I had a best friend growing up. His name was Bill. We lived on the same street only he was on the far end of the next block. Bill and I started hanging out, playing together, so far back I have no memory of that first day or even that first year or two. Back then, we were never not friends.
Until high school Bill was my only friend. I didn’t have a group of guys I hung with. I didn’t have a girlfriend. I had Bill. There were acquaintances, kids I talked to in school, neighbors, Cub Scouts, that kind of thing. But Bill was the only person I called a friend.
We started kindergarten together and Bill’s mom offered to drive me to and from school. My mom was pretty overwhelmed with my newborn sister. So every morning and every afternoon, I shared the big, bench seat of their car. The Playdate hadn’t been invented but I’d pedal my bike over to his house or he’d walk over to mine and we’d build model rockets or play catch or fly paper airplanes.
One day, as I was leaving Bill’s house, his mom gave me a Playboy magazine. She had gotten it from her sister or sister-in-law who worked at a hotel as a maid or something, she said, and someone had left it behind in their room. I’m not sure what Bill’s mom was thinking, but she sealed the Playboy in a big envelope, told me to take it home and show it to my mother, and my mother would “take it from there.”
Yeah, okay, sure.
I was twelve. I was in 7th grade. I don’t think she let Bill see the Playboy first. But me, it was okay to send it home with me. Did she think it was some form of sex ed. I wonder? My mom must have thought so because she let me keep it!
About a year later, my oldest sister gave me a subscription to Playboy for my birthday. I don’t now if she thought it was some kind of joke. I can’t remember anyone laughing but I might’ve been in a mild state of shock.
Hm, yes, what a thoughtful gift for a pubescent fourteen-year-old boy. Goes perfectly with the English Leather cologne and the pair of slacks mom and dad got him--- twelve months of nude women. I kept waiting for someone to come to their senses and put a stop to it, whoa what were we thinking, but no one did.
My parents let me keep my subscription--- under one condition: after the year was up, I had to pay for it myself. Deal!
So I had girlie magazines delivered directly to my house every month in a brown paper wrapper with my name on the address sticker. No sneaking around in daddy’s sock drawer for this progressive teen. I had my own stash. I didn’t hide them under the bed; I didn’t have to.
I can honestly say I didn’t read many articles but I liked the cartoons. I kept the subscription all through college and a few years after. I never thought it was weird, though I’ve never met anyone else who had a subscription to Playboy as a freshman in high school. And I can’t imagine giving my own sons one.
It’s not like my parents condoned porn, exactly. Right? Playboy was tamest of the bunch back then and nothing compared to what kids nowadays can Google with their iPhone. I wonder if Bill’s mom had the right idea and the openness surrounding the subject matter demystified it.
Yeah, I’m going to go with that.
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