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Plain Brown Wrapper

Friday – 01/29/2021 — Almost all of those FB author page posts of mine over the past six years were short and sweet – tuned to the abbreviated attention span of most FB readers. But these website journal pages give me a chance to go deeper. I’ve decided that each Friday from now on, I’m going to share one of my longer family stories, the ones I’m writing to pass on to my children and grandchildren.


This first one is something I’d normally be a bit reluctant to share in public, but the good news is that so far, very few of the hundreds of followers on my FB author page have made the effort to follow me here. Good. I won’t have to blush quite so much as I reveal my inner workings.


Anyway, here’s the story of the plain brown wrapper.


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I can’t even recall now what the name of the company was, but I do know that their catalog assured me that their mailing list was entirely confidential and that any products I ordered—and, indeed, the catalog itself—would always be shipped in a plain brown wrapper.


You see, I’d been divorced for several years, and had recently drifted away from wanting to have any kind of “relationship.” I’d been questioning my lack of the “normal” sort of drives most women seemed to have. Then I went to a gathering of women at which we had been asked to bring along some item that comforted us, and a story to go along with it.


I’d taken a teddy bear, or maybe it was a book, or my gardening trowel. Scant comfort from any of these individual items, but collectively they added up to a reasonable life. We went around the circle, discussing each woman’s offerings. One woman, considerably younger than I, brought a device I’d never seen before. Everyone laughed when she held it out. Everyone, that is, except Fran, since I had no idea what it was. I gathered that a number of women there, both married and unmarried, had one of their own.


Less than a week later, I asked a friend—a good friend—where one found such a device. She didn’t laugh, bless her, and gave me a phone number from a catalog she had tucked away. A catalog that I noticed had a plain brown wrapper.


It took me some time to get my nerve up, but finally I called and spoke with a pleasant and completely understanding woman. When I told her I had no idea what to order she suggested that I look through the catalog and make my choice from the many colors and sizes. Sizes? They come in different sizes? “I’ll mail you an up-to-date catalog,” she said.


Sure enough, the wrapper was brown, the return address was non-informative.


The pictures, when I finally summoned the courage to open it, were fully informative. Page after page, with detailed information about the length, diameter, color, and texture (texture?), as well as the relative popularity of the item pictured. Each entry ended with a note about what size battery (not included) was required.


I picked a length at random, decided against anything too exotic sounding, looked for something relatively smooth, and chose pink. I forgot to note the battery size, but that wasn’t a problem, as I had a kitchen drawer that held batteries of all shapes, sizes, and voltages.

The following week, the mailbox held an oblong package, wrapped in the promised brown paper. The quiet return address told me all I needed to know. I looked around to be sure no one was watching.


My first clue should have been when I opened the box and found the instructions, which said to insert two “D” batteries. The object in which I was supposed to insert them was disturbingly anatomically correct, except for the color, a bright bubblegum pink. I was not one to be deterred, however, although I did cringe a bit at the feel of the thing. I’d ordered smooth, but it felt more like dried rubber cement. Nevertheless, I went to the drawer, inserted the batteries, and—I use this term loosely—screwed on the lid. Three of my curious cats avidly watched the process. No more curious than I. I pressed the on switch, to be sure the batteries worked. The resulting noise sent all three cats—and my nerves—scattering around the room. The cats made it out the door. My nerves wilted in place.


Perhaps I should have stopped there. But the women at the party had been so encouraging, so sure, so filled with bubbly laughter about the whole process, while I, insecure in the whole arena of pleasure, raised by a mother who swore it was a nasty process (although once she developed dementia, we found out she’d once had to climb out a back window to avoid a wife who was coming in the front door)—well, at any rate, I was determined to find out what I’d been missing.

The trouble was—those “D” batteries! And the outrageous diameter of the thing! Plus, it scared my cats every time I tried it out.


The day I threw it away, I wrapped it in a plain brown wrapper—a grocery bag—and applied three, perhaps four layers of duct tape. Someday, when the landfill is excavated by archaeologists from the twenty-fourth century, some bright young man will unearth this package, unwrap the crumbling tape and deduce that it was most likely a religious artifact, held sacred by a cult of phallus-worshippers. Observe the shape, after all.


What he will think of the two “D” batteries, I have no idea.

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