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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The thing about "Icles"

Over the past several months (most recently a week or so ago by email) I have gotten a number of requests from female readers that I write something about the bad manners that go along with men grabbing their goodie bags in public.

It's an old story. But on the off chance that there really are people who don't know what the below-the-belt touches are all about I'll explain. But I'm not promising it'll be pretty.

Now, I could ramble on and on about the ancient philosopher Testicles and how he started a ritual way back when that all men follow to this day. But really, it's not that complicated. Some men grab/touch their nether regions in public because they get an itch or because the contents of the package have shifted during travel and need to be put back in place. Sorry, blunt but true. Other men - particularly those who grab and hold for long periods of time - do it because they're idiots and saw some rapper in a music video do the same, so they think it's something hip and manly to do. Plus it's a way for them to know it's still there and hasn't run away or something. And still other guys do it 'cause they're dirty pervs and they just like touching themselves.

That being said, you must make allowances for men with innocent intentions. If you happen to catch a guy in the act and he's quick about it, cut him a break. It's likely he was plagued by the itch or the shifting contents. You must use the equivalent of the 5-second food rule. You know the one you used in college when you were broke and didn't have much to eat? Drop a piece of food on the floor of your apt. and if you pick it up in under five seconds it's still clean enough to eat. No science behind that rule, but many of us used it. Give the well-intentioned, non-perv guy the 5-second grab-adjust-rule.

And that's that. But this isn't over. When I started getting those complaints from women about self-grabby guys I started conducting my own unscientific experiment to see if guys were the only culprits and under what circumstances. And what I found was interesting. For ever three guys I saw absentmindedly touching the goods, I saw one woman doing the same thing with a breast.

Seriously, just to prove I wasn't crazy I even pointed it out to my wife several times: "Hey, why's that woman rubbing that? Doesn't she know people might see her!"

Now to be fair, the wife explained to me that there are times and circumstances under which bosoms don't feel well and some women may rub them to help alleviate soreness, pain, etc.

My response was "Ahhhh, I had no idea." That really is an innocent, harmless enough reason for touching one's self up there...even in public.

But ladies this brings me back to the guys. If you can't give us the benefit of the doubt, then I'm afraid we can't cut you any slack either.

So let this be a truce: Give us allowances that there are times and circumstances under which a man can discreetly and quickly handle his business, and we will grant you the same allowances and not assume that you have reduced your bosoms to chesticles and are touching them for mere sport and nothing else.

Either way, and whatever your gender and whatever set of "icles" you're grabbing, if the touch is not to stop pain or make a necessary adjustment then you are triflin' and are exercising poor Burnettiquette.

Remember, what's good for the goose...


  • Ya know, I don't seem to recall all that many times I have personally seen a guy adjusting "the boys," even though I have been guilty of the crime myself on numerous occasions.

    This can only mean that the ladies are concentrating way too much time scopin' out that area.

    You watch the pot, and eventually yer gonna see the water boil.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 6:40 PM  

  • Ok guys, you got five seconds!

    As for women - the main reason I've been fishing in my bra for the last few months is to find my handkerchief.

    For those who don't know, mass made women's clothes do not come equipped with pockets. So if I don't wear jeans, or something I've made myself (with pockets), it's the only place to put a hanky!

    Come the cooler weather I shall start wearing long sleeves again, & hankies'll be back up my left sleeve, until next summer.

    As you were!

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 4:24 AM  

  • This could be the subject of a series of essays bound together in a book. The title could be "Deez Nickels--or Why An Offhand Crotch Grab Does Not Mean I'm a Perv."

    I remember being taught by the older teens in my neighborhood that the nut grab was one of many methods of demonstrating defiance to the whyte man's oppressive control over Black behavior (as in YT's got everything else, but he ain't got deez). It ranked up there with the screw-face photo session/elevator scowl, the bug eye, the high octave anger voice, and the fist pick sticking out of one's basketball sized Afro. It was a cultural identifier for those whose culture was co-opted and stolen by the whyte man as a pop reference. In fact, once the nut grab was stolen by the whyte rapper, it ceased to be an act of defiance and once again became synonymous with drooling over pigtailed catholic school girls. The nut grab has gone the way of Tutti Frutti being covered by Pat Boone.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 10:29 AM  

  • The jewel grab is basically a way to relieve nervous anxiety and tension. Just like dogs lick themselves, cats obsessively clean themselves, and women file their nails. Jangling the jewels puts out (just for a minute) the fire that is brought on by insecurity, demasculation and uncertainty. IMHO .. ;-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:26 PM  

  • Hmm ... I call gender discrimination! Ladies get an itch too and we're not allowed to scratch! :-)

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 6:28 PM  

  • "James Burnett, perhaps the blogosphere’s most celabratory authority and critique on etiquette decided to address a growing concern among his female readers [...]"

    Trackback for "Scratching that itch"
    Entry September 22, 2006

    By Anonymous phil, at 9:36 PM  

  • "This is my rifle, This is my gun, This is for fighting, This is for fun" Me, I have an unnaturally large, erm, container. The wife says she could make luggage. A wallet would be more like the truth. OK, a trucker's wallet. Due to it's large size, and the amount of room available for the boys to wander, there is often adjustage necesary. I don't do so in public, unless I have a place where I can hide from prying eyes. I prefer to keep my junk to myself, and the Significant Other.

    By Anonymous og, at 9:58 PM  

  • Oh, no-no-no-no-no. It's not any more acceptable for a woman to rub/fondle/adjust her breasts in public than it is for men to adjust their testicles.

    I'm tired of hearing the "itch" argument. If you want to feel itching, try shaving your bikini area and waiting a few days. How appropriate would it be for me to give that area a little scratch in pubic, I mean public?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:05 PM  

  • I like the term "icicles". Excellent article!

    By Blogger jayne d'Arcy, at 12:42 AM  

  • 5 Seconds? May I have this in writing?

    There's a young mam in my history class who not only grabs/scratches his crotch, he proceeds to smell his hand afterward.

    How many seconds is allowed for hand-smelling? :(

    By Blogger Angie, at 10:48 AM  

  • I'll admit to readjusting "the girls" in public on occasion. But if men were forced to wear the torture device they call a bra, they would be readjusting too.

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 6:04 PM  

  • 5 seconds is enough linger time. Like OG, I usually try to adjust in private, in which case, 5 minutes may not be enough time.

    Big Daddy's point is also well taken. Heard that before. Occurs to me that the factor that may well have led to the rise of Jazz, and every other Black cultural innovation, is the desire to differentiate oneself from the white folks. Our culture is an amalgam of the many people in the country, but Black culture is a differentiation, until it gets absorbed, as everything gets absorbed, which then leads to new differentiation.

    Significant cultural innovation always seems to come from the counter culture, whether it's Miles Davis or Picasso, or Bill Monroe. Interesting. Thing is, I've seen older white guys, country boys, linger a bit when they brush past the package many times, usually when they're talkin' about their ladies. Maybe it's more of a poor thing than a racial thing. Rich guys drive cars that may be the equivalent of a long, loud crotch grab. Who knows.

    I've also had those same thoughts about the women who have to adjust the straps and the counterweights from time to time. But I guess they always think anything related to our package if dirty.

    Great post.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 12:45 PM  

  • I try to be accomodating, really. But when I am up against a wall with a guy talking to me, smiling, and grabbing his crotch... either he's "got dat itch" or, mor likely, he's itchin' for something else altogether. In which case, I'm thankful he's poking around the boy bits because now I know where to aim.

    By Anonymous julia, at 12:11 AM  

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