Ah, yes. Here we are. A great time to be alive. My seventh summer of existence, 1966. Earlier that year, NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3 spacecraft. The patriotic purpose of the Lunar Orbiter 3 mission was to photograph the surface of the Moon in order to analyze landing sites for Apollo missions. The craft, roughly the shape of a modern-day coffee filter, measured radiation and micro-meteoroid impact. The mission lasted for a total of 264 days and it ended in October after taking 149 medium-resolution and 477 high-resolution photographs.
Meanwhile, back on earth’s surface, I was learning to swear, still comically bad at I. Florkingly so. But new insights into the ways of the world daily bloomed into existence like multi-colored mushrooms on the forest floor.
I had concluded that the X-Ray Specs advertised in comic books didn’t actually let you see through women’s clothing.
I had reached that conclusion the hard way. Story of my life.
That is, I had bought the X-ray specs, not really sure why I wanted them. I felt I should want to look under a woman’s clothes although, really, I wasn’t too sure what the appeal was. My desire for the glasses, like my heterosexuality, was nascent, not fully formed, still a tadpole, legless and unable to escape prey.
The ad showed this guy wearing the X-ray specs. A yellow beam shot out from the specs and sliced through a woman in a flouncy dress. Her body underneath the dress appeared as a silhouette. But you could tell—the specs let you actually see a woman’s naked skin. The reason they made her body a silhouette was that they couldn’t show a naked lady in the ad. Against the law.
That’s what made the X-ray specs so cool. So illicit
The woman in the ad looked down in alarm at the X-ray beam slicing through her figure and exposing her googly parts. In the ad, the guy wearing the X-ray specs lurched his neck toward the woman in the flouncy dress, as if he were being held back by a choke chain. Fittingly, he drooled like a dog sticking its head out the car window, his tongue lolling in his mouth. Two comically large drops of slobber shot out from his open maw.
Well, I didn’t feel that way about naked ladies.
But I assumed I eventually would. I was going to be a man, after all, I assumed, having no idea what homosexuality was—part of a vast panoply of sexual options, it turns out. Back then, as far as we kids knew, there were just men and women, coupling up instinctively or out of patriotic duty.
Anyway, the guy in the ad was wearing a necktie, showing that he was an adult and that I could get started at becoming an adult by forking over the $5 for the specs. In fact, this ad was a munificent invitation to manhood. Buy these specs and soon you would soon start shaving hair that you didn’t want and growing hair in places you didn’t know hair grew. And smelling bad. Voting, too.
When the specs arrived—finally!—I tore open the box. Goodbye, childhood!
Here they were! Manhood! Razorburn! And, oh yeah, naked ladies! I almost immediately put them on, then I thought, no—who are you going to look at? Mom and Laura? One or both of them could walk in the room at any moment. I shouldn’t want to see that! I’d probably go blind or something.
So I turned them over and gave them a good look. The frames were just cheap black plastic. Even a stupid kid like me—and we were famous for our credulity—even we could see that. The lenses, the part that actually enabled the magic-science of the specs, were mostly opaque—white with a series of concentric red circles forming what any kid would recognize as the universal Saturday-morning cartoon symbol for hypnotism.
On the backside of the lenses was printed Hold Your Hand Towards The Light. Spread Fingers and See Bones. A small red hole sat dead center of each lens. I quickly looked around to see if Mom or Laura were in the vicinity and held the glasses about a foot from my face to see what I could see through these two holes.
I decided I needed to try these babies out as soon as possible, and I knew just where to do it. The community pool. Wall-to-wall humans, mostly naked anyway so, you know, nothing that’s going to strain the glasses’. . . circuits. Need to break them in, as it were, walk before I run.
Pool first. Then school.
“I’m going to the pool, Mom!” I called out to the kitchen.
“You just went this morning!” she replied.
“Yeah,” I said, “well, I want to work on my . . . back stroke.” I winced. I never worked on anything, ever, the lone exception being how I’d trace superheroes in my comics books. Even today, I’m always in meetings doodling in my margins and I worry people will think I’m gay. To wit:
But she didn’t respond so I went to my room and put on my swim trunks. I hooked the glasses into the waistband. I threw a towel over my shoulders and coasted the long downhill ride to the pool on my Stingray.
As my tires popped and clicked over the gravel in the pool’s parking lot, I could hear the rising hubbub of the swimmers, punctuated every few seconds by some kid’s shriek of glee or a lifeguard’s whistle. The volume rose as I pulled up to the bike rack and I could look down at the pool. A sea of nearly-naked people, a good portion of them female and a fair number of those boob-equipped. I patted the X-Ray glasses sticking in my waistband.
“He we go!” I said to the X-ray specs that were about to usher me into manhood.
When I was pool level, I threw my towel by the chain link fence and pulled the glasses from my trunks. I scanned my surroundings for my . . . victims. Subjects. Test cases. All in the interest of science.
There. That group of mothers in sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. As the mothers laughed, their boobs shifted like people making room in an elevator. Perfect. They were so engrossed in their chatter they wouldn’t notice me walking by slowly giving them a long look.
So I did . . .
And . . . nothing.
All you saw was a tiny red dot, through which you couldn’t see the bones in your hands if you held them to the light, and the writing on the backside of the lenses about holding your hands up to the light. And no naked ladies.
If anything, these glasses made one less able to appreciate the female form. I could see a priest ordering a pair of these. “Give me something that makes it absolutely impossible to get a boner.” Priests probably don’t say boner. Erection. Bonerus Erectus. Amen. I took off the glasses off and gave them a good look.
I’d been had.
Childhood is for idiots. The specs were just a gimmick, something meant to fool the young—in fact, a practical joke played on children. The sooner I left childhood behind, the better. Pretty soon, I’d want to see women naked. I was sure of it. All part of God’s great plan. No need to rush things through magic-science.
I threw the specs in the trash on my way to the boys’ locker room/showers that smelled like crotches and bleach to get rid of the crotch smell and echoed like an aluminum-sided sacristy.
I got back on my Stingray and rode back home, uphill. I couldn’t make it up the hills straight-away. I’d have to go back and forth across the width of the street, going just a few pedal strokes up on the ends. If an older boy—a proto-grown-up—would come along, he’d certainly throw out some remark.
“Go straight up the hill like a man, Draper,” or something like that.
“Oof!“ I’d grunt to myself as I pedaled up at the side of the street. “I’m getting there.”
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