Nothing Is Too Little For So Little a Creature As Man

by jkatejohnston

5 November 2013

Dear Max,

Yesterday at work I wrote a bunch of notes about my Spanx, reporting live from inside them. Now I’m looking at the five mostly illegible pages, and the Spanx are there, but it’s mostly about Boswell and what’s wrong with lawyers and how he escaped. Maybe the Spanx were a metaphor.

Anyway, you hold up my Spanx and they look like teeny tiny bike shorts, and it’s like, yeah, that’s not gonna work. How am I supposed to get This into That? But the whole principle of the thing is pressure. If you can get This into That, then This is going to have to get littler. But there’s more to it than that. Because when you hold them up you also see two small out-pooches, or out-pouches, one for each butt-cheek. The idea is to press everything that will move up and back and into these pouches so that your butt sticks perkily out behind instead of droopily out the sides. (I’ve even heard of Spanx that have butt-cheek-padding—talk about carrying coals to Newcastle.)

The problem is that each butt-cheek-pouch is about the size of a navel orange, and my butt-cheeks are about the size (though, alas, not the shape) of honeydew melons. Nevertheless, I do manage to insert myself into the Spanx by yanking while doing several grande pliés in second posish.

And here my notes say to look up two things: the manufacturer’s claims about the butt-cheek-pouches and, from The Life of Johnson, “Nothing is too little for so little a creature as man.” (Not that my butt-cheeks could ever be described as little.)

All right. I wasn’t able to find my particular Spanx, but I did find the Slimplicity Booty-Booster Short. Removable Butt-lets allow you to add a “cheek” size.

Oh well. Moving right along:

He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise, and would yield me great satisfaction when the particulars were faded from my remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept such a journal for some time; and it was no small pleasure to me to have this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He counseled me to keep it private, and said I might surely have a friend who would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I have been enabled to give the world so many anecdotes, which would otherwise have been lost to posterity. I mentioned that I was afraid I put into my journal too many little incidents. JOHNSON. ‘There is nothing, Sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.’ (Life of Johnson, year 1763, Boswell had just met Johnson and he wasn’t a lawyer yet.)

One of the hundreds of things I love about Boswell is that he was a working lawyer and it didn’t ruin him as a writer. Why do doctors have it all over lawyers for writing? Chekov, Williams, Oliver Sacks. And who do we have except Boswell? (Does Abraham Lincoln count?)

The problem is lawyers are professionals. We write for a living. And it’s honest. It’s intended to be understood. It’s not the horror show you get from college professors. But there are so many limitations on how you’re allowed to sound. Silliness, for example, is discouraged, and then you forget how to be silly.

I’m thinking now of that wonderful thing in Anne Frank’s diary where she has to pee at night and she’s trying to be quiet but it clatters into the can like a brook down a mountainside. (That’s from memory, but I think it’s pretty close.) I really hate it that we think of Anne Frank as a holocaust victim who happened to keep a diary instead of a great and serious writer who happened to be murdered. See Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 4 August 1943.