There’s been a lot of chatter this year about choosing to not go home for the holidays, to remain with chosen family, and to opt out of toxic conversations. For sake of health, for well being and even for sanity, more people are choosing to kindly decline family invites and to take a self-care day - or a self care week - instead. This year around the holidays, I found myself stuck in the middle. In the midst of a new job, I decided to stay in Chicago where I have lived and worked for five years. For three years, I worked from home as a freelance writer, which allowed me to spend three weeks in my sunny hometown in the Southeast during the holidays, visiting family, best friends, grandparents, and trekking to my old stomping grounds.

But each time I travel home I become more aggravated, more alien, more confused. It’s growing up, I assume, that has made home seem estranged. My family is conservative, and their beliefs differ largely from mine. Conversations about work and my personal life are fraudulent as I bend the truth and continue to live in a closeted environment. My turtle neck is always high on my neck; it’s itchy and confining as I take breaks to cry in the bathroom. And each time I return to Chicago utterly exhausted. I’m deeply loved by my family, but I've begun to feel like the person they love is just like the people they protest against, both socially and politically - a bisexual sex writer, a so-called “snowflake,” a supporter of all the things that my family denies.

So this year, I skipped the family visit for a little self-care - sex-writer style. I booked a hotel room and holed up with a collection of my favorite sex toys.

A Sex Toy Retreat Begins

While tugging my suitcase fulls of sex toys into my hotel in the western suburbs of Chicago, I immediately know I made the right choice. A 40-minute drive is enough of a vacation for me - it’s outside of the city limits, it’s away from anyone I know, and it taps into my escapist mentality. There’s a heated pool, a Jacuzzi in my room and two bottles of wine. And I have approximately 48 hours to thoroughly seduce, pleasure and fuck myself to holiday bliss. Let the holidays begin.

So here I am, tugging my suitcase full of sex toys through revolving doors. A pool, empty and isolated, stares at me. I take the elevator up to my suite - there’s a Jacuzzi next to my bed, mirrors on the ceiling, and shampoo bottles.

My room takes me back to the days where I cammed and when I masturbated to the enjoyment of my body. I turned myself on. I didn't need anyone else. There’s a mirror by the closet in my suite. I stand in front of it, admiring the body that my mother says has expanded, has grown enlarged. It’s curvy - but not like it used to be - it's unsymmetrical in some parts and still a bit foreign. But I work on looking at it and loving it.

I don’t even unpack. I immediately tear through my bag, searching for my translucent and brightly hued products. They reflect me in this moment: beautiful, soft and fully charged.

My weapons of choice are my Uprize Erecting Dildo from Lovehoney, a simple suction cup dildo, a Girl’s Best Friend by Sweet Vibrations, and the holy mammoth, the Le Wand Massager.

I start the Jacuzzi, which is perfectly situated a few steps from my king size bed, and sit on the edge of the tub. It’s light pink and the mirrors are begging for a photo shoot, which I begin doing almost immediately. Not all of my toys are waterproof so I have to save the Le Wand and Uprize for later when I slink into my bed. I put on a bathing suit - it’s new as I’m traveling to Florida for a few days soon - pink, blue and yellow. It matches the mood of my suite: delicate, pastel and a bit kitschy. My Girl’s Best Friend is completely new as I recently ordered it from the Sweet Vibrations website with a promo code. I received it in the mail Christmas Day so the timing is perfect. After charging it for a bit, I begin to experiment with the vibrations, which are two-in-one. The technology on the vibrator includes a vacuum that “gently sucks and vibrates the clitoris,” while the other end of the device is a traditional vibrator. As someone who struggles with pelvic pain, the “traditional” portion of the vibrator is a bit too rigid for me but I appreciate the innovation and the ability to bring it into the tub. I love the grip, the vacuum effects, and the various vibration levels. It’s cute, compact and sweet.

After partaking in more of a photo shoot in the Jacuzzi and pouring myself more wine, I move on to the basic dildo I've brought. Using the seat inside the tub, I can’t help but think about all of the other orgasms that have happened between these jets. And I feel like spending the holidays alone isn't so bad. I’m celebrating, rejoicing and relaxing the best way I know how. I slather on my favorite lube and sit on the dildo on the edge of the tub. I get off on simultaneous clitoral and cervical penetration so for me, sometimes a generic non-vibrational sex toy does the job.

After some bubbles, a lot jets and continuous selfies, I retreat from the tub and fall into a deep slumber. Christmas Day starts at 7 a.m. No presents, no family breakfast, no holiday dinner. My actual day began late. I caught up with phone calls, chatted with friends, and began writing this piece. My evening started early. If being a filthy animal comes in purple, pink and blue, then color me the filthiest. Tonight, my luxury begins in my bed where the cherry on top will be in the tub. The amazing thing about kitschy hotels is that there are mirrors, and lots of them. Being an ex cam girl, I enjoy my reflection. I like looking back at myself and this suite had all of the right angles. I think about logging into my Chaturbate account but become too lazy. I’m already working hard enough.

Tonight, the menu includes my wand massager and my Uprize. I’ve had concerns with my Uprize in the past (accidentally pressing the wrong button and having it go flaccid while inside of me) so I’m taking my time tonight. I grab some snacks, take a shower, and curl up between my pillows. The Uprize can, and probably should, be used as a strap on. It’s sexy and soft. When it’s not being used, I have it proudly situated on my shelf at home. It’s a literal piece of art. I begin with this toy since my wand is bound to make me come in several seconds (a bit of a magical device). I think about calling my partner, but he’s with his family at home, so I rely on my fantasies The Uprize does its job, easing me into the feeling of penetration, while providing powerful vibrations.

I finish my 48-hour masturbation binge with my wand - a new and modern twist on the traditional Magic Wand, which has been a favorite since the 1960s. The Le Wand massager wand is sleek and while it’s still quite large, it’s iconic. My wand came with an attachment for internal stimulation as well. Of course, I use it.

After my session, I think about this article I read on WomanLab about sexual self care. While I'm masturbating, I realize that I’m thinking about words. Being a sex journalist is a bit damning. The article doesn’t touch on masturbation, but instead focuses on what the body wants or doesn’t want. My body - and my mind - both wanted this retreat to escape, to enjoy and to feel. Not only did I use my toys, but I spent time wandering the streets of the suburbs, taking drives down curving roads, and walking through park preserves. A holiday by definition is “a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.” And festivities were had.

I got solitude, time to think, time off and multiple climaxes.