My sexual awakening happened at the age of 11 at a grocery store. While my mom was browsing the vegetables, I got bored and meandered to the magazine rack nearby, where my eyes were immediately drawn to a glossy magazine with BOP emblazoned across the cover in big, pink bubble letters. It was a fan magazine for teens. I had seen it before but never paid much attention to it until that day. Although it was Kirk Cameron’s face that was primarily featured on the cover, I couldn’t take my eyes off the small picture of Michael J. Fox at the bottom of the page.
I loved watching reruns of Family Ties, and at first, I was confused as to why I was so obsessed with the show. Every day at 7:30 p.m., I would go into my parents’ room and watch Family Ties on their little TV set. I didn’t want to watch the show in the living room with the rest of my family; it just felt like something I had to do in private, and I didn’t really understand why until the day Michael J. Fox’s smoldering gaze bore holes into my tween heart from that BOP magazine cover. I loved him. I wanted to stare at his face 24/7. I had to have this magazine.
I cringed when I saw the $1.95 price tag. I could already hear my mom telling me no. I asked anyway, and I got a disappointing “Maybe later,” which was my mom’s code for “Nope!” Before putting the magazine back in the rack, I gave it a quick flip through to see what was inside, and it opened up right to Michael J. Fox’s picture-slash-pullout mini poster. It’s fate! I thought. The combination of hormones dulling my brain and his sweet baby face then made me do something completely out of character.
I stole the mini poster. I took a quick glance around me to make sure my mom and the other shoppers weren’t nearby and then slowly tore it out of the magazine, making sure I didn’t accidentally rip the poster in half.
“You’re stealing!” Good Me screamed.
“But it’s for love!” Hormonal Me screamed back.
After stealing Michael J. Fox’s beautiful face out of the magazine, I folded it into a small square and stuffed it in my pocket. I was tense and sweaty when we walked out of the store, fully expecting a security guard to tackle me from behind and take me down like the dirty thief I was. I was still beating myself up over it as we drove home, but as soon as I walked into my room and saw his gorgeous glossy face staring back at me, like, “Yeah girl, we’re together now,” every ounce of guilt melted away. I put it under a book to straighten out the folds, then taped him inside my Trapper Keeper so I could gaze at his dreamy face at school whenever I wanted.
But after a few days, one poster didn’t seem enough. We went back to the grocery store, and there he was, smiling at me again from a new issue of BOP like he had been waiting for me to come get him. I made the mistake of flipping through it again, and this time, there was a centerfold. He had on jeans and a white shirt and was looking over his shoulder like a Canadian knockoff of Bruce Springsteen. So I took it. I couldn’t help myself.
You’ll be happy to know that I stopped stealing after that centerfold because I nearly vomited from the guilt. But just as my life of crime was ending, my appetite for Michael J. Fox glossies was just beginning. I was in a frenzy to get my hands on every poster I could possibly find, and soon I needed more than just BOP to satisfy my needs. I couldn’t keep ignoring the treasures other teen magazines had to offer. Tiger Beat had wallet-sized cutouts in the back, for crying out loud!
Shortly after the centerfold heist, I earned some money and legitimately bought my first magazine, from which I cut and dissected every Michael J. Fox pinup and article I could find. By the time the New Kids on the Block got big, my teeny-bopper magazine addiction was in full swing. I didn’t even buy my magazines at the grocery store, because Jerry, a boy I went to school with, had a stepmother who owned a bookstore. He had access to all the teen magazines, including the ones I couldn’t easily find in grocery stores. For instance, the much sought-after Big Bopper magazine, which was comprised strictly of centerfolds that were twice as big as all the other magazines. Jerry would sell it to for a discounted price, and if you didn’t catch him first thing in the morning, he would be sold out by lunch.
Yes, I had a dealer. Don’t judge me.
And even though every inch of my walls was covered with posters (the far wall was for group posters of the New Kids on the Block, the wall behind my bed was for individual pull-outs of each member of the band and the wall next to my bed dedicated strictly to my true love, Donnie Wahlberg), I always felt like I never had enough.
One morning, I went to Jerry as soon as I got to school, excited to see what he had for me. But when he opened up his bag, he only had a YM magazine (a fashion magazine? Next!) and a Thrasher.
“What the hell am I going to do with these? Where’s the good stuff!?” I screamed in his face. He told me another girl had gotten all of them, and I nearly choked him trying to get her name. It was Lori, and I remember scoping her out and convincing myself that my tiny, 4-foot-8 ass could take Lori down and take what was rightfully mine.
I had a problem. I knew it. I later apologized to Lori for giving her death stares in class and turned down her generous offer to give me an extra copy of an issue of BOP.
That marked the the end of my magazine poster obsession. I didn’t renew my subscription to Super Teen and ignored Jerry when he waved glossy magazines in my face every morning. By the end of the year, I had taken down most of the posters on my walls, keeping just one or two posters of Donnie, which were not long after replaced with just one huge poster of Mark Wahlberg in his Calvin Kleins.
I look back at that time in my life with some fondness and a little shame. I have fondness for the carefree life I used to live—when my biggest worry was how to smuggle a poster out of a grocery store—and shame for resorting to stealing and later choking out a classmate for one.
I’m sorry Jerry, wherever you are. And to the poor girl who bought a Bop magazine so many years ago and discovered a pull-out poster missing from it: It was me. I did it. I’m sorry.