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    In which Sean complains gratingly

    If there are any managers of housewares departments reading, may I ask you a favor? When hiring men, please make sure they’re queens.

    Straight men are great–my very own father is a straight man, and I just love and respect him to pieces–and there are plenty of roles they can fulfill in society that constitute a real contribution. Just not when they’re supposed to be selling you vases, endtables, or curtains.

    I thought I was going to end up making this guy cry yesterday by asking whether he could measure the depth of a vase for me. You know, I wanted to buy flowers for it on the way home, and I needed to know how long the stems had to be without unpacking it right there at the flower shop. (You can eyeball these things sometimes, but it can be tough to gauge how thick the bottom of something is.) If the flowers are too short, they have to be entirely defoliated and end up looking as if they were being garroted, which isn’t a pleasing decorative effect unless you happen to live in a dungeon, and maybe not even then. The more I tried to explain this, the more traumatized he looked. By the time the ordeal was over (the first vase got marred when they tried to scrape off the brand label for me, so they had to bring a second one out of the stockroom–yet more agitated activity for one of these foreigners with their strange requests), I was feeling traumatized myself.


    Luckily, one of my friends was back from a week home in Australia, so we went out for a restorative drink and catch-up. Less luckily, just as the vase encounter had blissfully slipped from the memory, I was beset by two guys who had been talking and flirting with my buddy.

    It was the usual round of questions: How long have you been here? Where are you from? Oh, and where did you grow up? Oh, where on the East Coast? Pennsylvania? Where in Pennsylvania? Oh. Well, then, where on the Philadelphia end of the state?

    At this point, I know I’m in for it. Long draught of vodka. Sigh. “From just outside Allentown.”

    One beat. Two beats.

    Oh! You mean like the Billy Joel song?

    Now, that everyone I will ever meet in my entire life will respond to the mention of Allentown with that exact sentence is a harsh reality to which I have long been inured. That everyone seems to think he’s the first to think of it also doesn’t bother me–we’re all less original than we like to imagine we are.

    But rarely do two people utter it at the same time.

    And then start singing the song at me in stereo.

    My buddy, who’s seen this conversation and my wearied reaction many times before, stifled an uncharitable chuckle and excused himself to go to the toilet. (Bitch. I’ll remember that.) Fortunately for me, another friend, one who actually understands the meaning of loyalty, was on my other side. At the first opportunity, he commandeered my empty glass and waved one of the bar guys over. “Oh, darling–not just the Allentown comment, but impromptu karaoke as well? I saw your fist clenching and unclenching–just be glad it’s over now and relax and drink this.”


    And while I’m mewling, why do delivery services find it necessary to play head games with you? Tokyu Hands originally told me my latest acquisitions could be delivered between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., but that I’d be called with a more exact time this morning. Fine. I get a call at 8:30: “I’ll be arriving at your place between 11:00 and 13:00.” Okay. At least that’s a reasonably narrow range.

    At 10:30 I’m getting ready to get in the shower so I can be out, dressed, and maquillage-èd by the time the guy comes. (Just because I want to be able to leave for work right after receiving my delivery, not for the other reason that may occur to the image-conscious gay mind. Japan must be the only country on Earth without hot delivery men and construction workers.) My keitai rings. “Hi! It’s XX from Tokyu Hands. I’m at your building in less than five minutes.” Granted that being early is better than making you wait around endlessly, I was just lucky I hadn’t decided to go out and run some errands under the assumption that it would be okay to be back at my apartment by 10:55 or so. (I’ve done so before with unpleasant results.)

    On the bright side, the apartment is nearing completion.

    7 Responses to “In which Sean complains gratingly”

    1. You mean he didn’t immediately take advantage of the chance to measure something with a huge metal tape measure (which should have been hanging from his belt)? If you ask me this guy failed Straight Guy 101.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, he was in housewares, not hardware, so I’d go a little easy on him as far as having it on his person goes. Still, you’d think he would have had the usual straight-guy knowledge of exactly where under the counter the tape measure was kept and produced it triumphantly as soon as it was demanded.

    3. Mark Alger says:

      You are exactly right on point one. The absolute BEST reps for anything to do with interiors are either queens or fag hags. No shit. Absolutely brilliant, competent and knowledgeable, with just the right balance of wit and sarcasm. Straight guys can’t approach it. It can’t be universal — that would be TOO pat — but at least my limited experience bears it out. Must be some kind of a genetic linkage, but I’m damned if I can put a finger on it.

      And I hadn’t really thought about it until you mentioned it. But from this set of anecdotal experience, it’s true. SWMBO and I have had a handful of favorite salesmen at furniture stores over the years, and they have ALL been gay. Go figure.


    4. John says:

      When I think of Allentown, I think of these doofi (isn’t that the plural of doofus?). They were presenting this crap all over the landscape when I was a grad student.

      Just what magical new properties they thought they were going to get out of making perfectly spherical polymer colloids in space (as opposed to nearly perfectly spherical ones down here) escapes me. It was like putting a third grader’s science experiment on the Shuttle. Unfortunately most shuttle “science” experiments are that useless.

      So – I betcha that one came out of left field for you – of all the things to make fun of Allentown about, crappy space experiments was probably last on your list, huh?

      But before I ran into them, the Billy Joel song was the only reason I ever thought about Allentown. 😉

    5. Sean Kinsell says:


      “It can’t be universal — that would be TOO pat — but at least my limited experience bears it out.”

      I can assure you it’s not universal. What I think is true is that gay guys who don’t have extraordinary design sense are aware of that and intuitively stay away from jobs in which they’d need it, which is why all those you meet are super-good at what they do.

      I’m not sure why it would have to be entirely genetic, BTW. I’m just extemporizing here, but gays tend to grow up with the sense that we’re different from the people around us, even if we have friends and stuff and don’t figure out what the concrete difference is until adulthood. So I wonder whether that’s likely to translate into a heightened sense of private space and how to outfit it in a way that expresses a distinct personality. Speaking of which…


      I assume the question has little scientific import, but as someone who appreciates perfection of form, I’m going to side with the Lehigh researchers on aesthetic grounds. It’s one thing to appreciate charming little physical idiosyncrasies in silk shantung, wood grain, or elderly leaded-glass windows–but if lab researchers are trying to make their polymer colloids spherical, I say bully for them if they’re unsatisfied with anything less than zero eccentricity. The ruthless pursuit of regularity can be a satisfying end in its own right.

      And Lehigh is in Bethlehem, not Allentown. Just, you know, in the interest of accuracy.

    6. John says:

      Allentown, Bethlehem, it’s all the same from Pittsburgh. 😉

      The thing is that the stuff I made on Earth was so good that you could not see the asphericality without a computer imaging program. If the spherical aberrations are that small, I could never figure out what especial new physical properties were going to appear by eliminating that last 0.05%.

      “The ruthless pursuit of regularity can be a satisfying end in its own right. ”

      As long as they are paying for it out of their own pocket right? I thought you were a libertarian. 😉

    7. Sean Kinsell says:


      “The thing is that the stuff I made on Earth was so good that you could not see the asphericality without a computer imaging program.”

      Oh, so they were showing you up. The source of the antipathy is just a bit clearer now. : )

      And I don’t see why researchers should have to fund their own frivolous projects, necessarily; there foundations out there that are willing to throw money at oddball ideas. In an ideal world, the government itself shouldn’t be funding the Center for Fabulously Perfect Sphericality unless it makes a direct contribution to national defense or something. But in the real world, I don’t see how it’s much worse than farm subsidies.

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