Now, I'm aware that at this point certain readers (and you know who you are, cousin Myrna) would just as soon have me cut to waves crashing against the shore, but for my friends with a healthy curiosity—here goes nothing: "Hilda," I say, pointing to a gigantic vibrating penis that looks and feels just like the real thing...and then some, "you don't think most men would find this a touch daunting?" "Well, you can always start small. Here," Hilda says, handing me the Fukuoku 9000. "This finger-puppet-y vibrator slips over any digit, looks totally nonthreatening, and still gets the job done. How could this tiny toy make a man think he's being replaced?" She pauses a beat, shifting into pleasure-activist mode. "But I'm telling you, Lisa, that other one is definitely worth a try. I mean, for one thing, it's dishwasher safe!" And there you go. At exactly 12:39 Eastern standard time, life as I understand it officially ends. I note the sign that informs customers of a 10 percent discount on floor models, I see the make-your-own-dildo kit containing special molding powder, patented "liquid skin," stir stick, vibrating unit, easy-to-follow instructions, and I suggest we break for lunch.

Over Cobb salads, I ask Hilda if there's any truth to the rumor that vibrators are addictive. "That's ridiculous," she says. "Granted, if you're using it five or six times a day, it'll be hard to go back—"

"Or hold a job or raise a family or...walk," I chime in.

"But," Hilda goes on, "the thing most of us love junkies ache for can't be found in a toy. They've yet to come up with a vibrator that whispers in your ear or holds you tight at 3 A.M."

"They've yet to come up with a lot of men who do that."

"True, but toys tend to put the oomph back into long-term relationships, so you start releasing those hormones that actually do keep couples close." Hilda spears a cherry tomato. "And if you don't have a steady partner, they help your body remember how to respond. Or if you're menopausal—and not sexually active or taking estrogen—they keep the blood flowing through those vessels. You've got to prevent your vagina from shrinking and getting dry—a dildo is fantastic for that," she says as I watch the busboy who's refilling our iced teas go pale and back into a waiter.

If Eve's Garden is demure, our next stop, Babeland, is big, bright, and in-your-face. "Taste this," Hilda says as she squeezes a drop of "strawberry cheesecake lube" on the back of my hand. Before I can mention that this lubricant tastes an awful lot like Robitussin, my eyes light on the holy grail, the Rolls-Royce of sex toys. Drumroll, please: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Rabbit Habit, complete with strategically placed rotating pleasure pearls, fluttering ears, swiveling head, and varying speeds for both rotation and vibration. This bunny does it all!

"It's a brave new world, my friend," Hilda says as she gives me a hug, gathers her three shopping bags worth of erotica, and heads home to celebrate her husband's 50th birthday. After checking out the vibrating bullet, the Pocket Rocket—which Hilda swears by—and the G-spot vibrator, I collect my purchases (yes, I managed to find a few things, but that's between me, my boyfriend, and the nice woman in accounting who signs off on expense reports) and grab a cab.

With Johannes in Europe, it'll be a girls' night in—just me, my 3-year-old, Dora the Explorer, and Angelina Ballerina. Someday Julia will go through my drawers just the way I did my mother's (and by the way, Mom, I'm onto you—a diaphragm is not a kitty cat's bathing cap), and who knows what she'll come across. Maybe I'll take that moment to tell her how you have to work at relationships, and how you have to care for yourself, and how—unless you want to be surrounded by a SWAT team and two dozen bomb-sniffing beagles—you have to take the batteries out of toys when you travel. Or maybe I'll just send her to lunch with Auntie Hilda.

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