I’ll admit: the first time I ever saw my ex’s Opa reading the Bild Zeitung, I thought he was a pervert. The topless woman on the front page through me for a loop. Even Playboy in the US is sold without a single breast staring out from the front cover — or at least in my memories of it from seeing it in our smalltown drugstore, it is. Who would’ve thought he was reading the news articles, what with the blondie splashed across the front page like that?
But in Germany, nudity’s all normal. As normal as the silly answers those Page 3 Girls (don’t let the stupid Anglicism mislead — in the Bild these are cover models) give in their interviews: “I love eating Nutella in the morning and fast cars.” In fact, so normal that although most often the naked ladies appear under the fold, it’s not uncommon for them to be staring out at you from the paperbox.
After seven years, I’ve grown used to this in the same way that most German women have. We tsk it under our breaths, try to nonchalantly shield our kids’ eyes from it, and then lament the poor girls who are selling themselves for a penny on these covers (really: I once met a woman who posed for Playboy and got less than 500 Euros for full-nudity. And that’s the creme de la creme, pardon the pun. Those Bild covers probably barely cover a semester’s tuition).
I was shocked — shocked! — then to pick up my teenaged babysitter’s Bravo magazine and see that this nudity is not just limited to the sleaziest of all tabloid newspapers written to a fourth-grade reading level. No sir. The German equivalent of Tiger Beat has no qualms about featuring topless teenaged girls in its pages (though I read that the age minimum for these models is 16, it used to be 14, and well, even on most runways that age minimum isn’t enforced, no matter how much clothing the girls are in so that age minimum is a bit ridiculous).
What in the holy hell is this, I asked my beet-red-cheeked babysitter when I opened it up. She was trying to give me a quiz to find out if my personality was more like Rihanna’s or some celebutante named Ashley (I have no idea) and after about 2 minutes, gave up and handed me the magazine. Which is when I discovered the afore-mentioned tale of lost virginity. Seems this is a very popular section in the magazine, one in which real readers get to send in their stories from their “Erstes mal.” What. the. fuck. (figuratively)
I was going to go and lament the sorry state of today’s voyeuristic narcissistic generation and then I read that this feature’s been around in the magazine forever. Or since shortly after its inception in the 50s. Could you imagine? Don Draper’s America being filled with teens who write about their first times for others to read? I couldn’t even imagine it today and there are things on the internets that would make even Hugh Hefner blush.
Reading this, I got to thinking: how easy will it be for me, in approximately eight years’ time, to invest in sending the Diva to an all-girls’ boarding school run by nuns in the Himalayas? Because as much as I’m trying to be all liberal and give my kid a proper German upbringing, I just don’t think I’m ready for this. But then I flipped the page….
And there was a section called Dr. Sommer. As Wikipedia says, “Many of today’s adults received all of their sexual education from the articles by the Dr.Sommer-team.” Basically, a two-page spread in which you send in your most pressing questions to a team of psychologists and sexperts and doctors and get nice, logical, but not-from-your-parents-or-peers answers. What a great idea, I thought. So much better than the abstinence stuff being taught in American schools. Why, Papa Scott even told me recently that his sixth-grade son learned how to put a gummi on a wooden banana at school and I was beaming at the idea — proud that today’s German kids are being given the knowledge they need to protect themselves if/when the time comes. In America, you get guns for protection. In Germany, condoms. Which is why you end up with shit like “9 Things Everyone Should Know About Sex” on a website for adults that basically explains venereal diseases. Hello? Do we not already know this, ‘Merica?
Then my bipolarity kicked in. Because as much as I love the idea of this open, honest and respectful dialogue with teenagers re: sex, these questions were just too much for me. Take, for example, the 15-year-old who needs advice on how to tell her boyfriend that no, she doesn’t want to do it in a public bathroom like he saw in a p0rno recently. Jesus H. Christ! Or the nice diagram drawn for a girl who was afraid her hymen was no longer in tact, which highlighted six different possible looks it could have, along with a note encouraging all girls to grab a mirror and check theirs out (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?).
Oy vey! I’m all for letting someone else tackle the birds and the bees discussion but this was a whole lot more than that. I found myself yearning for the days when the spiky-haired chain-smoking gym teacher told us we were all going to start bleeding soon and could we please write our questions on a blank piece of paper and she’d draw them out of a hat to answer at random.
Let’s just hope that sometime in the next eight years, the magazine goes belly up. Because then I won’t need to worry about getting out my Sharpie and blacking out all the things I don’t want Diva to see. I may be raising a future (half-)German woman, but that stuff can start when she’s 18.
**Dear Google Gods, please do not mess up my reader base with SEOs on this post. I’d like to keep this a somewhat family-friendly site, thanks.