Saturday, April 28, 2012

X is for X-Ray Glasses

When I was about 10, I found my mom's secret stash - boxes and boxes of comic books. There were hundreds of them - Archie & Me, Superman, Batman, Justice League, Captain Marvel, the odd Casper the Friendly Ghost or Bugs Bunny. Reading comic books soon became my favorite thing to do, and I devoured them.

It was a glimpse into the popular culture of twenty years prior. Everything I knew about the Vietnam War came from watching Archie & the Gang protest. I learned about love triangles via Betty and Veronica. My first ideas about love and loss came from Superman. Man versus Man? Man versus Nature? Man versus Self? Man versus Secret Identity? All covered.

No doubt, it made me a bit of an oddball among my friends. "Hey, guys!" I'd say, wide eyed and breathless, "You won't believe what Mr. Weatherbee did to Jughead!" And they'd stare back at me blankly before going back to their Monchichis and Merlins.

But one of the best parts about the comic books were the ads in the back. I longed to have Charles Atlas make me into a man. I imagined myself as a mermaid, riding on the back of my pet Sea Monkey.

And I made grand plans for everything I would do with my X-Ray Vision Glasses.

The ad was comical - a geeky kid in goofy glasses, his eyes magnified. Lightening bolts (or laser beams?) shot out of the glasses, revealing secrets the kid had otherwise only dreamed of. What's really in mom's purse? A compact, a tampon and a flask of vodka. What's in that box in the top of their closet? Weed, a vibrator and the August 1959 issue of Playboy. What color panties is Sally McNewby wearing today? Pink.

When my mom broke the news that not only were Sea Monkeys actually brine shrimp and not monkeys of the sea, with cute faces and built in crowns and sparkling personalities, but that X-Ray Vision Glasses did not actually give you x-ray vision, I was crushed.

When she told me that even if I did send off my hard earned dollar, it would almost certainly end up in a dead letter office, it finally occurred to me - I was living in the past. I was obsessed with the outdated, the irrelevant, the amusingly quaint.

It's a tendency I've yet to outgrow. Last night, I found myself mentally planning a John Hughes movie party, listening to Duran Duran, and feeling nostalgic about dial up. Where, I wonder, might I get some Sea Monkeys?


  1. Replies
    1. I love that you still have to order them by mail. I see a summer project for the kids! (and me)

  2. My son got triops, which, I guess are sea monkeys on steroids. We got a heat lamp for them and everything. They swam around for awhile before finally dying, and then we had to get frogs because we had an empty aquarium. I'd stick with Duran Duran.

    1. Dreamkiller! Have you been talking to my mother?

  3. I had the biggest crush on Jughead when I was 10.

  4. You can get them at walmart in the toy section.

  5. Monkey Sea, Monkee Doo

    I know someone who gave their son a middle name of Duran.

    1. If you are going to give your son the middle name Duran, either the first or last name needs to also be Duran.