BEING A GIRL IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE
My dad used to wander the house in
shiny little speedos and
satin robes hanging mostly open—
a Rust Belt Hugh Hefner
with a beach ball belly.
To say he enjoyed his notoriety
is understatement—he bathed, gloried, fondled,
slathered himself in the buttery lotion of
emancipation from puritan oppression,
declared himself a free thinker and read the magazines
for the articles.
I used to page through that stack,
sober, thinking how to fold myself
flat and glossy and mute
like all dad’s moon-eyed girlfriends
when they were new-minted.
I didn’t need Hef to tell me I was
disposable, like paper, or youth,
I already knew that,
but Hef made me smarter than
all those thrown-away women
who forgot to stay on the page,
who eventually chose to breathe and yap.
Hef taught me how to hide
in that cupboard behind the stereo,
how to stay quiet, and kept,
and to only pull my skin out for certain occasions,
hung like a mannequin in a shop window,
to light up the reptile brains of
passing men who might
show me my reflection,
prove that I existed—that I wasn’t just some vampire
sucking life that wasn’t mine.
—from Poets Respond
October 3, 2017
Meghan Bechtel: “When I logged into Facebook last Thursday, the first thing I saw on my newsfeed was a joke from my comic friend Adam Cozens: ‘If there is any justice in the world, #HughHefner will be buried in a box in the back of your stepdad’s closet.’ I laughed out loud, then saw on the sidebar that he had actually died, and felt a little bad because it’s not nice to laugh over dead people. But Hef played a larger-than-normal role in my childhood and adolescence. My Dad was always quoting the magazine, and the joke made me think of our giant stash of Playboys hidden in plain sight in the cupboard in the living room, and all the ways Dad’s and Hef’s attitudes about women shaped me and my beliefs about myself and the choices I made. I’m actually working on a memoir about life with my Dad, which is probably why this poem came so easily (see what I did there?). Maybe I should write the story in poetry, it’s much more efficient.” (twitter)