Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Electric Dreams.

I started developing at twelve. My best girlfriend at the time was six months older and still light as a feather, flat as a board, but she had a long, lean figure, clear olive skin and a gorgeous face, and I burned with envy every day as she scorched up the halls of 6th grade. I was the exact opposite: short, not flat, cursed with acne and glasses, and growing out a bad home Jheri curl that I had begged for (and miraculously gotten) in 1983 (thanks, Thriller's Ola Ray). My milkshake was not bringing the boys to the yard, which was fine in 1987; Hellraiser came out that year and I had better things to do. I didn't envy my friend because she was strikingly beautiful (well, perhaps I did a little), but rather, because she could still walk around and be twelve, while my boobs were practically busting (yep) me out of childhood and into a womanhood that I didn't need or want. By the end of the school year, she turned into a total tit (yep) and ditched the friendship for a better version of me: a short, curvy, pretty Latina Oreo with that Cybill Shepherd Moonlighting bob all the betches wanted.

I spent a lot of time in my bedroom watching VHS. Had it been possible to spend 1987 to 1990 in that bedroom, I would've. My parents were in their Thirtysomething period, and my younger sisters and I were forced to go to church twice a week: Sunday morning for service, and Thursday nights for youth group. A van would pick us up, and presumably, my parents used these times to create more kids for me to look after. Sweet.

The van was driven by a kindly old man, and his wife and two young grandsons were usually in tow. Also in the van were three young Mexican sisters, who I became friendly with, and who attended services as part of the church's charity outreach.  I didn't mind church too much, mostly because I had a screaming crush (of course it was unrequited, duh) with a boy called Josh, who looked a lot like Doug from the '90s cartoon. He was very cute, a smartass with kind blue eyes and a strong sense of purpose. The leader of our youth fellowship was the pastor's daughter, a squat, bossy girl with glasses and a standard-issue Mary Lou Retton haircut. I got on her good side very early on, and we became good twice-a-week friends. My favorite book in the Bible was the Book of Revelation, for obvious reasons. It remains the scariest thing I've ever read to this day.

I spent every weekend in the summer of 1987 in the Inland Empire, which was going through a Metal phase (just before Freestyle hit). This was a wonderful time for me. My cousin, another mulatta who had just moved there from Orange County, was right in the thick of it, wearing black and all the candy you see on a kid just playing with the Dark Side: spikes, gloves, dis, dat. Her look was more Metal Madonna than Jersey For Serious, but she was also developing, and it was in that hormonal intersection where we bonded. But, she had something else. She had cable.

Now, for all you Millennials out there, not everyone had cable in 1987. I sure as hell didn't. My cousin and I would stay up late and wear out the remote, and one night, we stumbled upon the most glorious thing ever.

Scrambled Playboy.

For the rest of the summer, my cousin and I took turns looking out for her parents while we worked the cable box like a Rubik's cube, trying to uncover the wonderful mysteries. The Playboy Channel was just fun back then, and whenever the stars aligned, we could get a great picture for up to 45 minutes at a time. I was fascinated by these beautiful women frolicking in the balmy sunshine, bodies baked golden by Bain Du Soleil and big frosted hair brought to you by Sun-In. They were nude and had the best '80s boobs, and they were deliriously happy about everything, and I wanted that feeling so hard. I think my cousin did, too, because we were freebasing boobs in no time. Electric Blue. Emmanuelle. Silly '80s entries such as Hamburger: The Motion Picture, and the like.

By the time that summer ended and I was entering junior high, I was a little more comfortable with what was happening to me, but I couldn't reconcile my very-adult education with the twice-a-week Bible scene, and I began to question everything (notably, the delicious irony of forcing me to go to church, wrapped around a creamy hypocrisy center). 

When I started high school in 1989, I stopped going to church altogether.

The 1990s rocked me in many ways. I graduated college, explored sexuality in every aspect, spent my paychecks on Depeche Mode concerts and craploads of movies, and got into all sorts of mayhem with my group of girlfriends. And my relationship with my parents, which is good now, began to rear its inevitable ugly head.

The church I went to as a kid relocated from place to place, popping up like a parochial whack-a-mole until it ultimately shut down. My local newspaper told a wider, sadder story. That gentle van driver? He murdered his wife and grandsons a few years after I stopped going, shooting them in their heads as they slept before killing himself. Josh became a youth pastor and died the way he lived; caring for others. In 1995, a man he took in and was counseling ordered him into a bedroom and shot him there, execution style. I took the news of his death pretty hard. Evie joined a gang and got pregnant, her story of redemption making headlines in a popular magazine. And last I heard of the three Mexican sisters, one of them had been beaten to death by a live-in boyfriend. Another had been shot. I hope neither is true.

Now before I close this on a downer, I want to go back to that scrambled Playboy. I think it saved me. I know, right? But look, those boobies introduced me to the Other. Another consideration. Option C. I can still love God and have lust, whether it comes in Carnal or Celluloid. Many of you don't believe; I do and we're all cool with each other, because our common denominator thrives on addition. And I was never good at dividing. Breast wishes.