This summer I was briefly on medication that prohibited me from going into the water or even being out in the sun. That put a damper on our annual family vacation to Silver Bay YMCA Camp on Lake George.
I normally kayak and swim during the week. That week I would sew.
After sitting around watching me mope, my daughter made a suggestion. In the arts and crafts barn some women were working on a sewing project, and since my mother taught all of her five boys to sew, maybe I could do that.
I went up to the barn and signed up. My Aunt Rita and mother taught us to sew. They needed young eyes to thread the needles, and my mother wanted us to have a little bit of what my aunt would call "bachelor sewing skills." We could mend something.
I approached the woman in charge, and she explained that I was the first male all summer to work on this "dress project." I was going to be making dresses? She explained that I was to make dresses for third-word people. My first question was not very sensitive or evolved. I asked, "Aren't they supposed to be making our clothes?"
This group was making clothes for third-world children. They wanted the children to look well cared for, the theory being that well-cared-for girls are less likely to be used in human trafficking. So I found myself in a little chair becoming a sweatshop worker. A sweatshop that I was paying to be at. Okay, I got up whenever I wanted to and took leisurely breaks. It took me about four hours to make one simple dress. As a sweatshop worker, I was not very good. But around noon, a woman who was working on a table runner approached me. "I have never seen a male sewing, all summer. You are highly evolved."
Apparently, she had never seen a 6-foot 5-inch, 265-pound man making little-girl dresses.
I wanted to explain that I couldn't go out in the sun and this was one of the only things to do. But instead I said, "Thank you, I guess." What do you say to someone when they take it upon themselves to place you arbitrarily on the evolutionary tree? I have heard many comments about my place on the tree in the past. This was the first time I felt it was positive. So I mentioned it to my wife when we met up for lunch. My wife, who has been married to me for 17 years, immediately said I was lying. Why would a highly evolved person lie?
My wife said that no sober person would say that about me. So after lunch I went back with my sewing sisters and talked about it. I approached the woman and asked her to repeat what she said into the video camera on my phone.
The apparently sober women was a little confused. I explained it again. "My wife does not believe anyone would say I was highly evolved. Will you say it again into the camera, and could you use her name when you say it?"
So I got the human judge to repeat it to my wife on video. "Laura, your husband is highly evolved."
I forgot about the third-world dresses and ran the phone down to Laura, who was taking a tennis lesson. (I was forgetting the fact that I was not supposed to be in the sun). I interrupted her on the court, and played it for her. It was hard to see in the sun, but you could hear it fine. My wife was not impressed that I was interrupting her lesson and risking my health to show it to her. I agreed to go back to my sewing. I met her again at dinner, where I pointed out -- across the ding room -- the Arbiter of all things evolutionary. To my surprise my wife stood up, walked over and had a conversation with the woman.
My wife explained that while I may be able to sew, I was not in any other way as highly evolved as I pretended. I did not hear the conversation. My daughter and I were I was busy figuring out a way to take the audio from the recording and make it the ring tone on my wife's phone. use it as my wife's ring tone. No matter when I called, she would hear, "Laura, your husband is highly evolved" over and over again until she picked up.
When my wife returned after quite a while I asked how the conversation went about me and my lofty evolutionary stature. My wife said distractedly, Oh, I don't know. We talked about playing tennis tomorrow.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: email@example.com