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I got gadgets & gizmos aplenty...but I'd still want a partner

I got gadgets & gizmos aplenty...but I'd still want a partner

A very common misconception about investing in a personal massager is that it is designed for single people only. It stems from the stigmatized idea that if a person has a partner then they can turn to each other to have all of their needs met and using a massager in such an equation is disrespectful to one or both partners. Here's a personal story that explains why a  regular user still dated and yearned to find a partner, essentially making the point about why a massager cannot replace a partner or vice versa! 

I was in my early 20s when I first discovered the bullet vibe. It wasn't something I had purchased and the story of how it came into my possession is not what I am about to share today. It was pink and not larger than a Rexona roll-on bottle and it had 4 speed settings. I figured out how to use it rather intuitively, and probably had my first O from it. 

Over the years, I gifted myself other massagers. It felt powerful to not have to seek out people to do this for me. I was weary from dating and all the unsolicited ideas that people had filled my head about it - your standards are too high, you can build chemistry with a person over the course of a relationship, you are attracted to 'toxic' people who will never be able to love you...somehow my inability to find satisfaction with my partners became a personal failing. It was confusing, had a debilitating effect on my self-esteem, and worst of all, left me feeling very unfulfilled. It seemed like everybody around me was pairing away and marching aboard Noah's Ark while I was left high and dry (quite literally).

Finding massagers definitely helped restore my confidence in my ability to experience pleasure. For many months after, I felt invincible. No awkward conversations about STDs (with the risk of them being dishonest with me), or enforcing boundaries about what I wanted to engage in that day while being called a tease, or even educating very defensive, dismissive cis-men about the different parts of my body.

Almost overnight, all of that changed when I walked into an event I was volunteering at one day. As I fumbled with the chords to connect a laptop with the speaker there, a familiar face approached me from one side to help me with them. And suddenly, just like that, all I could think of was for their breath against the nape of my neck, their arms wrapped around me in an embrace, their fingers tracing my skin.

That was the dawn of my realization that I would no longer be able to hide behind the comfort of my massagers. While my mind's eye helped me imagine their touch, the graze of their stubble, a whiff of their cologne, the hush of their whispers against my ear, even as I turned up the intensity of my massager, something made me want to pursue my attraction for them - regardless of how many toe-curlers I gifted myself per day.

Not too many months later, the pandemic unraveled itself upon life as we know it. Along with it came several complex snowballs of emotions that I had little energy to address as I cooked, cleaned, bathed, worked and kept myself alive. In the quiet dead of the night, I would find myself awake and dreaming of all the ways in which people made me feel loved, connected and comfortable in this meatpack that I call my body. I was touch-starved and hungry for a warm-blooded body to simply hold my hand, if nothing else. Some of my friends sent me care packages of homemade food and it made me think of them in their kitchens, measuring cup in hand, kneading balls of dough, sniffing spices, watching seeds splutter in hot oil, cake rise in the oven as the air turned thick with the sweet smell of cinnamon - all the ways in which their bodies were carefully focused on preparing a meal that nourished my own body. The manifestation of love between 2 human beings despite the physical distance. 

So here I am, 30, with no regrets but some wisdom, enthusiastically encouraging people to invest in massagers and spend time exploring pleasure for themselves, but also reminding them that nothing can replace the profundity of human intimacy.

Love and partnership is more than just romantic or sexual interactions. It has a utilitarian purpose in our lives. Much like your plant relies on you to water it on hot summer days, it is a-ok to lean on someone to make you breakfast on lazy Sundays. There is something warm about somebody knowing exactly how you like your coffee (or that you don't like coffee, if you're me) and how you want your feet to be massaged, without the emotional labour of pressing buttons and being constantly 'on' about what we need to keep ourselves going through tough times. You feel loved and alive in the presence of somebody who takes the time to get to know you, sit with you in silence as you lounge on your balcony, smoking a cigarette, just taking in the petrichor left behind by a slow afternoon drizzle.
It reminds me of the movie 'Her' in which an AI-based entity is able to say all the perfect things to make a man feel heard, seen and known intellectually, but the frustration of not being able to hold each other ultimately ends their relationship. No matter how much we spiritualize, intellectualize, or commodify this journey that we call life, this meatpack is...well, more than just that.

It helps me smell the subtle undertones of a candle, it makes it possible for me to dance and swing around while holding onto a person I love, it gets me from tapping away at a keyboard in my workspace to the comfort of spooning with someone I feel safe with as we impulsively indulge in an afternoon siesta after a hearty lunch together, and without it, I would never find myself in peals of merry laughter while play-wrestling with a loved one in bed.

Can you imagine replacing all these (and more) joys of human companionship with a medical-grade silicone massager? Absolutely not.

It reminds me of the lyrics of a Tamil song from the movie 'Minsaara Kanavu' that goes 'Vennilave Vennilave, Vinaithandi Varuvaya, Vilayada Jodi Thevai'. It evokes the image of a lonesome person looking longingly at the moon, requesting it to alight from its spot in the sky, asking the moon to be their playmate. massagers from your childhood could never replace the magic of having friends whose company brought them to life, did they? The same continues into your adulthood and with the massagers you find yourself interested in now, and the person(s) whom you call your partner(s).

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About the author:

Tejaswi Subramanian

Tejaswi is a media professional and researcher focused on pleasure & joy in areas of public health. Their attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things.

Tejaswi is autistic and identifies as queer in more ways than one.