She buzzes me up. I go up to the 20th floor and she lets me into a tiny studio apartment crammed with women sitting on cushions on the floor. The room is (in my small town opinion) gauche. A white fake fur rug, red satin pillows, gold cord wrapped around the sheer drapes. It looks like an early '90s concubine's lair in outer suburbia. None of the 12 middle-aged women look like they want to be there.
The instructor begins, "Vaginal weightlifting dates back thousands of years to the emperor's concubines in China. They would teach the emperor how to pleasure his many women, how to give and receive multiple orgasms and how not to come."
Oh god. She said a sex word. I flush red hot. Here we go.
She continues: "Nowadays vaginal weightlifting is used post-birth to re-strengthen your vaginal muscles. It's used to prevent incontinence in old age and it's also used as a sexual empowerment tool for women."
The last reason is why I'm taking the class. I am 33. I'm very adventurous in all aspects of my life but I'm a total prude when it comes to the making of love so I figure it's about time I get to know myself better down there.
How it works is you take an egg-shaped rock made of jade and put a string through the hole in the top end of the egg. Then you weight the end of the string with a bag full of rocks, seashells, a cellphone or whatever you have lying around.
I'm getting ahead of myself, I'll back track a bit.
In this tiny room we stand together in a circle and the instructor begins with breast self-massage. She puts on some Dave Matthews Band and she begins rubbing her breasts clockwise and then counterclockwise from the nipple outwards and then back in towards the nipple again. We all try to follow along. Try it sometime. It's ridiculously impossible.
Then comes the vocal coaching: "Just let any sound come out that you want." I begin faking these breathy oooooo's and mmmmmm's. We're all looking intently out the window or at each other's left ear, or top of shoulder as we make the unnatural sounds. There is no eye contact.
The instructor takes the egg and licks it first to "lubricate it" then she lifts up her skirt and slips it in. She inserts it so cavalierly I swear to God this woman is getting off on making me uncomfortable. Now the cellphone she's attached to the string that's attached to the egg inside of her is dangling between her legs. She begins the vaginal weightlifting exercises.
"Squeeze the egg at the base of your vaginal opening so it feels like it is just about to poke out, then tug at the weight between your legs, Not too hard now, for a count of one, two, three, and relax," she says.
I spit on my egg a bit and squat down and shove it not at all gracefully up and then look for something to weight it with. The woman beside me heaves one leg up on the ottoman to get her egg inserted.
I find some rocks and put them in the little baggy dangling between my legs. I don't feel the "tug" the instructor was describing so I look around the apartment for something heavier to put in my sack.
I edge myself into the bathroom, egg still tight in place. I go through her medicine cabinet and find a bottle of cough syrup. I slip it into the bag. I feel the tug on my vagina. I clench and it drops out, clunk, bump, bump, bump. I pour half the syrup down the drain and re-insert. I clench and it stays put. Perfect.
I waddle back into the circle and try to do the hip circling exercise with everyone else, although my hip circles look more like hip triangles. I bump knees with the women next to me. Her egg plops, drops and rolls across the room. She scuttles across the circle -- "Excuse me, pardon me," she whispers as she reaches between another woman's legs like a crab to retrieve it.
ROOM FULL OF CLUCKING HENS
We all start laughing now at the absurdity of this picture, at the desperate intimacy. We cannot help ourselves. We're a room full of clucking hens laying eggs in a highrise and the ruler of the roost might be a sex addict.
I'm laughing but I'm also secretly burning up with shame. I am a feminist. I am supposed to be comfortable with my body. What's wrong with me that I think something is so wrong with me that I need to be here in the first place?
It dawns on me now why I've been so annoyed. I was longing for a class that was not so penetration focused. My vagina does a lot of things. She bleeds, sometimes she itches and smells bad. When I got a Brazilian wax, she cried. One day she'll birth a baby. I thought this class was going to be about my body. I wanted to slip into a cave. I wanted to move slowly. I wanted to go back thousands of years and study with a concubine who is respected for her art. I wanted a ritual.
I do not trust this woman. This form of Taoist mastery takes a lifetime of study and I do not dig her modern take on the whole shebang. I mean the Powerpoint photos she showed us at the beginning of the class about how great your sex life gets after jade egg practice were homogenous and stock boring. I didn't get to see two regular fat people slipping around together. Instead she showed us a photo of a golden supermodel licking a hard dude's hairless chest.
'THIS ISN'T ME'
This isn't me. This isn't how I feel. I feel scared in bed. I feel shy. Sometimes I feel turned off and annoyed. I want a class that has Powerpoint pictures of a really big, pock-marked ass and I get to ask the questions "Is this all there is? Is something wrong with me? Why do I sometimes feel dead inside? How can I stop blaming him?" I want a sex class that addresses my fear and uncertainty.
Finally, two hours later I get to stop rubbing my breasts.
Finally, I get to push out the egg.
Finally, I get to put my bike helmet on and get ready to go home.
"How was that for you all?" she asks as we are putting on our coats. She wants to get testimonial quotes for her website.
"Liberating," says a single mom who wants to learn more about self-pleasure.
"Empowering," says a flushed 65-year-old woman as she dons her hand-knit cardigan.
"Hilarious," I respond. Because sex is hilarious and worrying about sex this much is hilarious.
I sent my jade egg to a friend who had a baby recently and her uterus is falling out so she wants to tighten up.
I, on the other hand, need to lighten up. Does anyone have a workshop for that?
Follow Emelia Symington Fedy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/emeliasf