Tag Archives: older sister

Now for your viewing curiosity: Playboy (sort of)

I remember the first time I saw a copy of Playboy magazine.

After she married, my older sister, trying to be a hip woman of the world, gave our father a subscription to the men’s magazine for Christmas one year. This was odd for several reasons. Ours was a conservative, religious household. Our father was no ladies’ man and gave no evidence (beyond becoming animated about the yesteryear film star Mitzi Gaynor) of being all that interested in such things, at least not at that point in his life.  He was not even lusty toward his wife, our mother (no bear hugs, kissing, or vocal hubba-hubbas, let alone swats on the ass were ever on display). My mother would surely not have approved of either the magazine or the gift but I now expect she must’ve looked the other way, and not objected audibly since it was her favorite daughter doing the gifting. That’s my best explanation anyway.

After we expressed interest, it was decided that my sister, two years older, and I, could see an issue of the magazine. We were probably 11 and 13 at the time. However, our father went through it first and then handed over a heavily redacted magazine. There were thick black lines drawn through much of the copy. Of course, then I was most curious about what had been hidden from us, although now, I expect I’d have been disappointed with the verboten content. This because our father had odd ways of thinking in general, and related to children, especially girl children, poorly. He grew up surrounded mostly by rough-and-tumble brothers, didn’t understand us, had no interest in trying, and was old enough to be a grandfather to his youngest children, of which I was one. Lord only knows how he decided what wasn’t fit for our viewing.

I have to tell you, though, even in its weird condition, the magazine was a happy surprise, in that I’m still a bit shocked that we were allowed to see it at all. I don’t remember much of what I thought about the visible content. I’m sure I didn’t relate to the women shown or the overall sensibility, but no doubt was glad to learn what it was. Curiosity has driven me all my life and this subject was no different. My sister and I looked at the magazine together, alone, and then returned it. There was no conversation with any adult as to what we’d seen, or if we had questions. This was typical of how things were done in our household, and I’d have expected no different.

Barbie gets a “makeover”

It’s the season for toys. Which makes me think of childhood toys and things I wanted. I wonder what I’d be coveting now if I was a kid? For one, I think I’d be attracted to the little play kitchens. Which seems like a horrible idea. Hey! Let’s all start pretending to do the drudgery you’ll be doing the rest of your life. Why not have a little play bathroom so you can practice cleaning a toy toilet? And trying to get rid of the mold and mildew stains in the caulk of ancient tiles? That sounds like fun! And laundry – let’s not forget that. A play laundry station so you can enjoy hours of fun slogging through pretend dirty socks.

I know children want to emulate adults. I did too. The kindergarten I attended was separated into various corners, one of which was a “house” and one was a “store.” I thought both of these were great. Playing house and playing store was fun. Of course, no actual scrubbing or cooking was involved. And I didn’t have to part with any real cash money when buying things at the store. I learned nothing of any practical use from these set-ups or kindergarten generally. But I attended long ago at a time when activities like reading Nietzsche – or reading at all – and studying supply side economics were not yet on the curriculum.

Barbie still seems to be doing the brisk business she did in my youth. I didn’t have a Barbie but still coveted the Barbie swimming pool. The commercials made it look so glamorous and entertaining. Ken and Barbie in their chaise lounge chairs. Or frolicking down the slide. I don’t think I ever saw the toy in real life so maybe it would have disappointed. At any rate, my dolls never got to find out if they’d enjoy a swanky pool; they had to content themselves to swim in a plastic bucket (and only outdoors). I also dreamed of owning a plastic doll head – not sure who made her but probably Mattel – that was roughly life-size. The toy was for applying makeup and fixing hair. I don’t know where a head would go once fixed up, hardly out on the town, but still.

My mother didn’t approve of Barbies. She said children shouldn’t have dolls with “figures.” No boobs, no ass, I guess. Instead she wanted us to have baby dolls with that little hole in their mouth to pour water down which came out the little hole between their legs. You know, as I write that, it sounds twisted. Then again, perhaps this one WAS a realistic toy. As toys, baby dolls were too limited. You couldn’t play games with baby dolls or give them interesting lives. They just had to be babies. Always.

Our school had an annual bazaar, at least when I was very little. One of my older sisters was involved in working at it. When it was over, she got a hold of two Barbies – leftover prizes? – that she then gave, one apiece, to her little sisters. We were beyond thrilled! Barbies! Just handed to us! For no reason! Unsophisticated and sheltered as we were, we (or at least I) failed to recognize or mind that these dolls must have been second-hand. They didn’t come in boxes or all fixed up. In fact, although my Barbie was a white lady with long red hair, she was given to me along with an extra head, which was a darker-complected lady sporting a curly afro. I took it all at face value, as if that was how it was meant to be. I didn’t question the Barbie gods. I’d switch out the heads and make a whole new character with a different name.

Our mother was angry that my sister and I were given the Barbies. But uncharacteristically, she didn’t take them away. Instead, she relied on her standbys, shame and guilt. I think she wanted my sister and me to voluntarily give up the dolls, to see for ourselves the inherent wrong-doing in keeping them. No f-ing way! Voluntarily give up this goldmine?! Coveted Barbies? Even used and a bit downtrodden? No way. Being shamed and guilted was not enough to make me turn on Barbie.

My sister, though? Oh, this is good. She did not want to give up her blonde-haired Barbie, but she also wanted to please our (un-pleasable) mother. We had 2 little school desks in our basement that the school had gotten rid of and my father had brought home. One day when we were playing, soon after getting the dolls, my sister went and got a hammer from our father’s tool bench. She put her Barbie, naked, on one of the desktops. And she attempted to give Barbie a boob reduction with the hammer. Oh yes. I still see this image in my mind decades later. It was troubling to say the least. Where on earth had my sister come up with such an idea?? Here she was, trying to have it both ways; keep Barbie but also eliminate the woman’s “figure” that our mother found so distasteful in a child’s toy.

It didn’t work. My sister’s Barbie was made of a hard plastic and her boob merely cracked on one side. So forevermore, my sister’s Barbie had a botched boob job. MY Barbie stayed intact; I was not about to take a hammer to her. The fact that she had a woman’s physique didn’t faze me one bit and I held tight. Although when I washed her hair the top fell out, resulting in a kind of male pattern baldness, while the rest turned orange. That bothered me most of all.

Older guys

A post I wrote recently got me to thinking about older men, specifically older ones I encountered when I was still quite young. As a teen, I thought guys out of high school and beyond were intimidating. Why, they looked like grownups. Even factoring in that guys that age back then would likely have been more mature than their present-day counterparts (not a swipe at younger guys today but a reflection on the fact that 20’s then is like thirties now and so on, given increased life span, each stage taking longer, etc.), the idea that they were really so worldly or grownup is laughable.

One summer when I was 15ish, a guy 3 years older, who had a reputation as a flirt decided to bestow his attentions on me one afternoon at the public swimming pool. It amounted to holding me in is arms in the water, tossing me around, and so forth for a long time. Playful, not icky or pushy, if a bit too much considering we had no prior relationship. I was flattered as hell. An older boy focusing on me. I remember he walked me home and that was that (although 3 years later, after I’d graduated high school, the two of us did have a serious, memorable, if fairly brief relationship).

In high school, I rode a bus to and from school. One of our drivers was an attractive, mustachioed guy in his twenties. After school let out, a bunch of buses followed one another down the main drag leading away from the building. One day a girl I didn’t know, sitting at the back of the bus ahead of ours began flirting wildly with our driver, blowing kisses and more. She really went for it, to a degree that pretty much shocked me at the time, particularly because she was so brazen and in full view of everybody on our bus. With the distraction, it’s a wonder our driver didn’t careen his busload of high school kids off the road. In retrospect, maybe this girl felt brave because she was at a safe distance from our driver. I really don’t know. The incident made quite the impression on me, though, because I couldn’t imagine coming on like that with a guy clearly out of high school, clearly older.

I did meet an older guy at a dance but the circumstances were different. Through older siblings, I knew a member of a band that was going to perform at a dance at my high school. I may have even had a small part in the arrangements because beforehand I talked on the phone with another band member who I did not know. We seemed to have a friendly rapport. At any rate, we met in person, if briefly, at the dance. I remember having a good time and enjoying the band.

Apparently though, it was another girl who caught the band guy’s attention that night. One of those high school girls who seems older than high school if you know what I mean (I was not such a girl). She was very pretty, popular, and acted like she was 25 or so. I learned about this after the fact when talking on the phone with band guy. He seemed to want my advice and I liked the attention. I wasn’t used to that from an older guy, being treated as an equal. He hadn’t gotten the girl’s information, however, and needed me as a conduit. His thought was that I should approach the girl at school and get her phone number for him (since he couldn’t go waltzing into the high school looking for her). I wanted to help but no way was I going to walk up to a strange girl and request her phone number. Without telling him first, I found her in a group of friends and instead gave her HIS phone number, saying he wants you to have this. Guess it worked out, because I stopped hearing from band guy and later heard the two married.

I knew I turned a corner, when, after graduating from high school, I and two older sisters went to a party hosted by people one of them knew. My sister was forever scouting about for an eligible man to date and this time was no different. There was one particular guy that was attractive and charming with us all. He commented that I seemed especially young – and in that group, I was – but when there was a lull outside and we momentarily found ourselves alone, it was me he kissed. Maybe I should have kept my yap shut later when we girls rehashed the party and my man-hunting sister claimed this particular guy was interested in her. But I didn’t. I set her straight. I never saw the guy again, but the barrier was crossed; older guys were starting to look different to me now.

My sister and I perform a sweet song at the school show (NOT)

All the kids in my family, like it or not, went to the same small parochial grade school, and this meant some off us attended in overlapping years. The annual talent show was a big deal and while participation was voluntary, this activity was up my alley (and it wasn’t as if the school was packed with prodigies and mini virtuosos who would trample over the regular schmucks). One memorable year my next oldest sister and I paired to do an act together.

We elected to perform “Flamin’ Mamie,” a peculiarly inappropriate choice for two knee-socked, preteen girls at that time and place – which was long before toddlers wore thongs, twerked, and sang about gettin’ themselves some. If I recall this ditty was taught to us by one of our older sisters; it was NOT on any of our children’s records. Looking online now I see that the lyrics vary from site to site, but most open, as did we, with, “They call me Rump Flamin’ Mamie…” and continue with, “I’m the hottest baby in town!” There’s another verse where a fireman comments that Mamie is the hottest thing since “Chicago’s fire.” We absolutely did not know what the song was about, but presently reading the various lyrics, it sure sounds like we were singing an upbeat song about a busy prostitute.

The gimmick to our act was that we combined our two little selves to perform as one person. Here’s how it worked. I lay down on the floor so that I faced the ceiling. My sister, facing the same direction and wearing a voluminous skirt then knelt over my midsection so that my feet and lower part of my legs stuck out from under the skirt in front of her, while hers stayed hidden. From the front, it gave the impression of one, albeit somewhat unusually jointed, person. My sister then sang the song and did the hand movements while I kicked my legs around as the lower half of the body. Clever, no? IMG_20140621_184418

How though, did we get away with this?? On the homefront, our mother was uninvolved with this sort of thing and it was our older sisters who tended to get into the act(s) so to speak, so that explains some of it. But all the performances were seen in try-outs and rehearsals by older students running the show as well as by teachers. Was no one listening to the lyrics?? Did our genuine naiveté sell it?

Come the day of the show, there was one slight clue our act didn’t go over too “flamingly” and that was when we won no prize whatsoever. At the time I was genuinely puzzled over the shut-out. A subsequent year, when each of us performed wholesome individual acts, we tied for first place. Yes, well.