Artisanal Vibrations

I’ve been thinking about artisanal things. The definition of artisanal is that somebody with a degree from MIT or the University of Colorado at Boulder made it or invented it, has strong opinions about it, and it’s something nobody needs. My favorite example is the group in Brooklyn, and here I should say that artisanal usually happens in Brooklyn or Boulder or Berkeley, that grew broccoli in vacant lots, turned the broccoli into dye and dyed wool with it. Then they ate the wool. No, not really. They knit rustic garments with the wool.

There are even artisanal dogs, like the one next door whom my daughter spotted as artisanal because my daughter lives in lower Manhattan, which is near enough to Brooklyn to be almost cool. The dog is half poodle, a quarter collie and another quarter some kind of sheepdog.

Let’s take artisanal coffee. People get into actual screaming fights – dark roast, light roast, single-origin, cold brew, French press, the poetry of the beans’ journey from the jungle plantation across rivers in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck (see Blue Bottle, whose advertising materials feature the most florid writing of any coffee company I know of, and there is lots of competition). I have a friend who won’t drink my coffee because these beens have been roasted too dark. It’s “burned,” she says. So that she won’t ever have to drink burned coffee at home, she roasts her own, medium, and has the correct coffee maker. I bought the same coffee maker but that didn’t make my coffee any more acceptable.

And now there is this. It’s from the New York Times, which had to take a deep breath, and find a lede:

“As a product designer, Janet Lieberman often finds flaws in everyday tech devices. This was particularly true when it came to vibrators, which she would spend hours shopping for on Amazon.” Janet is on the left, presumably vibrating.


The Times continues, straight-faced, with another quote:

“I had always bought cheap vibrators and my bedside drawer was a graveyard for them,” said Ms. Lieberman, 31, who lives in Brooklyn (italics mine) and studied mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “You could replace the batteries but they still would stop working.”

Parenthetically, my own bedside drawer is a graveyard for dusty Tylenol pills, a seven-day pill organizer, a couple of hair ties (used for tying hair), an inhaler, a tweezer and mirror for removing the seven-inch chin hairs that I can’t see without magnification, and a bunch of those things you’re supposed to scratch between your teeth so your gums won’t recede more than they already have. But anyway.

The Times goes on: “After splurging on a pricey vibrator for a boyfriend’s birthday that also quickly died, she had an aha moment. (Aha moments are part of the artisanal quest.) ‘I realized there was a need for well-engineered sex toys,’ she said. ‘There’s no real trusted brand and that’s what we’re setting out to be.’” What? What about Maytag!?

“Along with her business partner, Alexandra Fine, whom she met in 2014 through the social networking app Meetup, the pair set out to create a vibrator that was not only well crafted, but made specifically for couples, and women in particular.” That last scrambles my brain since really, who is it for?

“ ‘I was living in my grandmother’s pool house at the time,’ Ms. Fine, 29, said. That right there is a uniquely artisanal and Timesian quote. Of course she was living in her grandmother’s pool house while she found herself and her art. “She had just graduated from Columbia, where she got a master’s degree in clinical psychology ‘with a focus on marriage counseling and sex therapy,’ she said.”

To be clear – actually, never mind.

This vibrator attaches directly to the woman’s “nether parts” – even the Times couldn’t muster the nerve to say “clitoris” (or maybe they mean “labia”; to be frank I can’t think straight about this) and she wears it everywhere, I guess. I can’t help but wonder how those corporate meetings go when the thing is buzzing in one’s “nether regions.” It comes in a range of Hello Kitty colors and toylike shapes, and best of all it cleverly attaches to said nether regions in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with what we used to call “having sex.” I don’t know what they call it now, but anyway apparently you can still do it with this thing buzzing around down there.

So, sounds like an interesting idea, and I’m so glad Ms. Fine got out of her grandma’s pool house.

As an older person, a really old old person, I was sensitive enough about the coffee issue and dying your own yarn with broccoli grown in sidewalk cracks. But this one I really don’t know what to do about. Clearly it was difficult enough for the Times.

So they took a deep stately breath and plunged into the latest innovation in vibrators. But these women scare me. I already said that, didn’t I? The way they look scares me, says to me that they are the female version of das uber-mensch and – and – oops – are they wearing these vibrators as their picture is being taken? Surely not; they look too stern. But maybe that’s me. Maybe that’s how you look when you have something in your “nether regions” driving you nuts. Like a bee or a barking dog.

Actually, I shouldn’t have been so harsh on these entrepreneurs. They have degrees, they’ve invented something useful, they’re smart as all get out. Now if they could invent something that attaches to a cane…



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