Missing Miss April

The year nineteen-seventy marked one of my worst (see “My Scariest Teacher”), but one of the few bright spots was when a Playboy truck tipped over on the North Side of Chicago, spilling thousands of Miss Aprils onto the streets (it might have been Miss March, but let’s not let a month get in the way of an erotic and evocative story).

I cannot honestly say that I got one of those centerfolds (oh how I always wished that we lived closer to the city), but when you’re ten and it’s 1970, just the idea of Miss April flying all over the streets of Chicago in her birthday suit is a highly charged image.

After years of reading much in the way of archetypal symbolism from alchemy to Zarathustra, I am struck by how my own memory of an incident of Teamster premature dissemination also serves as apt symbol of the return of Persephone from the underworld.  I know that the equinox is the official return of Miss Spring, but after atypically ample rains this year, the wildflowers in California are just now dancing in a Dionysian riot (along with their raggy-weedy sisters’ allergy assault).  And so I think of multiple Miss Aprils once and eternally swirling about the City of Big Shoulders, presaging the Animas in their summer dresses, and I think about how lonely I was then in 1970.

I spent most of fifth grade having a crush on a girl whose dad owned a watch repair.  I was too shy to talk to her, so I kept buying broken watches at garage sales and giving them to her to give to her dad for repair.  Sometimes I would call (I had the number because I had needed to ask for it to check on my watches) but then I could only hear my crush’s voice and hang up, paralyzed with shyness.

I shared a room with my brother growing up and we had a black light poster of a hand with “I want to hold your hand” written below it.  We also had a black light, and so we would turn off the regular lights and look at our poster, and at our socks.  Around this time we also got a Salvador Dali print of a man emerging from an egg.  It was very sophisticated and we also had a Dali of the melting watches, which only reminded me of my alienated despair in the context of ten-year-old yearning for the daughter of a watch repair artisan.

As part of coping with long summers at summer camp, I had mysteriously stopped hugging my parents at this point, but yet I dreamed of a hug from someone I didn’t resent.  While I did not dream of hugging Miss April, I yearned to see Miss April only because I knew I wasn’t supposed to see her, and because nothing that I could see managed to comfort me or cheer me up.

And while I may have been eager to see naked ladies, I also always truly liked girls and women—a paradox of deeply shy emerging sexuality and at the same time a strongly held affinity to the feminine—and an ardent natural sympathy with 70’s women’s lib.  I think I disappointed my father in being a feminist (the only one in our family, including my mother); a year or two later, when we went to some swinging restaurant where the waitresses had to wear short skirts, I remember expressing sadness that our waitress looked uncomfortable and how I felt sorry that she was forced to dress in a demeaning manner from which a man would be immune.  As he stole glances at our waitress’ fishnet stockings, or her continual skirt adjustments, think my dad thought something was wrong with me; to him women were “gals” and not to be taken seriously while I always truly liked women and tended to take them more seriously than most men I encountered.

When I think about my curiosity about naked women, I think it might have had something to do with never seeing either of my parents naked.  I suspect most modern families are like ours, where closed doors and modesty come on with adolescence, but in early years there was no great panic at anyone seeing anyone else without their clothes on.  My mom, on the other hand, was practically Victorian, literally shouting in fright if you entered her bedroom and she was in her bra—and shoving the door closed on you as if you were the big bad wolf and she was Little Red.

How much do we think we know about our kids’ secret yearnings?  How do our own quasi-secret inner lives mingle with those of our children?

However it all shakes out, let’s dedicate today to the curious child and the Miss April in each of us—healing our shame, bridging our loneliness and deepening our respect and compassion for the beautiful inside, outside and between all of us… in the benefit of all our curious and beautiful children.

Namaste, Bruce

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12 Responses to “Missing Miss April”

  1. Jack Says:

    You do know about the great Bunny spill of ’65. It took place in Buffalo Grove and was a major deal. Rumor has it that most of the boys at New Trier managed to scoop one or two up to take home with them. 😉

    You are a few years old than I am, but I remember the black lights. Mostly I remember older siblings of friends who used them to show us kids mysterious things that we were too young to know about.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      In ’65 I was only five but the same rumor went around in ’70 about kids coming home from school with centerfolds.

      One of my friends had an “Age of Aquarius” black light poster that was the multi-colored mother of all black light posters—showing a summer of love that was way too mysterious for me to understand… maybe even today 🙂

  2. Justine Says:

    I HAVE seen my parents naked, and at the most inopportune moment(s). And I am still recovering from it.

    Your fifth grade crush is a good story. With your interesting background and your present career that involves a lot of interaction with people, it’s hard to imagine that shy boy who bought broken watches to bring to the repair man just to see his daughter. And yet here you are. We all have to start somewhere don’t we?

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Much has been made in psychology of the archetypal “primal scene,” and the like… Perhaps “inopportune” is what separates the naked from the nude, but in any event I’m sorry for the traumatic effect on you.

      Not only do we all have to start somewhere, but we all ARE somewhere—and much more together in it than we can grasp when we are young and/or frightened. So, yes, wherever any of us are at present, it serves us to trust that we can learn, grow, heal and be of service to each other.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    To quote Charlotte from Sex and the City, as, you know, I am wont to do: “I did not grow up in a naked house.”

    But there is a connection, I think, between how families deal with the human body and how comfortable they are in general in dealing with certain issues. My father does all that he can to avoid being in the same room with me while I’m nursing my baby. He has always been a wonderful father, but his lack of comfort with that particular situation is telling of other topics that he has never felt comfortable talking about with me.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      While it’s important to have boundaries, sometimes we’re so concerned with being “appropriate” that we end up inappropriately distant.

      Sometimes I think the confluence of formula and Hef completely fetishized the breast for a couple of generations to the point where its organic function got usurped by its symbolic capacity to sell things… leading to a complete eroticization and commercialization of something as beautiful, but not necessarily “sexy,” as nursing.

      It’s sad how this state of things has compelled so many women to feel as if there is a “perfect breast” that a doctor could bestow upon them, rather than the myriad perfection to be found in diversity—and in the acts of nurturance both spiritual and physical.

  4. Larry Says:

    Playboy. So many memories of sneaking them from my dad’s stash in his closet. I do remember at some point him moving them out in the open in their bedroom which in retrospect was an acknowledgement of me coming of age (pun intended). My parents weren’t up tight about being naked in front of me and that did make a lasting impression on me. Definitely has had me be more comfortable with the human body and it’s carried on to how I have been/am with my daughter. We cover up in front of each other now, she’s 13, but there’s no shame there.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I always wonder about the meaning of “dad’s stash,” the notion that mom was not where father found his thrill. Frankly it makes more sense for teens with no good options to be so interested in the stash than fathers with access, presumably, to real sex.

      Being comfortable with our bodies does seem to be learned, at least in part, by example. Another version of modeling self-acceptance and the endorsement of the body as a natural vessel to inhabit, and not an original sin slinking in shame out of Paradise.

  5. Laurie Says:

    My son just turned 11 and every year I write an update and send out to our “village” of friends who have been through it all with us. I was writing about how he loves his hamster “Scooter Van Hamsalot the first” on one hand and on the other when the latest Vanity Fair comes out he likes to check out all the “hot” models. Let the games begin.

  6. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I doubt we know much about our kids’ secret yearnings, especially with the onset of adolescence. But even before, depending upon the child’s proclivity for talk and revelation.

    And as long as my child seems to be doing ok, I think I’m alright with that. And to be frank – I’m not sure what we can do about it anyway – except ask questions and observe, and look out for signs of loneliness, just as an example.

    Even then – even when we see certain things, like loneliness – we may have no solutions whatsoever, except to be there. If and when just our presence can help.

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