My husband and I returned home today after a short getaway spent with close friends. During our stay, our hostess pulled out a very special (and hideous) hat, knowing the sight of it would trigger gales of laughter as we remembered a weekend five years ago. The story I’m about to recount is the gospel truth. Mostly.
It was a frigid weekend during January of 2007. Fresh snow blanketed the hills where four couples had gathered for a leisurely weekend of power eating, drinking, and relaxation at a friend’s country retreat hidden deep in wilderness of eastern Ontario. Okay, so if anyone believes there is any serious wilderness left in eastern Ontario, all I can say is, “Bazinga.” But it was snowy and freakin’ cold, eh?
Saturday dawned bright, crisp, and so cold, only people with names like Al or Ed had time to write their names in the snow. After pigging out over brunch and procrastinating in front of a cozy fire as long as humanly possible, we all waddled into the foyer to suit up in parkas, down-filled warm-up pants, hats, scarves, gloves, and even balaclavas.
Our hostess, Linda, pulled out a dark brown, curly-looking object, which she jammed onto her head. The fuzzy thing resembled either a matted rat pelt or, if you squinted hard enough, conveyed the optical illusion of a really, really bad haircut.
She must have noticed our exclamations of disgust (e.g. “Why are you wearing a dead rodent on your head?) because she shrugged and said, “It’s a hat, not a dead rodent. My daughter knitted it for me, and I love it.”
Ever supportive, we said in unison, “That thing’s a hat? You’ve gotta be kidding.”
Bob said, “It looks like a merkin.”
Being a writer, I nodded wisely, hoping I looked as if I knew what a merkin was.
At last, Donna asked, “What’s a merkin?”
“A pubic wig,” Bob replied. He injected a note of authority by adding, “Someone at work told me about them.”
“You must work with some really strange people,” Linda muttered, patting her hat to make sure it was positioned properly.
“Okay, that explains the curls,” I snickered.
For the next five minutes, the woods rang with mirth. Feral squirrels took cover in bird feeders. Everyone (except Linda who was wearing the garment in question) rolled on the ground while roaring with laughter, taking care to avoid the fresh piles of moose poop (Bazinga). Some of us also tried not to pee into our down-filled warm-up pants (oh, if only that one was a Bazinga).
At last, we all staggered to our feet. Dusting snow off his butt, Bob said, “I’ve always wanted to work the word merkin into a conversation. You’d be surprised how difficult that is.”
The reason for Bob’s strange urge to talk about merkins probably doesn’t bear discussion in a public blog.
After we finished our walk, during which we speculated about the origin, not to mention strange requirement, for an item called a merkin, we all trooped back to the cottage to crack open a bottle of wine, eat hot appetizer munchies, and check out some Internet definitions. Here’s what we found.
According to Wikipedia: A merkin (first used, according to the OED, 1617) is a pubic wig, worn by prostitutes after shaving their genitalia to eeliminate lice or to disguise the marks of syphilis. One of the Oxford English Dictionary definitions says a merkin is: counterfeit hair for women’s privy parts, and another dictionary calls it: a pubic hair wig.
My imagination went wild. Bring to mind, if you will, the following scene:
Setting: Brothel on the outskirts of London, Eng. circa 1620.
Anonymous John: I love what you’ve done with your merkin, dearie. It looks so natural.
Prostitute (Turns pink with pleasure): Why, thanks for noticing, luvvie. It’s a perfect match for my underarm hair, don’t you think?
I think Bob deserves bonus points for ever having heard of the word merkin, never mind using it in a sentence. And five years later, we’re still laughing about Linda’s choice of headgear. That’s what great memories are made of.
Please feel free to add a comment about your own experience with merkins or any other unusual fashion accessories you may have encountered. Or simply tell me about silly laughter you’ve shared with your best friends.