Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Summer means halo-halo, beaches, sunblock, and making sure the airconditioner is cleaned and ready for the next few months of suffocating heat. It also means being ready to pull out a fan, a hand held one for any daily commutes, or sitting in a public place waiting for life to happen. I didn't realize how many kinds of fans are out there till I looked around and did some online research. According to the website www.handfanpro.com, there are at least 9 basic styles of hand fans: folding, handheld, comfyhold, a brise, "jenny lind", and cockade to name a few. I find that most people, women mostly, will have at least one folding fan, a fixed or handscreen fan (our paypays made of woven grass), or if all is lost, grab the nearest piece of paper that is sturdy enough to keep a breeze going.

In days gone by, fans were an extension of a lady's unspoken language, usually to men. I suspect however, that many a lady and beau got their signals confused. How can snapping open a fan mean "I like you", while closing it would mean the opposite? And exactly how fast is fluttering the fan against your face to mean "hey cutie, i think you've got spinach caught in your teeth"? Of course I'm making that last part up, but if the man and woman involved in all this fan talk didn't get their messages right, could you sue for breach of contract based on what the fan did or didn't say?

These days, it's a lot simpler. A fan is a fan is a fan. It cools you down. And last Sunday over dinner, I had to show the proper way to open a folding fan to a friend. She had borrowed my folding fan and wanted to try opening it in that elegant snappy form, like a Spanish lady wearing a mantilla and ruffly dress. However, she was using a rather rigorous arm action, nearly throwing the fan across the floor. I suggested that she let gravity do most of the work, and showed her how to position her forefinger and thumb near the hinge to push a few of the leaves out and then in millisecond, the rest follows, an elegant display without much energy involved. This may be followed by gentle fluttering or vigorous fanning, depending on how much air you want circulated.

I remember buying large paper folding fans in China once, they were so inexpensive I bought at least ten. Some of them were plain, others had a poem or an inscription in Chinese written on them. On a trip to Indonesia, I had one of the latter fans with me, and nearly choked when I read on the arrival card at immigration that carrying any item with chinese characters could be a criminal offense. No one noticed the fan or opened it to check the design, so I didn't have to worry about being hauled off to some Balinese jail to waste away. Whew.

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