I’m not quite old enough to be a Baby Boomer, but I’m old enough to contemplate this problem seriously:

Disposing of sex paraphernalia — actually all those embarrassing items you have stashed around the house — is something every boomer should be concerned about. The days are dwindling down to a precious few and some of you have a nasty cough. Do you want the people clearing out your house, particularly your children, to find those feathery, metallic, rubbery, polymer blend items you ordered one drunken night a few months after you’d been forced to take early retirement? Do you want them to know their big, tough construction worker dad liked to dress up in heels and a boa and sing “La La La” from “No Strings,” one of Richard Rodgers’s weaker efforts?

You may be thinking, “What do I care what my friends or children find in the house? I will be beyond embarrassment, I will be dead.” But you are wrong. Doctors now know that the human sense of embarrassment can last up to two weeks after the heart stops beating…

I’ve actually been fortunate to be able to help someone with this problem from the other direction. A gentleman of some years was in possession of many boxes of highly personal effects from a deceased relative. Some boxes the relative had stored with him before marrying late in life, and others (mostly more respectable books) had been given over by the relative’s widow. Valuing books himself, knowing that books predominated in the collection, and knowing of my interest in erotic books, the donor handed over entire collection to me in closed and unexamined boxes. Unstated was the donor’s desire to spare his own heirs from having to deal with it. I promised to give or find the books a good home, while disposing of any other personal effects respectfully and discretely; and that was that. No money changed hands. I spent a day driving, I got some interesting vintage sex books, and I was able to remove a literally weighty problem from my donor’s garage (and thus relieve his mind).

It was an unexpectedly personal transaction throughout. Even after I had the boxes safely home and began to sort them, the sorting process was surprisingly personal; there was an entire long lifetime of sexual confusion and pain and discovery recorded in the progression through decades of various kinds of porn, toys, and clippings from writings on human psychology and sexuality. By separating these materials and disposing of the clippings and age-deteriorated sex toys, a respectable library of porn and sex books was not only saved from likely destruction, but laundered of its power to illuminate (or tarnish) the memory of its creator.

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