Once, when I was about oh, 10 or so, I found a couple of copies of my Dad's Playboy in my parents' linen closet off their bathroom.
Of course, I looked through them. Shocked, but curious.
Certainly, I'd never look that glamorous, not like that lady on page 45, laying on that luxurious bearskin rug. (oh, give me a break, it was the 70's, weren't they all posed on bearskin rugs or red silk back then?) If I'd only known that glamorous was not the look she was going for...I might've dropped the magazine and run for my life.
Soon after that, the bratty little girl from across the street, came over to play.
Of course, I decided I needed to share my finding with her.
She is two years younger than I am, so really, I had no business showing her, but for whatever reason, couldn't help myself.
She looked, too, it's not like she threw them to the ground, covering her face in horror.
No, instead, she proceeded to chant, ever louder, about "I'm gonna te-eell, I'm gonna te---ell" as she ran out my front door towards her house.
Luckily for me, she had really long hair, and her Mom braided it all the time. I had something to grab. That's exactly what I did, too, I grabbed her by the braids and pulled her back up onto the sidewalk. I was horrified, mortified that she'd tell her Mom, who coincidentally, happened to be one of the most notorious gossips I've ever met.
I could just see it, gleefully spread all over town: what a bad influence I was; how cochina (dirty) of me to be looking at that trash; with no amount of good grades or good deeds ever being enough to clear the stain from my name.
Then there was the fear that my Mom would kick my ass.
I grabbed a quarter from my pocket, and pressed it into her palm: "I'll let you have this, if you swear not to tell ANYONE what I just showed you."
Greedy thing that she was, she took it, and I breathed a sigh of relief. (Not that I believed her for a second that she truly wouldn't tell, but for the minute or two that I shut her up.)
I decided I needed to tell my Mom what happened, just in case. I was afraid, for sure, but I figured better she hear it from me, then hear it from the gossipmonger across the street.
My Mom was surprisingly cool about it. She didn't go nuts, and I'd be willing to bet she had a chat about the magazines and their placement with my Dad after that.
Unfortunately for me, this is where my conscience kicked in. You see, I was raised Catholic. I went to catechism and attended Mass with my Nana fairly regularly. I had absorbed enough information to indoctrinate me properly in the school of guilt. While I may not have worn the uniform of the Catholic schoolgirl, I bore the marks on my psyche as thoroughly as though nuns had drilled them there themselves. As you may know, a little Catholic guilt goes a long, long way.
After this little incident, I became convinced that I was going to burn in Hell...for looking at naked ladies and sharing them with others.
I couldn't shake it, this nagging fear that I would be burning for all eternity at any given time. I was a wreck, I couldn't sleep, and I would pray in the bathtub for a divine sign that I was forgiven. So much so that I remember one bath, the bubbles were fading but all that remained was an "I" shaped island of froth; I patiently sat in the tub, pruning so badly I looked like a shar-pei, as I waited for the rest of the message "forgive you" to be spelled out in the foam. It never happened.
What did all this guilt serve? It made me a church-going maniac.
My Mom never suspected why I was so interested in church, why I called my Nana and made a date with her every weekend, why I was suddenly so devout. I think she thought I was going along because after Mass, my Nana always took me to Dairy Queen. My reward, my bribe for sitting still in the pews.
All I know is DQ certainly beat the pillow-shaped pastel dinner mints Nana kept in her purse. No matter how tightly she wrapped them, they always had an element of gritty Kleenex lint about them. Going through her purse was a pastime of ours as we sat through Mass....during the sermon, when the die-hard priests would go on, we'd take inventory. She always had Juicy Fruit (see where I get that from), the mints, Kleenex, lipstick, and a pen or two. I can still smell her powder as I think about it.
Eventually, I let the guilt from that little incident go.
Which was right around the time I found a new reason to go to church, in the form of my cuter classmates. Some of them served as altar boys, and some of them had mothers who dragged them along to Mass.
Let me just say there's nothing like the eye contact you can make when you go up to Communion with a well-scrubbed boy trying to look like he knows what he's doing. I made sure to say a little prayer of thanks for those ladies. Thank you, for bringing your dishy boy to Mass. Forgive me, Father, as I sit here and think sinful thoughts.
I figured we were even, Father and I, as my nose was out of joint that I wouldn't be allowed to be an altar boy. Nowadays, Ithink they allow it, but back then, well, I still remember the sigh my Mom let out when I grilled her about it. It just seemed so unfair, one of those "because you're a girl" explanations that made no sense. Why should only the boys get to know what's in those cool gold containers?
I still can remember where they all sat, and who you could expect to see there at which Mass. How sick is that?
Sick enough that I'm beginning to feel a bit of guilt right now.
Old habits die hard.
Burn, baby, burn.