Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Invisible Man

From the original "Friendster" version of SOTC.

--------The Invisible Man DATE: 04/19/2006 10:51:16 AM-----

I went in to Montavilla Sewing yesterday to pick up my machine; I had had to take it in last week after it started having trouble with erratic tension and skipped stitches. As usual in any sewing or quilting establishment where they don't know me, I had to wait five or six minutes before anyone acknowledged my presence -- it takes them that long to realize that I'm not just a husband in tow. Finally, a perky counterperson asked if I needed help

"I'm here to pick up my machine," I said.

"Oh! Well, can you give me your phone number?" she asked.

"Sure," I said, and gave her the number of my work phone, a number that has about 120 extensions.

She tapped on the computer, looked up at me, and brightly said


Well, no.


All right, I'm going to apologize right up front for cribbing my title from Ralph Ellison. Certainly I don't feel discriminated against in any meaningful sense as a man trying to make his lonely way in a woman's world. By and large, I've felt very welcomed to the craft. But still, I am obviously and conspicuously off-demographic, and people's reactions can get kind of comical sometimes.
A few months ago, I went to a new quilt shop near my neighborhood. The woman minding the store gave me a big, friendly welcome when I came in, and then said "You must be here about the leak!"

I wasn't there about the leak, so I said "nope!" I suppose could have been more helpful by saying something like "No, I'm actually a quilter, here to purchase some quilt-related merchandise!" but for whatever reason I hate spelling that out. So, I just said, "nope."
Clearly suspicious, the woman gave me a much less friendly "can I help you with something, then?" Having already spotted what I was looking for, I said, "no, I'm just looking for some chalk."

At this point, she actually moved as if to block me from going any further, and said -- in a disgusted tone, as if I'd said I was looking for some Night Train -- "Chalk?!? This is a quilting store!"

"Yes," I acknowledged. "And you sell quilter's chalk." I helpfully held up a bottle of the stuff (which is used to make non-permanent guide lines when quilting) to show her.

At this point, she made a dizzying 180 from hostile to fawning. For some reason, that bugged me more than the hostility. The hostility had been a fairly understandable reaction to an unexpected presence in her store. The fawning was just annoying, and has so far kept me from going back.

If I go in any new shop with Sue, she will always have to redirect the storekeeper's attention to me. Absolutely always. She's good at it, though.

I've noticed at guild that people are quick to ask me to show them whatever I'm working on, and that some are quick to tell me what I'm doing wrong -- or at least, what they would do differently. But maybe that happens to all new or young members.

It's a fairly common thing that quilters, on meeting me, rush to reassure me that "oh, I know a lot of men who quilt." I've learned not to probe on this point. If I do, they will then tell me about the one man they know who quilts, then look pained.

When I show up at a quilt show, I'm often told that there are "several quilts in this show by men." Well, if that's true, there must be a bunch of male quilters out there named "Sonya," "Margaret," and "Julie."

What they are really trying to do, I suspect, is reassure themselves that I, the person in front of them, is not a freak. My mom, similarly, used to always talk about how "masculine" my quilts were, until I started teasing her about it. "My son's not a freak!! My son's NOT a freak!!" Although I'm not a big fan of embroidered flowers, chintz prints, and ruffles, I have a hard time seeing anything distinctively testosterone-driven in my work, either.

The most odious indignity that a quiltin' man must suffer, though, is exposure to books and articles about Quilts for the Men in Your Life. These are invariably ghastly. Quilts for Men are always thematic, and the themes are as follows: Cars. Sports. Huntin'. Fishin'. Golf. Ties. Yes, friends, that's the sum total of what men are about. Now, in theory, it would be possible to create a golf-themed quilt that was attractive, interesting, or in excellent taste. But I ain't seen it yet.

Sorry this entry doesn't have pictures.


COMMENT:AUTHOR: Charlie DATE: 05/14/2006 06:28:10 PM
Michael man, I hear you. You would not believe the looks I get at my pole dancing classes at Bally's.-----

1 comment:

Katrina said...

Wow! I really feel for you :) I hope that your local stores start to recognize you soon!