Wife’s Pocketbook Often Becomes Husband’s Millstone

Three years ago this month, my wife and I got the word of her impending cancer. At that time the early reports were not all that bad, but the final outcome was not that good. She had been our healthy one, eating everything right, walking regularly and if a drug store had depended on her for a living, they were out of luck. But when the “c” word enters your world, only one knows the future, and He doesn’t reveal how you should plan for the next trip. In our case the time together was short and fast, but a time of closeness in hospital rooms and looks into each other’s eyes that went deep into the other’s inner-thoughts that made the final trip soul-calming.

It is strange how now the slightest thing can return my thoughts to those final weeks together in a hospital room. There I also wrote my weekly column on a laptop and shared them with my sweetheart of 35 years. The other night I saw a gentleman carrying his wife’s purse and it sparked one of those thoughts back to three years ago. That thought also made me want to share one of those columns again with you.

I grew up during the days, just like many of you, when we would go into town on Saturday afternoons and park on the local courthouse square to watch folks as they shopped with local merchants. It was much more interesting than chopping out corn and hauling hay as we had done all week, plus it also gave you a chance to look at the latest items in the window at Woolworths.

Courthouse squares have been replaced by shopping malls, which do not lend themselves as a real good place to watch people like a 1953 Ford Fairlane parked at a parking meter did in those early years. Watching folks from the front seat of the family sedan while your mother shopped, allowed you and your siblings the opportunity to make comments without being overheard. Mall benches do not give this same privacy and it is not as much fun without a brother or sister’s comments about the latest fashions being worn by those passing our car’s windshield.

My people watching today has just become an opportunity of observation rather than a fun activity like back when I was a child. For example, I’m amazed at the number of cell phones in use or just hanging from people’s ears. Everywhere I looked, people have those little boxes punching them with their thumbs or devices that resembled tiny piccolos attached to their ears. And, what gives with all the loud songs these phones play in public places? In fact, a phone playing a crazy tune and everyone within hearing range grabbing their belts wondering if it was their phone that was ringing, often interrupted the calm of the day. At least on the square all you had was a car horn honking from an impatient driver.

The thing that catches my attention the most these days is the number of husbands looking after their wife’s pocketbook over at the surgery center waiting room. It is a known fact that if there is anything that a man dislikes to do, it is having to carry their wife’s pocketbook where other men or women see them do so. It is just not natural for a man to do this and you can tell by the way they carry the item that they would like to become invisible if at all possible.

By my observation, I found there are definite ways that a man will carry his wife’s purse to avoid being detected as a male with a purse. First, there is the tucked under the arm method that gives the most available amount of coverage from allowing the item to be seen. Tucked in close under the arm, and carried like a running back carries a football, seems to be the most used method, and avoiding eye contact with others also improves the husband’s feelings of manhood. However, when stopped by another man who does recognize the subject and what he is carrying, the well-known line used most often by men for centuries is usually spoken. That line is, “I know, my purse does not match my shoes.” And once this is said, both parties laugh and guilt is removed.

The method of carrying the pocketbook by the handle is one that should be avoided. It does draw attention directly to the man and helps magnify the individual’s embarrassment, causing the man to walk with his head down with drooped shoulders. The man will also hold the strap of the pocketbook as if it is nuclear waste. But it also puts the entire issue right out in the open and lets everyone know that yes, he is carrying a pocketbook, but it is not his.

I really feel for those men given this difficult responsibility. I have been there myself and understand that pocketbook holding is a husband’s job, right up there with compacts, lipstick and other embarrassing lady items carried in your coat pocket. But at least you have other husbands who understand during the tough times, and wives who trust them enough to give them the responsibility.


– Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com