In addition to the hot water bottle and plaid green pimp’s suit, my grandparents also subscribed me to Harper’s this Christmas. As it would turn out, these three are now the women of my life; my sole bed companions each night.

Go ahead, scream your bloody protests, but Southern Californian nights have been freezing-ass cold lately. It’s bizarre. From noon to one, Dave and I are lounging pull side, shirts off, admiring the frog-shaped bodies of the women’s dive team. But then comes the depressingly early sunset and the mercury falls lower than teenage girls’ waistlines. No bueno.

Around midnight I put on Coltrane’s Ballads and slip under the two down comforters. I’m happy to say that after some amateurish can’t-get-the-bra-strap-off fumbling around, the hot water bottle has expertly found its place atop the thick pillow, but under the thin one. The plaid pimp suit is as comfortable as ever. And Harpers … it’s so scintillating that I probably look like a 13-year-old who just found his older brother’s copy of Maxim for the first time.

I have been a fan of Harpers for quite a while. But usually I have to fight for it with my fellow public library-goers, god bless their hearts. It’s just that good. Smut for the intellect. All last year my Granny was sending me these little notes about X article in Harpers. I’d run to the library, read it, love it, and email her back as if I had already read it weeks ago. She’d offer to put the whole issue in mail. “No, no granny,” I would respond. “You see, I am now against the purchase of print. I am a modern man; there is the inkernet, there is the library, I despise the ownership society.” (just ask my credit card companies, I don’t own anything)

But good on her for ignoring me. I love this idea of taking the words with you. It makes reading so uncommitted, so enjoyable, so unlike your typical relationship. You listen to it whenever you fancy. Now why can’t I find a woman like that?

The first issue they mailed was last January’s even though the Feb. issue is already out. I owe you at least a few paragraphs of transcription. It’s that good. But what to pick?

The infamous Harper’s Index? I could tell you, for instance, that an estimated 5,000 Americans make a living off of fake arrowheads. Or that one in five of all human genes has now been patented. Or maybe that Bill Clinton’s approval rating the day after his impeachment was 73, compared to Bush’s 37 in November. But no, not the index. Too much insinuation, not enough substance.

I could comment on James English’s excellent diagnosis of the insane exponential increase in cultural award ceremonies and how it diminishes their significance. Or Michael McFee’s poetic ode to the letter Q.

Hmm, how about the hidden eroticism of the yawn? Or better yet, an excerpt from the official 1674 pamphlet, Women’s Petition Against Coffee, Representing to Public Consideration the Grand Inconveniences Accruing to their Sex from the Excessive Use of that Drying, Enfeebling Liquor.

But of course I would choose the sexual articles right? Maybe I should consider a more serious topic … Cannibalism in Dharamsala? Last words of death row inmates in Texas before execution? Memory books left behind to their children by HIV-infected mothers in Uganda? Parag Khanna’s sound argument on why Bill Clinton must follow Kofi Annan as UN Secretary General? The state of Iraq by Bissel and Tower.

Dunno … it all sounds a bit heavy no? OK, I think I’ve found the one … entitled, High Maintenance:

From the instructions for REALdoll, a $6,500 life-size silicone sex doll. Customers can choose among nine body types, fifteen faces, five skin tones, and three pubic-hair styles. The company has sold 3,400 dolls in the last ten years.

Your REALdoll’s internal skeleton is jointed much like a real human being; certain positions are stressful on the joints. In other words, your doll is NOT meant to be put in unusual or unnatural positions! Do not position your doll doing a “split” or spread the legs in an extreme fashion. Always be as gentle as possible when positioning your doll. Be careful with your doll’s fingers – they can be easily damaged. When posing the hand, grasp the wrist, not the fingers.

The doll weighs as much as a real woman, so certain positions are not advisable. Prolonged kneeling is not advised due to the stress placed on the knee joints. Another style that is difficult to attain is “doggie style,” as this places considerable pressure on the elbows, shoulders, and knee joints. It is not advised that your doll be left standing for more than fifteen minutes, as the weight could start to damage the feet. For standing poses, we do advise creative uses of the neck hook.

Experiment with different ways of moving your doll to find what works best for you. Using a wheeled office chair to assist in going from room to room is a common solution. When seated, the ideal position is legs parted 24″ with hands flat on her thighs.

Very tight of binding straps left on your doll over an extended period can form dents in the flesh, as on a real person. It is therefore preferable to store your doll in the nude.

Small tears eventually happen. You can repair a tear with caulking. Damage to your doll’s skeletal structure is very unlikely; however, if you believe something internal is broken, please call us for information.

When you first receive your doll, you may notice a slight tackiness on its skin. This will lessen over time but is initially remedied with baby powder. A regular powdering of the skin will give it a smooth, lifelike feel. Powdering is especially recommended after bathing your doll, which should be done at least once a month when the doll is used on a regular basis.

Bathing can be done in an actual bathtub or in the recommended “sponge bath” fashion. When cleaning your doll, be as gentle as possible, especially around the pubic hair, eyebrows, and any painted areas. Also, brush your doll’s hair on a regular basis or it will quickly become unmanageable.

To avoid damage to painted areas such as the face, nipples, and vagina, avoid rubbing these areas without lubrication.

Special note for the cleaning of the oral entry: Carefully remove the tongue from your doll’s mouth with your fingers; it should come out easily when the mouth is lubricated. Rinse the tongue separately and replace it once the orifice is clean.

Care for Your REALdoll FACE system: Always remove the face slowly, working fingers between Velcro pads to separate and going from the outside in. When putting on a Face, some adjustments in alignment maybe be required. Eyes may need to be adjusted after seating the face into position. Tightening the jaw can be done with a Phillips-head screwdriver. By removing teh back portion of the skullcap, the neck can be adjusted with an Allen wrench.

For times when you wish to use your REALdoll in the “face down” positions, it is highly recommended that you remove her face. This will absolutely save wear and tear AND eyelashes!

Treat your doll like a very expensive work of art, which is what it is!

$6,500. Hmm. Who knows, maybe I’ll one day soon have a fourth bed companion.

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