Originally published October 2011. This is the longer version that appeared in the second issue of my Blogazine. Why not buy a copy?
It’s not easy being a teenage boy, especially when the hormones kick in and you start to realize that girls aren’t, in fact, icky, but lovely creatures you want to get to know better. But at the same time you’re dealing with a dropping voice, skin problems, and hair growing in places you never had it before, all of which renders you a tongue-tied, sweaty-palmed wreck when you do try to talk to some actual girls. It’s like God has played some cruel joke on you: turning you into a raging, hormonal volcano at the same time you are least capable of satisfying the urges it produces.
For a while, furtive moments alone (if you know what I mean) with Page Three of The Sun, the bikini-clad starlets in Titbits, or the lingerie section of the Littlewood’s catalogue will ease your lusty fever, but there comes a time when you have to make the leap of buying an actual dirty magazine.
Buying your first girlie mag is a rite of passage for a young man only slightly less stressful and potentially humiliating than getting your hands on a real naked woman for the first time, but I eventually made the big move when I bought the December 1978 issue of Playboy (above). I was 16 at the time which meant buying it was not only nerve-wracking but also illegal, and I can still remember the superhuman effort it took to work up the courage to go in the shop (first making sure there were no other customers), quickly grab it from the top shelf and take it to the counter. “This please” I said, placing the magazine in front of the shopkeeper, trying to act as nonchalantly and cooly grown-up as I could while inside my heart was pounding like a hammer, thinking that any second now he’s going to ask me how old I am, or some woman is going to come into the shop and see what I was buying. I swear I wouldn’t have been surprised if an alarm went off, a steel cage dropped down on me, and armed police stormed in to drag me out to the street for a public shaming.
Though Playboy was relatively tame and almost respectable compared to some other magazines it shared top shelf space with, that didn’t make me feel any less of a dirty little pervert (albeit a very excited one — I did it! I bought one!) so when I got home I hid it in my bedroom cupboard under my comics. My mother had once told me she’d be more worried about me if I didn’t have any girlie magazines, but I certainly didn’t want her to know I had it. All the therapy in the world wouldn’t have cured me of that particular mortification.
While I vividly remember buying it I’m not sure now what made me want that particular issue so much. You’d think all that heart-pounding stress would have been for a woman I seriously fancied but Farrah Fawcett was my least favourite of Charlie’s Angels and I certainly didn’t care about NFL cheerleaders, only having the vaguest idea what those even were in the first place. Maybe it was the Gunter Grass short story. Yes, that must be it, I was buying it for the articles.
Oddly enough, I’ve never had any problem buying condoms. Never felt in the slightest bit nervous going into Boot’s, picking up a box of Durex and handing over my money to even the most stern-headmistress type woman at the counter. Maybe it was because one purchase proudly declares “YES! I AM A VIRILE AND DESIRABLE MAN WHO PLANS TO HAVE SEX VERY SOON!” while the other is a sad admission you have no chance of getting any for the foreseeable future — which was pretty much the story of my life when I was 16.
Download: Boys Will Be Boys – The Undertones (mp3)