There’s an event going on right now, as I write this, that excludes me because of my penis. Not because of anything my penis has done, but simply because I have one. So it’s nothing personal, you understand. This exclusionary event is called a swap meet.
I found out about it innocently enough. Yesterday, my co-worker—who is hosting this event at this very moment—asked me what I was going to do for the weekend. Little did I know it was going to open a door into a pain-lab of sexism.
“What are you going to do this weekend?” Donna asked me right to my face. Oh yeah, her name is Donna.
“I don’t know, no real plans,” I replied, indicating that I had no plans, leaving the door wide open to any number of invitations.
Then there was a pause. This is important. Keep this in mind.
“What have you got going on?” I asked. I asked her. Which indicates that she may have let the silence drag on for infinity (we’ll never know for sure, since I broke the silence). And the information that follows was not volunteered.
“We got our swap meet!” So let’s pause for a moment and examine this. She obviously was happy, which is why I went through the trouble of pressing shift + 1 to create the exclamation point. But more important, she used the word “our.” Who exactly was represented by that pronoun? What army had she crammed into those three letters? I didn’t know. I only knew that it included her. But I was about to find out. And so are you. If you continue reading.
“Swap meet?” That’s it. That’s all I asked. What followed was a flood of info.
“Yeah. We get together, bring stuff we don’t want anymore—nice things, pick up stuff we need, drink, talk, and have a blast. We even have a sticker system that tells everyone how bad you want an item and if two people want the item just as bad, they have to do a game or something so we can pick a winner. It’s a great time. This will be the what, Ruta, third year?”
“Yeah third year,” said Ruta. She works right next to Donna.
“Wow. Sounds like fun. I’d like to go.”
Boom. You should have seen her face. She totally didn’t expect me to say that.
“Yeah, I have stuff I don’t need anymore. Good stuff. And I like to drink.”
“Well . . .” she looked at Ruta. Ruta turned back to her computer and started slapping keys. No help there. “Well, it’s just, you know, it’s just . . . just going to be the girls.”
It sat there for a moment. She said no more because what more needs to be said? This was the unquestionable truth. She looked at me while my brain took it in, hoping that she wouldn’t have to explain it further because it couldn’t be explained any further. That’s just the way it was. The way it has always been. It was accepted and agreed upon that “swap meets” are located in lady-land. For ladies. Only.
“Okay, I’ll send Jill.”
There was relief. The world was restored. Life made sense again. “Sure! Then she could give us some mid-century modern furniture and the real story about you.”
But of course we couldn’t have that. So it was never a real offer.
And I began thinking down two different directions at once.
First, what makes this swap meet thing a female-only thing? I get that I don’t want Donna’s old purse, but what’s exclusively feminine about people getting together to trade things and drink? Men drink and trade punches all the time. Usually with ladies present. But this was their THIRD annual swap meet and, based on her reaction, no guy had attended previously or even asked. Or maybe even wanted to ask.
What did this say about me that I thought it sounded like a good time? Obviously something was broken in my man-programming. A wire or something had detached somewhere. To fix this obvious defect I told myself that I would start a MEN-Only swap meet tradition where we could exchange old porn and insults. We could berate one another on individual tastes in music, power tool preferences, football team allegiances, and shoe size before getting shitfaced and leaving with every damn thing we brought, deeming the other jackasses unworthy of our treasures. We would succeed in stinking up the phrase “swap meet” so that it had a manly stench and no one could ever assume that it was a girl-thing only. I would reclaim the phrase and restore a manliness I never really had. So I put that on my to-do list.
The second direction my brain started down was on a parallel track. And I realized I had ridden this train before. Because this swap meet wasn’t the first fun-sounding get-together I had been excluded from thanks to my anatomy. My family had been shutting me out for years.
Quite a few years back I discovered that all the women in my extended family had been getting together to celebrate birthdays at little birthday dinners. So they’d get together to celebrate the March birthdays in March and the May birthdays in May, and my birthday never. Oh they had an August birthday dinner, all right. There are a few August birthdays in my family: my sister, my cousin, me. And they were sure to mark those special days with a special night in August. One that they chatted about and agreed upon and looked forward to and enjoyed the ever-loving shit out of, more than likely ending the night laughing themselves out the door of an Outback Steakhouse or a Tin Fish or a Cooper’s Hawk or some such place, telling each other that they would be sure to start planning the next birthday bash. But never once did my phone ring with a where and when.
I don’t know how I found out about these fetes. Someone slipped. I remember asking why I wasn’t invited to the August birthday dinner. I was born in August and I was related to all the people going . . . so . . . yeah. Was I somehow past the cut-off date? Did they draw a line through the month and only recognize those born up until the 17th?
No. I was told it was because of my penis. Well she didn’t put it that way, she said it was just for the women in the family. But that meant if I had myself a vajayjay then you bet I would have a big ole margarita to go with that vajayjay in August.
Is it wrong for me to like margaritas?