Monday, December 08, 2008

Bum blog

While Christmas shopping the other day, I was reminded of a 2004 visit with family in England for the holiday. Most of my time there is spent with my Aunty Chris and Uncle Ron, a loving couple in their mid-60's who live in Birmingham. Packing up for a long drive to London to visit other family, my Aunt called to me from the car, "Jenn, babe, can you ask your Uncle Ron to bring my bum bag?"

Um, bum bag?

I went into their cozy little house to find Uncle Ron putting the final touches on our sandwiches for the ride (these are people who survived the Battle of Britain - there's no stopping for food on the way when there's plenty to be packed from home). "Um, Uncle Ron? Aunty Chris wants her bum bag," I said, suppressing laughter. He reached into a closet and handed me a fanny pack.

"Ohhhhh," I said, realizing yet another funny British-to-American translation. "In the States, we call these 'fanny packs.'"

"You WHAT?"

"Fanny packs."

"Go tell your Aunty Chris that. She'll love it."

So, off to the car I raced, bum bag/fanny pack in hand. I recounted the story for her and she howled with laughter until tears ran down her cheeks. What could be funnier than the act of actually wearing a fanny pack?

"Oh, Jenn! Do you know what a 'fanny' is in England?"

"Your butt?"

"No, it's your vagina! And it's not a nice word for vagina, either!"

And, so, that's how I learned "pussy" equals "fanny" and not "arse" in England. I thought of this story with fondness as I stood 15-people deep in line at Macy's in Brooklyn the other day (they have a very strict hiring policy: no IQs over 50). In my arms were two LeSportsac fanny packs.

For everyone born after 1930, there awaits a fate that seems as inescapable as BINGO: the fanny pack. What seems open for negotiation is when we decide to start wearing said utilitarian belt. For some, it comes with retirement age; for others (like my good friend Paula), it comes in your 20's shortly after the birth of a child. For me, it looks like it may be as soon as next summer.

While rummaging through the LeSportsac bin at Macy's, I came across a fun, colorful little number called "Frida Vibe." I held it up for inspection and then tossed it back in the pile with disdain: it was, after all, a fanny pack.

Then I thought of Paula, rushing around Coral Gables with her well-worn Gucci fanny pack bursting at the sides with papers, cell phones, keys. "This would make a great Christmas present for her," I thought (ignoring the fact that Paula is a practicing Jew). And so, off I went to purchase the curious item.

The line for the cashier was long so I had plenty of time to ponder the pack. I thought of the song "Camel Toe" by Fanny Pack, a group from Brooklyn that seemed intent on single-handedly making the fanny pack cool just by virtue of their name (note: none of them actually wear a fanny pack).

Then, I was reminded of another group now flying under the radar whose determination to bring back all things gross is a big as its girth: Leslie and the LYs. I couldn't remember if I've seen Leslie rockin' a fanny pack, although it's a very strong possibility. The woman loves gold lame, fringe and your grandmother's sweaters - so why not? Maybe fanny packs are the next big, ugly thing in fashion?

I vote Leslie and the LYs most likely to use Glamour Shots for album covers. Their "Blame the Booty" remix is in heavy rotation on my iPod.

And then the mixture of counter-culture cool and Paula's explanation of the pack's usefulness fused in my brain: perhaps I should have one of these ugly things, too? Why should only Disney tourists and aging queers have them? I examined the pack in my hand and thought of everything I could store in it while say, riding a bike in Central Park (what? I've done it!) or taking in a game?

So, I politely asked the angry customer behind me to hold my place in line while I went back for another pack. I worked quickly not because I worried about losing my spot but because I was afraid to think about what I was doing. I was about to buy a fanny pack, for me.

As I write this, I'm wearing the fanny pack, you know, just to see if I can do it. My man says I look like a gay carpenter.

Me and my new fanny pack (or pussy pack for those in the British Isles).

I'm still unsure of how I feel and wonder if I can manage this in public? The rest of my outfit will have to be really cool so people don't get the wrong idea about me (no black socks with flip flops that day!). Watch for my fanny pack's debut next summer, friends (my man has already warned that no less than 5 feet will be between he and I at all times).

While parading through the apartment just now, I noticed that wearing the fanny pack doesn't make me feel old or gay (like I was afraid it might). And, I now believe that somewhere deep in our Anglo DNA, Americans know that a fanny isn't a butt. How else to explain why we instinctively wear it in the front?