Recently, my friend Joseph Thomas made a comment on Facebook that relates to my interest in salt and pepper shakers:
What I think is wonderful about salt n pepper shakers: although they come as a pair, they so often aren’t bound together, save by their maker’s intent or owner’s whim. Thus, even pairs “meant for each other” can have dalliances with other shakers or mills, and should one’s mate be smashed, the remaining mill (or shaker) can make a nice home with a crew of very different shakers. A metaphor for polyamory, these anthropomorphized little critters.
As I thought about that, I realized how very true it is. Earlier last year, I wrote a number of posts here exploring my particular fascination with the “go-with” aspect of shaker sets, and how it takes some insight into the mental activity of the person who chose them to go with each other to understand just what it is that connects them. As I said then,
Some of the more interesting sets of salt and pepper shakers I’ve seen in antique shops are ones that are not in fact, clearly sets–or at least were not necessarily designed to be the sets they now are being sold as. Not surprisingly, for salt-and-peppers consist of two objects that are in fact physically detached from each other. It’s quite possible, then, that one of the two might break, or that the two might end up somehow separated from each other–a result of a nasty divorce settlement, perhaps, or a simple error in packing when a roommate leaves, or a salt incorrectly grabbed up along with the remains of dinner and thrown in the garbage, while it’s now sadly lonely pepper partner remains behind. What more obvious thing for a store owner to do when such a sad single shows up in the shop but to find some other woeful isolate that might by some stretch of the imagination be considered to go with it, and try to sell them as a pair? And lo, as if by magic, they do, sort of become a pair, as would-be purchasers like me look at them and, more or less inevitably, I think, try to decide what is the intended connection between these two objects now identified on their sales tag as a pair.
The paradigm of the pair is powerful. It can join what some man (or woman or child) has put asunder. In the shaker universe, linguistic binarism rules.
As Joseph suggests, and if it’s true that the paradigm of the pair is powerful, then paradoxically, then you can defy the connections made by manufacturers and shopkeepers just as easily as you can observe them–be your own deliriously postmodern creator of new pairs, new combinations, new possibilities. You can become the new god of the shaker miniverse.
Thinking about all that, and in celebration of Joseph’s idea of polyamory, I remember two particular sets I’ve discussed in earlier posts, this one.
And this one:
Polyamorous perversity then leads me to this combo:
The sexual politics here are pretty astonishing. Think about it.
I should also say that I have also indulged in some mismatching of pairs in a previous post–the one about Santa Claus giving a big smack to a bunch of bad guys.