my half hour in the hot tub wasn’t enough time (probably the latter) but that was a no go.
And then I just decided I was going to get a vibrator and give it a try. I had to make my way to the Pleasure Chest to get Slavegirl’s birthday present anyhow, and the vibe I wanted was on sale, and so I figured, well, why not? And I would’ve tried it out that night but it was a Saturday and I have the kids on Saturday night, and despite Slavegirl’s suggestion that I head into the bathroom, something just felt wrong about heading into the bathroom of my 400-square-foot apartment while my kids were five feet away (on the other side of a door, but still…) and so it had to wait until Sunday.
I won’t go into the details, but… WOW!
And I was mentioning all of this in therapy on Monday — let me tell you that it’s probably one of the most surreal things in the entire universe to be talking to one’s therapist about the first time you’ve gotten off while masturbating with a vibrator — and she was taking it all in with a remarkably straight face and after I finished my little story, she simply said, It sounds like you’ve really figured out how to take care of yourself in all of the important ways in the past few weeks. And it occurred to me — then, and since then, and even more now — that she was/is totally right.
All this time, I haven’t necessarily been anti-masturbation; I just hadn’t felt or realized or acknowledged or whatever that all the tools I needed to feel good and take care of myself and be complete were things I already had (well, except for the vibrator itself). I kept looking for happiness and satisfaction outside of myself — in a bottle of whiskey or in a stranger’s bed or in a relationship with someone who didn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated. Because I didn’t think I deserved to be happy (or satisfied or whatever), I made sure that I felt my own capabilities were limited.
The long and the short of it is that I’ve come around (uh, no pun intended) to see exactly what that health worker was trying to say… it’s not that masturbation itself is a big deal, but the knowledge that I don’t need anyone except me to take care of myself is a huge realization. And what an awesome thing that is to know. As my therapist said, when September 26th rolls around, I may not even want to have sex with anyone… I might well be happy with what I’ve got: me, and a me who doesn’t need anyone to make me feel complete. I just hope I don’t end up like Charlotte on Sex and the City, canceling appointments with friends and refusing to leave my house because I love my rabbit so much. [Note to friends: keep an eye out for that…]