So you move to a new town and the first thing you are invited to by a neighbor is the sex toy party of another neighbor. Right after her husband shout-whispers to her from their lawn in a slightly horrified tone, “That is not the type of thing you invite new neighbors to—you’re making her uncomfortable,” you find yourself agreeing to join her and walking away wondering what the hell just happened.
It’s not so much that it’s a sex toy party that is the concern. It’s that you’re not quite sure about sex toy party etiquette when one knows absolutely no one there, but is about to become a daily presence in their lives. In fact, soon you’ll all be shuffling kids through the same school. What do you wear? What in Dumbledore’s beard is possibly the appropriate hostess gift to bring to something like this? After a few days’ contemplation and a bit of Googling things you never want to see the image results for again, party time has arrived. You give up trying to be prepared and throw on something that has the right balance of casual but not too casual. Then you meet your new neighbor in her driveway in order to carpool to this get-together that you kind of can’t wait to get to now, because was not going ever even an option?
Now, let’s just say that despite your interest in watching this show you somehow are a part of go down, there will be no discreetly ducking into the party as a bystander: You are new to the ‘hood, so your kind and friendly neighbor will make a point to introduce you by name to every single other woman in that place, telling them exactly where you live and how much you wanted to meet new people in your community.
But I hadn’t quite pictured it happening like this, you think while looking at a potpourri of props ranging from curious to terrifying clustered on a table lit by flickering pheromone candles.
Before you know it, the hostess has everyone sitting in a circle, passing around playthings that make you die a little inside, but you grasp onto your good sense of humor and throw back red wine with your free hand. By the time the see-through pink contraption with the swirling head full of pearls is pinched between your thumb and index finger not unlike the way you hold onto a large spider you catch in your basement while trying to be both totally cool about it and wanting that thing away from you as soon as possible, you know you’re closing in on “shopping time” and start to panic.
Whenever you’re invited to a wedding, you can measure the formality of the occasion from the couple’s website and choice of venue and guesstimate how much cash to put in the envelope on their big day. But how much should you spend at a sex toy party when your attendance is the very first time you’re meeting the hostesses and their flock of willing pink-cheeked participants?
You acknowledge that they served that really nice honey-soaked goat cheese with the delicious cranberry crackers, but they also put out so-so wine. There was a beautiful fruit platter, but minimal desserts. Where does that put you, expenditure-wise? Is the cinnamon-flavored gold body dust enough? Or would they expect you to pony up for something that requires batteries and one of those personal lubricants you refused to taste-test while making eye contact with future fellow PTA members?
This decision starts to break you. You feel the pressure to perform. This is your very first impression on women who could be in your life for the next three to five decades. The right thing to do is to order something. You want to seem interesting, just not too interesting. You want to appear fun, just not so fun that the woman in the corner with the dog-eared catalog invites you and your husband to a very special swap meet some quiet Friday night.
Of course, the hostesses would love you to be generous, but this isn’t the type of home sales party where you can stock up on holiday gifts for your mother-in-law and great aunt like you would at a cosmetics or candle one. And once that thought burrows into your brain, you swig another bowl of wine down and look to the new friend who invited you to this shindig. Her wide-eyed face tells you everything you need to know: She is feeling just as ready for a “Silkwood” shower after this night as you are, and she might have an idea of exactly what you need to spend. So you decide to risk making the kind of impression your husband always warns you against and make a terribly off-color joke as a lead-in to the question, “What the hell am I supposed to buy that won’t make me look like a freak in the sheets or cheap-ass bore?” She snorts her chardonnay and throws a number at you with a smile, so when it’s your turn behind the velvet curtain (metaphorically, of course—it’s actually just the doorway to a typical suburban dining room) you order the most benign items in the recommended budget you can and run back to your new sidekick begging to leave because for some reason your hands are sticky.
At the end of the night, you feel a little drunk but still pretty good because you made a new friend, are sure you pleased Emily Post’s naughty side with your purchasing decision, and got some fascinating not-exactly-PG-rated stories to tell your husband when you get home.
You’re also blissfully unaware that in about a week’s time, the party hostess will stop you in the middle of the street with a brown paper bag and a wink in front of at least three husbands on your block who know exactly what that lady sells. But we shall never speak of that again. Ever.