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Party Politics

By Vrinda Normand

AS BITER saunters over to a booth cluttered with mysterious jars, naughty dice and books called Toy Gasms, a woman clad in a black body-hugging outfit greets her with a lipsticked smile and a cheery hello. Lydia Aguilar looks like she could be standing behind a fine jewelry counter, but instead she channels all her retail enthusiasm into selling dildos and love lube in packages called Passion Parties.

As an independent consultant, Aguilar assumes the burden of entertainment normally shouldered by party hostesses and turns a roomful of women into a posse of giggling girls. From her bag of tricks, she pulls out a 20-inch purple penis and sets it on a table for a version of the game called ring toss. Then she produces a vibrator called Choco Thriller and challenges a circle of now hysterical females to pass it around without using their hands.

Aguilar then calms the chaos by initiating hand massages with pheromone-laced oils, the so-called animalistic sex attractant that, when dabbed on the wrist or neck, is supposed to reel him in "nine times out of 10." As the women saturate themselves with this lust-enhancing chemical, they magically open up to the idea of buying an array of sex toys in the privacy of their friend's home. Today's market (in the tradition of Avon and Tupperware) has cleverly honed in on the timeless niche of gabfests.

On a Saturday afternoon, Aguilar is stationed with her arsenal of pleasure products at the Valentine's Day Shop and Spa, a mixer for businesswomen to network and promote their services. The small event room at the plush Pruneyard Inn is packed with visitors and vendors exchanging heart-shaped chocolates, business cards, brochures and samples.

Product-driven parties seem to be the rave at this event, organized by the motivational cheerleader Susan Liddy from Aspire Life Coaching. Even the Body Shop has jumped on the bandwagon by contracting independent consultants to bring those edible-looking tubs of body butter straight to you. As an incentive for hostesses (who provide the guests or trap the buyers, depending on how you look at it), Body Shop grants a commission (in the form of free products) on all sales made at a party.

Sensaria, another line of pricy yet "natural" spa goodies, specializes in pamper parties. A young woman named Gaby Tablada offers to exfoliate Biter's hand with a salt-and-sugar scrub while informing her of all the fun foot soaks and facials she could be having with her girlfriends. Sensaria-sponsored gatherings come with drink-enhanced themes like "Wine Down and Relax" and "Spa'd Out in Margaritaville."

The body-beautifying activities don't end there. Temporary-tattoo artist Roopa Raman hosts "Henna Bashes" in which she adorns limbs and bellies with intricate designs made from a plant-derived paste. Popular in India, Africa and the Middle East, henna has penetrated the U.S. market through celebrities, fashion magazines and now women's parties.

Why bother going to the mall anymore? With the commercial frenzy knocking on our doors we might as well hold up our (manicured, hydrated, painted) hands in surrender.

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From the February 16-22, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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