On the Personification of Cumbersome Objects

Stephanie Bishop

Three men have come to our house in order to remove the furniture. They can carry two chairs apiece, and while one appears to spin a coffee table on his index finger, another heaves a sofa up with a single hand, so that it can stand at an angle while his comrade at the other end adjusts his grip. ‘In India,’ I tell them, ‘I once saw a man with a fridge strapped to his back climbing up a steep hill.’ They laugh because they think I am making a joke, ‘Good one love,’ they say, because I am a woman, the only woman in the house. Or so I think, until I hear them grunting and huffing as they tip the wide antique wardrobe onto its side and try to ease it out the bedroom door. It is a small room, the wardrobe was here before me, I cannot tell them how it ever fitted though the door, or if it does. I watch, anxious that they don’t drop it or scratch the paintwork. Here she goes. Watch her there. That’s the girl, they say. Easy does her. The wardrobe, I realise, is also a woman. So, it turns out, is the king-size bed base, the long dining table, and the cumbersome frame of the trampoline. Why are they women? Are they rendered female because the men feel they need to be extra careful with these objects, even though the said objects are large and heavy? Or do they identify these objects as female because they are large and heavy – it’s hard to know how to grip them, what part to grip, and so require thoughtful handling when moving through a narrow passage? Because the men have been charged with ensuring the survival of these objects? Personified as female because they are dependent on these men moving them, because they have not the agency to move themselves – into the truck and then off to their new home. Or because they are unpredictable, depending on how they are handled, and, if dealt with badly, might harm a man – crush his misplaced hand, for instance. Maybe these objects are rendered female because the men don’t really know what to do with them. They circle each one for a while and talk logistics. Then they pick her up and start to grunt. For each cumbersome female object there are three men attached to it. They want each female object to be safe and well cared for, but each one makes them uncomfortable. Is the reward worth the effort? Hard to say. They sweat a lot, but still, they persist with doing their duty. I would like, next time, for my removalists to come dressed in white lab coats, the kind Dior insisted his petit mains wore in the atelier, when thinking in great detail about the bodies of women and how best to disguise and enhance them, and who might cover my furniture with white sheets for discretion before lifting each girl gently onto a wheeled trolley, the way I was once wheeled on a gurney from this same house at the very peak of my womanliness, a long time ago. They were very gentle, those ambulance men, and very quiet. It was, after all, the middle of the night. But as they rolled me carefully down the garden path and lifted me over the step by the front gate, I heard them say, ‘Easy does her, watch her there,’ and to this day I do not know if they were speaking of me, or of the cumbersome gurney on which I lay.