One afternoon while idling at a stoplight I happened to look over my shoulder at the local fire station. On the front lawn was a group of children, ages ranging from 5 to 7 or thereabouts. They were playing while their mothers or teachers were around the corner with the crew. It was before the age of helicopter parenting. "Must be on a field trip to meet the chief," I said inwardly, remembering how when I was young my mother took me and my brothers on just such a trip. We got to ride in a truck, even looked up the name of a distant relative of ours, my mother's uncle I think it was, who had been a firefighter and died in the line of duty.
As my eyes wandered over the kids running along the grass, I gave a nostalgic sigh, then looked more closely at what they were doing. I saw one of them at the center. A girl, a bit taller than the other girls, skin bronzed by the sun, eyes bright and defiant. The ringleader of the bunch. They were all watching her, and she was putting on a kind of performance where she'd run up to an unexpecting kid and quickly pull down her shorts and underwear, massage herself for a second or two before running along to her next oblivious victim. In short she was flashing her friends! Ah, the games kids play at that age in a world free and full of discovery. This precocious child must have felt my eye on her because she looked over at me, blushed red as a beet, and quit her antics. Busted! The all-knowing, suspicious eye of the adult was on her. Game over. The light turned green and I moved on. I was blushing too.
And I thought of my own youth, to those times when I too was running free and playing unconventional games only to be caught in the act by some adult probably more embarrassed than me. I could think of three such times, all of them occurring around the age of our little miss, that is between 5 and 7 or 8. The first involved my younger brother Justin. Our parents were out for the evening and our grandmother was babysitting. We called her nana. We were watching TV and nana was in the other room. We got it in our heads to take out my mother's vibrating face massager, which is shaped somewhat like a phallus, put it between us at the level of the groin, and then Justin got on top of me and we enjoyed the soothing vibration of my mother's tool as it massaged our nether regions. How we laughed and laughed!
My nana must have heard us and smelled something fishy. She came into the room and immediately the fun ended. Funny thing was, nana didn't even have to say anything. All she did was pop her head in the room wearing a serious expression for like 15 seconds and the spell was broken. She disappeared back in the other room and we resumed watching our cartoons. I don't think we ever talked about that game or played it again.
The second time involved my friend Harry, a chubby boy from up the street who was a couple years older than me but would let me and my brothers in on his games. He liked to do things like pee in soda bottles then dig ditches and hide them in the vacant lot around the corner in case invaders happened upon our neighborhood and we needed to do battle with them. He was older and had a go-cart so therefore cool. Which is why I went along with these games which I didn't think were cool.
We were in the same bedroom as above and I got it into my head to play a game of my own with him. I slid my index finger down my shorts and wiped it along my butt crack then held it up for Harry. "Here have a whiff of this potion," I said. "To be used on the villainous traitors should they seek us out." Something like this but in the parlance of a 2nd grader. Before Harry could sniff my finger my father walked in the room and seemingly apropos of nothing said, "Why don't you kids quit grab-assing!" A favorite term of his for knock off whatever it is and behave. I sheepishly went and washed my hands.
The third time me and a couple neighborhood boys from the block assemble on the side of my house and get it into our heads to moon each other. That's right, in a "you show me yours I'll show you mine" spirit we proudly revealed our backsides, like a selfie from the reverse end and without the phone. It was strange and somewhat invigorating, to look at another person's butt crack. If you have not done so, I suggest you ask a friend to have a look, though you may need to show her yours as well. Now you may think this game of ours homoerotic, that were we budding homosexuals; but really it was just experimentation and discovery in an age before video games and DVD. And when you're 7, boys and girls look pretty much the same from where the sun don't shine. Besides there weren't any girls in the neighborhood, or else the mooning party would probably have been bigger.
Well, just at the height of our enjoyment, the father of one of the boys pops his head around the wall separating our house from his and squints at us for a moment then scurries away. His look was probably one of curiosity to see what we were doing, but it looked to me like a disapproving frown. That's all he had to do. It was pants up to our nipples and cheeks clenched tight and see you tomorrow guys! Again the adult in question, like my father and nana before him, didn't have to say anything, showed his face only briefly, and appeared as nonplussed as the perpetrators.
Why do I bring this up? Is it merely to exhibit the embarrassing escapades of my youth? I'm hardly that much of an exhibitionist, though I do believe the world would be a more interesting place if we all just ran around in our birthday suits some of the time. But there is an element of shock factor to my tale. By sharing it with you I have basically done the same thing as flash you, revealing in a glimpse a part of myself usually kept covered. Isn't that what flashing, or mooning, really is? For surely it is not to expound on lost innocence and make analogies to the biblical story of the first couple eating of the forbidden fruit and knowing their nakedness and leaving paradise in disgrace, although there is a parallel, but disgrace was not what I felt, just busted.
I bring these episodes up to venture a speculation on an all-too inconspicuous role adults play in our life. Sure, by their mere presence grown-ups keep kids in line. You know what happens when we go unsupervised - our fingers get dirty and we play with our genitals. And then we grow out of this free phase and do these private things in the bathroom or under the covers with the lights out and the doors closed. Often alone, and if in the company of another hopefully with her consent, though not always. But even when we take our antics behind close doors, away from the quiet vigilance of our elders, even when we become adults ourselves, and our games change, isn't there someone under whose watchful gaze all our play takes place? You can never do anything that no one will ever find out about, because you, as Witness, as the Self, see everything. The omnipresent, omniscient presence catches everything you do right through your very eyes.
So even when you think nobody is watching, others may still be around (security cams have probably seen me pee in the bushes more times than I care to admit), but even if you are absolutely sure you are alone there is always an audience of one. You. And when you keep this Self in mind, when you become like our little ringleader friend, Self-conscious, it has the quite sobering effect of making you think twice about your brand of fun, and maybe not so interested in the games you once played. Think about this the next time you're under the covers with the lights out, because you might as well be out on the front lawn flashing your friends. Mooning is fun though.