The Nudists: Thank you, Hugh Hefner!

karenchristyThe spring of 1972 was a doozy for my allergies. By the time I was nine years old, my allergies and I were becoming old friends. They’d come around a couple of times every year to reacquaint themselves with me and make my life a living hell. Mom and I would do our best to fight them off each time but it really was a losing battle. That spring I was in such a constant state of sneezing and blowing my nose that I quickly went through all of the clean handkerchiefs in my dresser drawer. I complained to Mom about this. She directed me to grab one from the top drawer of Dad’s dresser. The handkerchiefs were easy enough to locate but I was intrigued by what else was found in there.

The smell of tobacco wafted from the drawer. While I did enjoy the pleasant aroma of a pack of Marlboros, the thought of smoking was repugnant to me. Being asthmatic, there was no way I was going to compound my condition with cigarette smoke. Plus there was the memory of being forced to take a few puffs from a lit cigarette after being caught with a cigarette butt in my mouth at a much younger age. Death might have been a welcome relief at the time. Luckily for me that was during the 1960s when such things weren’t cause for Child Protective Services to swoop in and take the child away. It was simply a lesson learned.

There were also a bunch of keys from Dad’s job in the drawer along with some loose change and a few envelopes containing pay stubs. A splash of bright red caught my eye so I investigated further. It was a thick magazine with a large profile of a hot pink rabbit’s head. Dated December 1971 it was the “Gala Christmas Issue” of Playboy magazine. “Christmas issue?” I thought. “What the heck is this and why is Dad hiding it?” A few seconds later I learned why.

More importantly, my knowledge of the adult female anatomy was greatly expanded.

The first thing I saw when I opened the magazine was – oh, who am I kidding? The only thing I remember of the inside of that magazine of God’s gift-to-men was the vision of loveliness found at the center of the magazine, a blonde bombshell named Karen Christy. I was dumbstruck by what I saw on the page that folded out and quickly put the magazine back where I found it. I staggered out of my parents’ bedroom mindless of all else. Mom snapped me out of my haze when she asked me a question.

“Huh?” was all I could muster.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” she asked, exasperated by what she thought was my constant lack of paying attention.

“Oh, uh… yeah… yeah, I did,” I stammered.  Boy, did I find it I thought. And I didn’t even know I had been looking for it.

The memory of Karen Christy haunted me for days. The blonde beauty quickly replaced that pretty blonde hillbilly girl, whose name I now struggled to remember, as my ideal of womanly beauty. Even though it was such a quick glimpse it was still enough to sear her image into my memory. Karen, as I liked to call her, wearing only what God had most generously given her, was standing on a white shag rug in front of a dark red curtain in a pink room. A discarded robe was at her feet and a goldfish bowl was strategically placed to hide her nether regions. She had a hint of a smile on her beautiful face, lovely tan lines, and two fingers playfully dipped into the goldfish bowl. And her… her… oh, my God, they were perfection! And her eyes, oh, her eyes. Those beautiful eyes seemed to tell me “It’s okay to look. I don’t mind.” There was no one like her in any of the National Geographics over at my grandparents’ house. I was smitten.

Days and weeks went by with Karen almost constantly weighing on my mind. Several times I toyed with the idea of announcing that I was out of handkerchiefs and was going to grab one out of the treasure trove of a dresser drawer. I always chickened out. It seemed that I would never again see the object of my affection.

One day Mom told me she was going to run into Muncie to grab a few things at the Marsh supermarket and asked if I wanted to go or stay home. At first I started to leap at the chance to go. My grocery store ritual was to run to the comic book spinner rack in the magazine section and read up on Spider-Man while Mom shopped. Her last pass in the store always took her to the meat counter and then through the freezer section towards the magazine rack where I and two or three other boys would be reading comics. On this day, though, I saw an opportunity to get another look at my Karen. I coolly told Mom that I would just stay home and watch TV. Spider-Man was going to take a backseat on this day.

Mom told me she’d be home in just under an hour and that I should go next door to Betty Lou’s if anything came up. I told her “Okay” then went back to my TV show. After she and my sister walked out the front door, I waited a few seconds to make sure she wasn’t coming back inside for something she had forgotten. I jumped up to watch them pull out of the driveway and then make their way down to Nebo Road. I stepped outside and watched as they turned left onto Nebo and went on their merry way to Marsh. I made a beeline for Dad’s dresser.

Keeping one ear trained on the front door for any surprise entrances from Mom or Dad, I once more took in the beauty of Miss December 1971.  The article about her gave very few details. She was 20 years old and a native of Texas. She had once studied commercial art but dropped out of school due to a lack of money.  She took a job with Playboy as a Bunny and lived in Chicago in a Bunny Dormitory at something called The Playboy Mansion.  My mind reeled at the possibility of a dorm full of other women like Karen! There were also some pictures that showed what that stupid goldfish bowl was hiding from view. Oh, and I learned that I owed all of this goodness to a great man named Hugh Hefner.

I flipped through the rest of the magazine to see what other delights might be found inside, but nothing held a candle to my Karen. I gave her another look before putting the magazine back in its place with several minutes to spare before Mom and my sister returned home from the store. The other pictures of Karen and the article about her painted a vivid picture of what she must have been like as a person. I was truly in love.

Along with the allergies, the spring season also brought with it nicer weather which meant more time outside for bike riding, baseball, and once again exploring the neighborhood with my friends. Inevitably the talk got back around to the nudists down the street. This time though I was armed with a more vivid imagination of what the nudists, or at least what the female nudist, might look like. My imagination led to greater curiosity which in turn led to greater desire to learn the truth. Somehow, some way, I was going to find out once and for all if the people in that house were nudists or not.

Even more importantly, I would find out if the woman of the house looked anything like Karen.

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