Day 51: Minor Talents & Incompetencies

Have no doubt that I will update you, dear readers, on the outcome of my poll when all the results have been tallied.

In the meantime, I’ve found myself thinking about the category of minor talents and incompetencies, that is to say, those abilities and inabilities that are generally unsung or unlamented, or perhaps not even acknowledged as such.

Allow me to provide an example.

I have two minor talents.

The first I get to exercise on an almost daily basis; the second I only have a chance to show off when we’re at the beach.

I’ll begin with the second, since it was the experience of using this particular talent yesterday at the beach in Encinitas that made me think that it belonged in the category of minor talents; moreover, it was while performing this activity that it struck me (a minor epiphany? A miniphany?) that there was a category of minor talents.

My second minor talent (chronologically speaking, it is the first, since it was perfected in childhood) is making perfect circles in the sand.

I do this by standing in the sand (semi-wet sand is necessary for this exercise) and then perform a Rond de jambe à terre en dehors with my left foot, my left toe tracing a semi-circle in the sand. I then perform a Rond de jambe à terre en dedans with my right foot, and as long as my right leg is perfectly straight and my toe is perfectly pointed, the semi-circle inscribed with my right toe will line up exactly with the semi-circle made by my left toe, and I will be left standing inside a perfect circle in the sand. In performing this exercise, you essentially become a human pair of compasses.

It is a very pleasing thing to do.

As a girl, whenever we were at a sandy beach, I would make circle upon circle upon circle.

Yesterday when we went to the beach it was low tide and there was a satisfyingly large expanse of damp sand. I made circle after circle, some adjacent to each other, some overlapping. The elder flopsy-duckit ran over. Although he’d seen me do it before he was nonetheless impressed.

“How’d you make such perfect circles?” he asked. He tried to copy, tracing a wobbly half circle and then stumbling over.

His friend ran over. “Wow, how’d you make such perfect circles?” he asked.

I showed him, explaining, “This is why you need to take ballet!”

But then I laughed and observed, “although I suppose that it’s not a particularly useful skill to be able to make perfect circles in the sand.”

“Yeah,” said the elder’s friend, whom I’ve known since he was 18 months old, “But it’s so cool.”

Minor talent number two is less cool but unquestionably more useful. This talent is for slicing bread.

Don’t scoff: in these days of ready-sliced bread it’s a rare talent, I maintain, to be able to consistently slice nice even slices of bread. Sure, perhaps you can manage one decent slice, but most people, if they’re trying to slice a whole loaf, will produce all of these great lunking doorstop slices and then these little pathetic fragments where they vainly attempted to cut a delicate slice but angled the knife too sharply away from the loaf yielding only a sad, raggedy piece.

I, on the other hand, can cheerfully cut a whole loaf into lovely slices. I can do thinner slices for sandwiches, and thicker pieces for toast. I’ve got all your bread-slicing needs covered.

Now, I know what you’re thinking at this point. You’re thinking, just who the hell does this duck-rabbit think it is, blowing its own trumpet in this gauche fashion (although, you must admit, that the sound emitting from my trumpet is a decidedly modest little toot)?

Fair enough. I will now proceed to enumerate two minor incompetencies as a counter-balance to the previously articulated minor talents.

Incompetency Number 1: the inability to put on a bra like a grown woman. [1]

There is a manner in which most grown women put on a bra: they put their arms through the straps and then they reach behind them to fasten the hook-and-eye closure between their shoulder-blades.

This is not how I put on a bra. I put on a bra by fastening it around my waist, back to front, and then twisting it around and tugging it up before finally pulling up the straps over my shoulders.

This is the way a 12 year-old girl puts on a bra.

I have and tried and tried since I started wearing a bra to fasten it like a grown woman. But I cannot. I just cannot. Every now and then, I will give it another go, just to see if, somehow, my ability to fasten things that I cannot see has improved in the intervening years. But it always ends with a stream of expletives and the resumption, sullenly and resignedly, of my original method.

If I am in a public changing room at a swimming pool or in one of the communal changing rooms that is sometimes found in British women’s clothing stores, I will often perform a charade of attempting to put it on in the grown-up womanly fashion. And then, as I fail to accomplish the task I will make a face that is meant to express, this is so weird, I can always usually do this, obviously, because I am a grown woman, but I guess this one time because, I don’t know, perhaps my bra shrunk in the wash or one of the hooks at the back is twisted or something like that, I’m going to have to do my bra up in the babyish way.

That is how embarrassed I am that I cannot do my bra up: I am embarrassed enough that I go through an elaborate performance for the benefit of other women so that they don’t, I don’t know, nudge each other and say, “do you see that forty-year old woman just put on her bra like a twelve-year old?”

Incompetency Number 2: the inability to swipe things.

“Things” here refers to items including credit cards; the ID card that I have to swipe when I get on the bus in L.A., or, and most especially, any kind of ticket that has to be inserted into, or, possibly, scanned above, a turnstile (most obviously in a public transportation system such as an overground or underground rail system).

I am the person who holds up the line whether it’s in the supermarket, at the bus stop, or in the subway station, because of my incompetent swiping. I quite often find myself beginning to sweat if I’m using an unfamiliar public transport system in anticipation that I am going to bollocks-up the passage through the turnstile.

I get particularly anxious if there is a prospect of being caught in the jaws of some kind of electronic gate that threatens to snap you in its grip if you fail to scuttle through the turnstile quickly enough. Naturally, this anxiety compounds my incompetency and therefore I quite often get stuck and separated from any fellow travelers who will then shout and gesticulate meaninglessly from the other side as I frantically attempt to insert the ticket into the turnstile’s every conceivable orifice or wave it in front of any part of it that looks like it might plausibly have scanning abilities.

So, there you have it: my two minor talents and two of my minor incompetencies (I must admit that the number of minor incompetencies is far greater than two. And we needn’t get into the major incompetencies).

What are your minor talents and incompetencies? I’d love to know!


[1] No need to avert your eyes, bashful readers! You may rest assured that there is nothing titillating about this confession; moreover, I suspect that whatever modicum of interest this tale holds will extend only to those readers who have direct experience of wearing a brassiere.


4 thoughts on “Day 51: Minor Talents & Incompetencies

  1. EHA says:

    Ok wait this is EXACTLY how I put on my bra and I never knew until now that it was juvenile….thanks for bursting my bubble, bubbies, what-have-you.

  2. Alison says:

    I, too, put on my bra that way. I remember being dumbfounded when I saw a friend (like, 15 years ago) do it the ‘grown-up’ way. It looked unnecessarily difficult.

  3. I find it so reassuring that such capable, grown-up women as yourselves also put on their bras this way! I also like your take on it, Alison, that the other way is “unnecessarily difficult.” Now I’m wondering if my idea that “most women” put their bras on the other way is in fact mistaken. Perhaps they don’t. Or: perhaps only English women do it that way? Or: perhaps only women in public changing rooms do it that way, therefore showing off to other women their ability to breezily accomplish unnecessarily difficult tasks? Hmmmm. It remains a mystery.

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