Naked men

St. Petersburg Times
Special to the Times

   Growing up, I never saw a naked   man. I had no brothers. My father was extremely modest. I think I once   caught a glimpse of him in his boxer shorts darting from his closet to the bathroom. I’d seen man-legs and that was it.

   Naturally, I was curious. I’d read novels that pretty well hinted what 

men did to women but, not being sure of the equipment involved, I couldn’t picture it. We owned a set of Americana Encyclopedias. I went through volume after volume looking for a picture. Under Greece, I found a naked male statue. Down there, in the area of my curiosity, was a marble leaf-shaped thing. That must be it, but if a man put it in you, wouldn’t the pointy parts get stuck like a fishhook?

    I kept looking. The phone book one year featured on its green cover, a drawing of Mercury, the messenger god, naked except for his winged cap. Over his shoulder and covering the spot I wanted to see, he carried coils of—good grief, was that it? How did men hide that in their trousers? I figured out later it was phone cable.
    Sex education in seventh grade didn’t help. We got a film with diagrams showing the process of menstruation. There was a cartoon girl shivering under a rain of ice cubes, warning us not to take cold showers. Nothing about the good stuff. Girls and boys saw the film separately. My ignorance continued.
    When puberty arrived and dating began, I felt a thing under boys’ pants, but I never actually saw it. I heard from other girls that you shouldn’t give a boy blue balls, but I had no idea what that meant. Were they ping-pong or tennis? Did they literally turn blue? I didn’t ask, out of fear of appearing ignorant or, worse, knowing too much and being considered fast.
    I searched the drugstore racks for books that might give me some actual informaiton. They were cruelly deceptive. The cover of something called Lust on the Cornish Coast, showing a dark man bending over a half-naked woman, ended all love scenes with: “…and then he took her.” Or, “… the door closed.”
    I married at nineteen, to get out of the house and to satisfy my curiosity. Finally, a man of my own, whose parts I could study at leisure.
    My husband-to-be was a good Presbyterian, and he wanted to wait until we said our vows. I left an earring in his car one night. When I drove over to retrieve it, I saw his naked behind through his bedroom window. What a thrill, and it was a cute behind. I felt like a pervert peering through the open blinds and drove away quickly.
    On our wedding night, we flew to New Orleans and stayed at the Monteleone Hotel in a room with flocked red wallpaper, heavy dark furniture, and peepholes, I was convinced, where the hotel staff watched and would snicker at my nineteen-year-old attempt at sex.
    I used the bathroom first and came out in my first night, lace-trimmed satin gown and peignoir. My husband went in for his turn fully clothed and shut the door behind him—exactly what I was used to in a man.
    When he came out in his wedding pajamas, my mouth fell open. They were yellow nylon and almost transparent. I could see right through them. No wonder men shut themselves in the bathroom. I was right there with Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar, when she got her first look at male equipment: turkey neck and gizzards.


Norma Watkins is a frequent contributor to Sunday Journal. Her memoir, The Last Resort, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2011.