I must've been around 10 or so when I became obsessed with finding a picture of a naked woman. I even went so far as trying to copy bra and panty ads from the local Baton Rouge newspaper. I'd diligently trace the lines of the body and leave out the lines of the J.C. Penney underwear, hoping to create a perfect drawing of a naked woman. But I could never get it to look right.
Then, one day, my neighbor Lewis and I heard that some kid we knew from school had an older brother who had a subscription to Playboy.
"What's a subscription?"
"You know, they're mailed to his house every month."
And that's how we found out what the word "subscription" meant.
We, however, had bigger fish to fry that summer, and I guess we talked about this all morning and finally ended up saying something about it in front of my dad when he came home for lunch.
Daddy looked up from his sandwich. "What are y'all so interested in Playboy magazine for?" he asked.
Lewis looked at me, and I sort of stammered, "Well you know, we just, uh ... want to see one. That's all."
"Well, if it's such a big deal to y'all, I'll get one for you and you can look at it."
Our jaws hit the floor. "What?" we said in unison.
"Sure. I'll pick one up and bring it home with me at lunchtime tomorrow," he said.
Lewis and I were all, "Yeah. Sure. Um. Yeah. That would be great."
Then we waited—the longest 24 hours in our young lives. The next day, we sat there at the kitchen table looking out the window, while my mom shook her head at us from the kitchen. Finally, my dad's car pulled in the driveway. We both jumped up and ran out to meet him. He was holding a brown paper bag.
"Did you get it?" I asked.
"Yeah. Did you get it?" Lewis copied me.
"Yes," he said and laughed.
He walked into the house with us nipping at his heels like puppies waiting for a treat. My mom was at the counter making Daddy's sandwich with a slightly perturbed look on her face.
Daddy pulled the magazine out of the paper bag and lay it on the breakfast table. "Here it is," he proclaimed. "Go ahead, have a seat."
Lewis and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and sat down in front of the Playboy sitting on the table. Time started to slow down.
"Go ahead, take a look," my father said, matter-of-factly.
I opened the cover and started flipping the pages until—there she was, a naked woman. I hesitated and turned the page to another photo.
"Well, what do you think?" my dad asked.
Both of our faces grew red and I recall stammering something like, "It's nice. Yeah. No. It looks ... good."
After what seemed like an eternity, I finished looking at all the pages in the pictorial. I closed the magazine and stood up with it in my hand, Lewis following my lead.
"Thanks again, Daddy."
"Yeah, thanks, Dr. Mese."
We started walking towards the back of the house.
"Whoa, where are y'all going?" Dad asked.
"To my room."
"Just, you know. To hang out."
"OK," said my dad. "But give me the Playboy."
"Well, I said I'd bring one home so you could look at it. I never said you could have it."
We sheepishly handed it over and my dad promptly put it in the fireplace and lit it on fire.
"Now that you've seen it," he said, "we don't need it anymore, right?"
We just sat there and watched that thing turn into ashes with all of our hopes and dreams going up in smoke.
I never got to ask my dad why he did what he did. I remember him saying something at the time about teaching us that Playboy was no big deal, but whatever his intentions were, he helped solidify my desire to finally get a hold of one of my own that I could look at—in private.
You can't fight the allure of naked women, you just can't. Hugh Hefner knew this better than anyone. And I suspect so did my dad.