The first toys I could remember being interested in were Star Wars toys. It was during day care at the age of four, and perhaps my first exposure to the big cultural world of desire and outside objects, when my focal length had first gone beyond "this is something I can play with" to "this is something that other people want". My family was too poor to afford the action figures that other kids had. Or perhaps they just didn't know that three dollars of molded plastic was what stood between me and a crippling inferiority complex.
Some years later, but still some years ago, I was walking by the Hawthorne Bridge with a female friend of mine. We were talking about similar memories of growing up poor, although I don't know if either of us were as poor as we thought we were. And then the conversation turned to sex, veering there from a discussion of a third grade birthday party that ended up being unattended.
"I pretty much got ideas about sex when I was eight or nine, and those ideas are still the ideas I have."
Back in 1983, I am on the outside, as everyone feels they are when they are four years old. I am staring at the impossibly shiny black surface of a carrying case for Star Wars figures shaped like Darth Vader's head. I am so curious to find out what that shiny black plastic feels like, that I reach out and touch it. Just a touch, to feel what this thing that everyone else knows about is like. It feels like plastic.
"Are you touching my thing?"
the owner of the shiny black plastic Darth Vader action figure carrying case asks. Or words to that effect, this is most of my life ago, so quotations are not literal. I probably stammer an evasion or an apology.
In 2010, I am walking with the same woman again, somewhere up near Mount Hood, and I finally get the nerve to ask her what exactly the thing she had learned about sex as an elementary school student that she still believed was true. Actually, instead of asking her, I told her.
"You pretty much thought of it as a secret club to divide who is in and who is out, and people's main interest in it is a social bar, with the actual sensations being kind of secondary."
"Yeah, pretty much."
It was actually two lone kisses at a Holiday Party from this woman that were my only connection to a Euler characteristic defying world of romantic and casual relationships in Portland. Kissing is a little bit more fun than touching black plastic for a second.
Sometime back in 1983, or maybe 1984, I am walking with my mother and my sister past an empty schoolyard, when something catches my eye. I look down, and lying on the ground, is a piece of colored plastic. A Star Wars figure! For me at four years old, it is like finding a one hundred dollar bill lying on the ground. The find of the figure seemed like the greatest luck in my life, even though it was a not particularly popular figure (Hammerhead, to those keeping track) who was probably not even missed by its owner. But still I held on to and treasured that figure as well as I could, extracting as much meaning as I could from his five points of articulation.