Miss Capelletti Gets a Boost

By Keizer, Garret | Michigan Quarterly Review, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

Miss Capelletti Gets a Boost


Keizer, Garret, Michigan Quarterly Review


It would seem to be a well-established fact that shorter women get touched by casual acquaintances and even by complete strangers more often than taller women do. It may also be the case that younger women get touched casually more than older ones, and attractive women more than less attractive, and maybe outgoing women more than women who come off as reserved. I've been on the susceptible side of all four criteria for a number of years, which has made for a lot of shipping and handling along the way.

But since I'm well into my forties now and probably less noticeably attractive, and since I'm still likely on any given day to be wearing as many fingerprints as an eggplant in a produce bin, I'm going to venture that height is the major factor.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who used to play Elaine in "Seinfeld," told an interviewer she gets touched all the time and that it's because she's short. After years of watching her slap Jerry Seinfeld on the chest with both her hands like he's a stuck cellar door, I'd expect a guy to think twice about getting too familiar around Julia, but it just goes to show you that when it comes to putting your hands on a woman even semiferocious doesn't trump short.

I find that guys my age, and especially guys a little older, which is to say boomer-generation guys, are the worst. Younger men not so much-because I'm getting older, as I said, and probably, too, because a number of the younger men I run into on a regular basis are either parents of my students or else former students, sometimes both, guys who can't bring themselves to call me anything besides Miss Capelletti, much less lay a hand on my head like I'm seven years old. It makes a difference if you knew a guy when he was seven years old.

Women touch each other in all kinds of situations, of course, but there's rarely anything patronizing about it. The touch is sisterly more than motherly and almost never flirtatious. I have several friends who are lesbians, one of whom went so far as to come on to me when the two of us were slightly drunk at a wedding reception one night, but none of these ladies is what you'd call a toucher. (One of them happens to be quite a puncher but that's another story.) Even when the woman was coming on to me she wasn't doing it with her fingers. Mostly with her voice and eyes.

With men it's a different story. I can't tell you how many times I've had a man say to me, "You look like you could use a hug," and as nearly as I can tell he didn't mean I looked sad or unwell or starved for affection, just that I was as cute as a bug's ear and there was no help for it. And, yes, I know this happens to men too. My new friend Raymond, who's a divorced clergyman up in Vermont and an average-size guy, says he also gets that line, mostly from middle-aged women in his church who could use a hug themselves. He doesn't mind obliging them, he says, but just once he'd like to have somebody come up to him and say, "You look like you could use five hundred dollars."

The way I'm going on here you would think this behavior bothers me more than it does. I'm as demonstrative as the next person-as the next Italian person, I might add-when I'm around my relatives and close friends, and, except for instances of outright groping, I'm more curious than annoyed when someone I scarcely know starts acting like we've just come back to Jersey from a cozy weekend in Cancún. I'm a person who's learned the wisdom of laughing off anything that allows itself to be laughed off, and I've learned that most of our day-to-day annoyances do. But not all-I've learned that wisdom as well.

During my first year of teaching, when I wasn't yet twenty-five years old, I was trying to laugh off some things that it turned out I couldn't. Trying to laugh them off only made them come on stronger. But then, so did scowling. There are certain situations where yes and no work about the same, which is to say, not at all.

There used to be a man in my school, the same one I teach in now and the same one I attended as a kid, a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher, who got into this weird habit of lifting me off the floor. …

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