The Kids Are All Right

I’m walking Buster though my neighborhood when I spot a young boy sitting in the middle of the sidewalk staring at something very intently. Since his back is to me I can’t see what he’s looking at. My interest piqued, Buster and I creep up on him and look over his shoulder. Ah ha. Now I understand why the young boy’s attention is riveted. He’s looking at a nudie magazine.

“Hey there,” I say.

The boy looks up at me. He’s not afraid, but he’s doesn’t look comfortable either.

“I found it here,” the boy says. He looks about nine years old.

“No problem,” I say, believing the kid. The magazine is battered, torn, and looks like it’s been stepped on. Judging from the empty trash cans tossed carelessly against the curb, it must have fallen out of the trash when the garbageman made his rounds this morning. From the sidewalk the nude airbrushed picture of a blonde woman sporting a come-hither smile and large breasts stares up at me. Judging from the picture quality it looks like a Playboy. I groan inwardly. It’s to early in the morning for pictures of naked women. I haven’t had my morning coffee yet.

I think about taking the magazine away and redepositing into the trash can but hold off. In this litigious, hysterical and fearful age running into a child looking at softcore porn on a public street is an encounter fraught with peril. Secondly, it’s only Playboy. If it was a hardcore publication like Swank, Cheri, or Oui I’d yank it out of the kid’s hand immediately. Children shouldn’t see that kind of stuff. But Playboy? Hmmm. But the boy’s too young for that too. I am in a moral quandary.

“So whaddya think?” I ask.

The boy grins lopsidedly. I can tell he’s excited by the picture but doesn’t know why. Ah, the innocence of youth.

“It’s okay,” the boy says.

We both look at the picture for a moment. Buster shows his interest by sniffing the magazine. After a moment I clear my throat and say, “Why don’t you go home kid?”

“Okay,” the boy says, getting up. After he toddles out of sight I pick up the magazine. I was right. It’s a Playboy. I turn a trash can upright and toss the magazine inside. My good deed for the day.

After Buster does his business we walk back inside my house and I put a pot of coffee on. As I wait for it to brew I think about that small boy getting a glimpse of a grown-up world. When I was nine years I didn’t yet know pornography existed, much less seen any. I grew up in a sheltered Catholic household. My father never had girlie magazines lying around and being naked was something you did in the bathtub. My pre-pubescent life revolved around playing pickup baseball games and girls were gross creatures who demonstrated a fondness for teasing me and pulling my hair. One girl, a towering, skinny lass named Kimberly, took a special interest in me and loved to bop me on the top of my head with her lunch box. One time she drew blood. She probably had a crush on me.

Of course the kids a couple of grades ahead of me always talked about sex. One of the older boys had the misfortune to be named B.J. Wahlmann. I swear to God that was his name. As a result the kids in school called him “blow job.” And let me tell ya, it drove him crazy. Not knowing what the word meant I went to the library and looked it up. “Blow job,” the dictionary read. “Slang term for fellatio.” Being industrious I flipped over to the F’s and read the definition. “How gross,” I thought. “Why would anyone do such a thing?” Throughly appalled I returned to the children’s section.

When I was in the eight grade, however, my hormones started raging, girls stopped being gross creatures and that fellatio thing started sounding pretty good. I was getting hard-ons for no reason and found myself staring at the newly budding breasts of my female classmates. A nun caught me gawking once and slapped me upside my head. I was humiliated. Catholic guilt took hold.

By the time I was a freshman in high school I still hadn’t seen what a naked woman looked like. You couldn’t score a nudie magazine in my town because all the store clerks knew exactly how old we were. Up to that point I satisfied my carnal curiosity by gazing at the lingerie section of the Sears Catalog. But there was a guy in my algebra class named Robert who said he’d get me a girlie magazine if I gave him ten bucks. The markup was extreme but I was too chickenshit to buy one myself. So on a cool October day in 1982 I gave him ten bucks I earned from my paper route.

“Get me a Playboy,” I said, surreptitiously slipping him the cash like we were doing a drug deal.

“You’ll have it tomorrow,” my porn connection said.

The next afternoon, as promised, Robert produced a magazine sheathed in a paper wrapper. I stuck the contraband in my book bag and got on the bus to go home. That’s when the fun began.

Ten minutes into my journey the big football player who held court in the back seat came up front and sat next to me.

“So what did Robert give you back there?” he asked.

“None of your business,” I replied.

“You bought a dirty magazine from him didn’t you?”

“Leave me alone.”

“Lemme see it.”

“No.”

The big junior grabbed my book bag out of my hands and rummaged inside. Finding the magazine he
tore off the wrapper and flipped it open. Robert didn’t get me a Playboy. He got me some hardcore magazine with glossy pictures of people doing all sorts of weird stuff in improbable positions. It was the first time I had ever seen sexual activity depicted. I was uneasy. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. Looking back on it that was probably a healthy response. But considering what came next I wasn’t thinking that at the time.

“Doobie’s got porn!” the football player yelled, using my unfortunate high school nickname. He threw my magazine back to his jock buddies and they descended on it like a school of sharks ripping apart a baby seal. Then the ribbing came.

“Doobie you pervert!”

“Sicko.”

“Hey, is this your sister? Can I have her number?”

Of course moral outrage didn’t stop the older boys from carefully examining the sexual antics displayed in the magazine’s pages. Humiliated, I rode out the storm of catcalls until the older boys’ short attention spans fixated on something else. By the time I got home my magazine was in tatters and all I was left with was a torn page depicting a woman’s ankle. What a waste of ten bucks. Later I would learn Robert set the whole thing up. I wasn’t surprised. I was a small kid back then and people teased me. But I got older, wiser and after a few fist fights behind the gym the older boys stopped hassling me. Eventually I manned up and bought my own Playboy – which my mother promptly found and tossed out.

My coffee maker stops brewing and I pour myself a cup. I’m a forty-one year old man, the same age my father was when I had my porn mishap. That incident on the bus was twenty-seven years ago. It wasn’t funny then, but it is now. As I sip my coffee I think about that small boy I met on the street. When I was a kid trying to find a picture of a naked woman it was an ordeal fraught with danger. You had to run a gauntlet. It was an adventure. Now it’s as simple as turning on a computer. Too easy. Too much. Too fast. Many people claim that all the graphic imagery and information floating around the internet will warp young minds and stunt the maturity of our children. Maybe. Maybe not.

Older generations always bemoan the morals of those who come after them. People thought my generation would turn out to be a cohort of criminals, deviants and slackers. That happened to some of us sure, but most people my age are well into careers, raising families and just as confused about life as their parents before them. And when it comes to sex no single generation can claim the moral high ground. Whether it was repressive Victorians who put saltpeter in schoolboys’ cornflakes to corral their lusty desires to the children of the Sixties who let it all hang out just a little too much, they all had their own set of quirks, deviancies, and problems. They all survived it. The kids of today will inherit their own particular set of problems, especially regarding sex. But they’ll develop their own coping skills and muddle though. They’ll discover what anyone with their head on straight discovers – that sex is about vulnerability and love.

As I sip my coffee I watch as a group of youngsters walk below my kitchen window. They’re excitedly whispering to one another. Probably about a video game, television show or the upcoming school year. Their faces are unlined by the problems and challenges that lay before them. The complexities of human sexuality are a long way off. That’s the way it should be. I smile to myself.

The kids are all right.


Comments

The Kids Are All Right — 67 Comments

  1. Great story, a lot of the guys here can relate to that, we’ve all been there in some way. You were right to get that playboy away from that kid. Playboy is the lesser of all nudie mags, but he was still too young to view it. Now you gave that kid a story to tell when he grows up.

  2. okay…normally i hate the “you said this wrong” nazis BUT…”has a crush on me.” should be “HAD a crush on me.”….ahem…back to your regularly scheduled posts!! awesome post!

  3. Hahaha I remember finding a box full of soft core mags near the side of the road once, my fellow 11 year old mates and I thought christmas had come again. We shared them amongst ourselves and then headed home to find places to hide them from our parents. I recall that none of us had any left within a week, Parents just know where to look lol

  4. Great post- I’m almost 24, have no kids, and still worry about this stuff. I grew up in the last 90s and early 2000s though, and had the internet at a young age, and I think I turned out ok.

  5. My parents conveniently left a copy of “Where Did I Come From?” in the bathroom for my sisters and I to peruse. It had graphic cartoons of fat naked people that explained everything, saving my parents the whole birds & bees deal. I knew about sex before I could read, but I didn’t know I had a uterus until I was twelve. I plan to educate my children by the same wise means someday.

  6. OMG I got “Where Did I Come From” too! I actually think that is an excellent way to explain those things in an age-appropriate way.

  7. Thanks for writing this, Steve. As someone who has grown up with easy access to porn via the internet, I think I may have a ‘warped’ view of sex – at least, i may find it more difficult to truly value intimacy. But your story helps put it all in perspective, and I appreciate that. Next time I’m in the wrong mood, I’m going to come and reread this post. Thanks.

  8. MelC nazi,

    do you know Kimberly? maybe she still does have a crush on Steve, maybe she is Brown Eyes… get off your grammatical nazi train, steve has editors for those measly errors.

  9. Uh…AutoWaitron..did you READ my post? just for your edification (look it up) i said i DIDNT like the grammar nazi’s and i try very hard to enjoy the spirit of Waiter’s writing without quibble. HOWEVER, i found that paticular grammatical error made it hard for me and since this is a blog, i assume HE’s the “editor”. bleh, from now on i’ll just read and not post comments if this is the response i get.

  10. I just finished Waiter Rant, and loved it. I waitressed my way thru university 20 years ago, and I could still completely relate to many of the Waiter’s stories. 20 years later, I am still best friends with the bartender from that restaurant. We have both gone on to lots of different jobs and adventures since then, but part of our friendship is the bonding that took place in the restaurant biz. Good luck with the new book!

  11. When my son was 12, my husband caught him looking at his very old Playboy collection. Brad was so horrified that I would be “disappointed” in him, that he and a friend “borrowed” my husband’s truck and drove to another town about 50 miles away. They were never stopped. No one thought it odd that a couple of 12 year olds were driving on an old highway. They had packed peanut butter, spaghettios (no can opener) and their sleeping bags. We looked for them everywhere we could think of! They drove home the next morning very embarrassed and hungry. I don’t think he ever looked at the Playboys again, although I will never know for sure. And yes, now that he’s 24, we laugh about it.

  12. How timely. Last weekend, I found a Playboy (Paris Hilton, no less) under my 14 year old son’s bed. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even that mad about it, I felt more like it was another milestone in his life. I still took it away though :o )

  13. “When I was nine years I not yet seen pornography, much less knew it existed.”

    A small thing, but a pet peeve with me. You’ve got your items in this list the wrong way round. The ‘much less…’ part is meant to be the less likely thing (hint: “much less”). So is it likely that you’d have seen porn but not know it existed? No, but you could know it existed but not have seen it. So your sentence should read along the lines: When I was nine years I didn’t yet know pornography existed, much less seen any.”

    You might think this is petty but it’s not like I’m picking on typos or general grammar. You’re a published writer, if you’re going to use phrases like this you should get them right.

  14. It’s so cliched to refer to people pointing out typos and semantic mistakes as grammar nazis. Especially by people who run through blogs first, and later get irritated for not noticing them themselves.

    At least at ‘literary’ blogs like Waiter’s where we do not expect half-baked posts (this was definitely one in terms of editing), such efforts should be appreciated, much less ridiculed. Or is it the other way round? :P

  15. as someone who was recently one of those kids (18 now) and thus has extremely liberal morals on how these issues should be handled, well said. very well said.

  16. okay…i admit that i’m not terribly old ( at *gasp* 30) but i’m pretty sure that a burned out retired teacher would NOT have a clear vision of “todays youth”. Every generation has had the assumption that the younger amoung them were “degnerate, promiscuous and yes, foul mouthed.” oh, and my parents had the timeless tome “Joy of Sex” in the house and yes, i looked at the pictures and yes, they excited me in a weird way but guess what? i married the first man i was with. Guess we arent all degenerates after all.

  17. As an older teen myself (18), I occaisonally fear for my generation when I come across those teens that MelC describes. Some of us are rude, loud and have no respect for older generations.

    However, you can’t tar a whole generation with a single brush. I like to think that I myself am somewhat mature, responsible and respectful, as are the majority of people my age that I know.

    I grew up in a liberal household, and my academic parents kept numerous anatomy, biology and ‘where did I come from?’ style books which I was encouraged to read. I think this strategy worked quite well, and I never felt the need to look at anything non-medical until puberty hit.

    I think the main differences are religious perspectives, the generational gap and possibly a difference between countries (I grew up in Australia but now live in England).

    Kal – how on earth did your son learn how to drive at 12? I, like everbody else I know, learnt at 16.

  18. Lauren, learning to drive by the age of twelve is not uncommon for rural Americans. You just can’t legally drive until you are 16 (in some areas, like Wyoming, you can even get your learning permit as young as 14).

  19. It makes me feel old to think 18 is young and I’m only 22, almost 23. It impresses me when I hear or read comments or whatever, maturely written or said from someone in their teens. It makes me feel more hopeful about this generation.

    My friends and I are now all terrified of having kids because they eventually become teenagers and teenagers are a scary thing to raise. Well, I guess it’s scary to even think about raising kids because you want them to turn out right so badly. I can’t believe we actually talk about this because in hindsight we were all teenagers not too long ago.

    In any case, I liked the post. Keep on writing Dublanica.

  20. The differences in male and female adolescence blows my mind at times. Every man I know can remember his first nudie magazine, while they vaguely made an impression on me to this day (although I HAVE actually read Playboy for the articles!). Yet, this was still a completely entertaining and relatable post. Thanks Waiter! :)

  21. I recall as a child finally gaining access to the ‘locked’ cupboard in my parents bedroom, who know unscrewing the door nob to slip off the chains would lead to so much joy

    How my brothers and I shivered in delight as we flicked through the magazines only to discover the box of videos at the bottom…

    All I am saying is Nuns, Hitchikers and vegetable trucks mentioned in a a sentence still make me and my brothers look VERY guilty

  22. I’ve been laughing so hard at the previous comments that I almost forgot how funny the post was! It’s as if we’re all one big dysfunctional family here (having dinner at Waiter’s house and feeding Buster under the table.)

    Please, someone tell me if I put the quotes in the right place…..

  23. Nicely written, if odd piece and interesting comments.

    It is odd (to me) how anyone could consider the change in US sexual mores during the past generation are no different than the previous ones. We have surprisingly different impressions of the impact of having pornography widely available in America has had in the past thirty years.

    I mean, it’s not like our culture has seen any widespread increases in sexually transimitted idsease, promiscuity, marital infidelity, divorce, abortion, sexual assault, and objectifying of women or anything.

    It’s been just the same as every other generation, has it?

  24. Lauren: We live in a very small rural town in Southern Utah. But, my son had had no real driving experience, other than helping Dad tow a car or two. The clutch on the truck was ruined when he came home, so they didn’t have the shifting thing down too well!!

  25. I dont think that one’s first nudie magazine is limited to boys. The eldest of 4 girls, I use to steal my fathers Playboy from the mailbox, slip it from its brown sleeve to read “the articles” ;>}….only to return it to the mailbox the next day. I dont know if my father ever knew…but years later I had the uncomfortable moment when on a visit he spotted my erotica book collection and asked to borrow a few books. Now that I think about it I don’t remember if he ever returned them!

  26. I was one of those girls who found Dad’s Playboy collection too. I got in soo much trouble when I took one to school!

    We also had the “Where do I come from” book. I don’t know if that was pre or post schoolbus Playboy incident. But one of the illustrations in it (magnifying glass over sperm/egg conception) scarred me for life. I still cannot eat scrambled eggs!

  27. I remember my first playboy…I found it in the bathroom of a toilet seat store (ironic?). I was a little young but it was still awesome! I just started a similar sight that I think you will be interested in. It is called http://www.stuckserving.com, it posts short and funny server related posts. Please check it out and you have a great site. WordPress is great!

  28. Very nice post. The one thing I don’t understand is how it could ever me too early in the morning to look at attractive naked women. It’s *never* too early for such a sight.

  29. gdj,

    Of course I don’t live in a bubble. The difference between you and I is how we CHOOSE to see things, and how we allow them to affect us.

    Get laid, or something ffs.

  30. “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

    …possibly attributed to Socrates by Plato

  31. Kids should talk about sex, read about sex, let them even ask you questions about sex….just make sure you ALWAYS mention that it should be SAFE SEX- and the safest of course is masturbation, so BRING ON THE PORN!!!

    and btw, it’s not called a JOB for nothing guys!

  32. We have always made our 2 daughters aware that when they feel ready for a sexual relationship that they come to us for advice and help. Once they are ready we will help them to make an appointment at the health centre for further advice on contraception / implants to prevent pregnancy as we do stress that they have a life to live before children come on the scene.

    Both lasses are 18 & 20 years respectively. The youngest has been in a full time relationship for well over a year , the oldest for 6 months and apart from petting nothing has happened to date which is a relief and something out of the ordinary for this part of Scotland where teenage pregnancy is rife. Further relief they have not given in to peer pressure these days either as a number of thier friends have ended up with a kiddy in their late teens when they should be enjoying their time out.

    So agree to some extent with meangirl above regards being upfront with advice.

  33. Hi!

    Long time since I’ve visited your blog! Glad I did! :) This was such an excellent post and it certainly brought me back to a time I once remembered “innocence” as a child. Yet, in my case, being that I was more attracted to women, it was a different story. I do remember my girlfriends at a slumber party when we were 13 years old. They had a Playgirl magazine and were all tackling it piranas. When they brought out “Hustler”—every girl in the room went, “Ewwwww”, while I sat there and said, “Wow, they make girls like that?” I secretly scanned through it, while it was on the floor the next morning.

    You’re absolutely right though–today it’s too easily accessible. They have the most extreme of all types of sexual activity out there that I’m afraid some people, and young adults growing up will become immune to real sex – the type of sex that involves “love” – or at least, being cared about. When people are exposed to TOO much, I think it brings sex to a different level; just as too much alcohol will make your tolerance low, same with sex.

    I really enjoyed this article.

    Hope you’re doing well these days! Thanks for sharing!

    Deb

  34. Great post! I’m 56 years old, so nudie stuff was not easy to come by when I was a kid. The first I remember was a b&w playing card deck in junior high that someone brought to school. I started reading Playboy in high school, and Penthouse started publishing around then, with pubic hair revealed in photos.
    Now, anyone can find anything anytime. Where’s the mystery?

    I was in Brooklyn over the weekend visiting friends, and read Waiter Rant, with INSTANT NY Times best-seller on the cover.
    Good for you! Good writing, made me think, and fun to read.

    David in Chicago

  35. Mr. Dublanica,
    I just had to say that your book was dropped off from Amazon yesterday morning, and I have torn through it and finished it by this evening. What a treasure trove of insights and and mental photographs taken from your experience. I am currently in the “waitress trying to be something else” category and much of what you said resonated deeply with me. I am so pleased you have experienced dreams come true through your writing, and that you’ve been able to validate the feelings of so many of us toiling in this industry with your tales of woe and wisdom. Thank you for this contribution, and for giving the rest of us a voice.

    All the best in your future writing.

  36. I think everyone is waaaay to hung up on sex and what it might do to their children.

    But Steve, this was another really well-written post!

  37. Tonight, feeling especially detached and irritable, I decided to google the phrase “a rant on human sexuality”. I was hoping to find something refreshing and intelligent. After reading over a bunch of presumptuous bull shit I came across this post. thanks for making my night.

  38. Wondering where you are, Steve – I’m a natural worry-wort, so when several weeks go by without a post from my favorite waiter, I begin to think something happened. One of the other commenters mentioned she got a bounce-back from your e-mail addy, so of course, that fueled my worry even further.

    Can totally appreciate that life gets in the way, but perhaps a “I’m still alive” post when you have nothing every once in a while so that your other fans that are also prone to worrying will know all is OK would be nice.

    BTW, how’s the second book coming along? Any idea of approximately when it’ll be published?

  39. Always enjoy your writing. After reading you blog for awhile, I finally got a chance to read your book, and I loved it. I’m planning on giving it to my server friend as a reminder that she’s more than just her day job. Loved how each chapter was like it’s own post, yet worked to create a fluid narrative. Can’t wait til you finish your next book! Keep writing! ~R

  40. My new house ate my book. I was more then half way thru it and now I dont know what to do.? Should I buy a new one, or just wait till the old one shows up? Please tell me what to do seeing as how I was really enjoying it…

    Thank you for your time

    Danielle Young
    *(danngirl720@aol.com)*

  41. Steve,
    I just finished reading you’re book, Waiter Rant. I loved it. I have been waiting tables for 30 year’s, so I can truely relate to everything you wrote. Bravo! I have alway’s thought, I can write a book about this nonsense. Some day I will figure out what I will do when I grow up. All in all, I still actually like doing what I do. I also would like to get out of the buisness and ask God for his guidance everyday!Fortunately, I have done pretty well, but I,m about ready for a change.I can just go on and on about this, but today is such a beautiful day, I need to take my daily walk. I look forward to read you’re work on you’re new ventures. If you already have another book out there, I will find it. You should let you’re readers know if you do. Thank You for all you’re insights, and I have been recommending you’re book to all of my fellow waiter’s and waitress’s. Again, I loved you’re book! Thank You, Sincerely Tom Frankson

  42. Loved the book, thank you; well written

    sharing

    Years ago, as a college student,I waited tables in Waikiki, where I lived. This was the beginning of the Japanese tourists “discovering” Hawaii as a fab place to visit.
    One night, I waited on a table of three Japanese “gentlemen”, and I was doing okay with the language. I was raised in a multi-lingual home. But then one of the guys tried to order something I had no idea what, and I had no idea what he was trying to say. “Miku, miku” he kept saying with his very thick Japanese accent. Finally, we were staring at each other, eye to eye, and he reached out, squeezed one of my 34-A’s, and loudly pronounced, “Chi-chi, chi-chi”. I jumped and finally got it, he wanted a glass of milk. I was really embarrassed, but the table seemed unfazed, ate their dinners, smiled and waved me goodbye, and left a tip bigger than their dinner costed. Pays to lift those heavy trays.

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