"In seventh grade my class was administered a battery of aptitude tests in which I scored at a college senior's reading level. My English teacher, astonished as she was proud, announced this to the whole class. Big mistake. Although her gesture was meant as a compliment, it resulted in my further ostracism and harassment. The road to Hell has always been paved with good intentions and this incident wasn't an exception. Thanks to her good graces, the road to my own private hell was paved with spit-flecked clothing and snapping wet towels during gym class.
And speaking of Hell's many-splendored torments: then there was sex. I can pinpoint the precise moment when I made the transition from nerdy kid to adolescent nerdmeister. While watching One Million Years, B.C. on television I began to notice how my attention kept drifting away from Ray Harryhausen's special effects to Rachel Welch's. In this rec room coup d'état, foam rubber dinosaurs were dethroned in favor of flesh and blood human females. I'll never think of bearskin bikinis, those agents of my personal transformation, in the same light ever again.
The 1970s were in full swing when my body became a miniature version of Cambodia carpet bombed by hormones. One of our neighbors was a Chicago fireman by the last name of Mazurek, a cheery, charismatic guy with a large and growing brood of kids that attested to his virility. One hot July evening dad was over visiting him in his garage. When I wandered across the street looking for him I walked into what must be considered the penultimate man cave: every square inch of its walls - and most of the ceiling, too - were festooned with hundreds of Cavalier, Oui, Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazine centerfolds, calendar pin-ups and other images of naked women, clipped from every source imaginable. I stood there, my mouth agape before this rich, wild, cascading sea of color, form and pulchritude. I had never seen anything like it before or since - a two car, R-rated, suburban womb wallpapered over in a splendor of Kodachrome delights. "Get your ass home, now," dad snapped, but without that iron resolve so often found in his other commands. I just stood there, transfixed and overwhelmed by the endless variety of feminine beauty on display. "I said, go home," dad repeated, now with even less conviction. I gave no quarter, my sympathetic nervous system held in a state of delightful paralysis. His voice only faintly registered in my head; tinny and muffled, it seemed to play on an antique gramophone miles away. Exchanging sly, bemused glances between themselves, Mazurek said, "You know, Curt, we had some doubts about you, but I can see now that you're gonna turn out just fine, just fine." The baton - so to speak - had been passed to another generation. This most solemn of occasions called for a simian grunt, ball scratching or some other equally dignified gesture to mark its portent. I had begun my passage towards the other side of the boy/man divide and you could just smell the testosterone wafting on the breeze. Later, as we walked back home, dad said: "You never do what you're told, never." Yeah, that's right . . . . isn't it glorious?
Many rhapsodize about their intrepid "initiation" into this delightful, yet mysterious Rousseau-esque world. Ladies and gentlemen, it's only "delightful" if you're a bloody, flaming masochist and only "mysterious" up until the first round of divorces. Otherwise, you're just another schmuck who has been conditioned by Dick Clark and Billboard's Top 40 Hit List to sublimate your frustrated yearnings into millions in earnings for Corporate America. (Shocked? You shouldn't be. After all, Valentine's Day is nothing more than Corporate America's love letter to itself. What, and all this time you thought that our captains of industry - like some latter-day, pucker-assed Cupid - yearned to play village matchmaker for you without turning a shekel? If so, you really are a schmuck.) Hardly chicken soup for the soul of the lovelorn, it was the aural equivalent of rectal suppositories for the sexually incontinent. Congratulations, fellow victims of that merciless, churning meat grinder otherwise known as the recording industry: your expectations about the nature of Amore have been compromised. They have been turned into minced purée for the cause of Vampire Capitalism.
Because our expectations are clouded by this thick, narcotic haze of fantasy, neither gender is in an ideal position to face the reality of love. After the passion has flamed out to reveal a pocked cinder of human imperfections, disappointment inevitably leads to bitterness and hostility. Perhaps the girls have it worse. They begin their awakening with a betrayal from yet another direction; a head clotted full of humid, overheated claptrap courtesy of the book industry. Love, as they are programmed to envision it, is the stuff of turgid, formulaic Romance novels:
"Oh, Kathryn! Come my naughty little rabbit! I shall part your tender white thighs like Moses did the Red Sea and plow you fore and aft like the verdant, rolling fields of Elysium!"
Oh, bullshit. When reality finally collides with and sinks this badly-scripted fantasy, what the ladies end up with is not bodice-ripping action, heaving bosoms and groaning mixed metaphors, but pubic hair in the soap, Cheetos crumbs under the love seat and stale bed farts after their man's perfunctory two minutes worth of passion is spent. Oh, Kathryn! Oh, travesty!
What's the solution? Keeping the "plastic" out of adult relations begins by keeping it out of the plastic toys on our children's playground. Let's keep it real folks and inject a healthy dose of truth into our kid's expectations. And what better place to start than with Barbie®, that most controversial of cultural icons? Perhaps spoiled, jaded Malibu Beach Skank Barbie® and her gal pal, Klub Slut Kim Kardashian® could slum it in a torrid three-way with Trailer Trash Ken® at Barbie's Den of Vice Weekend Getaway Playset® ("Complete With Real Crystal Meth You Can Make Yourself!"). And for the boys there's the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell G.I. Joe Enhanced Interrogation Playset® ("Hundreds of Mix 'n' Match Bondage Accessories! Collect 'em All!"). The limited edition collectible version has a naked Kung Fu Grip Donald Rumsfeld® enjoying the action behind a two-way mirror.