Wherein I Make Santa's Naughty List / by Courtney Mehlhaff

The other night I was on Amazon's website, looking for a Christmas gift for my dad. I swear, that's all I was doing. Where I might have gone wrong was typing "nonfiction for men" in the search bar.

Did you know that Amazon has a pretty extensive selection of books on sexuality? I do. Now. Because one of the search results was "The Ultimate Guide to Strap-On Sex."

So of course I clicked on it.

A short synopsis, and then (miracle of miracles) the always excellent "Look Inside!" feature. So of course I clicked on it.

I had to! You don't just throw a gem like that onto my screen and expect me to ignore it. That's like leaving your diary open on the kitchen table or creating a folder on your desktop labeled "Dirty Secrets."

Unfortunately, only the first ten pages or so were available, but let me tell you, I learned quite a bit. I'm not going to repeat any of it here, because I believe I've made it through 70 posts without using the word "dildo," and I don't intend to start now. Oops.

In the interest of full disclosure (but not TMI), I'm extremely liberal when it comes to views on human sexuality. I find it fascinating what people think up to do with each other, and as long as they do it in the privacy of their own homes, more power to 'em. And seriously, if you can't manage to find new ideas to spice up your sex life in this day and age, you're not very bright. Or you don't have the internet.

So I have absolutely no objection to books being written on every crazy sex-related subject imaginable. I think if you're curious about something, it might be helpful to read up on it before you give it a whirl. You might decide it's not for you. Alternatively, you might be inspired to do further research and end up at a website designed exclusively for the hundreds of other people who are also into that very same thing.

This did not happen to me. Not because I wasn't curious, but because it was late, and I didn't have time. Instead, I checked out the other related books, of which (you might not be surprised to know at this point) there were several. Perhaps the best part of this adventure was the consumer reviews, my favorite of which was titled "Nothing New."

My evening had taken an informative and hilarious turn, and I was thoroughly delighted. Until a terrible thought occurred to me: Oh, my god. I'm on Amazon.com.

Why would this be a troubling realization? Because, thanks to the wonders of technology, there's a helpful little section called "Inspired by Your Browsing History." That's right -- those sneaky bastards keep track of what you look at and then suggest similar items. This is meant to be a personalized sales advantage, but as illustrated here, it can backfire.

I had a brief moment of panic, during which I imagined someone logging onto my computer and being shocked at my explicit recently viewed items (likely contained in my "Dirty Secrets" folder). Or, worse, checking my e-mail at work and finding advertisements for the latest and greatest strap-on harness. In this second scenario, I try to quickly close out of the window, but my stupid laptop freezes, and my boss walks in, and I lose my job and am penniless, and therefore can't afford to buy the nonfiction gift I was looking for in the first place. [fist shake] Amazon!!!

Naturally, both ideas are ridiculous. I click on nothing even remotely suspect at work, and I don't know who would be snooping around on my home computer. My panic was prompted by a small, repressed Midwestern voice in my head that sometimes warns me not to color outside the lines and projects unreasonable yet horrific consequences if I should dare to disobey.

It was this same voice (which I'm pretty sure is Lutheran) that guided me to find the "edit" function for my browsing history. It's comforting to know it's there, but I didn't actually delete anything. No, I'll stand by my healthy curiosity, and to hell with anyone who stumbles upon my liberal queries and can't handle it. If we've learned anything, it's that it's always the quiet ones.

Wait . . . oh my god. What if I accidentally put something on my Amazon Wish List?

Merry Christmas to me.