Essay: Better Than

Dec 7, 2018

No one used the term “sex education” when I was growing up; in fact, no one used the word “sex.” Whatever information we gathered about this mystery was from glimpses and whispers, from eavesdropping on adults and gossiping with peers.


In junior high school, I had a group of girlfriends that included a skinny blond named Barb. We often gathered at her house because she had an older brother who kept copies of Playboy Magazine in his closet.  

When he was gone, we snuck into his bedroom to peek at those forbidden pages, comparing ourselves unfavorably with the bunnies. But while Playboy was a fantasy, we found a reality closer to home. 

Barb’s parents seemed to really enjoy each other’s company and had managed to keep the romance going that we only saw in movies. One night, we overheard the two of them talking.  “I’m going to take a hot bath,” Barb’s mom said. “Soaking in the tub is the most wonderful feeling.” 

“Better than?” her dad asked.

“Not as good as,” she answered.

Those became our watchwords:  “Not as good as.” They promised more than Playboy, more than Hollywood. Because they left everything to the imagination.