Saturday, March 22, 2008

Great Friday!

While many of you were mindful that yesterday was Good Friday- focused on the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross- I was selling lingerie and sex toys. And when I say selling I mean we've never sold so much product in the history of the store. Yesterday we got about 8 inches of snow, it was Good Friday and we were busy all night long. Normally we get a few strippers picking up last minute thongs and garters, a few couples looking for an interesting way to spend the weekend and a handful of young men picking up condoms.

I can't count the number of strippers we dressed last night because I learned that due to many companies giving Good Friday and Easter Monday off- strip clubs would be packed this weekend. Couples were planning weekend get-a-ways with in-laws home watching the kids...many of whom decided this weekend would be the opportune time to dabble in bondage. We sold restraints, handcuffs, ball-gags, whips, collars that read slave and was insane.

We were the highest selling store in our state and third highest in the nation last night. I don’t know how packed churches were last night but I can tell you Sexy Street in the hood was THE place to be last night.

As customers left I wished them a Happy Easter….and time after time after time was their response of “oh yeah, I forgot it was Easter.”

I had never been so happy and energized on Good Friday before in my life and it wasn't just good it was "great!"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Freaky Town

On Palm Sunday a lovely male couple came into the store and made a mad dash to the toys and games section of the store. It is my mandate to great every customer so I trotted off after them to fulfill my professional duties. There was a significant age difference between the men and the younger responded to my greeting by saying “they wanted to go to freaky town to find some toys.” I asked if they needed a tour guide for “freaky town” or were they cool on their own. I was assured that they were familiar with “freaky town” and wouldn’t need my help. I went back to the front of the store and eagerly awaited what adventuresome toys they would choose to spend their Palm Sunday afternoon with.

It always warms my heart when a same gender loving couple comes into the store, or a person who is transitioning from one gender expression to another or when individuals come in who may be a little shy but leave feeling confident and empowered. It indicates to me that somehow we are doing our job well in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed with what the gentlemen brought to the counter to purchase. Of all of the toys we offer in the store- 24” dildos, vibrating anal beads, conjoined anal plugs, testicle clamps, vibrating nipple clams, double ended glass dildos (great when cleaning) that have vibrating bumps on along the shaft for additional stimulation….out of all of the potential purchases in “freaky town”- they come to me with a penis pump.

“Really, a penis pump? Out of all of the choices, you picked a penis pump?” I think they could easily sense my disappointment.

Choosing a penis pump in the Toy Room of Sexy Street is like buying a pack of gum in one of those candy stores in the mall with every possible kind of candy you could choose from. I still feel a little let down even writing about it- but I was really glad they felt comfortable there and with me despite my obvious disappointment in their relatively conservative purchase. I don't know what my expectations were for them but they left me with a resonating sense that they must be Protestant.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Is it just me or is it standard practice for your co-workers so share the finer details of their sex lives?

I worked at Sexy Street from 3-9 last nights. By 3:05pm I was hearing unsolicited details about my manager's personal life. Let's call her Rhonda. So. I get to work, punch in, go drop off my personal stuff in the break room and walk out the door onto the sales floor to find Rhonda more than eagerly waiting for me. Apparently it didn't matter that there were customers with questions or customers who needed to be rung up. Rhonda came at me with that energy little kids get when they really, really want to tell you something and they don't care that you're on the phone or in the middle of another conversation......... it was like that.

Rhonda wanted to tell me about her weekend with her boyfriend Barry. Well, Barry lives with his ex-wife's mother, his daughter from that marriage and his ex-wife's son from a previous marriage. The only one missing from the house is the ex-wife! So Rhonda spent the weekend at Barry's....decided to make steaks and a pineapple upside down cake for dinner and dessert....the daughter was helping and cut her thumb open while opening the canned pineapple and needed stitches, 6 to be exact. Rhonda had to take her to the hospital but needed to call Barry who was at work.... somehow the ex-wife showed up, the ex-mother-in-law that still lives with her daughter's ex-husband apparently was a pain in the ass...the story culminated with Rhonda and Barry in bed, Barry with a "big-old-smile on his face" and the response to why he was smiling being that "every time they have sex it just gets better and better."

Now I realize that the name of my store is Sexy Street and that we sell a whole lot of sex toys, lingerie and lube.... but really, I don't want to know these finer details of Rhonda's personal life. I also learned that Barry is only 5'4" with very tiny equipment but works extra hard in bed to make up for it. SERIOUSLY! Come on now...this is just too much.

I've never felt more like an uptight WASP then I did last night. Frozen Chosen... all of that came into play and to be honest, I'm okay with it. My fiancé assures me that I should be more understanding given the fact that for me this is only a part-time job that we are hoping will be a brief interlude and that for Rhonda being the manager of Sexy Street is the culmination of her career aspirations. I just don't know's very hard to keep a "yick" expression off of my face.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Danced in the Morning

My current job has given me a direct connection to the dance industry. I've talked about this to a few of my friends and find it incredibly sweet that most of them thought I was talking about ballet dancers or Dancing With the Stars kind of dancers.

My friends… I am talking about strippers-women who take off their clothes in a manner that is choreographed to music. As church folks I’m going to guess that you’re not too familiar with the finer details of this industry so please allow me to share with you my findings.

First and foremost like all things there is a hierarchy of haves and have-nots. The “haves” in this business…..really are the club owners…but they do create a system that pits women against women. Because the women who bring in the most business to the clubs dance for free, have their wardrobes purchased by the club owners, receive free security in and out of the club as well as while they are working and they keep all of the tips they make.

Those women who dance in less well known clubs, off the main strip so to speak, pay a lot to dance. They have to pay a daily fee to the club owners just to be able to get on stage to dance and therefore have access to earn tips. They have to buy their own outfits (which are NOT cheap- less surface area covered does not equal less of a price tag!!) because they can’t wear the same outfit twice in one night- so every time they go up to dance, there is a new outfit that goes with them. They have to pay for bodyguard service in and out of the club. They don’t have to pay for protection while they are working because the club assigns them a bodyguard… who also is responsible for documenting every time the dancers are on stage or perform a lap dance or other private services….because the club owners take a percentage of those tips as well.

Our city has a 33% unemployment rate in some areas and there are little if any career options for our young women and men to aspire to. When your life choices are stripping or working in fast food there is little space for the Good News to break in. And even if it did, I'm not sure anyone could recognize it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spark of Renewal

Last night was my first Saturday night on the job. Normally I would be putting my finishing touches on my sermon, preparing for one of 7 zillion committee meetings all with my eye on the post-church Sunday nap! But instead I helped a woman who was getting ready to celebrate her 25th wedding anniversay and wanting to find something special to wear...both for herself and for her husband. She secretly booked a hotel room and giggled sharing the details of her plan like they tell me teenage girls do....I never giggled....I think I must be missing that gene.

The majority of our lingerie isn't really meant for women who have been married for 25 years. I'm not sure who they use as their models while designing but I'm pretty sure they don't use an actual human body- living and breathing (and eating and giving birth to children!!!!). But, lo and behold in our 50% off rack in the back of the store was a darling black corset with fuschia hearts and an attached garterbelt and thongs that was designed for a real woman. In the front of the store for the unrealistic bodies were a pair of fuschia fishnets that matched perfectly...and she had her own pair of heels.

In the midst of this dressing room adventure were stories of how she and her husband met, their three children- two in college and the youngest still in highschool. That their house burned down in 2006, their oldest daughter lost her college basketball scholarship because she tore her ACL and how outstanding their youngest son is and will certainly play in the NBA....but only after he earns his college degree regardless of how much money they throw at him!

It was a pleasure to be invited into this woman's joy and to soak in all of the advice and wisdom she shared with me.

God mainfests herself in so many unqiue ways- even in sex shop dressing rooms...on Saturday nights when one would think she would be inspiring sermons and meeting agendas. I think being with us last night was her preference for certain!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Same Old Same Old

Yesterday I hated my job. What I had forgotten about $7.50 an hour employment is that creativity is not really encouraged. The store was very, very slow. Although I did have an early opportunity to dress one of our strippers in a new outfit for her interview later in the afternoon. I live vicariously through them and it's way better than dressing Barbie Dolls ever was- we'll talk more about the dance industry later....

So the store was slow and I decided to exert some initiative. I decided to re-arrange the entire toy room because when new stock comes in there really isn't a rhyme or reason to how things get displayed. So for HOURS I was committed to creating a toy room that was put together decently and in order.

I put all clitoris stimulating specific toys on the stage left wall, anal specific toys on stage right, which left the center and main wall for all forms of vibrating and non-vibrating dildos. I had the 5 star vibrators with all the bells and whistles on one side of the wall, all pseudo real flesh dildos on the top emphasizing the racial ethnic diversity that we offer, then the enormous and incredibly unrealistic dildos and then all others descending downward based on overall power. I was very proud of my work and could only have been happier if I got to make a spreadsheet for it.

Then my manager came in and immediately entered the toy room with a look and tone of "what the hell are you doing?" I got a long speech about how in her mind there really was rhyme and reason and she took my organization as an offense to her leadership (despite her glaring lack of care for the overall presentation). She never gives a shit about anything other than her smoke breaks. So my hours of work were quickly un-done and my spark of ambition and creativity snuffed out.

I can't say that I am excited about working tonight, Friday night, with my manager until closing. BUT the good news about Fridays is that the strippers all come in last minute and need everything from 7 inch heels to extra-wide thongs with plenty of room for dollar bills. So for today I will focus on my relationships with my customers and be at peace with a disorganized toy room that doesn't need me to save it from it's current state of disarray.

Have a good weekend and thanks for listening!


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Worlds Collide

I'm working today from 10-3 and at 4 I have a committee meeting for my local governing body. I'm curious as to what it will be like to work at the sex shop all day and then run off to a committee meeting for my denomination. Honestly I would rather work a double at the store then go to this meeting but I have shirked my responsibilities for so long since I lost my church job that I do feel like I need to attend. The meeting always lasts hours and hours and at the end of it I am rarely certain of what we accomplished.

They will all be curious about my new job that they are aware I have since I have missed the meeting for the past couple of months - I told them I was "helping out" during tax season- what I didn't tell them was that I was "helping out" at a sex shop in the hood. I think if I were to tell them the truth their heads would implode. Again, another instance of feeling compelled to lie my ass off rather than feeling safe to tell the truth. That the church won't hire me but the sex shop would!

More later.....

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spirit of Trust

The other day a darling man came into the store with a very specific need. He needed to find a cockring to help sustain his erection during sex. The difficulty being that the smallest cockring we carry is 1 1/4 inches in diameter. He softly let me know that the problem was that when he is fully erect- he doesn't reach 1 1/4 inches and therefore every cockring we carry would be too large for him to utilize them.

So I grabbed my Sex Toys 101 book (yes, that's really the title) to seek out a solution. The solution we discovered was that if you use one of the larger rings and place it around the testicles and then the shaft- the cockring would then provide the support this man was looking for. Problem solved. (I also recommended using a penis pump that could help swell his penis prior to intercourse to give him some temporary additional length and girth).

Normally I can tell when someone is nervous when broaching a sensitive subject- say for instance your fully erect penis doesn't reach an inch and a quarter and you're wondering what you can do about it. This man was much more comfortable discussing his concern then I was in helping him because I was nervous for him. There wasn't even a tremor or an ounce of sheepishness in his voice. Very clearly he had a problem and needed my help and he had confidence in me that we could find a solution together. And honestly, it felt very rewarding to be able to help.

I am mindful of how often people don't share their problems and struggles in life in the context of their congregation- and specifically how the church doesn't create an atmosphere of safety and approachability. I remember one instance growing up when my family was going through a very difficult time and we didn't feel it was safe to name our experience truthfully- so we lied and said my Dad was away on business.

The one place we should feel safe in telling the truth is often the place we spend the most time and energy trying to sustain a facade of success and put-together-ness. I would much rather people come to me with real life concerns over whether we should offer a sugar bowl or sugar packets at coffee hour.

But somehow we have made it unsafe for people to name their own truths- and as pastors it's in our job description to bring about change so that our members feel safe telling the truth- the real truth, not just the pretty details.