This is my last shift as a Tulip. It’s a lot like my first- Berwyn and Clark is the same quiet kitschy corner and my Pandora music station is still set to “Ne-Yo.” Every few hours a gay man comes in and buys a big bottle of Maximus (the first thing I sold here).
Of course, now, it’s warmer out. Mothers are pushing stroller-fulls of sticky white children up the sidewalk. A cute lady is sitting on the bench outside on her laptop. Across from her a man costumed in 1920s garb scrapes out something unrecognizable on violin. Andersonville is a funny place to sell sex toys, to say the least.
My Tulip life was as short-lived as it was unexpected. I fell into the job almost by accident, with little knowledge of the products or history that brought them to us. But what was clear from the beginning was that Tulip, as an idea, a company, and a collection of people, was a queer space dreamt up and dominated by fierce female-bodies and gender non-conforming people.
I have only worked here a few months, but the Tulips have become my family. So dedicated they are to safer sexier sex that they that they work for less money, work while sick, work while not even working (from your favorite dyke bars to crowded living rooms to long distance phone calls to the streets of Boystown, they’re always educating). What makes the Tulip community notable is not simply its insistence on only selling what is safe, but its willingness to account for politics, identity, and a bit of old-fashioned pragmatism.
It is incredibly significant at this moment in history, when queer struggle is being whitewashed and obscured and co-opted in the name of marriage, that queer people are still leading the way in discussions on pleasure, consent, safety, play, gender etc. These discussions benefit all of us, no matter your politics or partners.
I am told that every passing Pride brings back more old Tulips, that it is the weekend of the Stonewall anniversary that calls on this small community of sex-educators. Like most service jobs, the turnover rate here is high. But speaking as someone who will be an ex-Tulip in an hour, I have to say- I think few of us actually leave the family. I’ll be on that float Sunday, that’s for sure.
Love and Lubrication,
P.S. If you haven’t tried Hydra-Smooth Lubricant yet, you haven’t really lived. Let those be my final words of Tulip wisdom.