Posted on October 18, 2018
by Steve Janowick

Let me set the scene.

It’s a muggy, August afternoon in 1980.  Me and a small group of other 12-year old neighborhood punks are killing time roaming through the woods.  The air is heavy and wet, and we use our shirts to wipe our sweaty faces as we navigate the overgrown path.  As usual, the combination of boredom and curiosity has brought us here. Mike, while doing his best Bon Scott, slashes the brush with his stick.  Dennis scans for old cigarette butts he can maybe salvage a last toke from and Kenny (the alpha) leads the way. I kind of just blend in, like I always do, being the observer.  It’s a scene that’s probably played out in thousands of neighborhoods in the 80’s.

Something colorful protruding from a sticker bush catches Mike’s eye.  We all gather round as he pokes at it with the stick and frees it. Looks like a pamphlet or magazine of some sort rolled and bound by a single, thick rubber band.  We form a tight circle as Kenny assertively grabs the object from Mike’s clutches. None of us show it, but there’s a palpable excitement. A quality find in the woods is way up there in the hierarchy of exciting events for a bunch of poor 12-year olds.  

Even before Kenny can get the rubber band completely off, we all know this is potentially life-changing.  The word “tits” becomes visible and I can distinctly remember my heart skipping a beat before it started racing with anticipation.  He unrolls it to reveal the most insanely, incredible sight I’d ever seen. There, in full, two-dimensional glory, on the cover of that tattered magazine, is a naked lady!

“Holy shit!” we all shockingly mutter in unison.  Kenny quickly leads us to the pit-a secret hideout down in the gully.  We tightly huddle as each page is carefully turned. Our jokes and nervous laughter slowly give way to a collective, silent reverence.  All these naked bodies! My appreciation for the beautiful, female form was forever ingrained in me starting that day and, for the next year, we found ourselves spending a lot more time in the woods with our new find.  

But then, as 12 turned to 13, I started to feel that just looking at the pictures wasn’t enough.  I literally can remember having this insanely pent-up feeling. A physically, and emotionally, pent-up feeling.  I didn’t talk about it with the boys. I figured I was just a weirdo and that the feelings would pass. But they didn’t.  They got worse. Until one day, Dennis jokingly asked the group if he could take the magazine home and “beat off”. Everyone started laughing hysterically, except me.  Huh? I thought. What the hell does he mean by “beat off”? He could see by my puzzled expression that I was confused- and embarrassed because of it.

He curiously asked, “you’ve never?”  All the while his right hand was moving back and forth in a stroking motion around his crotch.  “Of course, I have!” I sheepishly resounded. But they weren’t buying it. They knew I was the most naïve one in the gang.  After a moment of contemplation, Dennis threw the magazine at me, “go to your house and give it a try.”

So…I did just that.  And the rest, they say, is history.

Every single man in the entire world, since the beginning of time, has a story like that-whether they want to admit it or not.  There is a part of me that is a bit saddened for my sons and all the kids growing up in this technological age.  The accessibility and absolute ease in which they discover their first “naked ladies” diminishes from the specialness and singularity of the moment.  Variety and choice, although generally positive, can desensitize and lessen even the greatest of things if there’s too much of it. And God knows there’s too much of everything today.

I still talk with my old pals.  I recently asked them if they remembered that one August day in the woods?  The day we discovered “the find” of all finds. The day we all stopped being little kids and started down our path toward being men.

And each just smiled longingly…

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