I was finally free, and I REFUSED to be poor.
If someone had asked me when I was 20 to describe my life at 40, never in a million years would I have imagined raising kids on my own, working days as a dental hygienist and selling sex toys on the side.
Yet, that's exactly where I wound up.
After years of being emotionally abused and verbally assaulted in my marriage, I lost sight of the version of myself I'd always known. I knew I had to get out or I'd die inside.
My marriage had finally beat me down emotionally. I was done.
I think my ex expected me to stay in the marriage because the other option — divorce — was just too expensive. I know there are plenty of women who feel trapped in their own marriages because of finances.
I needed to find a way out ... I had reached a point where nothing else mattered.
I had calculated a financial plan for getting divorced that involved downsizing to a different house and taking on extra hours at my dental hygiene job. That, plus child support and thriftiness, would be enough to ensure that I'd be able to stand on my own two feet.
I didn't count on not getting the child support.
Then, the day after my divorce was final, my ex-husband lost his job. My new "single mom" reality didn't sink in until my lawyer, after fighting (unsuccessfully) for my back child support, said, "You know, you can probably qualify for food stamps now."
Food stamps. The words smacked me in the face. I never thought that would be me.
I wasn't sure what I'd do. Once I accepted the fact that there would never be reliable child support, I realized I was going to have to do this completely on my own.
My ex-husband wanted me to fail, but I was determined not to.
I came out of our divorce with virtually no savings; what little I had I used to set up our new house. And now I had mortgage payments, utility bills and property taxes to pay, plus all the usual expenses associated with raising two kids in the suburbs — school fees, hockey equipment, baseball uniforms, and gas to chauffeur them all over creation.
I am not a keep-up-with-the-Joneses type of person, but one way or another, I needed to make sure my kids wouldn't suffer any more than necessary.
I was already working 5-and-a-half days as a dental hygienist, but it wasn't enough to make ends meet. I needed money.
When opportunity knocks, you open the door and grab it. And for me, that knock was as unconventional as it could get.
I was at a party one night with friends I had known growing up. This family had always been in the "adult novelty" industry — everything from adult books, porn movies, sex toys and more.
One of the daughters approached me that night with a job offer. She explained that home sex toy parties were the newest rage and they wanted to start a company. She knew my situation and personality well and thought I'd be perfect.
The home parties were nothing new — kitchen conveniences and makeup companies had been doing it for years.
I never hesitated, we agreed and our "f*ckerware" business was born.
I never thought about how this would affect my children, my personal life or my professional life. I had only one goal in mind: earning enough money to pay my bills.
I had a lot to learn, though. It's not like I was a prude, but in order to sell this stuff, I had to know everything there was to know about it. Like everything else I tackled in my life, I went at it 110 percent.
I read books on G-spots and orgasms and every kind of self-pleasure imaginable. I had samples to try and lubes to taste. I became an expert quickly.
I thought about sex 24/7 — and yet I was having none.
When it was time to host an actual party, I decided that I should practice my presentation in front of a live audience first.
I enlisted some of the girls from the dental office. They already knew about my new line of work since I had a tendency to talk incessantly about it. A coworker named Amy volunteered to have the party in her basement. I worked with six women. I encouraged them to invite friends, and most of them did.
The night of the practice party, I packed up my lipstick-red PT Cruiser with about a hundred samples and plenty of stock. I meticulously drove well under the speed limit and came to a complete stop at every stop sign, trying my best to avoid having to explain my car-full of dildos to the police.
I was beyond nervous.
I arrived and set up. Around two dozen people came — friends and friends of friends of my co-workers ranging from 23- to 53-years-old.
To my surprise, one of my coworkers invited a couple of her friends who were also my former professors from dental school. I was used to seeing these women in the front of a room demonstrating items like dental X-ray holders and tooth scalers.
Yet here I was, now in front of them, explaining the functions and effects of a clitoral-stimulating vibrator.
I didn't know how far to go — should I say "fellatio" or "blow job?" "P*ssy" or "vagina?"
More importantly, what would make them buy more stuff? I had mouths to feed.
After about 10 minutes, my nervousness vanished. There was excitement in the room. It was naughty stuff to talk about and demonstrate, but there was something revelatory about it. These women were all as lonely and horny as anyone else.
The smartest thing I did that night, and continued to do, was offer these ladies a private place to ask questions and buy the actual merchandise. Each woman felt free to confide her desires and explore products for her particular needs, without fear that the the other moms at the playground in the morning would be gossiping about her purchase of vibrating nipple clamps.
The private area became a cross between a gynecologist's office and a psychiatrist's couch — no holds barred and total discretion guaranteed.
For many women, and ultimately for me, having a safe space to discuss sex was life-changing.
That first party grossed around $800. I walked out of the party with $400 cash in my purse, excited at the prospect of being able to pay both the gas and electric bills in the same month.
I realized then that I could be good at this. Really good.
But what I didn't realize that night … is that the parties, the sales, the dildos … they were all only the beginning. I had started on a journey that was leading me to something more.
I would eventually blossom into an entirely new person — one that would never allow anyone to criticize or belittle me again.
I had studied and learned all there was to know about sex, I was supporting my family and the only thing missing in my life was true love.
Read more of Heidi's adventures in her book Open Wide: The 4D's: Divorce, Dating, Dentistry & Dildos, available on amazon.com. (The screenplay is already attracting interest from Hollywood.) She is currently writing part two and is also a motivational speaker.