I was eight years old and
well into the third grade at Riker Hill Elementary School when I fell
head over heels in love with myself. What can only be described as the
“cornerstone of my youth” came unexpectedly out of left
field and washed over me like a Category 5 cyclone. Not enough to drown
me completely, but enough for me to lose my footing and knock me on my
supple eight-year-old ass.
A friend of mine named Stacy Silverberg invited me to a sleepover party
at her house, where she was going to teach everyone how to get
“the feeling.” I had never heard of the feeling before, but
it was definitely something that piqued my interest. Reason led me to
assume it had something to do with either a Smurf or a Cabbage Patch
Kid, both of varying appeal.
When I got to Stacy’s house, her Jamaican housekeeper,
Margaret—or, as I liked to call her, M-Dawg—let me in.
Stacy’s parents were always out on the town, and her house was
always spotless, which was a nice respite from the doughnut-stained,
dog-hair-covered sofas my parents tried to pass off as sanitary.
When I walked into Stacy’s room, there were a total of four girls
already there, all facedown on their sleeping bags with their clothes
on, violently rubbing their vaginas. I was appalled that no one had the
good manners to manage a hello and equally taken aback by the pure
ecstasy on all their faces.
I had never planted my face so fast into a carpet in my life. This was
what my brother Greg referred to as a “double
“Over my jeans?” I asked Stacy, with my hands underneath me
and my head squished to one side.
“Yes,” she told me. “You don’t want to actually
touch your own vagina.”
No fucking kidding. That was out of the question. I had enough trouble
even looking at my own vagina every morning when I pulled on my
Mary Lou Retton underwear.
I had finally discovered what most English-speaking people refer to as
the “vagina” but what my family referred to as the
“coslopus” (kuh-SLOP-us). I wasn’t prepared for what
kind of ride this little magic muffin was going to take me on, but I
reminded myself that we never choose who we fall in love with, and I had
no choice when my little hot pocket in a pita took over my life for the
good part of the third and fourth grades.
My initial feeling when looking down at my private area was one of
disgust. From my earlier self-examinations, the only thing I could
deduce was that my private area was similar to a pincushion in
structure, but less radiant. You can imagine my feelings of conflict
when I watched one of my brother’s porn tapes and found out that
in a few more years pubic hair would be joining the party. This was
obviously horrific news, but after seeing a very special episode of
The Jenny Jones Show about a pair of Siamese twins separated at
age thirty-four, I had made it a point that I would always look for the
positive in any situation. Even if that situation involved me having all
of my sexual encounters up to the age of thirty with my sister connected
to me. For instance, on the upside, I would be able to hide my
coslopus’s contents under the mound of pubic hair that was right
around the corner. Were pubes better than just the pincushion by itself?
This topic alone plagued me for a fortnight. Pubic hair or pincushion by
itself? It basically came down to six of one, half a dozen of another. I
learned an important lesson during my third-grade year: Avoid all direct
contact with any part of your body you can hide something in, and stay
away from Siamese people—and Siamese cats, for that matter.
Had I known as I walked up the hill to Stacy’s house that night, I
was about to embark on one of life’s greatest adventures, I would
have gotten there forty-five minutes earlier.
“Now,” she explained, “just keep rubbing the outside
of your pants so that they rub against it. If you keep doing it,
you’ll get ‘the feeling.’ ”
“Can I have a bolster or something for my head?”
“I don’t have any more,” she told me. All the other
girls had gotten there earlier. I took my Three’s Company
suitcase and placed it under my head for support. After that was
drenched, I had no choice but to put my head facedown on the carpet. A
lesson I wouldn’t need to learn twice.
Two hours and twenty minutes later, I was covered in sweat, with rug
burns on my forehead and both cheeks. I was in a marathon with my
coslopus, and I couldn’t break for more than a minute at a time.
Every time my eyes would start to roll to the back of my head and
I’d feel the exhaustion, I’d get a little tingle and know
there was another boom-boom right around the corner. I kept coming back
for more. I couldn’t get enough of myself. Who was this girl who
had been hiding from me for so long? We were one and the same—soul
mates, if you will. The carrot to my clitoris.
Who knew that something I could barely look at could give me such
pleasure? Who knew that the little albino pincushion I was carrying
around all these years would end up turning into the equivalent of a
watermelon Jolly Rancher? How many other women knew about this? And if
they did, why did anyone ever get jobs?
After I had completely sweated through my jeans and T-shirt like a
rapist, I quickly changed into my Fantasy Island pajamas.
“Hold on, Tattoo,” I said, looking at his face printed on
the pocket of my pajama top. “I’m about to show you what
real paradise is all about.”
I tried every different position I could imagine. I lay on my back and
got myself from the front. Then I’d make a backward bridge and get
myself from the top. I got on all fours and then took myself from
behind, then turned on my side with one leg in the air erect, like a
boomerang. Every few minutes I would come up for a couple sips of cherry
CapriSun and to wipe the drool off my cheek, and then it was back to
I got out my sleeping bag and lay on that for more cushioning. I turned
around on my back and kicked both legs out on either side in a split. I
tried a scissor kick while simultaneously probing my two forefingers
down the inseam of my pajamas and ended up kicking our friend Kim right
in the face. “Ow!”
I looked over and realized I had woken Kim up. “How could you
sleep at a time like this?” I barked.
“What are you doing?” she asked groggily.
There was no time for sleep. This was go time, and I wasn’t going
to let another formative year pass right underneath my nose, or
Not only did getting “the feeling” feel borderline amazing,
I felt like I was really recruiting some unused muscle tissue. My little
eight-year-old thighs were burning, and the arches of my feet were
cramping. I’d have to throw my leg out like a kickstand to
alleviate the pressure, but I was hesitant to take a break. What if I
couldn’t get the feeling back? What if this was a onetime deal,
like a Saturday at the Chrysler-Plymouth Auto Sale?
This is what my phys-ed teacher meant when she talked about
“connecting with your body.” This is a fucking connection,
all right. Instead of doing pointless stretches and dumb fifty-yard-dash
drills, we could’ve been doing a whole different kind of drill
that would’ve achieved the same goals, fitness-wise. Climbing
those ropes with the knots on them took on a whole new meaning. I would
lodge my coslopus on top of one of those knots, stick my legs straight
out, and start groaning. I hadn’t felt eroticism like this since I
first laid eyes on a Ms. Pac-Man machine, but even that didn’t
really compare, because at some point an arcade has to close. I
was open twenty-four hours a day.
So many thoughts were running through my head, from unicorns to
high-speed car chases to why would a woman ever need a man if she could
make herself feel so outrageous? Why did she even need to leave the
house? Maybe this is what stay-at-home moms did all day. Maybe
they just sat around and played with themselves while watching Days
of Our Lives, and then Another World, and then General
Hospital. Why would anyone go to college, when you could just meet
a guy, send him to the factory, and spin your baby bean all day? The
only warning my mother had given me about too much pleasure was with
regard to chocolate. “Life is like a box of chocolates,” she
told me. “Eat too many and you’ll end up with your
I didn’t know at the time that what I was doing would be
considered masturbating, but I definitely knew enough to know that I
needed to be somewhat discreet when accommodating myself. My parents had
never had the birds-and-the-bees conversation with me, and neither did
any of my sisters or brothers. I once asked my father about where babies
came from, and he told me that “sometimes Daddy parks his car in
Mommy’s garage.” I had no idea what that could possibly
mean, but I never went into the garage again.
The only conversation about a penis I’d ever had was with my
next-door neighbor Jason Rothstein. The Rothstein family lived next to
us for my whole life, and they had two sons who were good friends with
my brothers. My brothers and I were always over at their house until for
some reason, one night while playing Tip the Waiter with Jason, he
decided to pull his pants down and show me the tip of his penis. I had
been sitting Indian style on the floor across from him when this
happened, and I was on my feet and out the door before it dawned on me
that there should be punishment for this kind of behavior. I turned
around, and as he and his penis tip were getting up off the floor, I, in
my best law-enforcement impersonation, threw my leg up and kicked him
right in his balls. I then did a follow-up with one of my signature
back-of-the-head slaps. This has the effect of making you feel not only
bad but stupid. It being my first one-on-one penis interaction, I was
horrified. Like most unpleasant experiences regarding the penis, the
first time is always the worst time.
I went barreling down the Rothsteins’ steep driveway, gaining just
enough momentum for me to make a sharp right and run straight up my own
driveway and through my front door in less than sixty seconds. I stormed
into the kitchen, where my parents were eating dinner. “Jason
Rothstein just showed me his penis.”
“What?” my father asked, looking up from his newspaper.
“His penis?” my mother asked, in a way that made me think
this was the first she was hearing of this so-called object.
“Yeah, we were in the middle of playing Tip the Waiter, and then
he pulled down his pants and changed the game to Tip of His
“What did you do?” my father asked me, still holding on to
“I kicked him in the balls and ran back here.”
“Good response,” he said, looking back down at whatever
article he was reading. “Don’t go over there again.”
“Thanks for the hot tip, Dad. Shouldn’t we press charges or
“Press charges against a penis?”
“Don’t you think that would be going a little
“No, Dad. I’m eight. Are you familiar with the term
“He didn’t do anything to you, did he?”
“No, Dad, but that’s not the point. He’s obviously in
love with me. He’s fifteen, and he’s got a crush on an
eight-year-old. You don’t think there’s anything sick about
“Oh, please, Chelsea, your mother and I are ten years
A few minutes later, my sister Sloane came into my room without
knocking. “Jason’s asked me to take my pants down three
times. Don’t think you’re anything special.”
I was in the middle of organizing my sticker collection and was laser
focused and therefore more than a little irritated by her intrusion.
“He obviously respects me more, Sloane. Any guy who asks to see
yours first isn’t interested in anything long-term. You’ve
got a lot to learn,” I advised her.
“Like you know anything about boys,” she told me.
“Oh, really, dipshit? I knew that I wouldn’t be going back
over to my neighbor’s house for seconds and thirds after he told
me to pull my pants down. You’re a moron.”
“He never told me to pull my pants down. He
asked me to, and I declined.”
“So then why do you keep going over there?”
“Because they have the new Nintendo and better games.”
Sloane was pathetic and I knew it, but I also needed her to
know it. “Let me fill you in on something, Sloane. I’ll be
married twice before you even go on a date. I’m way more fun to be
around. Plus, it’s obvious I’m going to have a huge rack. My
boobs are going to be way bigger than yours, and I have hips. You have a
body like Cathy the cartoon character. Please see yourself out.”
The fact that Stacy’s sleepover came just a few weeks after this
incident was serendipitous to say the least. After getting a glimpse of
Jason’s penis and accidentally seeing one of my father’s
balls at the beach the previous summer, I was pretty intent on never
having sex with a man. I spoke to my father at length not only about
covering his balls but also how, if he was going to insist on wearing
sweatpants, he would have to use support briefs or put one or both balls
in a Ziploc bag before getting dressed. I was willing to accept either
option, which I thought generous considering my hatred of men in
sweatpants. “Even Russians have the decency to wear
tracksuits!” I howled.
I was the last one to leave Stacy’s house the next day and
didn’t question until much later in life why no one said good-bye
to me. I was doing the walk of shame through the woods to my house,
wearing my still-damp-from-the-night-before jeans, when I noticed how
sore my calves were. What… a workout.
I wasn’t home for an hour before I needed more. I vacillated
between wanting to report a rape and feeling more alive than I ever had
in my first three-quarters of a decade on earth. I told my mom I was
turning in for the night.
“It’s six o’clock, Chelsea.”
“I know, but we stayed up really late and I am… wiped
out,” I told her, feigning a yawn, and then I pumped my
arm the way one would do when signaling an eighteen-wheeler to blow its
I ran upstairs, took off my clothes, and changed into a clean T-shirt
and a fresh pair of jeans. As I didn’t yet have a lock on my door,
I propped myself up against the wall next to my door so that I could
avoid anyone walking in and seeing me humping myself.
Talk about elevating your heart rate! I felt as if Popeye’s
forearms had taken up residence in my calves. This was my first
introduction to strength training, and it was unforgettable. If I kept
this up, which at that point wasn’t even open for discussion, it
was clear that, due to the muscular development in my calves I soon
would only be able to wear cutoffs.
With this kind of definition, it was inevitable that I would be
approached for soccer, softball, and possibly even water polo. The fact
that water polo wasn’t a sport offered at any school wasn’t
an issue. After people saw what I was able to bring to the table
physically, it would be clear that a team would be started, and probably
a league. I began fantasizing about what coaches and recruiters would
say to reel me in after I’d fake having interest in athletic
“Ms. Handler,” one of the humorless, dykey-looking coaches
would say upon approach. “May I call you Chelsea?”
I would say no.
“Okay, well, Ms. Handler, calves and muscle development like that
at such a young age would be uncategorically preposterous to waste. You
were obviously put on this earth to play soccer.” I would act coy
and maybe guffaw, all the while knowing it wasn’t a soccer ball I
could handle but a little tiny football hiding right inside my peekachu
that I would have all to myself for the rest of my life.
“Ding-dong!” I would say aloud to myself in my bedroom while
tapping myself on the shoulder. “Who is it? It’s me
again!” Round and round and round I went. Life was better than a
box of chocolates, and it was certainly better than my father’s
tits. I look back at that time in my young life with fondness,
nostalgia, and a touch of disgust.
It wasn’t long before I needed to masturbate all the time. I
started coming home from school and watching Oprah in our
second living room in the back of the house. The heat was hardly ever on
in that room, and I discovered through practice that I could get
extremely passionate with myself and heated up quickly, so a cold room
was a bonus. I found a small oscillating fan in our basement and would
place it six inches in front of my head. I would position my ass
directly behind the ottoman, so if anyone walked in, all they would see
was my feet fishtailing and my head propped up on a pillow. When my
mother would walk in wondering why I was spending the better part of my
days in an unheated living room with a fan on in the middle of winter, I
would tell her I thought I was going through early menopause. When she
explained that I would have to hit puberty before experiencing early
menopause, I quickly changed my tune and welcomed her theory. “I
guess I’m just bursting into womanhood” became my byline.
When my brothers would come home from college, they would always hang
out in the second living room, but that didn’t stop me. I would
sandwich myself in between one end of the sofa and the ottoman, and all
they could see was my head pop out so I could check to see if they were
watching me and wipe my brow with a beach towel. I sometimes wondered if
they had any idea what I was doing, but I had grown so accustomed to
sexually assaulting myself whenever necessary that my self-awareness
became clouded. It never occurred to me that when I got up from one of
these positions, the other people in the room would wonder why I was
drenched in sweat with my jeans wedged up to my nipples, my eyes
crossed, a severe case of cameltoe, and chapped lips. I didn’t
care. I had bigger fish to fry.
School was becoming a nuisance. It was nearly impossible to go eight
hours without jerking off. I had two options to get me through the day:
I could use a ruler under my desk during spelling, because our teacher
was always at the front with the big ruler, or I could wait until recess
to use one of the metal poles that kept the swing sets upright. I would
ride the pole up and down until my neck started spasming; on multiple
occasions I ended up head-butting myself into the pole.
One by one, my classmates would dismount from the swings as the bell
rang, while I would still be writhing on the pole a half hour later.
Eventually a hall guard or teacher would come out and yell,
“Chelsea, the bell rang thirty minutes ago!”
“Shut up,” I’d moan. “It’s coming!”
I found myself carving out windows of time in the day and after school
for me to be alone with myself. My desire to blow off birthday parties
happened to correspond with a precipitous drop in invitations. I
didn’t notice that I had fewer friends, and frankly I didn’t
care. Like any person in a new relationship, I had eyes for only one
person, even though the person I had eyes for only had one eye.
As soon as spring came along, bike rides took on a new meaning. I would
bike for hours on the weekends, rubbing my coslopus on my banana seat. I
would ride up and down our block, passing our neighbor’s window
with my legs extended out to the sides, avoiding any oncoming traffic at
the last minute by detouring into a rain gutter. By the end of the
school year, I had flipped my bicycle three times and was wearing two
silver caps over the teeth I’d lost during orgasms. The vinyl on
my seat had started to wear down, so I decided to tape an eraser to the
tip of my seat for multiple climactic sensations. I had a basket on my
bike and would run out of the house with homework to fool my mother into
thinking I was on a deadline.
“My mind comes alive in the cross breeze,” I would tell her.
“How are you able to do your schoolwork while you’re riding
“It is what it is, Mom. You say tomato, I say banana seat.”
I would get so excited on Friday nights, knowing that my peekachu and I
would be able to have the whole weekend to ourselves. I always had to
watch TV while hooking up with myself, just in case anyone walked into
my room, which in hindsight seems a little dissonant. Reruns of
Three’s Company and Growing Pains weren’t
exactly titillating, but I had no idea that what I was doing was
titillating, since it didn’t involve my father’s tits. I
didn’t need imagery to get my party started. I just needed
I decided to start sampling different clothing options and find out
which materials aided what I would later find out were orgasms. One
would think that sweats or leggings would be optimal, but one would be
mistaken. Too easy. Shorts and skirts were off-limits, as they allowed
closer to direct contact, which could result in pole burns or, even
worse, me actually touching my own MINI Cooper.
I had graduated to the bed and would lie on my stomach, put the
comforter over me to conceal any wrongdoing, and turn my head to the
side on the pillow so I could stare straight at my TV. If my neck grew
cramped, I would switch to lying on my back with the covers over me. I
liked this position because, besides being much less suspicious, it
worked different muscle groups.
As with any normal relationship in bloom, we experienced the highs and
lows that go hand in hand with the decision to share your life with
someone. We spent the summer of ’83 together, which grew more
challenging due to the increase in the temperature. There were many
times I was tempted to walk away, but I always came back when the sun
went down. In hindsight it was easier to stay in the relationship than
to jump back into the dating scene. With my invisible friend, Lucy,
acting as officiator, my coslopus and I had a commitment ceremony where
we vowed to be faithful, even though cheating on me would have been
impossible for her, considering she was attached to my groin.
It wasn’t until Thanksgiving dinner in fourth grade that I was
confronted about my romance. My parents had invited some family friends
over, along with my five brothers and sisters. I was still in a
honeymoon period with myself and didn’t take a Thanksgiving dinner
seriously enough to not bring my gentleman caller. I had a wooden soup
spoon under the table in between my legs, over my corduroys, pursuing my
usual enterprise. After several beads of sweat dripped into my pumpkin
soup, my father yelled out in front of the whole table, “Chelsea!
Stop what you’re doing right now!”
Then my mother chimed in. “Chelsea, that is something you want to
do in the privacy of your own room.”
My brother Ray took this as his cue to announce, “She does it all
The idea that what I’d been doing to myself for the past year and
a half had not been a secret by any stretch of the imagination came as a
shock to me. I couldn’t believe I’d been outed. I was
mortified, sabotaged, and, worst of all, forced to spend the rest of
elementary school ignoring my lover and her pitiful attempts to
reconcile. Once it was established that it was not acceptable behavior,
I had no desire to do it. No remorse. No breakup letter. No counseling.
Just cold turkey. “Au ’voir,” I told my coslopus that
night before reading my newest issue of Highlights magazine,
which I had started subscribing to at the age of three.
I think back with fondness on that year I spent getting to know my hot
pocket. While some people and the authorities took issue with it, I
considered it reasonable and fair. The way I saw it was, if you looked
down and saw a brownie sundae with the works sitting in your lap, day
after day after day, eventually you’re going to attack it.
After I was found out, I didn’t contact my clitoris for years. I
deemed it untrustworthy and bizarre. I felt the same way about penises.
That’s why I gave my first hand job with a sock.
Years later when I moved to Los Angeles and walked in on my roommate
masturbating in her bedroom the normal way, naked, I almost vomited.
“First of all, ya sicko, you need to put some jeans on,” I
told her. “Then you need to find yourself a playground.”
Excerpted from "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang" by Chelsea Handler. Copyright © 0 by Chelsea Handler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.