Every month from the time I can start remembering my childhood to the time I left my parents’ house, a magazine covered with a shiny black plastic wrapping would show up in our mailbox. You may be thinking that I wondered throughout my childhood: What was this mystery magazine? But I never needed to wonder, because as soon as my dad got his hands on that month’s issue of Playboy, the plastic cover would come off and he would call me and my sister to come over and find the famous bunny icon hidden somewhere on the cover. For us, it was such a fun game that we couldn’t wait for dad to get home when the new Playboy arrived so we could find the bunny.
My parents never made a big deal out of the fact that there were nudie mags lying about the house, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. In normalizing nudity, they helped demystify sexuality a bit. The magazines were just… there. I looked at them often, thinking about how my body would look when I got older. Thinking that the women in those pages were beautiful. In high school, I read the Playboy Advisor and the jokes and repeated them to my friends, who delighted in how pervy I was. Looking back, I’m so fucking thankful that the women I saw in the issues I looked at as a child of the eighties featured women who, for the most part, looked like they ate actual food, weren’t airbrushed, and didn’t have plastic surgery.
When I was in third grade, my bus driver told me that I would be in Playboy someday – I was old enough and young enough to know that it was a creepy and inappropriate comment. When I was in fifth grade, I asked my mom if it bothered her that dad liked to look at naked women. “No, honey,” she said. “He’s just looking, so it’s okay.” When I was in seventh grade, I took a few issues to school with me to sell them (five dollars each – a bargain for access to porn!) in order to make some money for Christmas shopping. I had sold one before school and was planning on selling more during lunch, but gossip spreads like wildfire; before I knew it, I was being pulled out of class by a SUPER FUCKING HOT security guard / basketball coach who took me to my locker, made me hand him the magazines, and then said, “You’re lucky we’re not going to call your parents.” When I was in tenth grade, I found an issue of Playgirl with Robert Kelker-Kelly from Days of Our Lives in my parent’s closet and was so excited that there were nudie mags full of men, too. There was a piece of erotica in there that would stick with me for the rest of my life as a fantasy (which I got to act out a few years ago).
When I was a college student, I told my dad that all I wanted in terms of inheritance were his old Playboy magazines; he had been keeping them up in the attic next to issues of Psychology Today and Analog. By the time my father did pass, there were decades’ worth up there. A few years after his death, I crawled into the attic to lug out allllll those boxes of old Playboys to find many of them waterlogged from roof leaks, ripped, musty, or otherwise falling apart. We had to get rid of them. I put a few of the oldest ones from the late 70s aside (bush and OJ Simpson ads!), and then my mother and I loaded the rest into her SUV to take to the recycling center. A bunch of the guys who worked at the center came over, curious as to what we were throwing away; we told them that they were old Playboys and that they could have the magazines if they wanted. Nah, they all said, and walked away. But as we pulled out of the recycling center, we could see them all walking back to the bins and pulling some issues out to have a quick browse.