Archive for August 2009

August 6th, 2009

Manning the Table

As you may know I am a huge fan of the Netflix “Watch Instantly.” A few days ago, for no reason other than I kept seeing the DVD cover on the site, I watched a flick that came out last year called The Visitor. It was, in my opinion, an excellent film that deals with the way immigrants have been treated in this country since 9/11. It was not a comedy by any means, but there was a brief scene, that I think was supposed to be mildly humorous, that had me doubled-over with laughter for a full five minutes.

I laughed for the reason we most often laugh at movies. (Well, other than because a guy gets punched in the crotch by a child and goes cross-eyed and says “Mommy” in a falsetto voice before falling to the ground, of course!) I laughed because the cast and crew captured an unusual event that, I know, really happens in real life. And they played it out, pitch-perfectly, to the way it goes down in real life.

At about 1:05:00 a stuffy white guy is coerced into watching an artsy girl’s table at a craft fair while she goes off to get something to eat. It’s taken a step further when some women approach and begin looking at the various pieces of beaded jewelry before him and, obviously unsure of what to do, the man just begins looking at the objects too. After a few seconds he says quietly, to no one in particular, “It’s all handmade.”

Steph has been peddling her sewn items and cards at semi-annual events like “The Handmade Market” and “The Rock & Shop” for many years now and, in that time, I have, on occasion, been that guy. And I’ve seen male friends who’ve been grabbed and stuck behind tables and have become that guy. Across crowded aisles, I’ve seen the bewildered expressions on the faces of guys I’ve never even met and therefore shouldn’t know well enough to know if they have become that guy or not and known that they have become that guy as well and we’ve looked into each other’s blank eyes for but a second and we’ve both known that we were the hollow men, we were the stuffed men, leaning together, headpiece filled with straw. Alas…!

Not that it’s all that bad.

I am happy to help out and be supportive. And the collage-based stuff Steph creates is wonderful. She slices into some pretty fabric here and hacks apart some found materials there and massacres something brightly-colored over there and then takes a needle and thread and puts it back together, and then splays it all out, complete with tasteful ornamentation, on a frilly table cloth which completes a set-up that a fairly standard guy with interests that don’t stray far from the fairly-standard-guy-interest collection — such as myself — feels totally out of place in front of. After I’ve relieved Steph so she can take a well-deserved break, all I can do is try to smile in a way that invites the all-female clientele to stop and make purchases, yet ask me absolutely no questions about how certain things were made, or in some cases, what, precisely, they are. I can hope that they saw the woman’s name on the front of the table or that they simply get that I’m just watching the table, or, if they are misunderstanding the situation and they believe that I composed these chainsaw-orgies of whimsical patterns, that they don’t think the fact that I’m a guy is creepy and weird. I can also say quietly, to no one in particular, “It’s all handmade.”

These gender-based feelings of awkwardness are nowhere near as bad as, say, stepping into a Victoria Secret retail store, which I believe can cause the aforementioned fairly standard guy’s body to become so tense that he could swallow a lump of coal and, minutes later, excrete a diamond that would then magically teleport itself far, far away from that Victoria Secret retail store.

I’d say these gender-based feelings of awkwardness are more on par with going to a fabric store and purchasing the supplies needed to make a dress. I actually did this a few years ago. I decided I’d like to know how a clothing pattern worked and how to use a sewing machine, and the best way to acquire this information seemed to be to make Steph a dress as a Christmas present. (Incidentally, Steph still has and wears the dress that I gave her…which was actually my second attempt at dressmaking as I bungled the first one pretty badly…which means I had to go to the fabric store twice…which means my views on fabric stores are based on more than just one occurrence.) I walked in to the purveyor of clothes-making goods’ and did what any novice in any field must do: I slowly and clumsily gathered each item on a carefully-written list. Many times I had to consult cat-centricly-sweatered employees, with my shaky garment-related vocabulary, to find a proper zipper or needle. Something about most of the answers I got made me completely understand women’s complaints about going to hardware stores and auto repair places.

Perhaps another, more universal example of something that could cause similar gender-based feelings of awkwardness would be accompanying a female companion while they do some serious clothes shopping. I can’t really remember. It’s been a long time since Steph suggested that I go with her while she is clothes shopping, because my absolute favorite thing to do while clothes shopping is to whine about how much I hate clothes shopping. It might just be worth tagging along and assisting with the selection of a few outfits though. Someday your other option might be standing uncomfortably behind a table and saying quietly, to no one in particular, “It’s all handmade.”

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