girlsAn iconic masturbation scene from "Girls"

Masturbation, from the Latin mas and turbate. Mas meaning hand and turbate meaning to stir-up. So, the word masturbate literally means to stir yourself up with your hand. The word chronic means constant and habitual, continuing for years, having a long habit or disease.

I have been stirring my myself up with my hand chronically for the last 45 years.

It started off as an itch that could not be scratched into submission. It was never ending; day in and day out. Rub, rub, and more rubbing. I kneaded my vulva until it burned red hot fire. I polished and stroked my secret stash; sometimes I felt like I had reached a crescendo and that I couldn't rub anymore. It left me feeling very gratified: a warm, red wine glow with my chest pink and flushed.

I wasn't sure if that was healthy or not -- maybe I was making myself sick. What if someone noticed the discoloration on my chest? I lived in constant apprehension of someone finding out the depth of my affliction. Affliction, from the Latin meaning to strike and eventually from the Middle English, meaning to inflict humiliation usually of a religious nature. This described exactly the emotions that plagued me about my "affliction" at the time.

I rubbed my vulva in the bathroom, in the bathtub, on the couch, and in my bedroom -- in
the bed, and out of the bed -- on the floor with my legs wrapped around the posts of my bed. On and on and on -- rub, rub, rub, and more rubbing -- delicious rubbing.

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The rub was that I couldn't stop; I tried and I tried. I cried and I cried -- my mother and sister had me convinced that I was the dirtiest, most disgusting human being that had ever lived. I felt like the Devil must be compelling me to continue to touch myself in this nastiest of places with persistence and diligence. I was lost in a state of mental anguish and anxiety about my affliction. I felt so guilty -- the pain in my brain over the nature of my affliction was only relieved temporarily by surrendering to the rubbing -- delicious rubbing -- and then after the affliction burnt itself out, the guilt and worry would come rushing back.

natasha lyonneSlums of Beverly Hills

This was the 1970s and there was no World Wide Web -- there was only the World Book Encyclopedias; and, I had no idea that there was a fancy word for my maniacal "malady." It would be years before I knew the name of my affliction.

"Though I wept and fasted, wept and prayed;" (- T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock") I could not stop and my hand continued to stir my honey pot so sweetly that I. just. couldn't. stop. whipping it up. I had rosaries hanging on my bed post and bedroom door knob to assuage the evil spirits; to keep the imps at bay, just so I could stop stirring myself up. I was so ashamed. I was sure that I was the only person in the world that touched their dirty spot with their own hands. Why was this happening to me?

I tried and tried to stop, but my primal sex brain would hear nothing of it. Fantasy after fantasy entered my adolescent mind and I spent hours practicing my chronic affliction. In the bathtub, I would put my hips as close to the nozzle as possible, with my legs spread open, exposing my pleasure palace to the warm water cascading, flowing out of the faucet, to fill the space in between -- the caverns of my clitoris.

Oh my, it was wonderful, it felt so good -- so warm: it was enchanting and exhilarating. I used all the hot water on multiple occasions at my house.

I tried rubbing until I couldn't rub anymore. I had orgasm after orgasm -- delicious sweet alleviation of my affliction. I would collapse into sleep -- exhausted and relieved, thinking I was cured. Until the next time my hand brushed my nipple or some other erotic thought struck my libido and then I was back to the rub-a-dub-rubbing.

betty draperBetty Draper and the washing machine

One day, during the summer of my 15th year, while at my dishwashing gig at a local legend for food and fun, the Red Run Inn on Deep Creek Lake, I was prepping for Saturday night dinner service -- when something extraordinary happened.

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I was picking crabmeat as the waitresses were doing their side-work -- talk, talk, talking away as usual. I just listened. What a learning experience: bong hits in the walk-in; black beauties from the chef when I was scrubbing huge broiler pans, used to cook 15 lb. prime ribs, caked with burnt and crusted on fat and meat particles at midnight; experimental drink concoctions tested on me and the other dishwashers; and our award-winning and lovable, but alcoholic chef, Wendy chasing the manager for excitement through the kitchen, on cold wintry evenings, trying to grab his testicles with tongs. Wow!! It really was a wild place for a 15-year-old kid. There were benefits to growing up in the seventies.

On this particular summer afternoon, I was listening to the waitresses talk about their lives and experiences, as usual. Many of them were schoolteachers trying to make money to subsidize their minuscule teaching salaries by waiting tables during the summer break. They were always talking about interesting subjects.

On this afternoon, while we were all in the kitchen area prepping for evening service, they were chattering away when one of them said something about "mas-tur-ba-tion." I had never heard that word before, but for some reason it piqued my curiosity. I was listening intently to their words and glorious giggling. I decided to ask them, "What's so funny?" They all became quiet, looked at each other and smiled. They, then, all, turned their eyes toward me in silent bewilderment. One of the women, laughingly, but lovingly answered, “Masturbation.” I asked, "What is masturbation"? They all looked at each other again, dumbfounded, and replied in unison, “You know.” "Playing with yourself." I asked, "What"? "You all do that"? My new mentors said, "Honey, everyone does that!"

oitnbOrange Is The New Black

It took a few minutes for this new information and its meaning to register in my brain. Gradually, as the import of my new reality became clearer to me, I felt this tsunami of relief deliquesce throughout my body -- it was glorious! It was almost orgasmic. My hand’s stirrings weren’t an affliction -- the devil wasn’t trying to take over my body. I was cured and I had never really been ill at all. When I told my mentors and new friends the story we all had a great laugh, and I felt free -- at least for a while. I was never the same again.

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Ms. Kathryn Kreyenbuhl-Gardner was born in the rural Allegheny Mountains of western Maryland in 1962, born a twin to fear as the Cuban Missile Crisis began shortly after she emerged on planet Earth.  Growing up in the Allegheny Mountains, a part of the larger mountain range known as the Appalachians,  informed every breath and insight of her formative years. She used to tell people that "nature was her  bag, baby"!  Kreyenbuhl-Gardner was voted "Most Radical" in SHS senior class while attending Garrett Community  College in 1980 to complete high school graduation requirements. After graduation she moved to Washington D.C. where she studied yoga, modern dance, Zen Buddhism and the sexual practices of the Bundaloops. In Norfolk, VA she studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan and the meaning of life with the late great Larry Mann. In 1999, she earned a BS in philosophy with a minor in history and in 2003 earned a master's degree in sociology; from East Tennessee State University. Kreyenbuhl-Gardner's thesis was entitled A Sociological Analysis of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. In 2002, she began teaching in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at ETSU and from 2004-2012 was a full-time instructor in the ETSU Sociology and Anthropology Dept. K-G said, "Teaching is one of the greatest services and learning experiences in my life--students are what makes the world go 'round." In 1997 Kreyenbuhl-Gardner married the love of her life, Dr. Robert Gardner, mathematician and professor extraordinaire. They have three grown star-shine daughters: Myranda, Jacqueline, and Eden--they are K-G's heartbeat. Currently she is living and presiding over the Metamorphic Monarch Majesty Way-station and Garden on Chickees Street in Johnson City, TN: reading, writing, experimenting with light, space, line, form, and color photography, stirring up trouble when necessary, and watching the garden grow.

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