4.26.2010

I Love the Wub

Advanced warning:  this is one of those Biffle-like stories that requires a couple of tangents, so hang in there.

Braided Ben was artist-in-residence in metals at the Appalachian Center for Crafts, the truly top-notch craft program where Biffle got his BFA in wood.  Biffle and I know him as Braided Ben (as opposed to Ben Cowden, his actual given name) because at the time that he and Biffle were at the Crafts Center, there were seven guys there named Ben.  The Craft Center is an intimate community nestled on top of an isolated hilltop above Center Hill Lake.  The students and faculty work and live together, all day, every day, and they're a weird, creative bunch, so there wasn't really any way to have seven guys just named Ben.  They became Big Ben, Roller Ben, Quiet Ben, the unfortunately named Little Round Ben, New Ben, Chef Ben, and Braided Ben.  And this is really what they were called.  "Hey, where's Big Ben?"  "He's in the shop with Ericka."

Braided Ben got that name because he showed up there with a full head of long, braided hair that put my hair to shame.  He was wearing sarongs long before Biffle adopted this style.  He went to some funky Quaker college that basically sent him all over the world as his education, and his sense of personal style (as well as artistic approach) emerged from this completely eclectic hodgepodge of worldwide experiences.  He had some other things he brought back along with the personal style, such as blood worms.  He discovered that he had blood worms when he saw a worm swimming between his iris and the skin of his eyeball.  He's one of the only people in the US who's had blood worms, so the CDC flies him in once a year to test him and track him for their own research purposes.  Don't worry, though--he's fine.  He just has blood worms.

Braided Ben, it turns out, was one of the best roommates I've ever had.  The year that Biffle headed out to Massachusetts for grad school, Ben finished his residency at the Craft Center and wanted to move to Nashville, where I lived.  Ben and I spent a year together on Lischey Ave.  What made him such a good roommate--besides his general funky creativity, which, let's face it, I was used to from Biffle--was his enthusiasm and openness.  He is probably the least cynical person I know.  For example, as a metal worker he often goes to fairs and things with people who do metal work because of their deep desire to recreate the medieval period.  These folks make armor for their horses, horses named things like "Baiard the Stormbringer."  Ben thought this stuff was funny, but not in a mean way, sort of in a, "Wow, people in the world are really different" sort of way.  He seemed delighted to get to interact with folks of all kind, just folks in the world.

While we lived together, Ben expanded beyond his metalworking strengths and started doing a lot of sewing.  He made himself some very funky (and complicated!) outfits, and those were cool, but the best thing he made was a t-shirt that said, "I Love the Wub."

The wub is what Braided Ben calls the roll of fat that women have--almost all women, certainly virtually every woman I know, and if you're a woman reading this blog, my strong suspicion is you have one--just below your navel.  Not really the same as the muffin top, although related.  The wub is specifically on the front.  And Ben is a great admirer of the wub.  Ben was (and I suspect still is) tall and thin, and I got the impression he was sort of fascinated with body shapes that were different than his own.  Rather than being an incredibly boring guy who's into boobs or something, Ben fell in love with the wub.

Most women are a bit self-conscious about their wubs.  We hide them, try to do ab workouts to eliminate them, suck them in, wear shirts that disguise them.  And my experience so far has been that as you get older, the wub hangs in there with you and often begins to come into its own as a more notable part of your body.  It can become a locus of shame, but Braided Ben's reclaiming of the wub is a very effective tool for countering the toxic anti-wub cultural messages.  Ben not only made the brilliant move of naming this body part, but he named it the wub--a sweet, charmingly squishy sort of name.  He embraced the squishiness.  He legitimately loved the wub.  And then he made, and wore, a t-shirt proclaiming this fact.

9 comments:

Erica said...

I really hope you have a picture of this guy in the Wub t-shirt to post on here because that is AWESOME!

Cate Bush said...

I loved Braided Ben - he was such a cool guy :). I too remember talks of the "wub" and it's been part of my vernacular ever since. Now if I can only believe the wonderful sentiment on Ben's shirt. Thanks Ben!

Taylor said...

Ha! That is hilarious and heart warming! I knew about the blood worms (and occasionally still have nightmares about them swimming in my eyes), but not about "the wub" and the Quaker college. I believe that is the same college (Friends World College I think) that the amazing John Rashford went to as an undergrad. Since Dr. Rashford and Braided Ben went there and are awesome, I'm forcing (or rather strongly encouraging) any future children I may have to go there.

Trey said...

Great story. Old Braided Ben is in San Fran now, huh?

Aaron said...

ahhhh Ben. One of the only ones around to experience the very short lived, never quite made it as a tradition, spanking under the mistletoe.

I'd like to make a pancake for Ben.

Alison said...

Good old Braided Ben is in San Francisco, where I suspect they all spank under the mistletoe.

I actually have a picture of all of us spanking under the mistletoe, but I thought maybe Ben wouldn't want that photo online.

Hannah R said...

This just made my day! Thanks, Alison for being such an awesome blogger. I'm one of the freshman WGS majors that you haven't yet met. I've followed your blog for a while now without commenting but I felt that the fact that this post made me literally laugh out loud multiple times warranted a comment, finally. :)

mary said...

Ben! i liked watching him piece together clothes and outfits at your house. what an awesome dude.
you could start an annual "love the wub day."

Elizabeth said...

I'm glad to finally know that there is a name for it. That is comforting.