gender roles

Math Makes You Cute

By chance this holiday season I came about a book by actress and (apparently) math-whiz Danica McKellar best known for her role in The Wonder Years.  The 2007 book “Math Doesn’t Suck” is aimed at middle school girls. The purpose of the book is to get girls interested in math and to overcome the stereotype that girls are naturally bad at it.  This is a worthy goal. Only yesterday I read an article in the BPS Research Digest about how negative gender stereotypes about math impact women’s math performance.  (Answer: Badly.)

…women’s maths performance suffers after they are reminded of the stereotype that men are better than women at maths.

… those students who more strongly endorsed gender stereotypes in relation to maths and the arts, subsequently showed more biased recall of their past exam performance. That is, girls who endorsed the stereotypes underestimated their past maths performance, while boys who endorsed the stereotypes tended to underestimate their past arts performance. …Girls given a more salient reminder of gender stereotypes underestimated their actual past maths exam performance while boys in this condition overestimated their maths performance.

I did not read the text of McKeller’s book itself, which may be excellent. What interested me most about McKellar’s book was how it was packaged appeal to pre-teen girls.  The cover, which looks like Seventeen Magazine, tells girls they can get through middle school math “without breaking a nail.” It– for some reason I can’t fathom– asks in pink type “Do you still have a crush on him?” and promises “Horoscopes inside!”  (It really does have horoscopes inside.) Of the three front cover blurbs that actually refer to math, all remind girls of negative gender stereotypes “Never be confused again,” “Are you a math-o-phobe? Take this quiz!” and “How to survive middle school math without losing your mind…”

Surviving math is setting the bar fairly low.  The cover doesn’t promise to make you better than others in math or a master of math, only that you will get through it and be able, presumably, to move on to other (more gender appropriate) things when you’ve come out the other side.

The quotes on the back cover describe the book as “Clueless (the movie) meets Euclid” and say it brings “a little glamour to the teaching of mathematics.”

The endorsement that interested me the most, however, was from talk show host Leeza Gibbons who says the book is a roadmap to success for girls “no matter what career they choose.”  (Again, there seems to be an underlying assumption that math is not going to be a big factor in the woman’s life after she leaves school.)  What makes it such a path to success is that it “teaches the value of confidence that comes from feeling smart.”

None of the blurbs on the cover suggest that math might be useful that it might, for example, lead to a career in science, engineering, computer programming. Math matters because girls need confidence and self-esteem.  Why is self-esteem important? Gibbons doesn’t say, but my intuition tells me that the underlying assumption is that it’s important for girls to have confidence because it makes them more charming, attractive and popular.  In any case, building self-confidence and “showing off” are the only real world uses of math suggested in the cover endorsements.

All of this brings me back to something I have written about here before.  When we talk about giving boys the tools for success we talk about what they can do. When we try to “empower” girls we tell them to think positive and feel good.

Back in September I quoted another BPS article that reported on studies that showed the benefits of praising children for their efforts rather than their inherent qualities:

“…the study revealed that parents tend to use more person praise with girls and more process praise with boys, echoing similar results in earlier research. In turn, later on, boys tended to express an incremental mindset [seeing ability as malleable and challenges as an opportunity to learn] more often than girls. This tallies with the picture painted in the developmental literature that girls more than boys attribute failure to lack of ability, especially in maths and science.”

Given that reminding girls of negative gender stereotypes about math tends to make them under-estimate their past performance, the blurbs on the front of this book seem likely to make girls less, not more, confident in their math ability.  Framing success in math in “person praise” instead of “process praise” makes girls more likely to think of mathematical ability as a personal rather than learn-able trait. You either have or you don’t (and that girls usually don’t). But it’s OK, because the book cover reassures girls that they don’t have to master it in the long term– they just need to survive it while they’re in school and then they can move on to something else.









I Fail the Bechdel Test

I am probably the last person on Earth to find out about this.  I may look like I’m all hip and groovy or whatever hip and groovy people call themselves this year, but in fact, I am slow in picking up on memes and I fear passing along something as a great new concept about a month after your grandmother has sent you the link.

Anyway, the video above, which I discovered through Sociological Images, explains the simple concept behind the Bechdel test for gender bias in films.  Here are the rules.  To pass the test a film has to have:

  1. at least two named female characters
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

I applied this test to my novel Angel and it fails miserably.  There are really only two main characters, both men.  There are a number of named minor female characters but I can not think of any scenes in which they speak to each other without a male character present.  (As the viewpoint character is male, it would actually be impossible.  If he didn’t see it, it wouldn’t be in the book, so therefore a male is always present.)  Even with this excuse, though, most of the conversation with Paul present in a group of predominantly female characters, deal with their infatuation with the handsome young Ian.  One scene, with four characters, two male and two female is ostensibly a conversation about a blood drive, but it revolves around the reasons Ian is not giving blood.  So Angel fails the Bechdel test.

Interestingly, the novel I have been trying to sell for the past six months or so actually fails the reverse Bechdel test!  There are two female viewpoint characters.  They have conversations about boys and relationships but also music, school politics, their career goals and interests.  They also interact with two supporting characters who are female friends and the story also deals with the relationship between one of the female characters and her mother.  There are two significant male characters.  They do not interact with each other and one is really only significant in his relationship to one of the female characters.  It is set in a school and most of the authority figures are female.

I’ve had a few close calls with this novel.  (We like it but…) I find myself vaguely wondering if being a reverse Bechnel failure has anything to do with its perceived lack of commercial potential?

So I don’t know.  Am I part of the problem?

The Olden Days: Pink is for Boys

When I was pregnant and we chose not to share the sex of the baby (because we wanted a wider variety of clothes than all blue football-toting teddy bears or all pink ballerinas), I was asked, “How am I supposed to shop if I don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl?!” What an interesting interplay of technology, marketing forces, and social constructs!

The blog Pink is for Boys has an interesting article today featuring some slideshows of birth announcements and clothing choices for babies in the early part of the 20th Century.  The various videos (two embedded and links to others) show that the blue and pink coding system was not the norm.  In fact, male toddlers once wore frocks, I assume because it was easier to dress and change them.

How to Write Dirty Books Without Even Trying

“By taking communion, he was acknowledging the divine nature of his immortal soul. His inner and outer beauty merged and became one, inviolate, complete. Of course, a person’s soul can never truly be possessed either. But unlike physical beauty, it can be shared: a pair of souls in holy, holy communion.”

Is this erotica? Amazon believes it is. So does Google Books. So do a lot of book selling sites.

My novel, Angel, is the story of a Christian minister whose assumptions are challenged when he finds himself falling in love with another man. Not only does Amazon categorize it under “gay erotica” it sometimes comes up with the tag “gay sex” even though the only sexual activity described on the page is kissing.

It never occurred to me that this was what constituted “erotica.” I admit that I don’t have first hand experience of gay male sex, which explains my confusion. In the straight world, for a book to be considered erotic, it has to contain descriptions of actual sex. I had assumed that the same principle would apply when the protagonists were two men. I didn’t know that it was considered explicit sexual content when two men’s lips touch.

Every time I turn around I find another site calling Angel “erotica,” so it must be true. Book sellers are in the book categorizing business, after all. They must know what they are doing.

“Paul leaned in again, and this time their lips touched, tentatively at first. Ian responded, gently teasing Paul’s lips with his own. An invitation and an answer.”  


I have not yet figured out how to capitalize on my salacious infamy. Some friends have suggested that now that it has been explained to me that I am a writer of erotica, I should embrace it—- go all “Fifty Shades of Gay” and make a million dollars. I should build up a following of avid erotica fans and churn out volumes of hot man-on-man action like:

“So they unfolded the futon, pulled out the afghan, and curled up to watch whatever was on TV. Ian rested his head on Paul’s right shoulder with his arm draped across Paul’s chest. Paul lazily ran the fingers of his right hand through Ian’s hair.”

I have been trying to decide what my porn name should be. My name is already Laura Lee. What can I come up with that is better than that? The thing is, I’m just not sure I can handle a gay porn writing career. Why?

Because frankly, gay men, I’m disappointed. All my life I’ve heard so much about your promiscuous sex lives, your freaky three-ways, your glory holes, bondage dens and anonymous encounters in the baths. Who knew that all it takes to get you off is resting your head on another man’s shoulder while you flip through the channels on TV?

You guys are boring! The straights get steamier in the Biblical epics on the Family Channel.

So a career writing gay erotica is not for me.  So let me take one more stab at getting your juices flowing before I retire from my pornography career:

“My personal feeling about why the church tries to promote sex
only within marriage is that ideally it preserves the real life-affirming
kind of sexuality. It’s not just about sensation and your own pleasure, it’s
about connecting to someone else on a deep and serious level. Maybe
churches are clumsy in how they express that sometimes.”
“Clumsy, like saying only straight people can have that.”
“Yeah, clumsy like that.”
“You think two men can have ‘life-affirming’ sex?”
“Yeah, I do. Of course they can.”

Are you breathing heavy?

Now it occurs to me that maybe I am not being fair.  It is possible that it’s not you, gay men, it’s me.

I read an article today on Indie Reader in which author Pavarti K. Tyler discusses the steamy texts of Anais Nin and Henry Miller.

“It isn’t surprising that Nin found it necessary to self publish. Art which challenges peoples’ notions of sexuality is always difficult to find funding for, especially the type which deals with women’s sexuality,” Tyler writes. “Historically in the US, erotica has had tremendous difficulty finding an audience… When she moved to America with her second husband, she found her titles had almost no market and were unavailable to the general public. Meanwhile, Henry Miller’s infamous works ‘Tropic of Cancer’ and ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ (also initially self-published) were achieving critical and financial success. What is interesting is that as crass as Miller’s prose can be, it was always considered ‘literature’, while Nin’s much more poetic style carried the less commercial label: ‘erotica’.”

A couple of years ago I read a novel by a male author.  It was the story of a gay male divinity student.  I can’t recall the author’s name or the title any longer, but what I do remember is that the book opened with the protagonist waking up in the morning after a particularly successful night cruising, and unable to remove his cock ring, still on from the previous night, he wears it to devotion under his robe.  I learned about that book through a review in the gay press.  It was reviewed there, in exactly the way “erotica” is generally not.  It was labeled as LGBT fiction.

So maybe it all comes down to that porn name of mine.  Angel by someone named Laura Lee just sounds like erotica.  So it must be.

Don Quixote, Da Vinci and the Invisibility of Children in Literature

In Encounter Milan Kundera made the observation that “scarcely 1 percent of the world’s population are childless, but at least 50 percent of the great literary characters exit the book without having reproduced.”

I found this to be quite thought-provoking.  I disagree, however, with his conclusions as to why this is.  He hypothesizes that the novel makes the protagonist “irreplaceable… the center of everything.”

If Don Quixote had children, he argues, his life would be prolonged.  His narrative would go on in the form of his children and the story wouldn’t be finished.

This makes no sense to me as the full life of a character from birth to death is not usually the span of a novel.  Novels usually focus on a particular period in a character’s life starting not at birth but just before a particular drama unfolds.  Some novels end with the death of the main character, but this is far from a requirement.  The story is finished when the drama as the author conceived it is over.  (“And they lived happily ever after” is as common in story telling as “And then they all died.”)

Stories do not include children for the same reason they do not include a lot of elements of life— the drama of a novel is stripped down to those characters and situations that are essential to portray the particular struggle being illustrated.  Children exist in our stories largely as plot devices rather than characters because adults are, for the most part, not that interested in exploring the depths of the immature mind.

The biggest problem I see with a Papa Don Quixote is that we are meant to view Don Quixote as a hero because he refuses to be constrained by ugly reality and chooses instead to live in beautiful fantasy.  He makes his own dream world rather than living with the constrains and responsibilities of his social environment.  There is a part of us that is always at war with the constrains of society, and that part loves Quixote.  But it is much easier to admire Don Quixote’s beautiful madness if it is not at the expense of an abandoned family; a wife and children who might depend on him to be present in the real world back home.

It would be even more outlandish for us if he were a woman.  Imagine Donna Quixote:  A wealthy Spanish woman who chooses a world of fantasy over reality.  She would have a hard time.  If she was childless our culture would have us assume one of two things about her.  Either she was traumatized by her barrenness (her madness might be attributed to it) or she was selfish enough to put her own needs above child rearing.  She could be either a damaged victim or unsympathetic.  Those are really the only two choices we have in our culture, especially historically, for childless women.  Neither makes for a great hero.  If Donna Quixote had children, on the other hand, how forgiving would we be if she went off to have adventures as a knight and left the kids behind?  Much less so, I imagine, than we would be for the warriors of classic literature.

Which leads to another observation about the great literary characters.  I am making this statistic up out of thin air, but my guess would be that while a full 50% of the world’s population is female, 98% of the great literary characters are male.

Historically, children were a woman’s responsibility and they were interesting to men only as heirs.  This being the case, they would rarely figure in the drama of a man’s life.  He might find his princess and she might have his children, but that would have little impact on his adventures at sea.

Kundera’s analysis of the purpose of children in literature, in fact, takes the view that the only meaning of a child is as an heir.  The child is not a responsibility or a person with whom you have a relationship.  If more of the great books focused on the lives of women then children might be more present.  In stories about women, children often exist as a pressing responsibility.

I was thinking about this question again the other day when I was reading one of those books on the search for the historical Jesus.  The book speculated on whether or not Jesus was a married man.  It would be unusual for a 30-year-old Jewish man of his day not to be married, and the author concluded that it was likely that he would have been.  The popularity and appeal of this view of Jesus is attested to by the great success of Dan Brown’s best seller The DaVinci Code.

Of course, when you speculate about the marital status of Jesus, the next question is whether or not he had children.  The author of the book on the historical Jesus touched on this question.  Just as Dan Brown does in The DaVinci Code and as Kundera does in his musings on Don Quixote’s childlessness, he frames the question of Jesus’s children as one of his bloodline. Does Jesus have descendants walking around somewhere?

This sidesteps a rather important question: If Jesus had children what kind of father was he?

We know that Jesus did not have many positive things to say about family bonds.  He told his disciples to leave their families and follow him, and he turned away his own mother and brothers (Matthew 12:47-49) and said that his disciples were his real brothers.  Would this detachment from his mother and siblings extend to the next generation as well?

It is easy to see how the idea of a Christ with children becomes problematic.  If he favored his own children over others, it undercuts his message of universal love– a love that shines out on everyone and everything with equal unconcern.  Jesus loves the beggar, the prostitute and the tax collector with the same depth and quality as he loves his mother, no more no less.  Yet as human beings, the idea of a father who does not favor his own children and give them special attention over other people is abhorrent to us.

It is much easier to avoid the issue all together by leaving his family, if indeed he had one, out of the story.

Bert and Ernie I’m Awfully Fond of You (Woo Woo Be Do)

I have to admit that the whole “Should Ernie and Bert marry?” nonsense has managed to capture my imagination.  In case you have more serious reading habits than I, here is the story: an online petition asking the Sesame Street Workshop to “allow” the muppet roomies to come out of the closet and get married got so much attention that the Sesame Workshop was forced to issue a statement about it.

I like their response, which does a good job walking the tightrope of saying Ernie and Bert are not gay without implying that there would be anything wrong with it if they were:

Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.

I am not among those advocating for a Bert and Ernie wedding.  The whole thing, however, got me reflecting on how differently we discuss and think about same sex and opposite sex unions. 

It is, of course, not true that puppets (or fictional children’s characters in general) do not have sexual orientation. 

Miss Piggy, not a Sesame Street character but still a puppet and a muppet, was a huge flirt who made no bones about her attraction to Kermit the Frog.  The puppet couple even had a wedding in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Miss Piggy is, in fact, one of the few female muppets and just about the only well-known female muppet.  I can only think of that hippie chick from the Dr. Tooth band and a fairly unmemorable blonde haired puppet from Sesame Street episodes when I was a child.  (Was her name Prarie Dawn?)

Giving my hero Jim Henson the benefit of the doubt, I will assume the lack of female puppets was due largely to the fact that the puppeteers were men and found it more convincing to voice “male” monsters and frogs and dogs and… whatever Gonzo is.  (By the way, didn’t Gonzo have a romantic relationship with a chicken?)

The fact remains that the main character trait of the only famous female muppet is a romantic one.  As with a great deal of children’s entertainment there are people (males) and then there are love interests (females).

(In 1992 Sesame Street added Zoe to increase the number of female muppets and again in 2006 Sesame Street added a female fairy to its mix for the same reason.)

Some of the comments on the many Ernie and Bert stories were from people who argued that the whole topic of sexual orientation was inappropriate for pre-schoolers.  One commenter noted that the original petition mentioned the prevention LGBT teen suicides as a reason that the puppets should come out of the closet.  She wanted to know, and I am paraphrasing from memory, what teen suicides had to do with a pre-school program.

Teenagers who take their lives because they believe they will have to exist as social outcasts do so because of messages they assimilated throughout childhood about what is normal and accepted in our culture.

Far from steering away from sexual orientation, children’s entertainment thrives on it— when it is heterosexual.  There are all those princes seeking their beautiful princesses.  The stories end in lavish dream weddings.  Romantic attraction and attainment of marriage is the primary story we tell to little girls.  That is the great drama and what life is about.

Sesame Street has, to a large extent, steered away from that.  Yet it does have, among its human population, a number of married characters. 

We do not see opposite sex married characters in children’s entertainment as being examples of “heterosexual orientation.”  They are examples of family. 

We are perfectly able to recognize the beauty of innocent romance and to offer it up to kids in the form of Micky and Minnie Mouse, or Pepe Le Pew mistakenly chasing after a cat, or Miss Piggy and her mostly unrequited love for Kermit. 

When the subject is a marriage between two male children’s characters, however,  we stop imagining innocent romance and family.  “Marriage” becomes a question of sex.

One commenter (whose post I agreed with overall) said that Ernie and Bert were an example of friendship and a world where people who are different from each other love and respect one another.  She went on to say that making them a married gay couple would “demean their friendship.”

Have you ever heard anyone say that it would demean the friendship of a man and a woman if they were to marry?  Probably not. Instead, we see marriage as the highest expression of a relationship.  It is a sexual union.  We understand that, but that is not our focus.

I hope that some time in the not too distant future that all of this will change.  We will be able to see same sex marriages with the same kind of innocent romance as the opposite sex kind.  Committed couples, gay or straight, will represent not “sex” but “family.”  It may well begin with the stories we tell our children.

So why don’t I think Ernie and Bert should get married? 

Maybe a child growing up in a home with two daddies would interpret them as a couple, and that is fine. There is nothing to say they cannot be understood that way.  The married human couples on Sesame Street don’t go around all the time saying, “Hey, we’re married” and kissing and holding hands.  Their relationship is inferred and understood.

Yet Ernie and Bert represent something more important.  They are roomies and best friends.  Soon enough boys start to get the message that there is something “unmanly” about being too close to another male.  They will pick up that they can play sports and punch each other, but that sharing warm affection with each other is a bit weird.  Society will start to tell them that they can have a roommate in college but their closest emotional bonds better be with women by the time they’re, say, 25.  Girls can talk about their “girlfriends” and cry on each other’s shoulders and take vacation trips together as friends.  Boys have to be careful. 

Wouldn’t it be a much better place if guys could be more like Ernie and Bert?  I hope that the Sesame Street Workshop will not be tempted to downplay Ernie and Bert’s love for each other in an attempt to quell gay rumors.  There are few things in life more beautiful than true friendship.

Text Analysis

Mine says: is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.

Apart from the age (between 66-100?) I’ve heard this before.  The copy editor of my last book kept referring to the author (me) in the margins as “he.”  I also tend to be called “British author Laura Lee” in reviews a lot.  If you’re happy and you know it…

Now I’m wondering if my other blog is written by a “man” too.

My other blog is even more manly. is the 437th most manly blog of 7834 ranked.   That’s pretty testosterone-ish.  It is also “academic” and “upset.”  You’re probably better off over here with the nice me.

brainpicker: is probably written by a female somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time.


How the Wall Street Journal Spreads Stereotypes about Men


For the men who are part of the Good Men Project—guys fighting wars in foreign lands, working diligently to be good dads, recovering from economic hardship, striving to be loving spouses, searching their souls trying to figure out what it means to be a good man—the piece is one more example of mainstream media portraying us in an egregiously negative, quasi-sexist light.


Not sure why he uses the term “quasi-sexist.”  It is blatantly sexist.

What Makes a Body Obscene?

Sociological Images is weighing in on the controversy surrounding Dossier Magazine’s Andrej Pejic cover.   (And I am sure Dossier Magazine is deeply disappointed that everyone is making such a fuss.)

The article discusses what the fundamental difference between chests and breasts is, and why one can be seen and the other must be covered.

I was reminded of something that happened a few years ago.  A friend of mine, a British comedy writer named Mark Oswin, had a web site devoted to his work.  It was called “The Digital Comedy Nipple.”  (I don’t think the site exists any more.)

The splash screen for the page was a disembodied nipple— just the areola with no skin surrounding it.  My first reaction was that it was a bit obscene.  Then I realized that I was not sure, without the context of the chest surrounding it, whether the nipple belonged to a man or a woman.  (Most likely it belonged to one of the male writers responsible for the content of the site, but I never did find out.)  It was jarring to find myself looking at an image of something that was either forbidden (if female) or fine and dandy (if male) and that there was no way to know.

Lisa Wade, in her Sociological Images article comes to a similar conclusion about the ambiguity of chests and breasts:

It’s not true that women have breasts and men have chests. Many men have chests that look a bit or even a lot like breasts…  Meanwhile, many women are essentially “flat chested,” while the bustiness of others is an illusion created by silicone or salt water.  Is it really breasts that must be covered?  Clearly not. All women’s bodies are targeted by the law, and men’s bodies are given a pass, breasty or chesty as they may be.

Unless that man’s gender is ambiguous; unless he does just enough femininity to make his body suspect.  Indeed, the treatment of the Dossier cover reveals that the social and legislative ban on public breasts rests on a jiggly foundation.  It’s not simply that breasts are considered pornographic.  It’s that we’re afraid of women and femininity and female bodies and, if a man looks feminine enough, he becomes, by default, obscene.

Life in a Hippie Shop

A few years ago now I worked at a hippie-ish shop.  It sold flowy dresses, hemp necklaces, piercings, incense, and various other treasures to a mostly young clientele.  While there, I made notes about my experiences.  Here are a few of them:

Had a guy come in carrying a skateboard asking if we were looking for anyone to work here.  I said I thought we were all set.  He said, “Can’t you fire someone or something?”

A bunch of teenage girls were in here yesterday.  One said she wanted to get her navel pierced.  Her friend told her not to because if anything goes wrong she could do damage to her ovaries and never have children.  She said, “I could always adopt.”

I had a woman last week come into the store.  She was in her mid-50s.  She had two dresses, identical except that one was purple and one was blue.  I told her where the fitting room was.  It’s behind this orange tye-dyed curtain and there’s a full-length mirror behind it.  She pulls the curtain to the side, and instead of moving two feet forwards so she’s in the changing area, she takes off all her clothes (except her underwear) in the middle of the store and puts on the purple dress.  “Which do you think is better?” she’s asking me, “The purple or the blue?”  “Purple.  Definitely the purple.  You can wear it out of the store if you like.”  She decided to try the blue anyway.  Whipped the purple dress off… I was trying to be subtle, “there is a changing area if you’d prefer.”  “Oh, no, this is fine.”

We get lots of heads.  They come in and say, “do you have glass?”

Had a guy the other day who seemed to be having a sexual experience with the incense.  He held eye contact way too long.  Very creepy.

A woman came into the store.  She was large.  Wearing a fabric pillbox hat embroidered with the same floral pattern as her long, heavy jacket.  Both were of a fabric reminiscent of a bed spread.  Her hair was just longer than a brush cut.  Her lipstick was blue.  Her purse was a giant mass of white feathers– like a beheaded, bleached ostrich.  I believe she was an actual woman, but she dressed with the flamboyance of a drag queen.  She came in for pink hair dye.  Since we had none, she settled for bright yellow.

Also one day had a guy trying on the skirts.  Asked my opinion on them.  He didn’t buy anything.  Left.  Immediately after he’d gone, another guy came in and wanted to buy an Indian shirt we have.  It’s a sack of a shirt with a single button at the neck.  I thought it was a man’s, but the one button was apparently on the wrong side.  He said he couldn’t wear something that buttons the wrong way.  (I don’t know the difference)  Kind of an odd juxtaposition to have these two customers back to back.

Had a guy try on a necklace.  Was about to buy it.  Really liked it and then he stopped as though he might be about to set off a land mine.  “This isn’t a woman’s necklace is it?”  I’m thinking, first of all, I’m trying to make a sale here, so if I tell you it is, I don’t sell it.  Second, you liked it a minute a go.  Third, if you buy it, it’s yours so it’s a man’s necklace…  I just said, “no.”

Question in the store: “Do you have men’s hair bleach?”  Well, we have bleach.  Hair is hair.

There’s a group of Appalachian trail hikers outside sitting by the window.  They’ve decided they want to dye their hair funky colors but they can’t figure out how to do it camping on the trail.  They were talking about coloring their beards and talked about having a violet goatee.  I said I thought that sounded like a good rock band name.

The hikers came back and bought bleach and hair coloring.  They bought yellow, green, and blue.  They were putting dresses over their heads to see how the color would look.  I told the red-haired guy, “you are the first guy to come in here and wear a dress on his head.”

I put a couple of the dresses out on the rack outside and someone came in to try it on.  Her son, who was maybe 8, followed her in.  As they were walking out he said, “I wish I was allowed to wear dresses.”

A guy wanted to know about glow in the dark jewelry.  He looked at the lighters we have, the one with the lights inside.  He wanted to know if you have to smoke to use them.  I said, “No, you can use them to set fire to whatever you want.”  He thought that was funny.  I elaborated that you could use them to light incense or hold over your head and wave at rock concerts.  Appropriate uses.