Do Real Men Make Dessert? Or Must They Buy It From a Bakery?

Sensible answers to the questions of modern manhood.
Feb. 12 2014 3:33 PM

What Kind of Dessert Does a “Real” Man Make for His In-Laws?

Culinary advice for gentlemen-in-training.

(Continued from Page 1)

But, to repeat: Who cares? When the wind chill reaches 20 degrees, the only hat that will make you look like a fool is an actual fool’s cap, I decree, off the top of my head, which these days I am covering with a rabbit-fur ushanka. And because you say that such an accessory would weigh as heavily as an iron curtain atop your person, I further suggest the astrakhan, also known as the karakul, as a spiffy Asian solution for withstanding Zemblan temperatures. It has famously covered both British heads of government and Zamundan heads of state.

* * *

Dear Sir,

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Regarding your column of Feb. 5: I am afraid I must protest! A gentleman, when facing the quandary of what gauzy undergarment to buy a paramour, must come to only one honest conclusion: Said undergarment is not for the paramour, but for the gentleman himself.

This is not to necessarily discourage a man from buying lingerie; rather, I encourage them not to make it the entirety of the gift. A home-cooked meal and a bouquet of her favorite flowers, a piece of art or jewelry that complements her wardrobe or décor; these are the things to purchase that will make her want to wear an ephemeral and oftentimes faintly ridiculous piece of lingerie for you.

Thanks for sharing your cogent notes on this ritual.

And, hey, my man, I've got a fun fact for you: This is the 100th anniversary of a lacy red-letter day. On Feb. 12, 1914, a very social 22-year-old named Polly Jacob applied for a patent relating to “new and useful Improvements in Brassieres.” A few years earlier, slipping into a low-cut evening gown in advance of yet another debutante ball, Miss Jacob ditched the monobosom-making whalebone of her traditional corset cover and instead sewed two silk handkerchiefs together with a pink ribbon and the assistance of her maid, Marie.

It is among the objects of the present invention to provide a garment in which a number of features of novelty and utility are combined, among which are the provision of a garment which has no back and therefore does not interfere with any design of evening gown that may be chosen; one which is capable of universal fit to such an extent that for commercial handling it need be made in but few sizes, with reasonable certainty that the size and shape of a single garment will be suitable for a considerable variety of different customers; and to provide a garment which is characterized by extreme simplicity by freedom from bones so that it may be finished with laces or embroideries for wear beneath a sheer waist or diaphanous gown, and which when worn is both comfortable and cool and so efficient that it may be worn even by persons engaged in violent exercise such as tennis; and which has other advantages that are characteristic of the invention herein set forth, some of which may be summarized by saying that it does not confine the person anywhere except where it is needed.

That's good reading. For more good reading about Polly Jacob, see anything written about Polly Jacob. The story of her life is too riveting to screw up. A proper biopic of this person would run six pulse-pounding hours and devote a full act to the story of how she became America’s first Girl Scout.

Jacob is best known to history as Caresse Crosby: After the collapse of her first marriage—to a drunk whose best-selling recovery memoir was an inspiration to Alcoholics Anonymous' Bill W.—she married one Harry Crosby, who believed Polly needed an alliterative name; though they considered Clytoris, they rejected that as rather de trop, reserving it instead for one of their pet dogs. After her moment as an innovator of intimates, she wrote decent poetry; threw decadent parties; ran a press that published Joyce, Eliot, Pound, and Hemingway; rode a baby elephant to the Beaux Arts Ball, sidesaddle and Lady Godiva–style; dated Henri Cartier-Bresson, Canada Lee, and Buckminster Fuller; ghostwrote smut on behalf of Henry Miller; established the first modern art gallery in Washington, D.C.; and earned Anaïs Nin’s admiration as “a pollen carrier” who “mixed, stirred, brewed, concocted her friendships by a constant flux and reflux of activity, by curiosity, avidity, amorousness.”

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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