Monday, June 20, 2011

The Insidious Lie that is Hobby Lobby

I had heard vaguely of this new box store called Hobby Lobby. In my mind I had conjured up mystical greatnesses about it. I called to mind all the great times I used to have as a kid going to hobby stores looking at all the cool model cars, the ships with full rigging, the fighter jets, the radio controlled dune buggies, the flying model airplanes, the rockets. All of it. And one day recently I got my boys all jazzed up to head on over to Hobby Lobby to go get a heady dose of manly creativity.

So on one errand-running outing we decided to finish up our day with a stop at Hobby Lobby, to which I had never been in my whole life. Imagine my surprise.

I walked into the store to see aisle upon aisle of picture frames, baskets, fake flowers, and worst of all, endless shelves of nick-nacks. Or however you’re supposed to spell it. I don’t actually care; I could not in fact care any less. Frick.

I was ten feet inside the front doors, by the check-out registers. I stopped dead. And this is what I said:

“Well, this isn’t a hobby store. This…this is—this is just all chick hobbies!”

The ladies demurely manning the scanners, plus all the people waiting in line to buy their nick-nacks or whatever (100% females), all of them turned to look at me with haughty disdain. I swear to God, it’s getting so that there’s no place for a man to go and be safe in the world anymore. The truth of that old saw about whose world it is, is actually completely opposite: it’s not a man’s world. It’s a woman’s world. I wanted to run screaming from the building in horrified shock, arms waving over my head. But I didn’t, for the sake of the children.

We braved the picture frames and the fifteen thousand square feet of space dedicated to scrapbooking (“Dear God!” I hissed). We walked through millions of wreaths and fake floral arrangements; it was a horticulturist’s horror show; a nightmare. And then, there, like a beacon in blackest night, we beheld it: two lonely aisles, tucked away at the very back of the store, where masculinity was allowed to exist on a short leash.

There we found the rocket engines. There we found the ultra-cool model of Old Ironsides with all her rigging. There we found products with mythical names: Tamiya. Testors. Estes. And even some cheap-ass Lego knock-off. It was as oasis of testosterone; one could actually smell its potent power above the insidious menace of orange-raspberry potpourri. I stifled a shiver.

Well, when I say stifled…

Point is, we survived. We men are warriors. We will overcome. But this was like Hill 881 in Vietnam, 1967. It was the stuff of legend, where heroes were forged in the fires of Hell itself. We don’t talk about it anymore. But when we pass each other in the halls of our house, I nod knowingly to my sons, just a tick of the chin, and they nod back, eyes blazing with the momentary fire of comprehension for what we had endured together as males. The truth is, none of us can stifle a shiver, even now.