The other day I was watching TV and it occurred to me that I’ve become a prude. The show in question was innocuous enough, nothing shocking—just an episode of “Hottie Leaders,” featuring computer simulations of what various female world leaders would look like naked and in the throes of orgasm—but somehow, between that and the Pizza Hut commercial where Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson engage in some “girl-on-girl” action in a vast field of pizza sauce, something snapped. I know what the problem is: I’m old. I came of age in a simpler sexual time.
Back in those ancient, prelapsarian days, “girl-on-girl” hadn’t even been invented yet. At that time, “girl-on-guy” had only recently been discovered. I remember my parents and their neighbors standing in the yard with a pair of crude human figures made of wood, trying to work out the details. Sometimes a couple would get all worked up and forget where things were supposed to go, and the husband would have to call a friend—only phones were new, too, so sometimes you’d go over to visit a pal from school and there’d be his dad, just standing there naked, phone in hand, totally flummoxed. Women could get pregnant from merely watching a kiss in a movie! Girls, or at least the “good girls,” would go to movies blindfolded. I remember once, in fourth grade, I had to get engaged to a girl whose coat I’d brushed up against in the cloakroom. Those were simpler times, but, in some ways, I think, better times.
Same deal with violence. I remember how stunned we all were when the Cain-and-Abel thing happened. What, what? we kept saying. He bludgeoned his brother? With a rock? I remember the first time a severed limb was shown on TV. People were running out of their houses screaming. And it was just a fake leg, in a cartoon! Imagine how horrified those screaming people would be now, when, for example, you can log on to the “Evidence of Evil” Web site and they’ll send you a boxful of bloody prosthetics, which you can reassemble into a crack-addicted whore, who will then emit some clues through her computerized voice box—and when you think you know who murdered her you enter the name of the killer on the Web site and, if you’re right, you’ll get to see a short clip of her making love with her killer moments before he hacks her to bits while she has a flashback of her mother beating her with a chair leg.
I mean, O.K., there was violence when I was a kid, sure, but nobody really talked about it. If you got strangled and dismembered, you just got up the next day whistling a happy tune and went down and did some riveting for the war effort. As for computer simulations, sorry, all we had was sketchpads and pencils. If we wanted to see what various female world leaders looked like naked in the throes of orgasm, we had to use a little thing called the imagination. Plus, all the world leaders were men back then, and, believe me, once you’ve drawn Richard Nixon naked and in the throes of orgasm you never have quite the same interest in using your imagination again, and every time you even see a pencil you get a little puky and have to sit down.
Whenever I talk to young people—like some of the teen-agers in my neighborhood, or this one toddler, Maxie, or even a couple of fetuses I run into occasionally—I say to them: Trust me, guys, enjoy your youth, because the level of sex and violence is going to continue to escalate, and, by the time you’re my age, the world of your youth will seem like a distant, innocent paradise. The teen-agers and the toddler, Maxie, sometimes they seem to get it, but the fetuses—well, you know fetuses, they’re arrogant. To them, it’s always going to be a soft gentle ride in a warm comfortable space. And I’m, like, O.K., smart guy, call me in nine months and we’ll talk. Or I will! You’ll just be lying there pink and newborn, with a terrified look on your face, apologizing to me with those little shocked eyes.
Things just keep getting worse. Why, I suspect that, in forty years, when I’m eighty-seven, I’ll look back at the present level of sex and violence and go: Ha! Ho-ho! You called that sex and violence? That was nothing. That was Puritanism and pacifism compared to now! But then I’ll have to go, because it will be Stripper Night at the old folks’ home, and I’ll have to find my costume and my back brace, but on the way there I’ll be killed by a mysterious old-folks’-home invader, who actually works for Fox and is committing and filming my murder for later broadcast on “When Codgers on Their Way to Strip Look Terrified.”
Same with music, though, right? I used to love music, back when it had melody and chords and lyrics. But now it has no melody and no chords, just thwack-thwacking, and they even seem to be cutting back on the thwack-thwacking, so now it’s sometimes just thwa, and, as far as lyrics, do you consider these lyrics?
Hump my hump,
My stumpy lumpy hump!
Hump my dump, you lumpy slumpy dump!
I’ll dump your hump, and then just hump your dump,
You lumpy frumply clump.
I’m sorry. To me? Those are not lyrics. In my day, lyrics were used to express real emotion, like the emotion of being totally stoned and trying to talk this totally stoned chick into sleeping with you in the name of love, which lasted forever, if only you held on to your dreams.
These kids today, I don’t know what they believe. I mean, I don’t even know what I believe anymore, but what I do not believe is that watching Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson roll around in pizza sauce is helping our youth as they go forth and try to figure out what they believe! Scientific evidence suggests that even the fetuses inside of mothers watching that commercial are getting (1) dumber and (2) little baby boners. I do not go for that. I think that when a fetus is in the womb it should just be floating around with its undersized arrogant head empty and its little nascent penis just, you know, inactive. We grow these kids up too fast, and, next thing you know, out come the Indian and the Chinese fetuses, and they start taking away the jobs of our homeland fetuses, and why? Because these foreign fetuses aren’t jaded. They’re innocent like I was, like my whole generation was, when we were fetuses, back in those long-forgotten idyllic days when American fetuses walked the earth like happy unsoiled giants, doing algebra and reading the classics.
And yet I don’t like the fact that I’ve become a prude. Life expectancies being what they are, I may be only halfway through my life, and who wants to live out half one’s life as a prude? Not me. I want to live out about one-tenth of my life as a prude, that last tenth, when I’m inert and confused and immobile anyway. So I’ve decided to start prude-proofing myself via a series of daily micro-immersions in sex and violence. Last week, for example, I sat on my couch looking at a bra for over an hour. Then I forced myself to watch a video of a duck being hit by a car. Then I tried listening to the sound of the duck on the video being hit by the car, while looking at the bra. Next, I turned up the sound, while looking at a slightly sexier bra. Then I watched the duck being hit while I ran my hand over the bra. Then I had my wife put on the bra, which was a very effective technique, because as I tried to run my hand over the bra my wife nailed me with an ashtray just as the duck was hit by the car—one of the best micro-immersions in sex and violence a guy could ask for.
And tonight is my biggest depruding test yet: I am going to, while hitting myself with a brick and begging my wife to walk by in her bra, watch an episode of “Dream Yer Final Dream!,” on which a contestant selected from a field of more than five thousand applicants will be granted his Final Dream, which, in this case, is to be beaten nearly to death with a tire iron so that Carmen Electra can come in naked and give him a lap dance in the last moments of his life.
I have high hopes. I know I can do this. If I succeed, our whole culture will once again be open to me. And who knows? I may even go see a movie.