Now “happy” is something extremely subjective. One of our sillier Zemblan proverbs says: the lost glove is happy. Promptly I refastened the catch of my briefcase and betook myself to another publisher. ―Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire
Much of the USA is in the grip of a cold snap, and so too the season of lost gloves. While some might rejoice at this random harvest, and the liberated gloves may be delirious with joy, it is dispiriting indeed to reach into your pocket and realize you’re going to have to brave winter temperatures with a bare hand. Every year I consider swallowing my pride and buying some of those elastic mitten-clips little kids wear—a small price to pay when you consider the accumulated cost of replacement gloves over the course of an adult lifetime. At least for the scatterbrained.
Whenever I am tempted by the sepia-toned lure of nostalgia for an earlier time, I remember gloves. I remember that clean, well-kept gloves were an indication of grooming and prosperity and self-respect—and that one wore them year-round!—and I imagine how quickly the jig would be up: the world would take one look at my soiled, stained, torn gloves and know me for a slattern and a fraud. Besides manifold other advantages, modern life has complicated the language of respectability.
But on one glove-related front I maintain what I consider unimpeachable standards. Only this morning, I was in a small drugstore, and I asked the woman working there if she carried any loofahs, or textured washcloths.
“What about these?” she said, producing a pair of those exfoliating gloves. “They work really well, and they’re great for winter skin.”
“Oh, no!” I cried out, before I could stop myself.
“You don’t like the gloves?” she said, confused.
“Well,” I said, “I just think it’s kind of weird to be naked, in the shower, wearing a glove.” Her face exhibited incomprehension. So I expanded on the argument. “It makes me feel creepy. Like a murderer. Or, you know, someone in a piece of bad erotic fiction.”
“I never thought of that,” she said.
“Well, let me tell you,” I said, “you’ll never be able to forget it.” This was true; since having the revelation during a long-ago shower, I’d been repelled by the idea: not just that we’re all bathing like secret Michael Jacksons, but that our lives are full of these bits of unexamined strangeness, and how many are we missing? What are we? What is utility? To say nothing of the symbolism of gloves in history et cetera, et cetera. It was all more than I could handle first thing in the morning. However much I might relish the fact that this was the one pair of gloves I would never lose.
I bought a single large textured mitt. “Is this okay?” she asked. It wasn’t, really, but I figured I didn’t need to put my hand in it in order to reap its exfoliating benefits; I could just use it like a cloth. And I had made enough trouble; you do want to look reasonably normal.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.