As you may have read here, I discovered sex toys at the age of thirteen. My age prevented me from acquiring a second toy when my first buzzy little wonder went to the Great Nightstand Drawer In The Sky. Shortly after my 18th birthday, I made a pilgrimage to the local sex shop to remedy my toylessness. Upon arrival, I learned to my dismay that the minimum age for entry was actually 21. I would have traded vital organs for a friendly, sex-positive online shop, but alas, there was no such thing. It was the early 90’s, and I didn’t even have an email account.
Fast forward two years to my study abroad semester in Europe. The first long weekend of the term was approaching, and with it, a backpacking expedition to Amsterdam. My roommate Nora and I had been planning this trip even before we left the US. Amsterdam is a beautiful, historic city and home to many artistic treasures. We were going with a somewhat less cultural objective.
Our first stop in Amsterdam was supposed to be a hostel called The Flying Pig. As it turned out, we were far from being the only backpackers to have that idea, and the place was full. This led to hours of trekking the labyrinthine streets of Amsterdam in search of lodging. The quest ended at an establishment known simply as “Bob’s Youth Hostel”. Picture a warehouse filled with bunk beds, and you’ll have an idea of its unique ambiance. But Bob’s had one thing going for it: it was the only hostel in Amsterdam that weekend with room for Nora and me.
Having secured something that passed for lodging, we struck out for a coffee shop to partake in some herbal recreation. It proved to be just as easy to procure as we had hoped, though we were surprised when presented with an actual menu. It was like a wine list, except with pot. Having no clue about the relative merits of different marijuana strains, we went with the recommendation of our very patient waiter. Kind soul that he was, he also politely reminded us that we would need something to smoke our selection with. We opted for rolling papers despite our complete lack of experience in joint engineering. When the papers and bag of weed arrived at the table, we rolled what may have been the saddest and most misshapen joints in history.
While the craftsmanship left much to be desired, our efforts were certainly effective. We left the coffee shop an hour later, stoned and giggling. Our ability to navigate the twisting streets had deteriorated significantly, so wandered aimlessly…investigating shops, admiring scenery, and occasionally hugging statues. We were in the process of trying to locate the elusive Van Gogh Museum when we saw the sex shop on the corner. No words were exchanged… we laughed, linked arms and charged in.
It was well-lit, clean and welcoming compared to my (very limited) experience with adult stores in the States. The clientele also surprised me. Men and women of all ages browsed the merchandise, and no one appeared to be ashamed of their interests. We quickly joined in, starting by perusing the extensive selection of porn. We eventually made our way to the rack of dildos and vibrators. A long and probably too loud discussion ensued about which “souvenirs” we should purchase. We expounded at length about the sizes, and debated between sleek tapered cylinders or realistic phallic shapes. We cluelessly admired the jelly toys, but settled on more budget (and body) friendly hard plastic vibrators… hers in pink, mine in white.
Compared anything in my collection now, it was a bland-looking, nondescript thing. At the time, however, it was simply glorious.
There are a lot of things about my first toy purchase that make me smile. I was with someone who is one of my best friends to this day. We made our purchases proudly, like bold, fearless sex goddesses. And we got to buy our first sex toys in an open, judgment-free environment. Of course, there are aspects that make me cringe in hindsight… like forgoing the purchase of lube, or having to sleep at Bob’s… but few things in life are perfect!