Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Should Have Known

I really should have known, or at least guessed, and in a way I did, I suppose. Nevertheless, I was still surprised – not shocked, but certainly surprised – and maybe a bit, or somewhat more than that, amused. After all, I’d seen it before, many times in fact, although on a somewhat different scale. You see, Elizabeth never goes anywhere without her lipstick. I mean this literally. If we’re going somewhere together, I generally know it for a fact, because it’s usually in my pocket. If you’re wondering why I carry the lipstick, it’s because, with a very few exceptions, women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets, and even in the case of those precious few exceptions, the pockets are not meant to be functional – I mean to actually be used to hold things. I fully intend to write an essay dealing with that foolishness in detail in the near future. In fact it’s already on my “to write” list right after the one which will be entitled “Why it is Nonetheless Necessary to Sort a Dryer-full of Black Socks”. But for now, just consider this one fact, and I’ll get on with the current story, if I can remember what it was. If a person requires a support group (or new britches) just to deal with an occasional flare up of panty lines, think of the trauma they would experience if they were ever stricken by the dreaded curse of wallet bulge, or even worse, the black death of fashion locally known as lipstick lump.

Well, needless to say again, the lipstick always goes, and it’s usually in my pocket, but what about the times when we’re not together? Does she stick it in her pocket, and make the best of it? You already know the answer. Of course not. She puts it in her purse. Some call it a pocketbook. Some call it a handbag or a shoulder bag. Some have a purse inside of a handbag, and some are as big as a suitcase, but whatever the name, whatever the size, whatever the price (and 100 bucks is cheap), they all have one function – to carry the lipstick when I’m not around. But what about all of that other stuff in there? It’s a heck of a lot more than just lipstick. To fully appreciate the answer to that question, you must understand the relative differences in various conceptions of space.

In a discussion of the cosmos, “space” may be used to refer to the vastness of the unexplored universe. On a cross country trip, it may be used to refer to the open expanse of a sunrise on the prairie. For a newlywed couple “space” may be a patch of ground upon which a first home may be built. Space can be all sorts of wonderful things, but inside of a woman’s purse it is simply the room left over after the lipstick is placed inside – a yawning void that cries out to be filled. The range of items used as filler (“ballast” may be a better word) is as wide as the span of human possessions – everything from hand lotion to handguns, from matchbooks to checkbooks, from cigarette lighters to light lunches, from door keys to keyboards, and from best sellers to cell phones. Oh you’ll find cards there too – credit cards, debit cards, birthday cards, insurance cards, gift cards, business cards, playing cards, even postcards and recipe cards – all kinds of cards. And at one time or another in one purse or another, virtually anything else.

The point to all of this is that this space exists, and it has to be filled. As we already know, ladies can’t use their pockets, and they can’t carry around a bag with nothing but a tube of lipstick inside, so they fill that void with anything that happens by. Think of a black hole, and you will have the right idea. And I knew all of this - had known it for years, but still somehow I missed the connection to a walk in the woods. You see, last Saturday, I took Katie for a hike at Morrow Mountain State Park on the Pee Dee River over near Albemarle. Just an afternoon hike – 1½ miles in, a picnic lunch, and 1½ miles out. I would be carrying the lunch and other necessaries – like camera, first aid kit, Swiss army knife, and compass, and I asked Katie to pack her own small backpack with a light jacket, snacks for the trail, and a bottle of water. Afterwards we each went off to pack our respective bags. A short while later, as we headed for the door, I reached down to pick up Katie’s pack. I was immediately surprised by its weight, which I estimated at something near 10 lbs. It should have weighed only a fraction of that. “What in the world do you have in here?” I asked her. “Just some things I’ll need.” she said. I partially unzipped her pack, to find it brim-full of stuff – just stuff. “Where’s your jacket and water and snacks?” I asked. “We’ll need to put that in another pack, I guess.” she replied. I sat her pack aside for a time when I could take a more leisurely look. That opportunity came the following Monday afternoon, and having the feeling that a detailed list would come in handy, I recorded the contents:

last year’s gymnastics medal
2 Crayola Color Explosion markers
1 Crayola Color Explosion tablet
1 plastic necklace
1 regular size lead pencil
1 lip gloss compact – 3 flavors with brush
1 writing tablet
1 “Celebrate” wall plaque
2 business cards
1 Canine Companion book marker
1 Max Lucado Childrens Bible
1 electronic spinning lights toy
2 Kleenex tissues
1 package of Starbursts
1 Barbie lip gloss compact – 9 flavors with brush
1 container of cleansing wipes
1 tube of Cocoa Butter hand cream
1 note pad with pen
1 container of body polish with sponge applicator
1 small resin owl, a gift from Barbara
1 Swiss Army knife with 11 blades/tools
1 sequined coin purse with 2 necklace links inside
1 Superman pedometer from Burger King (never worked right)
1 action figure from Burger King
12 Crayola crayons
5 large jingle bells
5 plastic bracelets
1 container of lip balm
1 toy plastic cream pitcher
3 tubes of Jello brand lip gloss with sparkles
1 “find the dime” magic trick
1 small lead pencil
1 hairband
1 nail file key ring
1 charms key ring
1 mechanical cow key ring
1 plastic heart ring
1 small key
1 small (store sample) tube of lipstick
3 decorative “gemstones”
1 black felt-tip pen
1 make-up compact with brush and mirror (but no make-up)
1 Starburst wrapper

Also, a small sequined hand bag containing the following:
1 small package of sticky notes
1 package of dental floss
1 cross necklace
5 tubes of assorted lip gloss
2 Easter seals (stuck together)
1 Christmas wristwatch (non-functioning)
1 small doll with clothes
1 5-piece set of make-up brushes
1 large paperclip
1 bottle of nail polish
2 bracelets – 1 magnetic and 1 collectible costume jewelry
1 necklace with ring
1 key ring
$1.41 in change (mostly pennies)

Now if you read closely, you probably noticed that there was no mention of a partridge in a pear tree – strange that she missed something as critical to a good hike as that, but you may not have noticed that

In packing up her backpack my Katie took all these:
12 Crayola crayons
11 useful knife blades
10 types of lip gloss
9 make-up brushes
8 U.S. nickels
7 plastic bracelets
6 assorted markers
5 jingle bells
4 old key rings
3 gemstones
2 business cards
and a tube of cocoa butter hand cream

Truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes, and it can also be more fun. I hope you enjoyed this little story – all of which is true, of course.

Dean Greene


  1. Dean,
    I sat reading this story shaking my head, yes, because my dear Logan does the same with her bags. We went on vacation 2 weeks ago. I packed her suitcase. When we got to the beach I noticed that the expander zipper was undone and the suitcase was rather larger than I packed it. I unzipped it and found 7 stuffed Littlest Pet Shop toys. She said she had to sit on it to get them in there. She felt the need to take them even though she doesnt play with them. Boys just don't do stuff like this.

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  3. Brilliant stuff. Please collect these in a book.