I don’t publicly ogle very much anymore. In the privacy of my apartment I ogle my wife quite a bit, but it’s different from the old days, when I was a youthful rapscallion who did my daring, swashbuckling ogling out on the lawless streets. I’m still out on the streets a lot, and on public transportation a lot, both favorite locales for avid oglers, but on the streets I find myself staring at the ground looking for old, discarded baseball cards, and in buses and subways I’m usually reading something or other or staring out the window and thinking about death or Kevin Youkilis.
It’s not as if I’ve evolved into some more mature being who has transcended ogling. Really, I’m as creepy as ever, believe me, and if a comely oglee happens to enter the path of my thousand-yard commute-stare, I will revert instantaneously to the mode of behavior that has been with me since just about the time when I loosened my grasp on my childhood baseball cards, such as this one of Mickey Scott. Perhaps to amuse myself, or perhaps as a way to diminish the inherent and profound loneliness of ogling, that practice which defines itself as something beyond mere looking by the establishment of an ache rooted in the unbridgeable distance between subject and object, I at some point developed the habit of talking silently to myself as I ogle. Like Mickey Scott appears to be doing in this 1976 card, I imagine myself remarking to a fellow ogler something along the lines of “oooo-weee” or, lingering over each word, “not . . . too . . . shabby” or, if I’m feeling nostalgic for a time that I never lived through, “hey mac, how ya like the gams on that dame?”
I doubt I realized when I got this 1976 card that Mickey Scott was clearly, lecherously reacting to the sudden appearance at the fringe of the field of a scantily clad blonde spilling over all the edges of her skimpy ensemble. Back then I was still three or four years away from my life of ogling. I ogled through junior high, high school, and college, then in my first job of any length, as a clerk at a liquor store on 8th Street in Manhattan, I went pro in terms of ogling. The store had seen better days, business-wise, so a fairly large amount of time-killing was necessary to survive each shift without guzzling from the inventory out of sheer boredom. One of the primary time-killers was to stand in the doorway of the store and ogle. There were two display windows that jutted out into the street at an angle from the doorway, and you and whoever you were working with (except if it was the owner, Morty, who preferred to remain in the back of the store and pound ferociously on the keys of his adding machine and yell) could each lean against one of the slanted display windows with your arms crossed, casually, like you had all the time in the world to ogle. And then you ogled. And you commented on your ogling, in murmurs, after the oglees had passed beyond range of hearing.
Men are slime. If I had a daughter I’d want to strangle creeps hanging around in doorways staring and murmuring. I didn’t really see things that way back then, however. Back then I was just lonely and angry about it. Women wanted nothing to do with me—why would they? I was a silent, glowering leerer—and I reacted to this gulf between my solitary island and their magical realm where all pain and suffering ceases by fiercely, greedily ogling.
If it’s any consolation to anyone repulsed by ogling and its practitioners, I was once kicked in the nuts. No, it didn’t happen while I was ogling, but before I’d ever started ogling, but perhaps we can imagine that it was proactive punishment of one who clearly showed all signs of becoming a world-class ogler. It was when I was in fifth grade, a couple years after I got this Mickey Scott card but still within the span of that safe uncreepy sanctuary of the Cardboard Gods. A girl named Lara liked me, I guess, but my ignorance and disinterest in that fact hurt and angered her until, finally, she lashed out in reaction to my uttering of some kind of a sarcastic comment directed her way. I can’t remember what I said, but I remember her face darkening, and then the quick upward bolt of her sneaker. And oh my god I remember the pain, which sent me to the ground and made tears roll down my face. By the time I’d risen to my feet, shakily, Lara had disappeared.
I saw her around here and there over the next few years, but she never truly reappeared to me until the day, in tenth grade, when she showed up in English class in a tight cotton dress that revealed that she had suddenly grown big boobs. She had liked me, long before, and now I liked her, if “liked” can also have the following meaning: looking at her filled me with a desire that made me want to smash my head against concrete or chew through metal. Oh my lord did I ogle. But she who had once kicked me in the nuts from hurt was now far beyond me. By then she had gotten a boyfriend who drove a Camaro. The last time I remember seeing her was before I went away to a boarding school for eleventh and most of twelfth grade. It was outside the town movie theater, and she was sitting in the passenger seat of the Camaro with a cool, lidded-eyed look on her face. I was pierced to the heart, as a 19th-Century Romantic ogler might put it.
I’ll never own a Camaro, I thought. I’ll never, ever touch those boobs.