I spent my Labor Day unveiling the false illusions I labor for -- I had a
giant three-day rummage sale where are all my worldly but useless goods
were exposed on a clothesline, two card tables and a dirty blue tarp.
When you hold a yard sale, you may be pulling in much-needed cash, but you
have to throw your pride away. Bargains are struck over every silly
fantasy, shopping mall anxiety attack and Christmas embarrassment you have
purchased over the past decade. Why did I buy a case of gold plastic pocket
vibrators to give as stocking stuffers, when among my relatives, oranges
and chocolate are the more obvious choice? Why did I buy a curling iron
only two months ago when I'm too intimidated to even open the instruction
booklet and plug it in? I would say about 50 percent of what I sold this
weekend had to do with erotic and beauty fantasies that were never to be
The family members who joined me revealed other compelling neuroses to be
sold for as little as a nickel. My lover Jon is a pack rat who has held onto
broken machine parts -- both small and enormous -- for over 20 years in
the dedicated belief that someday he is going to repair and rebuild them
all into something rather epic. His most noble sale this year was to a high
school science teacher who bought a whole bag of Jon's salvaged animal
bones, picked up off an Arizona desert highway in something like 1978. Now
they will be used to measure bone density and play amateur forensics: Who
killed this cow?
My roommate showcased one of the greatest garage sale hopeless cases:
trying to sell your college textbooks 10 years after you've left college.
You cannot give "Calculus: the Universal Language" away -- hell, you cannot
PAY someone to remove it from your lawn. Why did he keep them? Why do so
many? We know it's too painful to even broach the subject with him -- now
he just wants the evidence destroyed. I think they should be bundled up and
sent as a repayment package to his student loan creditors.
My daughter Aretha had the most righteous and ambitious place at our
dime-a-dozen blowout. She really did wear all these shoes, play with all
these toys, read every single book over and over -- she's literally outgrown
them. In fact, she outgrew the sandals she was wearing on Saturday -- we had
to sell them on Monday because they gave her a blister. She is the most
keen of all of us on making money -- I promised her 10 percent of all earnings on
every item sold, and she responded with, "When do I get to decide what the
So now we get to see who comes to a garage sale, and for me, it's better
than a Gallop poll. The science teacher was one of many teachers and social
workers who went through our junk with a fine-tooth comb, spending their
own money on supplies they need for their students, like binders, pens,
tape, staples, classic reading books and even chairs. Isn't it great how
the lottery has helped our schools so much? I'm always touched that
the first thing parents get on back-to-(public)-school day is a
Tell me, Miss Manners, what's the appropriate way to solicit special
interests at a garage sale? I told everyone that the textbooks were a
quarter, the hardcovers were 50 cents and all the porn was in the
right-hand corner of my makeshift book self. I highly recommended "Erotic
Werewolf Tales," but no one even took a peek at it. I think people prefer
to anonymously shoplift their pornography, and my blatant promotion made
Sales attire is very important at garage sales. I certainly hope my proudly
displayed cleavage was as crucial as it seems to be in television
advertising. Aretha looked like she needed new clothes that fit -- perfect
for the sympathy shoppers.
As sheer performance art, I persuaded Jon to wear a special baseball cap
that I purchased the other day when I was researching cigar aficionados'
responses to the latest kinky news about the Oval Office. I scored this
amazing hat when I dropped by my local cigar store, where, to my dismay, I
found that no one knew what I was talking about. The Drudge Report is not
as widely read as I have been led to believe. So I asked the handful of
customers I found there: "Would you be offended if I told you the story?"
Of course they said no, and I told the tale as gracefully as I could. In
case you're wondering how to relate this anecdote in polite company, I
suggest the following verbs: Monica pleasured herself with a
presidential cigar while Bill satisfied himself with her
performance. After my performance, however, everyone fled the store in a
hurry, and I was all alone with the cashier, who told me he doesn't like to
read very much. I almost left with nothing to show for my efforts when I
spied this splendid cap in the window. It features a picture of a big
burning Double Corona on the front, with the motto "Size Matters" printed
on the side. It was mine!
"You have to wear this at the rummage sale to see if anyone picks up on
it," I told Jon when we were setting up in the morning. And only one did,
an attractive butch woman who bought the most saccharine Golden Book that
my daughter ever made me read 1,000 times. This gal pointed right at the
cap's illustration and said, "Oh yeah, Monica Lewinsky -- the Human
Humidor!" We thought she was so clever that we insisted she write her name
down on a napkin so I could credit her properly in this column. However,
the napkin has blown away, and now I can only salute her anonymously.
So often I wanted to speak up to certain fetching women who were looking
through the children's books and leather paraphernalia, "Are you a dyke?
'Cause I have galley copies of my lesbian erotic photo book that you can
have for free!"
But I couldn't think of a polite way to bring up someone's sexual identity
anymore, now that such graceful, closety expressions like "Are you a friend
of Dorothy's?" have passed into disuse. How about, "Are you a fan of the
Human Humidor?" That certainly wouldn't unearth their gender preferences,
but it would seem to open up a wide range of possibilities -- or at the
very least, show a decent sense of humor.