Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Still Lives

Hello, blogging universe. It has been quite a long while since I've posted, and I offer my sincere apologies to those of you who have made loyal visits here expecting to see new "content". Let's just say it's been a long year.

Of course, one can only assume (rightly in this case) that my return to blogging after such an extended hiatus would open with coverage of a radical issue, and one would not be wrong in that assumption. For the topic at hand is mannequins. Yes, you read that correctly...mannequins, the kind you see in stores and shop windows.

As an employee of a major national retailer and a self-affirmed male clothes horse, I will freely admit that I spend more than the average amount of time shopping, particularly for a guy. This can be a blessing, especially if you're one of my female friends and need to have me tag along while picking up something during the lunch hour, because I guarantee that I'll shop for just about anything, as long as you feel the need. On these forays and others, I've begun to notice an endless variety of mannequins, and before you start with the guffaws, just remember: a lot of your ideas about common things change as you get older. Anyway, here we go.

It all started back in the winter. As you may recall from an earlier post, I was given a small doll in the image of Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra for a Christmas present last year. It took several weeks for the doll to arrive, and it now occupies a place of honor at my office. Well, at least it did, until it was stolen for the second time yesterday, but I digress. The likeness of the doll to the real Priyanka was somewhat questionable, but it was the thought that mattered. It occurred to me that in effect, my Priyanka was a tiny mannequin of sorts, 11-1/2 inches, to be exact.

On Valentine's Day, as Karen and I were shopping at a local antiques store, I noticed a rather aloof, yet strangely attractive, blonde mannequin seated on a chair next to a stack of vintage suitcases. Although I must admit that at first, the figure seemed quite unapproachable, I determined upon closer examination that she was indeed rather pleasant in a quiet sort of way, but possessed of a modicum of social anxiety. Perhaps this was owing to the somewhat absent-minded nature of antiques shoppers who, intent upon finding the perfect side chair, can be quite remiss in doling out compliments regarding one's personal appearance. Essentially, this poor fake fashionista, who looked splendid, by the way, was a victim of sheer neglect.

On an April evening some weeks later, we spotted a scantily-clad mannequin hiding behind a table of tank tops at our local Old Navy store, presumably reaching up to the table to steal an article of clothing. This was quite unexpected. I know the store has security people somewhere on the premises; therefore, I was surprised to see this kind of thing transpiring in the open, not to mention the indecent exposure factor it introduced. As you well know, many impressionable young children shop at Old Navy, and I think this sets a bad precedent. It's one thing to shoplift, but quite another to do it au naturel.

Then in August, we were browsing through a major department store mall location which was closing, and I noticed that all the mannequins had been stripped and sequestered into one area of the store -- females on the left, males on the right, and much to their collective chagrin, they had been separated by a makeshift wall of discarded shelving. I found this rather puritanical, to say the least. Who are we as a society to put up barriers between the sexes? Are there not already enough such impediments? Does an action such as this not strike at the very heart of our personal freedoms (regardless of how much plastic we may contain)?

Perhaps the pinnacle of my mannequin fascination, yea even the mac daddy of all mannequin encounters, has to be my visit to the Hollywood Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, where I was able to sit at a cafe table with a likeness of Audrey Hepburn, who was delicately perched on the front of her chair, eating an artificial bakery product. I must admit that, even though I knew that she was crafted entirely of wax, I was a bit starstruck being in such close proximity to Holly Golightly.

But then to bring things back down to a more earthy level, here we are shopping the other day in a local women's clothing store in a very nice designer shopping mall, and upon entering the mens' room, I found to my great surprise that the rest room was full of half-naked female mannequins. Even though this might not have been appropriate, I just had to take a picture. Folks, this just isn't fair. This isn't the kind of thing you count on seeing in a major retail establishment. The shame of it all.

And so there you have it. Like it or not, we're surrounded by these artificial likenesses of what people think we should look like in new (or in some cases, no) clothing. It reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode that I saw years ago as a child. The episode title was "The After Hours", and it chronicled one night in the life of a shopper who saw mannequins come to life right before her eyes. I must say that at such an vulnerable age, that was scary. And so, perhaps, is this fascination of mine, but for now, I'm going to keep on snapping pictures whenever the occasion arises.