In case anyone’s keeping score, up until this point I’ve dodged the comedy rich territory of male/female behavioral differences like a squirrel wandering through an Ozark gun club. Normally I’m not a huge fan of pointing out the tired cliches. Men take five minutes to get ready to go. Women are bad drivers. Men have no idea how to match a bra and panty set. The list goes on for miles.
I find the observations to be wholly unoriginal. Sure men and women are different, having or missing an appendage like a penis will do that to a person. Also, two of the most important people in my life, my Girlfriend and my Mother happen to be women. So I’m not generally in the mood to poke fun at them, they both bite and pull hair.
However, after last weekend, I was utterly wronged by the both of them by a time honored, generally female-centric stereotype. Take a minute, look at the title of the column and try to figure out where I’m going here. Alright, now sit down, it’s not polite to stand and read, and prepare to be taken on journey into the heart of the twisted female psyche. Be afraid, be very, very afraid.
Last Friday night, Eileen and I went upstate to visit my parents. Ah, the old homestead, the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains covered as far as the eye can see in trees greener than hangover tongue. Saturday was a complete wash out, literally. It rained that steady fat drop kind of rain that hits you so often you feel like you’re walking through a perforated land lake.
We sat around, watched TV, read and played some trivia games. Seemingly boring, but when you’re in a place as pretty as that, the caliber of your daily activities are multiplied by the sum of your surroundings. It was the most fun I’ve had in months. Then, Sunday came around.
My mother, home from her Sunday morning community petri dish she calls, “Church” asked if we wanted to join her and a friend at a local land conservancy picnic. Jazz band, lemonade and cherry pie were promised. Now, as most of you know I’m not a very social person… well at least not in the sunlight, and after much protest, I begrudgingly acquiesced.
Fifteen minutes later I’m in a car with three women, two mothers (my mother’s friend and coworker, Rochelle had come along), one girlfriend and one man, traipsing through the countryside listening to NPR. I’m not sure what we were a commercial for but it wasn’t beer, I can tell you that much.
Another fifteen minutes later we sat parked in front of the site where our fabled picnic was supposed to be taking place. There was about as much activity going on at this invite described, “historical barn” as you’d expect. My mother looks at the invite and says, “I hope we didn’t miss it, the invite says the 21st.”
This was Sunday.
Saturday was the 21st.
It was funny. I was actually a little relieved. I’d been saved from an afternoon of small talk and old white people dancing on the grass trying to physically piece together metamucil thick memories of Woodstock as they all patted themselves on the back for saving a few more acres of forest from developers. Not the worst possible thing you could do on a Sunday, no, no, we were about to go do that worst possible thing.
With our plans for the day shattered like my dignity after a Clay Aiken concert, Rochelle said those words that all men fear, “I know this great little shop right near here.” I think I might have fainted for a second, I definitely fainted after I heard the word “Knick Knacks” more than twice in a minute.
And knick knacks there were a plenty. It’s hard to explain a store like the one we went to. I’m not a woman so I can’t understand and relate the allure of a place like this. Maybe I should start from the outside. It was also in a barn. This was twice I was at a barn in one day and not once did I see hay, pitchforks or a farmer’s sexually promiscuous daughter.
The store was called, “Hammertown,” you’d think saying, “Stop. Hammertown,” would be amazingly entertaining but I was quickly stared down by my three female traveling companions. Hammer, don’t hurt ’em. Hammertown’s stock in trade was housewares. Bedding, lighting fixtures, bathroom stuff, brooms, books, couches, suppositories, I don’t know. Whatever it was it was like crack that works only on women.
My mother, my girlfriend and my mother’s friend attacked this store like rabid pitbulls mauling a fluffy bunny that made some really biting remark about the pitbulls’ mother, and then they shot the fluffy bunny. There was this queer bloodlust in their eyes, like this store was a naughty store for having hidden it’s knick knacks away from them for so long.
Everything got handled, picked up, talked about, layed on, poked, prodded, opened, closed, question asked about, stock checked, colors switched, scratched, sniffed, tickled, sneezed on, massaged, talked to, asked out and eventually ignored. I felt like a UN weapons inspector wandering throught the world’s biggest Weapons of Mass Decoration factory.
I, on the other hand, walked in, took a look around, and five minutes later (that’s a very liberal guesstimation), picked something out for purchase. The ladies, unfortunately were just getting started.
Six hours later I had somehow reversed in age to being 4 years old again. I was huffy, cranky, there was no end in sight. I pleaded with my mother to hurry up so we could go. I think I even complained about having to pee. She eventually plied me with a gift of the item I had so instinctually picked out. I sat in the car, I chain smoked outside. I finished the ENTIRE Sunday Times crossword puzzle. I tried to call for help, but apparently Hammertown wasn’t possessing of a cell phone tower.
Eventually, loaded with things they probably won’t ever use and certainly things they don’t need the ladies emerged from the store. They had this fresh from the kill sort of look, their victims slung over their shoulders. My mother was carrying, I shit you not, a leopard skin print broom. Their eyes were glazed over, the fever was subsiding, but still there, the shopping instinct is hard to let go of. They looked at things in the garden next to where we parked the car, like they could buy the azalea bush.
When they got in the car, flush with excitement over their new acquisitions, I might have cried a tiny bit from relief. I felt like a kidnapped dignitary being returned to his family. What is this compulsion in women to not only purchase, but to go through the complex rituals and motions associated with the purchase? Why was it so painful to me? Why are people so fascinated with cast iron lights made to look like fucking medieval candelabras?
It’s all pretty simple actually. Many thousands of hundreds of years ago, when man was coming down out of the trees, woman decided to come to, because the trees looked like shit. Man was hungry, so he went and killed things. Woman, apparently, wasn’t too happy with the way the cave looked either so she fashioned the first ever knick knacks out of bones and stuff from the things man killed. She wasn’t even hungry, she just sent the man out to kill more animals so she could make a precious wind chime and hang it at the front of the cave. And everything had to be mammoth, so that it would fit the overall theme of the cave.
In truth, I don’t know, nor do I think I ever will know. Women to me are like a closed book, written in Sanskrit, in invisible ink, that’s been burnt to ashes. I mean, I love my mother, and even more so, my girlfriend, but God help me if I ever get corralled into another expedition like that one.
I just might snap and kill me a leopard skin print broom, too.