So, fans. I’m not sure how often people are thinking about fans. However, I am thinking about fans. To be clear, I’m talking about hand-held fans, not electric fans.
Fans! What are they good for? Cooling off, of course. I love fans. My daughter also loves fans. She loved them even when she was young. Here she is in a martial arts photo at age six, with an awesome fan prop. Looking bad-ass!
When I lived in Spain at the age of eighteen, I discovered with some surprise it was downright commonplace for a modern Spanish woman to pull a fan from her bag, snap it open with authority, and fan herself. Since about 80% of days in Spain are hot, and most women carry fans, if we do some math here… let’s see… carry the one… almost all Spanish women carry fans.
In America we fan ourselves with a program at the performance or graduation event in the suddenly-too-hot space, but nobody owns a fan. Because it was normal for Spanish women to have several fans, at any given moment my host mom Carmen in Spain always had at least one at the ready. It’s an accessory–an everyday fan, a fancy one for occasions, or one of each color of the rainbow to coordinate with that day’s ensemble. Fans in Spain are an old-fashioned tradition that never got left behind.
When I returned from my year as an exchange student to Spain, I brought a fan home as a souvenir. It’s fancy and black, with delicate holes cut out of the wood slats. It boasts hand-painted flowers and swirly lines. It sat in a box of souvenirs and old letters for more than twenty years. I never used it–or even displayed it–until a few years ago when I uncovered it while digging around in a box of my old stuff.
I pulled it out and brought it upstairs. It sat folded on my desk for a couple of years. My daughter kept coming by, also over the years, touching it. Opening it. Fanning herself. “Be gentle with that,” I’d admonish her. She’d close it and reluctantly wander away. (Over her life, my daughter has been quietly collecting fans of all kinds.)
I began wishing I could carry that pretty fan with me, but I worried I’d damage it. I don’t live where fans are easy to come by, after all. I’ll admit I’ve bought the cheap plastic ones, but they aren’t as lovely (or as sturdy) as the Spanish ones, with their slender wooden slats tipped with just a bit of fabric at the ends.
In the summer of 2016 my host family came to visit. As expected, my host mother Carmen brought her fan. It was purple, and my daughter promptly fell in love with it. Also, Carmen promptly fell in love with my daughter. Upon seeing my girl’s open desire for the fan, Carmen thrilled to bestow it to my daughter just before my host family returned to Spain. Instantly jealous, I was eager to get my hands on my own fan. Carmen promised to mail me one, but I wanted one even sooner. A flight attendant friend who travels to Spain frequently offered to pick one up for me when I waxed poetic about getting my own fan. I’ve been using that pretty yellow one with glee every time the weather warms up and I remember the fan tucked away in the bottom of my purse.
Just a few weeks ago, I returned with my family to Spain after many years. My daughter and I were equally eager to get our hands on a bunch of fans to hold us over until, well, we get back to Spain again. I think between us we picked up maybe eleven or twelve fans. And was it hot when we were there? You better believe it. We fanned and fanned ourselves all throughout Spain. We fanned my husband and son, too. While we stood in the unbearably packed un-airconditioned metro. As we waited on a breezeless street corner or when the tour bus stopped in the full sun. We also fanned ourselves through Paris, during an unusual hot spell of ninety-five-plus degree days.
What can I say? I’m a big fan.