I went for a walk and wore the wrong pair of gloves. They were blue rubber gloves, the kind that you might wash dishes with except heavier perhaps to wash off snow from your car. For some reason, I gravitated toward these gloves as I left the house on one January afternoon, and my hands nearly froze, which greatly altered the way that I was able to experience the people and the environment around me.
As I thought about why I had chosen my blue gloves rather than my staples: black water-proof fleece-lined gloves that have been my constant companion for the past three winters, I realized perhaps I did not want to drop them. So far this winter I have dropped these gloves a handful of times and at various places around the Midcoast.
Personally, I feel offended when I drop my gloves, as if they are deliberately trying to sabotage me. It not only feels unattractive to have to bend over and retrieve them, but I also feel embarrassed: why can’t my gloves just stay with me?
Curiosity ensued as I questioned why it was that I felt so embarrassed when I dropped my gloves. What I notice is that there is often always someone else involved who notices that my gloves have dropped. This other person either points to the ground where my dropped glove lies, or calls out after me to then point to the ground where my dropped glove lies, or (and this happened only once) to physically pick up my dropped glove from off of the ground and hand it back to me.
It seems that dropping one or both of my gloves creates an exchange between me and another person, which would not have normally taken place had I not dropped my gloves. What I also notice is that this exchange is often always with a man.
I visited a design boutique and dropped both of my gloves on my way in the door. The owner and husband of a dear friend pointed to the ground at my feet and said, “you dropped your gloves.” At this occasion, I leaned over and picked them up.
On another occasion I was at a friend’s home and had made it all the way to my car before he called out after me that I had dropped one of my gloves in his mudroom. I had to turn and walk back to his door so he could pass me my glove, slipping it from his hand to mine.
I thought about this connection that my gloves seem to bring about. What does it mean to drop my gloves, and what are my gloves trying to say about the environment, people and places around me?
I asked around and learned that women in past centuries would intentionally drop their glove for a gentleman suitor to pick up, as a premeditated act of flirting. This conscious gesture reminded me of the classic 1990s film Clueless, where the female lead, Cher dropped her pencil for the male interest to pick up, which he did and handed back to her.
This is similarly played out in the movie Legally Blonde where the female lead, Elle introduced a strategic maneuver called “the bend and snap,” in which women would skillfully show off their body as they picked up a utensil they had casually dropped in front of a man. In the film the male interest began to pick up the utensil (a pen) seeing it as perhaps courteous and even courtly, and broke his nose in the process. But the point was still made.
The dropping of an object is an opportunity that women seem to consciously create in hopes I presume, through eye contact and possible grazing of hands, to establish a connection between a man and a woman.
The dropping of the glove, I came to find is also a sports term meant to initiate a fight between men specifically in the game of hockey, where fighting seems to be allowed and even encouraged.
Fascinating. On one occasion the dropping of a glove is meant to start a courtship and on another it is meant to start a full on brawl.
Allow me to admit that I do not intentionally go around dropping my gloves for potential male suitors. Nonetheless an opportunity is made. The question remains what kind of opportunity is my subconscious trying to create, and is it one of confrontation or seduction?
I probably grabbed my blue gloves on that snowy day as an unconscious attempt to feel less vulnerable as I do not like to drop my gloves. But perhaps my gloves are simply trying to show me to let go, relax, and not to be so consumed with my own self-image. Perhaps my gloves are merely bringing my attention to the world around me and to whom I walk by and whom I happen to form relationships with in my life.
This is a beginning of an inquiry on how we can use fashion to create opportunities for meaningful connection. I’m curious: have you ever dropped a glove?
Gabrielle Attra lives in Rockland