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When I was a little girl, I liked two things: getting naked and touching my vagina.

Nothing wrong with that. Totally normal. Completely natural. Yet, not so appropriate during dinner parties with my parents’ friends milling about the living room eating Brie cheese on water crackers.

I had a knack for unveiling myself at the strangest times, in the most unlikely of places. There’s a photo of me, age 5, standing on top of my tricycle seat, trying hard to keep my balance, wearing nothing but a red bandana on my head. In another shot, I’m chasing our dog around the backyard wearing my baby doll’s dress, which basically comes up to my neck, and no underwear.

You’d think I’d be the type to go to Burning Man, boobs bouncing around a bonfire, but I’m not. I’m actually rather buttoned up, and I’m not sure why, or how I went from being a little girl who relished her birthday suit to a woman who often wears a bra to sleep.

It’s not like my mom tried to rain on my “I hate clothes” parade. She never punished me or scolded me or told me I was going to hell. She had been sexually abused as a child and was determined to make me feel good about my body, to normalize sexuality, to empower me.

When I was 16, she even gave me a “back massager,” and told me to put it “down there.” Her feeling, God bless her, was that if I learned how to give myself pleasure, then I’d be able to tell a man how to pleasure me one day.

She didn’t warn me that no man’s fingers would ever be able to vibrate with the same velocity as a vibrator or that certain men in my life would actually feel threatened by it. My college boyfriend once hid my “back massager” to see how long it would take me to notice it was missing. Two days.

Still, I never stopped masturbating, not for him, not for anyone. To me, it’s always felt sacred, something that’s all mine, something no one can take away from me. I know that sounds super dramatic, but I’m serious. For most of my life, I’ve told myself that I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, whatever-the-fuck enough— disgracing Stuart Smalley and all his fine work—so there’s something about making my body feel good that smacks of self-love and basic survival. It’s gotten me through two bad relationships with men who didn’t like to kiss me or go down on me, and it’s helped me last long stretches of no man land.

Recently, I had a relationship, well, relationship is too strong a word, given he didn’t want to call it anything, so I’ll just say, recently, I fell in love with a man who rocked my world sexually. He lives in LA and I live in NY, so we didn’t see each other that much, but, man oh man, when we did, the first thing he would do was tear off my panties and dive down, and then he would stay down and keep going, and I would keep going, and it was amazing. Turns out, I’m multi-orgasmic. Who knew?

When it ended, I cried and cried and cried.

I cried because I missed him, yes, and because I thought we had potential, blah, blah, blah, but more because I didn’t want to give up how he made me feel. When people had asked me about him, I would say, “He makes me laugh and come all the time. What could be better than that?”

Nothing. That was the problem.

When I went back to my “back massager,” it wasn’t the same. Sure, it still vibrated at ungodly speed and with unhuman consistency, but it wasn’t him. It wasn’t warm, even with the heat on. I tried watching porn to get me going, to keep me going, but I got bored. There’s only so much in and out and strings of spit you can watch before getting disgusted.

And then it occurred to me, this whole time, my whole adult life, I thought I had been a good lover to myself, but my vibrator had been doing all the work. I didn’t know how to love myself at all.

When I was in seventh grade, pre-vibrator days, my mother came up with a slogan for me to run for Vice President: “Don’t Dance Around The Issues, Vote Kim Auerbach for Vice President, She Bops!” not knowing “She Bops” is another way of saying “She Masturbates.” When I asked my mother what “masturbate” meant, she said, “Well, Kimmi, you know how when you were a little girl you liked to touch your vagina, well, it’s kind of like that, it’s not polite to do in public, and it’s important to wash your hands after, you don’t want your fingers to smell like vagina, but Kimmi, sweetie, there’s nothing wrong with masturbating.”

Well intentioned, I know, but it set something up. It set up the notion that vaginas smell bad. I’m not blaming my mother for my distant relationship with my vagina or for my addiction to my vibrator or for my tolerance of men who don’t like oral sex, but I am realizing that that kind of message can shut you down and make you self-conscious.

I don’t want to be shut down or self-conscious. I want to get naked and touch my vagina. Pure and simple. So, I’ve put away my “back massager,” and I’m choosing to kick it old school.

After all these years, I’m finally learning how to give myself the pleasure I thought only a machine or man could give me. Granted, I can’t rip off my own panties, and I can’t lick my own pussy, but my fingers, well, let’s just say, they’re doing a fine job, and while I do think it’s a good policy to wash my hands after, I like when my fingers smell like vagina, when they smell like my vagina.

I may never bounce my boobs around a bonfire in the desert or balance naked on a tricycle ever again, but I plan on reclaiming that little girl, on being free again.

It’s Wednesday, August 20, 2008.

The Man burns in ten days.

In three hours one of your best friends will arrive from Australia. You have not seen him in two months.

In fourteen hours the person who your heart and mind and body desires most will arrive from Israel. You have not seen him in four months. He will be followed shortly thereafter by his father, who will arrive from North Carolina. You have never met him at all.

In three days you will all leave together, in convoy, for eight days in the searing, brutal and unpredictable Nevada desert, driving through the night to take part in an event so wild, so beautiful, so bizarre and so life-changing that your brain cannot yet begin to fathom the most basic aspects of it, let alone it’s myriad intricacies.

And you haven’t even packed.

Yes. You may vomit now.


Dano, your brother from another mother, arrives on Qantas flight whatever. Your excitement at seeing him is immense. Spastic jerking happy dances ensue at the airport. Once at home Dano carefully hands you the three precious containers of smuggled contraband you requested from the Motherland. You sniff the inky contents, dip a finger in the viscous tar, lick aforementioned sticky finger to ensure the purity of your prized black goo and, once assured, whisper with tremulous glee… “Ah. Vegemite. I love your work, son.”

Dano’s suitcase, when opened, looks like this….

It is an orgy of cuteness, a heaping of duty-free idiocy, a mess of koalas *.

* Made In China.

The fact that you have not yet packed or readied yourself at all is some bother to you. It is counter intuitive to your organized and somewhat busy nature. You like to be prepared. Fortunately, so does Dano, and thus you have both come up with The List.

Culled from websites and friends suggestions The List is a basic recipe for all of the ingredients you will need to keep you comfortable at Burning Man. It does not include foodstuffs (except for the most essential of all foodstuffs – something I assure you that you will crave if you don’t have it, even if you are vegan).

Without further ado… I give you….

ZOE AND DANO’S BURNING MAN LIST 2008

Essentials- DO NOT FORGET!!

BACON! (And none of that turkey bacon or vegetarian bacon, either. Bacon bacon only).
tent (unless you are a pussy and/or can afford an RV)
three-foot lengths of bent re-bar to hold tent in place (it’s a tad windy sometimes)
inflatable mattress and pump
sleeping bag/duvet
bike
camel pack (or a camel)
3 gallons of water per day
earplugs (no explanation necessary)
dust masks (again, no explanation necessary)
goggles and sunglasses x2
Ziploc bags (for everything, and I mean everything. If there were Ziploc bags with air holes you would want one for yourself, even though Ziploc bags with air holes would totally defeat their purpose.)
more bacon!!!

Basic stuff- TRY NOT TO FORGET!!!

umbrella/parasol
Leatherman/tools
plate/cutlery
toilet paper
blanket
pillow
towel
batteries
airtight plastic containers for clothes etc
garbage bags
lighter/matches
camera
extra camera bits
sun shower
coolers
WD40
bike repair kit
torch, personal and bike
head lamp
shade structure (it’s bright and hot out there)

Medical/Skin care-

sunscreen (STRONG)
unscented baby wipes (in lieu of showering. You will need plenty)
moisturizer
paw paw ointment
leave-in conditioner
foot cream
hand cream
first aid kit
electrolytes
mouthwash
toothpaste
toothbrush
sleeping pills
vitamins (5HTP)
painkillers
Dano’s anti-inflammatory pills
Something in case you get a rash on your botty

Clothing- (optional)

hats
boots
socks!!
beanie
gloves
scarves
coat
pants w lots of pockets
fluffy legwarmers
full body fish net- crotchless, of course
holsters
leather things
head-dresses
tutus
sulu/sarong
prom dress
tool belt
stilts
fluffy muff
frilly apron
lacy things
corset
anything that makes you feel beautiful, adventurous, free, comfortable, sexy, silly, regal, hard-core or just downright kinky.

The above portion of The List is fairly self-explanatory. The final section includes items that won’t necessarily aid in your comfort, but might certainly aid in your enjoyment.

Fun Stuff-

totems
flag
roo stamp and ink
kite
bike
stubbie holders (beer can coolers)
easel
whip
roll of paper and crayons
fake lawn

face paint
guitar
blinky things
journal
texta (sharpie) on a string
periscope
telescope
cow prodder
wig
pogo stick

And now you are ready. This is all you need and more. Feel free to take none of it and I’m sure you will be looked after. Remember that absolutely everything that you take in to Black Rock City must be taken out again. You can leave no trace. Remember that there is only one phone out there (not including the direct line to God) so chances are you will be out of contact with your Loved Ones for the duration of your stay. If this upsets you I suggest bringing your Loved Ones. If your Loved Ones are on the smallish side there is a camp called Kidsville where families congregate. Kidsville is Utopia for small humans.

Fall in love, find yourself, lose yourself, find yourself all over again just in time to lose your friends and make new ones. Confront your fears and insecurities. Give them away. Blow your mind and heart and soul wide open. Dance. Get dust in your eyes and nose and ears and bits. Discover Playa Boogers. Look after people, just as others look after you. Serve. Explore. Be stimulated. Be tested. Survive. Grow. This is Burningman. Before I experienced it I would roll my eyes at the people who claimed that it was indescribable. It IS indescribable. In the most wonderful way.

Perhaps you’ll know what I mean some day. I really hope you do.

BLACK ROCK CITY, NV-

Your boots are white with dust as fine as talc. Insidious stuff. Your legs, your arms, your face, whatever clothing you have decorated your body with – all are white, silty and dry. Your skin reacts to the alkaline, shrinking, drying, withering, trying to escape it. But there is no escape. The dust is everywhere – in your eyes, your lungs, your ears, in every nook of your body, in every cranny, in every fold of fabric that adorns you, everywhere you look… your world is white. And so you trudge across this white world, this wide expanse of nothingness, bracing yourself against the whirling-dervish winds, staring blindly into the invisibility that surrounds you. You are cocooned in the nothing, strangely safe and yet completely assailable.

You have never felt more alone, more surrounded by love, or more alive. Your vulnerability is your greatest strength.

This post-apocalyptic landscape strengthens your resolve and buffers your sense of self.

You are at The End of the Earth.

Welcome Home.


You catch a glimpse of moving structures and beings through the whiteness. A creature looms, a fluffy rabbit drives by helmed by a renegade cast of characters, a half-naked hula-hooper spins into view and vanishes again, a goggled and masked humanoid passes on a feathered bicycle and disappears into the cloud, something indescribably weird happens and you can only shake your head in wonder. There is much that is indescribable here. Indecipherable, unimaginable… you know that you will have a hard time convincing others of the perfection of this very imperfect place and you shrug. You are not, nor will you ever be, a missionary.

Noises abound. The wind howls over whoops and yells. There is music everywhere. Guitar screams, thumping bass, a violin…. a violin? Nothing you expect and everything you could ever imagine – if you were insane. For this is madness. Barely organized chaos. Insanity. The bizarre, the beautiful, the grotesque, the amazing.

Onward you move.

As the light fades so does the wind. The roar and force abates but the madness doesn’t. The power of nature is replaced by the power of humanity and technology as a whole new world reveals itself to your eyes.

The white-out is over.

You remove your dust-mask, your goggles, your methods of protection. You look around and, in the fading desert sunset, in the dusky twilight of the Nevada gloaming, this is what you see-

Magic.

All around you are lights of every color. Red and blue and gold and green. Static, flashing. The lights belong to structures that pump sound out into your environment. You are far from these lights but they surround you completely. You are in a womb of blinking neon.

A pirate ship on wheels passes by. A silver Sphinx crosses its path in a near collision. The fluffy rabbit returns. Someone waves and smiles. You return the greeting.

A rocket approaches and the feeling you are having of being a traveler to another planet intensifies. Perhaps you are on the set of a science-fiction epic? Perhaps you are a warrior on the barren plains of another world? Perhaps you are a god or goddess, a king or a queen, a survivor of the apocalypse… one of The Last?

Or maybe you are just you and you feel different? Bigger, stronger, more alive…. more capable and inspired. Your reality is altered.

The possibilities are endless.

In the distance you see your destination. Your bunny-ears twitch and a smile illuminates the twilight.

Look!

Your feet skip a dance to a tall Moroccan tent filled with laughing people. Cocktails are poured, trays of food pass under your nose. You partake, feasting, drinking, soaking it up.

The person you love is grinning. He/she looks beautiful, radiant, alive and very, very dusty. You have never loved more deeply or with more detachment to an outcome.

Your heart is full.

Your friends are happy.

Small worries fade away.

A new perspective emerges.

Your life seems suddenly complete.

You have evolved somehow and a strange new sentiment is birthed within you.

“All is as it should be.”

You know you will remind yourself of these words in the near future whenever a cab is late, a drama unfolding, a person pushing your buttons or things not going your way. You know you may temporarily forget these words, but that they will come back to you more and more, and that from this moment on you are changed.

You have become lighter and happier and less touchable by Stuff.

You have survived the storms, transcended yourself and walked through fire.

You are at Burning Man and your world will never seem the same again.

If you would like to see a video of our time at Black Rock City, Nevada then please click the following link. The movie was made by Ron Kurti and stars himself, his father, our friend Udi (who took all of these beautiful pictures) and yours truly.

BURNING MAN 2008

It is a perfect memory made into a whimsical and beautiful little film. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment on either of our pages. Hearing stories of your own experiences on the Playa would be wonderful and if you have any questions which might inspire you to go then I’d love to help answer them. xx

I’m going to Burning Man this year.

Ten days in the dust and the wind and the heat and the cold and the chaos. Ten days of thumping base and lunacy and love. Ten days of…. I have no idea what.

Many conflicting words and feelings spring to mind- solitude, isolation, adventure, companionship, evolution, degeneration, transcendence, freedom, inhibition, self-consciousness, self-expression… the list goes on.

I’m a Burning man virgin and (due to a recent compulsion to drive myself completely mad) over the last few weeks my excitement levels have waxed, waned, teetered, tottered, disappeared entirely into a pit of anxious fear and then returned, tentatively, dressed up as clowns and hookers.

Perhaps I need to explain…


Several years ago I had a depression that almost beat me. It’s a long and arduous tale and something I try to make light of as much as possible even if the residue is sometimes sticky and dark. The illness changed me. When the hopelessness receded I was a nicer, more empathetic and gentle person, but I was also more timid, I had become frightened of putting myself in situations that I would once have embraced without caution. Now I sometimes have The Fear. Adventures that I would never have thought twice about have become things I have to consider. Plans have to be made, things have to be clear and understood and there is little room for spontaneity in case I am ill-equipped to cope.

Or so I imagine.

So I let myself believe.

At some point in the last few months my Burning Man adventure turned dark. The Fear crept into me and the over-thinking began. I rationalized my over-thinking as ‘being responsible’ and, as a consequence, thought longer and harder about the myriad possibilities for disaster and became more and more tormented. Should I go? Could I go? Where will I camp? What about this? What about that? But, but, but……..

A few days ago I decided to put a stop to it.

Enough already.

A wise woman I know gave me the gift of a beautiful and clear metaphor “…If you were planning a trip to, say… Thailand… would you spend the whole time worrying about getting home safe? Or would you just go and enjoy the adventure?”

The answer was easy and it applies to everything in my life. My love, my work, my creativity, my soul.

In the last year, despite my worried efforts, locks and bolts (or perhaps because of them) The Fear has crept with insidious stealth through the bedroom window of my heart and left a big steamy poo on the fluffy white flokati rug of my soul.

It’s time to clean it up.

How do you clean up a metaphorical dump on an imaginary carpet?

Why that’s simple, boys and girls, you just… relax.

And so I went to Shmoo’s house.

And together we went hiking up Mount Tam in Marin County… in our Burning Man outfits.

What follows is a pictorial of our adventures. I hope you enjoy.

THE DAY SHMOO AND LADY BANDIT CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN AND LET IT ALL HANG OUT. A NINE STEP PROGRAM WITH GUARANTEED RESULTS-

STEP ONE. Find the perfect hiking outfit. Take your time. Be adventurous.

STEP TWO. Get in the car and put on some thumping beats.

STEP THREE. Get thee to a place with really big trees….

… and beautiful trails.

STEP FOUR. Look at the magic that surrounds you.

Soak it up.

STEP FIVE. After an hour of happy meandering reach the bottom of the trail. Think “that was easy!” and sit down for a minute….

… then start to climb back up.

STEP SIX. Stop a lot to catch your breath. Feel free to use the excuse ‘I’m just looking at the view’, it is, after all, a really nice view. It’s hard to see views if you’re always climbing up and puffing a lot.

STEP SEVEN. Admire yourself along the way. You’re doing good!

(Even if you are feeling like an old lady with lungs the size of pine nuts).

STEP EIGHT. Get to the top. Realize that for all your huffing and puffing and sweating and wondering if you were going to make it…. that you actually did. Celebrate it.

STEP NINE. Keep on walking. One foot in front of the other. Alone or together. On different paths or shared tracks. In bare legs or crotchless fishnet stockings…. just keep on walking.

It’s good for you.

But always remember this cautionary word from your sponsor.

When trees attack…

… just hug them.

THE END. x