Playboy (repeat)


July 29, 2019

Playboy (repeat)

Originally published on December 8, 2014. 

When my mother caught Chris and me looking at Playboy, we knew we were in trouble, but to my surprise she did not get angry. She took me into the house and pulled out the large glossy art books with paintings by the Impressionists. “A woman’s body is beautiful,” she told me. I’m almost sure those were her words. The female form, she explained, was the most noble subject of the greatest artists. Together the two of us looked at Impressionist paintings of nude women, including “Bather with Long Hair” by Renoir, a portrait of a naked woman up to her thighs in water with pale skin and long chestnut hair lit by the sun. The young woman’s face is expectant, maybe hopeful, and her body plump with promise, but it was her breasts that held my guilty stare, the one on her left framed by thick twists of brown hair and the other facing straight on, inviting as a peach. My mother spoke to me plainly, without embarrassment. It was natural for a boy my age to be curious about girls, she said, but such beauty required respect, and a magazine like Playboy cheapened women. It was not worthy of them or me. The room was filled with sunlight and the sheers on the picture window beside us glowed white. When she finished she left me alone, the shimmering pages of the art book open on the coffee table in front of me.


"Bather with Long Hair," Renoir, c.1895, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, France.

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