It reads like a “Modern Love” reject. Or perhaps like a “Modern Love” parody.
Last Saturday the New York Times regaled us with Joyce Wadler’s meditation on mortality. It was incited when Wadler heard that a former beau was undergoing open heart surgery.
This is how it is at a certain age; when you hear about an old boyfriend it’s not because he got married or got a great job, it is because they’re threading tubes into his chest and doing an ablation on his heart.
Picture this man, anesthetized under the lights, prostrate on an operating table, with pairs of hands cutting and slicing and splicing him up, hooked up to machines. If you had been involved with this man, what would you be thinking?
I will leave you to your own musings. Wadler does not reminisce about romantic dinners, walks in the park, splendor in the grass or beach side vacations.
No, siree. Sentimental soul that she is, she begins to meditate about a charming gift the man once gave her: a sex toy.
She describes it thusly:
This toy, which was silver and shaped like a stylized banana, was so complicated I never used it. Also you had to charge it for a few hours. It wasn’t one of those things that charged with a discreet little light either; it blasted O-shaped strobe signals across a darkened room that could have been used to direct incoming flights at a small airport, ideally one catering to businessmen whose wives had lost interest in sex years ago. Well, that’s what they all say, isn’t it?
Think of all the unactualized potential in an unused sex toy.
But, why would heart surgery elicit thoughts of an unused sex toy. Perhaps Wadler was telling herself that she bore no responsibility for the man’s heart condition.
Since Wadler and her former beau are both “of a certain age” we cannot blame the amusing gift on youthful exuberance or a flight of millennial fancy. And yet, since they were both “of a certain age” perhaps the toy was a compensatory gift, offered by a man who did not, because of his heart condition, qualify for Viagra.
When she says that she never used the toy Wadler is allowing a measure of discretion to enter her meditation. Later she overcomes her modesty and sounds like someone who has an extensive familiarity with the genre.
As I have a personal code that says you do not use a sex toy given to you by one man with another (yes, I do have a Puritan streak) and, disliking it anyway, I had stashed this thing in a big closet which is like deep space, things go there and disappear forever. The other day I heard Sandra Bullock in there, hollering.
It’s good to know that she has her standards. It’s also good to know that her beaux all seem inspired to supplement their personal efforts with some sex toying. One is beginning to wonder how well Wadler chooses her beaux, but it is best not to go there. After all, our minds still recall the ex-beau who is undergoing open heart surgery.
But then, wistfully, Wadler muses that, in place of the highly considerate gift of a sex toy, she might have preferred a diamond.
Have sex toys now replaced diamonds as a girl’s best friend? That would make for a very cheap relationship. As a cultural phenomenon it would surely be worth noting, but I doubt that a gift of a shiny new sex toy contributes to a girl’s sense of self-worth.
Her ex-beau’s heart surgery has not managed to produce any fond memory of Wadler's time with him, but it has awakened intimations of mortality. She begins to imagine what will happen to her collection of sex toys once she has “shuffled off this mortal coil.” She does not worry about who else might make use of them, but she starts thinking about how it will look, what it will do to her reputation if, one day, those near and dear to her discover, in the back of the closet, hidden under a mound of scarves, a box full of Rabbits.
Wadler makes a feeble and unsuccessful attempt at humor by saying that the sense of embarrassment lingers around for two weeks after death, but he is preoccupied by the dire necessity of getting rid of her sex toys before the world finds out about them.
In truth, she no longer has to worry. Having announced her little secret in the pages of the New York Times she has only to worry about what it will do to her beau’s reputations when the world discovers that they brought more than their God-given equipment to her boudoir.
In any case, it turns out that getting rid of all your magic wands is not as simple as it seems. Because Wadler cannot bring herself just to toss them in the trash.
She is worried about her reputation. She worries that the neighbors might notice. She is even more anguished at the challenge of finding an environmentally correct way to destroy all of those metal and plastic vibrating thingamajigs. As much as she cares for her reputation, she cares more for the environment.
To grasp the difficulties in disposing of such things one needs to read Wadler’s own words:
It was not one of those unused household items you can donate to Housing Works; they don’t even take sheets. I’m an environmentally conscious person, but I couldn’t see taking it to old electronics day at Union Square. I could put it into the appropriate recycling bin on my floor, but then the neighbors might figure it out: It’s her. All day, all night, I hear buzzing coming out of that apartment. No wonder she’s always smiling. I might try to dispose of it with the kitchen garbage, hiding it with coffee grounds and dead things from the back of the refrigerator, as I do old tax reports, but then I’d be in violation of the recycling law.
For some reason, the New York Times believes that this is all fit to print, and that this is information that the average Times reader will find amusing, entertaining and ultimately useful.