A "Real" Man




"There's an article in one of my quilting magazines that men shouldn't be allowed in quilt shops," Darling Wife said. She looked at me for a response.

"Hah!" I replied.

That was two months ago. Today she came to me with the new issue and letters from readers responding to the article about men in quilt shops and fabric stores. "There's a fight going on," she said.

"What's the fight about?" I asked. It seemed many fights broke out on the world of quilting. We tried to stay away from them, but this was a global village we now lived in, this earth of ours, and sometimes we couldn't avoid the battle. In this case, the arguments were about people called, well, "men."

"Some of the women say that won't allow their husbands to go with them, and some argue that their husbands don't want to go, but a few stick up for their husbands; they say having them go along is a blessing."

"And which side are you on?" I knew how she would answer. She believes I go with her because I enjoy finding things for her to buy. Now, why does she have that idea?

"I'm on your side, whatever it is," she said diplomatically.

"What do the men say?"

"One man says he'd rather have root canal work in each and every one of his teeth than go inside a quilt shop."

"Sounds as if he doesn't want to go along," I said wisely

"Another man wrote that he likes to go because then he can stand around outside the shop with the other men and talk about sports and politics."

"A lot of men do that," I said. "There aren't that many places anymore where men can gather." I had joined such a group once when I was new to my wife's passion for quilting and shopping for fabric.The men that day stood around outside the quilt shop and talked about how much money their wives were spending. They even took bets as to how long the shopping would take. I left the group early and went inside. I wanted to tell all the women to stay for several hours.

"Of course, there are reasons why the men don't go in," my wife began. "Some of the men say that when they go inside the women frown at them for being there and the clerks neglect them and then they feel out of place. They'd rather stay home than get that kind of treatment."

"Considering how few men we see, most of them do stay home."

"Do you ever get that feeling about being not wanted? Some of the men feel that."

"I've never felt that," I said. I never had. Oh, I may have had a strange look now and then, or a woman might have tried to grab some fat quarter out of my hand, and I did have one woman yell at me when I got to a quilt book before she did, but all in all, I and the other men inside that I talked to were generally welcome. It's true that there weren't many.

"Someone wrote that her husband works on his truck outside the store while she's inside. One day she got to buy out the whole store because each time she was finished and came out, he had more of his truck apart."

"I can believe that. I once saw a man jog around the parking lot while he waited. He was wearing a exercise outfit and had on running shoes. Each time he made a lap he looked in through the window to see if his wife was done yet. He must have lost thirty pounds by the time she came out."

"And what were you doing at that time? You're never outside waiting."

"I was getting the batting for you, and the shelves were right next to the window."

"Well, here's a woman that wrote that her husband got so embarrassed by all those women in one place that he turned red and the color stuck to him, just frozen in place. His wife wants him to go to work as a stop sign."

"Now you're making that up," I said. Though it was possible. I have seen men blush as they accompanied their wives through the store. One man once went faint when a woman grabbed at his shirt, moved herself right up next to him, rubbed her hand across his chest, and told him the design on his shirt would make a great quilt design.

"So what do you think can be done about it?" she asked, suddenly serious.

"Done about what?"

"All these men who can't or won't go into a quilt shop with their wives," she answered.

"I'd have all the quilt shops put in a coffee bar where the men can sit, drink coffee, and talk about what it's like to be married to a woman who quilts."

"That might work. I could use a cup of coffee once in a while. I don't know how other women would feel."

"How many wives do you think want their husbands along?" I asked.

"I don't know. A few maybe."

"And how long do you think it will be before men invade the quilt shops?"

"Probably years."

"Then forget it. There's not much we can do," I said.

"We can go shopping, and you can write and tell everyone what it's like to be a real man."

"To be a 'real' man when it comes to shopping in a quilt store?" I asked. The other ways were private.

"You can be a role model. Just your being seen inside can set an example in every fabric store or quilt shop in town. Then we can go from town to town. You could start a new men's movement."

I wondered if, just maybe, I really was needed out there. A men's quilting movement for the twenty-first century? A Million Man March into quilt shops? It might just work. "And what'll you do to help?" I asked.

"I'll shop more."

Of course.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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