Obsessive Frugality and When a Man Should Stop Wearing Itty Bitty Swim Trunks

Mill Creek Farm, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

This weekend I embarked on an experiment in extreme frugality, not because I had dropped over the edge (the Norwegian Artist was initially concerned when I explained to him what I was doing), but because I wanted to see if I could. After all, that’s what extreme sports are all about — pushing oneself to the limit.

I was piecing together cotton batting to finish a quilt — the batting, for those people who yawn prodigiously at the first mention of domestic arts (my own sister does this) is the bologna part in the middle that provides the warmth factor.

Normally, one does not piece together batting. One makes a quick trip to the fabric store and plonks down money for a big swathe. However, I am not an ordinary One  — sending me into a fabric store is akin to inviting the cat to play in the gerbils’ cage. (By the way, the apostrophe in that last sentence comes after the “s” in gerbils, meaning that I am talking about more than one rodent here — just a friendly grammar observation.)

So the weekend found me in my sewing room that looks suspiciously like a laundry room, rummaging through drawers and boxes to assemble as many scraps as I could. The sorry little heap that I wound up with did not look like it could sew itself into four 15″ by 100″ strips, but the prospect of impossibility has never stopped me before. Ignoring reality gets easier the more you do it. Really.

I began sewing — little pieces to littler pieces, one after another, trimming off the ragged edges and sewing them back on another way. Ridiculously teeny pieces grew into still absurdly miniscule pieces, which grew into somewhat identifiable-with-the-naked-eye pieces, over a number of hours on my Saturday afternoon.

On the Edge, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Surely I was getting a little obsessive here. The thought was in the Norwegian Artist’s sexy blue eyes, but 27 years of marriage has taught him a few things about thinking things in his head and actually saying those things out in the air.

“Are you, possibly, getting a little . . . obsessive here?” he asked. So much for the 27 years of wisdom.

“It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve set myself a challenge, and I want to see if I can do it,” I replied.

Actually, holing up in the sewing/laundry room wasn’t as bad as it sounded, as everybody who was genetically related to me had chosen to visit that weekend. The Eldest with the toddler and the boyfriend were clattering about (in the case of the toddler, this term is very, very literal); the College girl and her friend had come down, taking 7 hours to make a 3-hour trip because neither one of them had a map and neither one of them was particlarly paying attention to the road signs OR the scenery until they were on the outskirts of a large city 2 hours northwest of us); the existing little family structure still existed, and all in all there were just a lot of people in the kitchen cutting up watermelon, in the bathroom putting on mascara, and upstairs in the crib NOT taking a nap — and everybody else’s idea of what a clean kitchen or a clear bathroom floor should look like is totally different from mine.

So it wasn’t such a bad thing, sitting in my little room, surrounded by fluffy white scraps.

WinterScape Farm, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

I came out now and then, but during the afternoon, people became busy doing their own things — the toddler actually napped, the boyfriend muttered his way through cleaning up his laptop, the preponderance of femininity draped itself on the top of the trampoline, baking, like cookies, in the sun. Long before, the Norwegian Artist and the Son and Heir had spurted over to the studio, where there was no mascara, discussion of different bra sizes, and observations about the age when a man should stop wearing tight little swimming trunks (the boyfriend was so immersed in his computer that he felt no need to escape. Besides, he’s still young enough to wear itty bitties.)

The scraps grew big enough that they could be called pieces, and the pieces eventually morphed into strips, longer and longer strips. At the same time, the sorry little heap with which I had started was shrinking proportionately smaller, and the questions always hung in the air, “Will I make it? Will there be enough?”

Amazingly, I did, and there was. I felt an immense sense of  satisfaction at having solved the problem without running to the store (which is 30 miles away, incidentally) and at having made do with what I had. Four long, gracious strips of batting reposed languidly in the corner of my sewing room. The numbers in the ledger of my checkbook were the same as they were Friday afternoon. The project was a small thing, indeed, but as a statement to my psyche, it was magnanimous. I had conquered the little heap of little scraps.

The issue of the itty bitty swim trunks, however, regarding what age a man should stop wearing one, remained still unresolved, despite the many minutes that were spent in debate. Although the preponderance of femininity did not come up with a specific number, the opinions expressed, gentlemen, were brutal. My advice would be, unless that rippling comes from muscle and muscle alone, then drop the short shorts. Figuratively, please.

Saturday -- original oil by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson of Steve Henderson Fine Art

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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5 Responses to Obsessive Frugality and When a Man Should Stop Wearing Itty Bitty Swim Trunks

  1. Pingback: Personal Care 101

  2. jala says:

    So, where’s the image of the finished product? I really enjoy your writing!

    • I’m going to assume by “finished product” that you mean the quilt, and not a man in a Speedo.

      Quilt’s not done yet — it’s a king sized project, and I need to finish the sides. Someday, someday . . .

  3. I enjoyed your experiment with extreme frugality. Mine usually involves an announcement that we’re not going grocery shopping this week and are creatively using up all of the canned, dried, and left-over goodness in the pantry and fridge. Typically this results in a desperate mid-week drive to the nearest grocery store where the four near-starved and rice-bored test subjects proceed to buy lots of goodies that we usually don’t get. So much for frugality 🙂

    • This is hilarious. I so understand that determination to use up all the detritus in the pantry (“Why do we have slimy pickled beets? Who in this household eats smoked oysters anyway?”).

      I would love to read a longer essay about your grocery experience — your turn of phrase is catching, and your tone most teasingly wry.

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