Vibrator


During the height of my pimple career, at thirteen, I sifted through a department store half-off table of home gadgets and candles and incense. On the floor below, my mother rummaged through towels and sheets. Determined to spend babysitting money, I found a box, a smiling brunette holding a white plastic rod on the front. Similar-looking to a curling iron, this neck massager with “a velvet touch” cost only $1.99 plus tax. It said it could relieve tension, so I thought it would be good for my neck pain. After I bought it, I showed it to my mother. She grabbed it away. She said I needed to return it. “It’s dangerous,” she said, “for a girl your age to have this.” “But my neck,” I said. “It gets tense after bowling.” I walked with her to customer service, not sure what the big deal was. My mother pulled the vibrator box out of the bag and handed it over to a woman wearing too much black eyeliner. “My daughter just bought this,” she said, “and wants to return it.” The woman rang up $2.08 and handed my mother two crisp dollar bills, a shiny nickel and three shiny pennies. My mother put the money in my hand and led me to the store’s escalator. “What’s wrong with massaging my neck?” I asked. My mother, staring straight ahead, hummed the theme from The Carol Burnett Show. In the back seat of our turquoise station wagon, I felt ashamed but didn’t know why. I examined one of the shiny pennies, touched Abraham Lincoln’s embossed head, the word Liberty just to the left of it.

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