The first time I saw a naked woman, I was 10. A friend who had moved away left a stack of Playboy centerfolds in the basket of my bike. I immediately ran to my dad knowing he would not want me to have them. Obviously, I had yet to reach puberty.
Five years would pass until I saw a naked woman again. We moved to a different neighborhood, and my new buddy Steve and I stumbled upon a stack of Playboys hidden under the sink of a neighbor's home we used to visit. This time, I did not run to my dad. It was the greatest discovery of my life.
One of the pictures was of my first love, Angie Dickinson, star of the TV show "Police Woman." I found my second love a year later when the show "Charlie's Angels" hit the airways. Like most teenage boys growing up in the 1970s, life was all about Farrah Fawcett. It is true my childhood was mostly one of innocence. I'm glad my parents protected me in that way.
Something happened this past weekend in New Orleans that reminded me of how different it must be for parents raising kids today than it was in the 1970s. The World Naked Bike Ride 2018 proudly displayed 300 bicyclists riding the streets of New Orleans — some scantily clad, others completely naked, leaving nothing for the imagination.
The event described itself this way on Facebook: "Our mission is to take to the streets riding nude as the best way of defending our dignity as humans on bikes."
You can't get much more dignified than riding a bike in public with your junk hanging out for all the world to see, right?
The closest we had in the 1970s to this kind of thing was streaking. But that was illegal and frowned upon. If you had a hankering to get naked in public, you had to run real fast or face arrest. But with the World Naked Bike Ride, it's not only legal to let it all hang out, the city sanctioned the event, even providing a police presence, including an NOPD escort, with flashing blue lights and all.
The city sanctioning public nudity is indicative of a major shift in our culture in the past 40 years. As a general rule, children, and protecting their innocence, has become less a priority than it once was. We used to be a child-centric society. Not so much anymore. Now, having kids in some circles is frowned upon. It's bad for the environment, they tell us. And having a large family? Don't even think about doing that to Mother Earth.
"We also ride to protest the world's oil dependency, mainly cars, that negatively impacts the environment on this planet," according to The World Naked Bike Ride Facebook page.
The World Naked Bike Ride first gathered to begin the ride at the Mickey Markey Playground in New Orleans. Can you imagine the looks on the kid's faces gathered to play there?
There was once a day when the arbiters of popular culture went out of their way to shield and protect our kids' innocence. Turn on your TV or radio for five minutes, and you'll see those days are long gone. The shift began once we dulled our senses to the tragedy and carnage of abortion. It was inevitable. If kids are expendable for the sake of convenience, why wouldn't they also be less of a priority in the rest of society?
Most parents I know will pay any price to protect their child's innocence. Many of them feel they are at war with our culture in their quest to protect their kids. I would imagine this was the case for the parents who brought their kids to play at the Mickey Markey Playground this past weekend. "Mommy, why are all these people not wearing clothes?" is not a question most parents want to hear.
I know it's not the end of the world if a child sees a naked cyclist. I sort of turned out OK after seeing Angie Dickinson naked as a kid. But the World Naked Bike Ride seems part of a broader shift in our culture, and it's not a good one.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.