I Was a Childhood Book Slut

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When I was a little boy off visiting my granny in the wilds of East Texas for summer vacation, the only thing that saved me from terminal boredom was my promiscuous love of reading. She had stacks of Readers Digest going back to before I was born, McCalls, the complete works of Zane Grey (who delivered the most convoluted, bizarre plots I have ever come across. And evil polygamous Mormons. Yay!) and a substantial collection of odd paperbacks that wandered in from god knows where. I read them all. If it was printed on paper, in English, and didn’t actually involve auto mechanics, I read it.

There was also a lot of True Confession-type magazines that I believe my trashy female cousins had left behind. They were stuffed with advertisements for feminine hygiene products that made me vaguely uneasy and mail order frilly ruffled curtains that matched the frilly ruffled bedspread and the frilly ruffled vanity table skirt that completed your mantrap boudoir. To this day, I connect that kind of decorating excess with sanitary napkins.

The stories baffled me. I would read them over and over again, thinking I was missing something. Rife with euphemisms and Random Capitalization, I caught on that they were discussing something important, but could never figure out what exactly they were sniffing around about.

They all had titles like “I Married a Wrong One” “One Night of Sin, a Lifetime of Regret” “I Promised Myself ‘He’ll Never Know'”

One I particularly remember was “My Husband Was a Stranger to Me.” I thought it meant they were not well acquainted when they wed; turned out the marriage was never consummated. Or rather, in the required style, Never Consummated, even though the writer shied away from such blunt language as that. I believe the bride delicately complained her bed was “empty.” From scraps of the story I retain, it’s possible the groom was a homo. But she cried and he rushed to her waiting arms and everything was okay. Fade to black. The End.

I also remember arguing with my mother that these tales were true, true, true. The cover said so. Sometimes I’m amazed I managed to survive my own naivete.

About mrpeenee

A former bon vivant and terror of a number of New Orleans bars in the mad, gay 1980s, I'm now quietly retired and widowed in San Francisco. I have a crooked nose due to an unfortunate Frisbee accident.

10 responses »

  1. To this day I maintain that Everything that I read, write or watch is a True story. Don’t forget the blond vaguely frilly French Cinderella bedroom suite complete with frilly canopy and matching bedside dolly lamp with frilly hoop skirt. It’s my Second most popular design scheme.

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  2. I was badly damaged by my Grandmother’s taste in magazines, which included a stash of “House and Gardens” going back to WWII and “Town and Country.” I used to spend hours choosing my wardrobe out of their seasonal fashion updates…Which I fear explains far too much.

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  3. One word: <>PHOTOPLAY!<> <>“LIZ NEAR DEATH as DEBBIE fights for HUBBY!”<>Plus I got to imagine myself in all those crotchless panties and catsuits from <>FREDRICK’s OF HOLLYWOOD<> ads.Guess I was an avid reader, too.

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  4. My granddaddy’s taste in dirty joke books and trash novels (what would we do without those Mormons to perplex and titilate us?) made visits so much fun. My poor kids – their grandmother reads only deep and worthy tomes….

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  5. Of COURSE the stories were true. They just HAD to be.Miss J was the same way as a kid. She recalls sitting in her grandparents’ garage reading from a box filled with old Reader’s Digest. Laughter is the best medicine!

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