Friday, January 4, 2013

"Be careful who you're calling a child, Lois, because if I'm a child that makes you a pedophile. And I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit around and get lectured by a pervert."* Or, alternatively, "An ounce of perversion is worth a pound of cure."**

   The first time I saw a penis was at a fabric store.

   It may not have been the actual first penis I saw, because I’m not sure if babies’ penises count (and lord knows I had already changed a fair amount of diapers at that point), but it was definitely the first adult penis I saw and it was something I hadn’t been planning on seeing maybe ever. Mostly because I was 8 or so at the time and I wasn’t really in Penis Mode. (I’ve since seen thousands of penises! Just kidding, Mom. I’ve only seen that one.)

   Anyway, my mom had taken Ouisa and me, along with our best buddies, (who are also sisters) Erika and Morgan, to the fabric store during a play date because she just had to “run in and grab something.” If memory serves, as soon as we entered the store we were all over the place: rifling through buttons and hiding behind bolts of fabric and finding amazing build-a-bear kits that no parent ever wants to buy for fear they’ll have to keep that hideous, tacky bear in their home for the next five-to-eight years. You know how it was: we were being kids. The way you do.

I learned how to sew over the summer and took lots of romantic shots of my sewing supplies. This becomes relevant: wait for it.

   While wandering through the aisles, I saw a man squatting on his heels, examining a display. It was weird to see a man in a fabric store, so I think I paused briefly out of surprise more than anything. But then I saw that his athletic shorts were hitched up on one side and his penis was lying on his exposed thigh. Right out there in the open for anyone to see.

   I immediately started giggling and got Morgan. I pointed it out to her and we both thought it was hysterical. Here this poor man had come on his errand to the fabric store, and accidentally let his penis flop out of his pants while perusing miniature doll furniture (it probably wasn’t miniature doll furniture, but the memory wants what it wants). 
Then I made them all 70's and nostalgic (and bad, let's be honest) by editing them...but I didn't know what to do with them.

   We immediately grabbed Ouisa and Erika so they could see the unfortunate man with his penis accidentally COMPLETELY HANGING OUT OF HIS PANTS. One of us told my mom, who was several aisles away looking at fabric or thread or whatever it was she needed. I don’t remember who told her. I just remember her reaction:

   “Where?” She was seething. It had stopped being fun in an instant.

   “Over there,” one of us pointed.

   I think we sensed danger in the air. I had that same gut-wrenching feeling I had every time I thought things were about to get really real. Nowadays, I tend to relish that feeling: back then it made me tense, embarrassed and somehow keenly aware that life was not the wonderful time I thought it was.

   My mother took off after that man and chased him, screaming, out the door. I can’t remember what she said, but I’m sure it was to the point.

   It took me awhile to realize that he’d shown us his penis on purpose. I mean, why would anyone show you his junk in a fabric store on purpose? Life is embarrassing enough as it is. But that was my first and, sadly, last flashing experience. And now that I think about it, that man was a genius to hit up a fabric store for his penis show: it's mostly women and a lot of them too old to chase him.

   I have to hand it to my mom: she was a superhero in that moment (as well as many other moments during my life) and she did exactly what one should do in such a scenario. At the time, I felt sad that I’d thought it was funny and scared that my mom would get hurt or get in trouble. Now I know I’d behave in exactly the same manner if someone tried to show his wiener to a bunch of kids I was watching. Maybe especially at a fabric store. I’d probably add a lot more profanity, though. Mom is much classier than I am. 
Sammy made me a sewing kit for Hanukkah, because I love sewing so much (despite being terrible at it). And I think my adoration of the crafty arts shows that I wasn't permanently scarred by the Penis Incident. There. I've managed to devise a point for these photos I'm forcing you to look at.

   Anyway, so the other night, I was over at Morgan’s house visiting with her and Erika and I said to her at one point, “I found a picture of us at Lake Okoboji from fourth grade. You know what it reminded me of, for some reason?”

   Without a pause Mo said, “The time we saw the penis at the fabric store?”

   I shit you not.

   I couldn’t believe she remembered it, or that she ever thought of it. I don’t think we were traumatized the way we probably should have been. It made me feel better that Morgan's reaction was similar to my own (this is how I measure my sanity). This is also, I think, largely due to my mom grabbing that man by his ear (or his too-short gym shorts?) and throwing him bodily out of the store. And maybe Mo remembering it has something to do with the fact that she’s a mom now, so she probably has to be more alert about perverts than the rest of us.

   But it was fun to reminisce about our "My First Penis" story.

   And, incidentally, I think that place used to be called Northwest Fabrics; but I’m almost positive it’s now called Hancock Fabrics. Perfect. And somehow a much more appropriate name.
*The quote is from Peter Griffin on Family Guy (Seth MacFarlane, 1999). You know how I love circular logic...if that even happens to be an example of circular logic. That's a post for another time.
**This is a Ted Baxter quote from The Mary Tyler Moore Show (James L. Brooks, Allan Burns, 1970).
***Sorry for all the sewing pictures. I just really like to take pictures of things I care about and share them here. Whatever. It's my blog. I do what I want.

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