Merkin Shopping in NYC
We visited New York City last summer, my wife and I. We toured the Empire State Building and saw a musical and wandered around Central Park and the galleries of the host of museums on our list. We had one afternoon free so my wife wanted to do a little shopping. It was New York City, after all. Specifically, she wanted to buy a merkin. New York City is famous for its stylish themed merkins. Everybody goes to New York City to buy their themed merkins these days. But wait—maybe some of you don’t know what a merkin is. A merkin is in fact a pubic wig—a wig for a mons Veneris—a mound of Venus wig. Merkins were originally invented back in the 15th century to cover up the scars and other infelicities that the virulent and ubiquitous venereal diseases visited upon the genitalia of the various rakehells and doxies of the day. Today of course we don’t use them for that so much—today merkins are just accessories for women who shave themselves down there to please their bedfellows. And women love to buy accessories. And my wife is no exception. So we stopped in this quaint little merkin shop off Broadway. We strolled up and down the narrow aisles of the shop and this sweet little old New York City lady explained her wares to us.
She kicked off by introducing us to the Alpaca, Kashmir Goat & Mohair Medley Merkin and the Dromedary Camel Toe Hump Hair Merkin. A little further down the animal aisle we were treated to a glimpse back into English history with the White Horsehair Lady Godiva Merkin. That was a long time ago, of course, the little old lady admitted. For the fine lady of today we have the Sable Mink Merkin—with conscientious PETA-approved Animal Blood Spatter available upon request at no extra cost. And then the Heckle & Jeckle Antic Magpie Nest Merkin and the Novelty Roadkill Raccoon/Opossum/Polecat Combo Pelt Merkin left us a bit awestruck at the imaginative reach of the unheralded artisans behind the scenes. The Yellow Dog Hair “Boshintang” Merkin, the sweet old lady boasted, was imported from South Korea where it is especially trendy. (Boshingtang, she whispered conspiratorially, translates as Good Health Soup. Dog meat, she winked. Said to be an aphrodisiac.) Unfortunately she did not have a Tibetan Himalaya Yak Hair Merkin on hand as it was strictly Subject to Availability and so nothing hung on its empty peg on the wall.
In the exotic locales vegan aisle we had the opportunity to admire the Louisiana Bayou Spanish Moss Merkin and—in fine contrast to this—the East Asian Maidenhair Fern Merkin. Next we were treated to a taste of Biblical archeology with the Traditional Tigris & Euphrates “Fertile Crescent” Fig Leaf Merkin. I pondered on Gentle Eve in the Garden of Eden and grew a little feverish and felt a twinge of old fashioned Puritanical Guilt over that.
In the cozy nostalgia corner the little old lady pointed out the Edible County Fair Shocking Pink Cotton Candy Merkin. Quite frankly I had never thought of the small town summers of bygone days in quite this way before. And for the little girl in you—at this the kindly old lady beamed at my wife—there’s the Vintage Raggedy Ann Yarn Mop Merkin (Dual Use Handle and Wringer Bucket optional, she added). Now, she smiled coquettishly, perhaps our most beloved item with baby boomer customers like you, please consider our Leave It to Beaver Barbara Billingsley Model Housewife Beaver Merkin. My god, I thought, my childhood dream come true—it was like lying on the kitchen floor and looking up June Cleaver’s skirt. Indeed I had always fantasized she did not wear undergarments when she pretended to bake cookies for Ward and the boys on the set.
As our nation’s birthday is just around the corner, the diminutive merkin merchant suggested, you might want to celebrate it with our Red, White & Blue Star Spangled 4th of July Pure American Merkin. For that holiday, popular with young and old alike around the world these days, she went on, the shop stocked the Black and Orange Trick-or-Treat Happy Halloween Hooker Merkin—along with the more sinister Wiccan Voo Doo Nose Hair Merkin and the Knock ‘Em Stone Cold Dead Medusa Merkin—with Herpetorium-quality “creepers,” she assured us proudly. On the jollier side we chuckled at the Merry XXXmas “Kiss Me” Mistletoe Merkin (Jingle Bell optional) and drooled lasciviously at the Thanksgiving Thursday Turkey Merkin (Sweetbread Stuffing Ooze and Gravy Drippings optional). Finally the Free Range Bunny Rabbit Fur Easter Sunday Merkin (Matching Lucky Bunny Rabbit’s Foot Keychain optional) rounded out the festive occasions selection.
Now if you are of a more pious bent, she intimated, don’t overlook our Miraculous Lachrymal Virgin Mary Merkin. You can almost taste those salt tears, can’t you, she challenged us. And if secular sainthood is more to your inclination we now offer the Miraculous Lachrymal Princess Di Merkin. (Back in production, the sweet old lady explained, following a successful malicious prosecution counter-suit v. The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Foundation. Our line, she complained indignantly, cheapens no one’s memory.)
At the cashier counter my wife set down her armload of variously themed merkins and I fished out my credit card and handed it over to the sweet old merkin shopkeeper. On our way out I noticed a big trash bin by the door to the street and a TAKE ONE sign that read:
Orange Combover Grab ‘Em By The P***y Merkins
A Free New York City Souvenir for You
Our Valued Customer
JUST WIPE YOU ASS WITH IT
After that we walked across the street and had dinner in a quaint neighborhood Italian restaurant—a delectable angel hair spaghetti dish, naturally, with clam sauce for me and sausage and meatballs for the wife. And then we stepped around the corner to squander what was left of our budget in Ye Olde Cod Piece Shoppe.
Robert Perchan’s poetry chapbooks are Mythic Instinct Afternoon (2005 Poetry West Prize) and Overdressed to Kill (Backwaters Press, 2005 Weldon Kees Award). His poetry collection Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light won the 1999 Pearl Poetry Prize and was published by Pearl Editions in 2000. His avant-la-lettre flash novel Perchan’s Chorea: Eros and Exile (Watermark Press, Wichita, 1991) was translated into French and published by Quidam Editeurs (Meudon) in 2002. In 2007 his short short story “The Neoplastic Surgeon” won the on-lineEntelechy: Mind and Culture Bio-fiction Prize. He currently resides in Pusan, South Korea. You can see some of his stuff on robertperchan.com.