I watched a lot of inappropriate television as a child. I’d stand with a finger on the cable box, my face nearly pressed to the screen, inhaling violence, boobs, simulated sex, and swearing as if it were my last meal. Which it would be if my mother caught me. Hence the finger on the button. The moment I’d hear her on the stairs, I’d flip the channel and feign an air of casual boredom until she finally came in the room to check on me.
“There’s nothing good on, so I’m just flipping around.”
I honestly don’t know if she had any clue of what I was up to. She did seem surprised when she sat me down to have, “The Talk” and I, with a blasé air of worldliness and a dismissive wave of my hand, told her I already knew all about sex. I then launched into a lecture of how the man and woman get naked and kiss and rub all over each other a lot. However, I wasn’t really sure what a woman’s breasts had to do with getting pregnant, so maybe she would be so kind as to clear that up for me?
Yes, I was a precocious kid with rather, um, sophisticated tastes in movies. This was never more evident than when I went for a sleepover when visiting my cousin, Abby, and her friend in 7th grade. At the video store, I suggested two terrific movies: April Fool’s Day—which if you Google it, you will recognize as being wholly inappropriate for people in general—and Tom Cruise, er, Top Gun.
To make a moderately long story short, half way through the nudity, swearing, and scary violence of April Fool’s Day, our friend’s mother decided that we’d seen enough and, as she fixed me with a wary eye, popped Top Gun into the VCR player and promptly left the room. Honestly, I think she just didn’t want to know. I was glad she made the decision to switch movies, too, because in the privacy of my own suspiciously unsupervised home, the silly trifle that was April Fool’s Day took on an embarrassing and wildly inappropriate tone when sharing it with my peers. (Although, let’s be honest: Abby had furtively watched far worse with me at my house. Hotel New Hampshire, anyone?) And with relief all around that the decision had been made for us, we settled in to the couch again and enjoyed Tom Cruise and the guys from Nerds and Real Genius, respectively, play volleyball on the beach and zoom around the air in fighter jets.
More than 25 years after that incident, I sat down—somewhat hang-doggedly—to enjoy a Top Gun retrospective on Netflix and discovered something very surprising: the movie actually had a plot, with mystery and tension and conflict and stuff. And that Tom Cruise was really hot. Although that part’s not so surprising, because we already knew that.