Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Miles of Piles
"Do you want to come upstairs?"
I was 12, and though I’d arrived somewhat late to the pheromones party, I’d seen enough movies to know that a question of this ilk was Admission: Granted in the dating game’s application process. Besides, I had almost expected the invitation for ascent, for earlier in the day I’d made a not-so-disparaging remark about ballet, which for preteen males is radical progressivism.
"Yeah. Let’s go upstairs."
This being one of my first solo forays into the female habitat, all the anatomical differences between boys’ and girls’ rooms frightened away my mojo. Soft pastel colors. Incense sticks in incense stick holders. A pink computer. Real furniture. Posters of bands I hated. An embroidered army of throw pillows.
There would be more girls’ rooms in my future, and somewhere along the evolutionary way, there would be womens’ rooms, in different countries and belonging to different economic communities. At that moment, however, on the literal threshold of what I thought would be my Man-itiation, the Crate and Barrel aesthetic was impenetrable. How can I impose myself here, and on this person, whose living space is more meticulously arranged than a mile of dominoes? This girl, all seven grades of her, was made of tougher stuff.
Beset by macro concerns about sexuality, gender, and where to sit if the bed was made, my immediate fate was determined by the room’s lone unordered element: clothing. Heaps of all styles, shapes, and identities—shirts, pants, dresses, socks, underwear (well, at least that was cool), skirts, tubes, tanks, and everything else—lay strewn about. The collection on the floor was quickly bloated by a cascade of garments from the dresser, which my friend was emptying with gusto.
“Sooo…I have to make piles,” she said, tossing handfuls of tees across the room. “And the thing is, I don’t really know what’s small on me and what’s not, so I’m just going to make piles of what I think I don't want anymore, and I’ll go through them with my mom tomorrow.”
It’s a scene that would replay itself dozens of times, and I read it correctly right away: Naughty stuff was not about to go down.
Indeed, piles of clothing are a disappointingly clear part of the male-female cipher. If they exist on or around a girl’s (or woman’s) floor, sex is not the offing. Luckily, men don’t have to participate in the ritualized folding, collating, and decision-making. This is probably because women realized long ago that, in all things couture, we have no idea what the hell we’re talking about.
Our sartorial sense never develops, even after years of watching our friends, girlfriends, and wives do the exact same thing over and over. Last night, I sat not five feet from two girls while they separated apparel into piles. I did not help, did not offer to help, and did not learn anything. Generations of men have had the same MO, and, barring heterosexuality's extinction, it will remain so.
The lesson in all of this?
Have a girl over to your place.
Stay Sorted, Piles