Dildos, testicle cuffs and Granny

Though embarrassed I admit I was a bit humored. For I found myself at Bedtime Boutique, the most talked about lingerie/sex-shop in the heart of Illinois, with no one else but myriad family members.

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It was one of the last outings with my family before I came to UVM. We were voting on places to go, and my mother, two of my aunts and my grandmother all needed new bras. Being the only male of our bunch, I was easily outvoted.

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My younger cousin voted against it; she wasnÕt too keen on making her first bra fitting a whole family affair. Neither was I, for that matter.

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Regardless, the six of us went to Bedtime Boutique. Yes, we got a few odd stares, but the most unnerving scene was seeing my own grandmother scan the isle of testicle cuffs. A bold woman of 80 plus years, giddy and eagerly showing testicle cuffs to everyone passing by, including strangers.

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We lingered for a while Ð long enough for the bra-needy to replenish their supply. My cousin and I looked about the wig and costume area, pretending that dildos werenÕt pointing at us from the walls.

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We also attempted to filter out discussions on how to correctly measure cup sizes, if the color or texture of condoms matters and where the S&M section was. Then we quickly left, with black bags brimming the windows on the car ride home.

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Family excursions are often awkward, no matter where they take place. However, it was exceptionally odd for where I lived. My family reeks of the abrupt and confident, but my cousin and I still felt out of place.

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In much of the Midwest, especially in rural areas, sex was something to be seen, not spoken. Guys would wear skinny jeans and excessively tight shirts; girls would wear short shorts and tank tops. Exposed skin, usually around culturally deemed sexy-points, was the norm. Frank discussion, information and exposure to anything sexual were not.

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Now living in an entirely different environment in Burlington, IÕve noticed a reversal on that norm. For some areas, more covering clothing is worn, and sex and sexuality are more openly discussed.

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I donÕt intend to argue for that one way is correct or better than another. However, the irony in each norm is notable: where one aspect is understood, another is hidden.

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Having had such a family trip right before my departure allowed me to reflect on how differently we socially treat sex and sexuality, even a couple of states away. Like the discomfort I felt seeing my grandmother tinker with testicle cuffs, so society grapples with sex: wanting to be accepting, but annoyingly timid.