At the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Wilton Place was a pleasant little store called 'Le Sex Shoppe'. Despite the French name, little translation was necessary. It was quite a popular place in 1975. I should know; I worked there.|
The internet hadn't been invented yet. Neither had the DVD or the VCR. If you wanted to see an erotic movie at home, you could buy a 15-minute 8-millimeter film to watch on your home projector, for $16.95. Many people preferred to watch them right there in the store in one of the private coin-operated projector booths.
We also had a full selection of books and magazines, catering to a variety of interests. There was even one for public utility workers: Water and Power. All things considered, it was quite a fun place to work. Educational, too. I still remember my first day on the job. I rang up a customer's purchases, handed him his change, and said courteously, Thank you; come again! It took me a few seconds to realize why he thought that was hilarious.
Early one evening, a rather unusual pair walked in. She looked to be in her 30's, pleasant-looking but plainly dressed. He was barely 18, still showing signs of adolescent acne, thin, with a carefully combed and oiled Elvis hairstyle. I guessed they were brother and sister. After a brief conversation in Spanish, they came directly to the counter. She said, He wants the X-ray glasses. Do you sell them here?
I probably looked a bit puzzled, which I was, so he handed her a rumpled comic book, opened to the back page, where he had circled an ad. See through clothes!, it said in bold print. It went on to offer a pair of X-ray glasses which could be had by sending a money order to a post-office box. I remembered seeing ads like that many years ago. I smiled at her and said Tell him there are no x-ray glasses. These aren't real.
I told him so, but he wouldn't believe me, she said, grinning. She turned to him and said a few words in Spanish. He looked very disappointed. If any store sold glasses to see through clothes, it should be a store like this one. We had magazines with thousands of pictures of naked people. We had naked inflatable dolls. We had a wide variety of toys that naked people could use to play with other naked people. But none of that, I had to admit, was quite the same as being able to see through the clothes of a real live person.
The more I thought about it, the more interesting the idea became. Such a device, I thought, could have a real impact on society. Someone should make one that worked. I should make one. The next morning I got up earlier than usual and visited the library. Then I checked out a shop that sold surplus electronics parts. My apartment was small, and one side of it soon filled up with pieces and parts and books and magazines on circuits and X-rays.
It had to be small and portable, and its emissions weak enough to be harmless. It didn't have to penetrate flesh-- just cloth. It took many hours of reading, soldering, and experimenting before and after work. There were man trials and errors, calibrating, searching for smaller components that used less power. It wouldn't do to need a big heavy battery, or have to trail an extension cord.
Weeks later, I had put together a device that was ready to try. The circuits and batteries all fit inside a slim case that could be hung on a belt, or inside a jacket. The best part were the glasses themselves. They could be mistaken for ordinary, though rather thick, spectacles. The cable connecting them to the case was thin and unobtrusive. I went out for a walk down Hollywood Blvd.
To conserve the batteries, I waited till there was something to see before I switched it on. When I did, I was delighted. As I got just the right distance from a fully dressed woman, her clothing seemed to melt away. She was as nude as she could be, but she didn't know it. As I walked on, girls approached and passed, and the glasses worked perfectly. They may have wondered why that young man with the thick spectacles was grinning so broadly. It was my secret.
Elated at my success, and fully enjoying the parade of feminine beauty I was uncovering, I walked on and on. Finally, though, I noticed my feet were tired, and so were my eyes. There was a cafe just ahead, and sitting down with a cup of coffee would be just what I needed. I switched my gadjet off and went in.
When my waitress approached, I didn't need the glasses to know she was beautiful. As she walked, her long blonde hair seemed to flow about her shoulders with a life of its own. Her friendly smile said that she really cared how I wanted my coffee. Her name tag said Carolyn. When I told her I didn't need any sugar because she was sweet enough, she actually giggled. That was a good sign. She walked away to get the coffee. I was enchanted.
As I watched her glide across the floor, I happened to wonder if she was a real blonde. It didn't matter, but it occurred to me that I had the means to find out. As she returned, cup in hand, I flicked the switch on. She was. Perhaps, though, as I gazed at more than her genuine blondeness, my expression was perceptively different than before. She grinned at me, and, unexpectedly she asked, Do you like the way I look?
For a few seconds, I wasn't sure what to say. Uh, yes, I do, very much...
She laughed. I just had a feeling you did. I don't usually ask questions like that. I reached down to turn the switch off. She saw me. Portable radio?
Not exactly, I said. I took my glasses off and put them on the table. I just wanted to look at her pretty face, and I wasn't thinking about the wire.
Those look interesting. May I? She reached for them. I nodded. She slipped them on. I can't see anything. How can you see through these? I was afraid she'd be angry if she knew, but if I lied, she'd find out eventually anyway.
I flipped it on. Hey! These are cool! She was staring at me through my glasses. Wow, where'd you get these? I was happy. I knew she realized I'd seen her naked, and it didn't bother her at all. She was just fascinated by my invention, and she seemed to like looking at me. What a perfect woman!
I invented them, I replied.
And then she said, I'm off work in half an hour. Could you wait for me?
Carolyn turned out to be as beautiful and pleasurable as my preview had predicted. She was also working her way through college, majoring in business, specializing in marketing. She was the one who sold my device to a small electronics company whose engineers refined it, miniaturized it, and mass-produced it for $29.95. They dutifully sent me royalty checks every week, which made it possible to retire from my job at the adult bookstore and write full time.
I had thought the glasses might have social impact, and they did. The Maidenform company came out with lead-foil lined lingerie that sold well for awhile, though not nearly as well as X-Vision. The x-ray-proof underwear had to be dry-cleaned, and all but the most prudish decided it was just too much trouble.
In addition, many women found that they had suppressed exhibitionist tendencies, so as long as they were wearing clothes they could be superficially proper and modest, while secretly enjoying the idea that the many X-Vision wearers could see all.
The glasses helped break down social barriers as well. When a woman saw a man wearing them and looking steadily at her, she felt free to open the conversation by saying, Well, what do you think?, knowing that anything more than a glance probably meant approval. It wasn't long before the more adventurous women began wearing them too. Of course, this embarrassed some men with low self-confidence, but delighted most. When a man and a woman, both wearing X-Vision, met, the woman could often say, I see you like what you see!
To a significant degree, shy hesitancy gave way to open friendliness, reducing the need for clever subterfuges and cliche' conversations. This fresh approach to interrelations eventually became a habit, whether or not the glasses were in use at the time.
At first some men became angered at other men looking at their wives or girlfriends, but many of those same men couldn't resist buying the glasses themselves, and even those who didn't finally accepted the phenomenon as part of life. Men, after all, often take pride in having what other men want, as well as delight in seeing what others try to hide.