first published in The North American Review
Ask the mailman, ask the grocer, ask anyone who has become involved in this rewarding and fast-growing pastime. Ardent “body-part hounds” are to be found in practically every community across the land, oftentimes banding together in clubs and renting a hail somewhere. And whether they specialize in photographing body-parts, or training them, or simply talking about them, all these clubs welcome new members to share in their slide shows and sing fests.
Any pastime that is expanding this fast, appealing to people of all ages and occupations, must possess some strong points. Indeed, body-parts identification does have exceptional advantages to recommend it. Body-parts are cheap. Body-parts are portable. If you have been looking for a hobby that requires no special equipment, that you can do indoors or out, in any season of the year, ask yourself this question:
“Why not identify body-parts?”
Body-parts are far less creepy than most people suppose. Reports of them turning on their masters are laughably untrue. Contrary to what the press has telling us, body-parts are gentle and peace-loving. Body-parts brighten a room, they absorb noise, they help cushion the fall of priceless objets d’art. They are affectionate.
Remember, as infants each and every one of us enjoyed a spontaneous and natural affinity with our body-parts. It was only as we grew older and witnessed the prudishness of our elders that we came to look upon our body-parts as strange, disquieting things … things to be feared and avoided … if not tarred, feathered, and abandoned for dead in a roadside ditch.
But how to start?
The best way to take up this pastime is to observe body-parts right where they are growing. Beginners can learn more from an hour with live body-parts than a day with dead, dried ones.
An example will illustrate. Until recently the beginner was taught to identify his Kauffman-LaRue by having him remove it from its station. He was instructed to place the Kauffman-LaRue on a table before him. With a pointer he was asked to locate the various zones of the Kauffman-LaRue as it grew increasingly resentful. In contrast, today’s beginner is immediately introduced to his Kauffman-LaRue … on its home territory. The result: He has found in his Kauffman-LaRue a friend for life.
You may say: “But all body-parts look alike. How can I tell the difference between them?”
The answer is: All body-parts do not look alike. Small but important distinctions abound. Establishing these distinctions is a skill that comes with practice. Look closely for wrinkles, dimples, flaps, and buds. Then look at the body-part’s general form so that gradually you will come to recognize it at a distance. Observe its habits. Does it twitch? Does it tremble? What stimulates it to move? Does it enjoy moving? Bear in mind that even the most aloof, stand-offish body-parts will yield basic data to the beginner, and its value should by no means be discounted. The more widely you look, the more enthralling will be your personal experiences. Friends of all sexes will long to listen to your adventure yarns, and who knows what fringe benefits won’t evolve from that!
A warning. Don’t let your new popularity blind you to the less glamorous aspects of your pastime. Good grooming is a must for identifiers of all rank. Most body-parts can be cleaned in soapy warm water applied with an ordinary household sponge. After drying and labeling a body-part, it should then be enumerated in a note book or card file, including the date and any thoughts as to its condition. A well-ordered cataloguing system will be a quick reference for you to use again and again, and will help clear up the good-natured disputes that sometimes pop up during the heat of competition.
Of course, as in any young field, there is always the possibility that you will spot a body-part no one ever spotted before. Talk about excitement! If this should happen, you will be allowed to choose the name by which it will be known forevermore. Choose carefully, for the opportunity is a rare one. Imagine immortalizing your favorite rugby team! Or advertising your store!