Sunday, October 18, 2015

Good Bye, Miss June

A news article caught my attention on the radio this week.  Playboy Magazine will no longer include pictorials of naked women in their magazine starting with the March, 2016 issue.  The reason given for this startling change, given the magazine’s history in this country’s “sexual revolution” was that, with free pornography available a click away online, making the pictorials a feature of the magazine had become “passé.”  
My personal experience with the magazine started when I was about twelve years old, in sixth grade.  This was when my Mom caught me with copies of the pictures in my room.  I had gotten them from a classmate.  There had come to be a circle of us that traded samples of the pictures pulled out of the magazines, much the same way I had traded and collected baseball cards a few years before.  The only difference was my Dad didn’t get the magazine at the time, so the only access I had was through this little exchange that took place in far corner of the playing field, behind the baseball backstop, during the lunch recess break.  
I was perusing my collection, first putting them in date order, “Miss March, Miss April, Miss June...  Where was Miss May?” And then by personal preference.  It was while I was engaged in this activity, trying to decide if I like Miss April better than Miss March, or maybe thinking that if I took Miss April’s face and hair, which I thought was prettier, and put it on Miss June’s body in that pose, THAT would be the most ideal Playmate I could create within the collection I had, that my bedroom door suddenly flew open.  
“I brought your laundry up and folded it for you...”  My mom was walking into my room to put my clothes on my dresser.  I had been so focused on going through my collection of Playmate pictures I hadn’t heard her trudging up the stairs with the laundry.  “Don’t leave it set there, put it away in the...”  This was when she paused in turning back toward the door, seeing the shocked expression on my face.  
“Nothing.”  I shoved the pictures under the blankets of my unmade bed.  
“What do you have there?”  
“Bring it out and show it...”  
My bedroom had a door that opened onto the upstairs patio, a big open space on top of the garage.  I ran through this door to the far side of the patio.  Not knowing what else to do, I raised my hand to throw my entire precious collection into the neighbor’s yard.  I don’t remember if I had a plan to retrieve them or not.  I just didn’t want them in my hands when my mom...
I froze.  
“Turn around and let me see what you have.  Now.”  
I complied.  Head down.  I handed the pictures over to her.  My classmates had told me their mothers had torn up similar pictures when found.  I looked up, seeing my mother’s stern, unforgiving expression as she fixed me in place with her eyes.  
Pictures in hand, she looked down to see what they were.  And smirked.
“Miss June...”  She shook her head with a chuckle.  After flipping through them a couple of times, she extended her hand with the pictures back toward me.  “Here.”  
“You want them?”  She gestured toward the edge of the patio.  “If you want to throw them away, that’s up to you.  From the way you were hiding them, I don’t think you want to do that.”  
Very uncertain, I retrieved the photos from her.  She turned and headed back into my room.  I followed, wondering if I was being set up for something.  
“You want me to throw them away?”  I stood in the door and watched as she pulled some jeans from the laundry basket.  She set them on top of the shirts she’ll put on my dresser before.  
She answered my question with one of her own.  “Do you like looking at pictures like that?”  
Ah!  Here it was.  This was a trick question, I was sure.  I wasn’t going to try to lie to her.  But I wasn’t going to throw myself on the train track either.  
“I dunno,” I replied, dodging the obvious trap.  
She snorted and smirked again.  Then she turned to face me.  
“You’re that age now.”  She nodded in a self-assuring way.  “You’re gonna look at girls more and liking it.”  She then fixed me with her eyes again.  “Just promise me one thing...”  
“Uh...  What?”  
“When you look at pictures like that, or when you look at girls at school, can you remember that you’re looking at a person?  Can you promise me that?”  
At the time, I wasn’t sure what she was getting at.  Of course I knew they were persons.  They weren’t like drawings or sculptures.  But rather than dig into what she wanted out of me, I said, sure...  I’d remember that.  Promise.  
I kept those pictures.  And got more.  I continued to look through Playboy.  Even getting my own subscription.   
AND...  I REALLY was one of the people that read the articles.  Like the one about Swinger Clubs that appeared in the late seventies.  The writer of the piece had a revelation that he shared that the willingness to have sex with you was one of the most powerful things that made a woman attractive.  Or Harlan Ellison’s article about the three things you should never screw with: Your Job, Sex and Violence.  The story he told about being hired to work at Disney, but got fired his first day at work after being overheard imitating Mickey and Minnie making a porno film together, was priceless.  Or Vincent Bugliosi’s article about the O.J. Simpson trial that convinced me beyond a doubt that O.J. did it, and taught me what made a good trial lawyer.  
Eventually, I let the subscription lapse.  I would get the magazine, flip through it, and set it on the growing stack of back issues.  The only time I would go through them was when I hear about an article in the news that I hadn’t spotted, making me go through the issues until I found it and read it for myself.  Jessie Ventura’s interview, where he is misquoted about his opinion on the tail-hook scandal was one of those.  
There finally came the day when I cleaned out my closest and took all those back issues to the recycling station.  I did it at a time when no one else would be there, because...  Well...  It just seemed wrong.  It wasn’t like the women in the pictorials were turned ugly, or their pictures spoiled in some way.  Playboy is one of the fun magazines that, no matter how long you keep it, it’s still worth flipping through.  
Or was.  Guess that’s changing.  Which is what happened to me.  Though I didn’t think it this clearly at the time, I did have a feeling that the magazine wasn’t for me.  I wasn’t going to be driving the cars they featured in their “what to buy” articles, nor was I going to get those expensive knick-knacks.  And the women didn’t appeal to me as much.  They were good to look at, to be sure.  Splendid eye-candy.  But my tastes in attractiveness had moved to something...  More down to earth, shall we say.  
It reminds me of another Playboy related story I heard long ago.  This was when the original Playboy mansion, in Chicago, was being sold.  They were moving to the new mansion they’d built in Los Angeles.  They’d hired people to come and remove all the furnishings and things from the mansion.  
One of the people they interviewed on the radio was the guy removing all the electronics and sound system.  He told the reporter that it was, “all junk.”  Sure, he admitted, it had been state of the art back when Hefner had moved into the mansion in 1953.  More than twenty years later, though, he was lamenting that he wouldn’t be able to give the equipment away.  
With stereos it’s easy to see how things change.  I never thought I see it change with naked women, too.  


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