The first gift I ever gave my wife was a sewing machine.
Used. Thirty dollars. Green. You could buy a car for thirty
dollars back then.
It was a time when violent uncontrolled feminism swept the
planet like a forest fire only Satan herself could have
ignited, and giving a woman a sewing machine was considered
an act of heinous sexism.
Pig man, what were you thinking, what rock have you been
It was a terrible time for men. The word gentleman
disappeared from common usage, even, I am reliably informed,
from many school textbooks.
Holding a door open for a woman was akin to thrusting her
head into a bucket of wombat offal. And, my own personal
favourite, guiding a woman to dry dock by dropping a jacket
over a puddle (one winter I lost 11 quality jackets), brought
hissing hitherto heard only from railway steam engines.
It was worse for me; I could not sew.
Still can't. My gifting of the sewing machine was as much a
cry for help as an act of misogynist love. But my fear of
feminist outrage left me with a raft of stunningly
ill-fitting garments desperately in need of fixing. Add to
this a series of body-changing abdominal surgeries in recent
years which have seen my waists ebb and flow like the Middle
Beach tide, and you have a man with a problem only a sewing
machine can solve.
But I am not someone who sorts a problem by throwing money at
it. I believe in rational thought and spending as little as
possible, so I have dived into the shallow swimming pool end
of manual sewing, assuming, like golf and shoplifting, I will
get better through practice.
My initial worry was Levi jeans, which I possess in
considerable numbers after being forbidden them as a youth by
parents who believed jeans led straight to juvenile
And I have not become a juvenile delinquent. Parents, I
mutter to myself, still scarred by a jeanless youth, this
will show you, look at my Levi's drawers and learn. My
parents died in 1997, but they will be watching from wherever
the jetsam lives. All parents watch.
After the most invasive of my abdominal surgeries pushed the
waist out to 32, I foolishly threw out nearly all the 30s. I
know 32 is hardly a wide waist. Heavens above, Robert Hughes,
not the exquisite art critic, another Robert Hughes, clocked
in at 122 inches in 1958. But now, after yet another invasive
abdominal surgery, I am back to 30. I could just stumble
around in 32s like a food-stained slob, but I chose instead
to resurrect the one size 30 left. All I needed to do was
whang off the proprietary Levi button, a vicious industrial
round thing that can't be whanged off a Levi waist unless you
slash it clear with pinking shears. So I did this, wrecking
the entire area in the process. The conventional replacement
button would have to be sewn on above or below the gaping
chasm I had created with the pinking shears. Testy.
It took hours. My eyesight precludes threading cotton through
a needle. A camel would be easier. And what makes this even
harder, it is my wife purring with faux sweetness, would you
like me to do that for you, dear. As if I am a woefully
incompetent picayune. I tried everything. I even put
superglue on the end of the cotton to make it hard and stiff,
surely then easily poked through the eye of a needle. But
with Super Glue, the cotton inexplicably became bigger. Who
would have thought?
Is this Murphy's Law?
But finally I sewed the button on, stray loops and
unconnected strands spewing everywhere like errant spaghetti.
If I pull just a little harder and twist with all my might,
the button goes into the hole thing, though the dynamic of
the fly has been destroyed, two upper buttons forever undone.
But my fear of feminists has gone; I am asking Santa for a
sewing machine this Christmas.
• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.