15 May 2015

Purse Strings: The Story of One Man's Confession of His Biggest Fear in a Relationship

A few months ago, I let the Mister take over my blog for a day and in the process, he answered some parenting questions for me and gave his take on a few things from the viewpoint of “Daddy.” It was entitled, ‘An Interview with the Mister.’ It was such a big hit with my readers that I asked him to do another post for me. So back by popular demand, I give you the Mister and his confession about what his (and possibly other men’s) biggest fear is in a relationship. Enoy!

Men's Biggest Fear in a Relationship

Our daughter, Maddy, is three and five-sixths years old now. Yes, she is that exact fraction – a fraction of the woman I fear she will all-too-quickly become. And no, Courtney didn’t do the math on that. (Inside family joke – ask her about it sometime.) Anyway, when I look at Maddy – really study her and the little girl we both created – I envy her courage, curiosity, naïveté, but especially her fearlessness. Was I ever like that? Really and truly?

The childhood freedom I most remember is swimming. Aside from chlorine and summers in Florida spent underwater, and the boyhood dream of becoming an astronaut someday, at 44 and two-thirds (my math once again) it is difficult to remember a life without fear and regret and anger and disappointment – all of those nasty, negative adult emotions that take us by the arm sometimes and shake the leaves right from our bones; we’ve all been caught in these kinds of wind storms at certain times in our lives, just waiting for the calm to return, hoping our hair has not become Donald Trump-like in the face of an embarrassing audience to our own fears.

So, is it possible to recapture that feeling of naïveté, no matter your age? Can we be fearless again? Perhaps the answer is in those stars I once wanted to visit – a black hole so hungry for light.

Despite testosterone, balls (yes, I said balls), and heavy layers of protective hair, I will tell you that men have many fears. Growing up. Growing old. Growing fat. Growing senile. Growing into our parents. Growing rich or then going poor. Of course, this may not be every man – this might not be your man or, if you are a man reading this, you at all. But there is one universal fear that all men have. It’s not death (or maybe it is), but it does rhyme with hearse. Are you with me? It’s the accessory known simply as: the purse.

For a man, going into a woman’s purse is a lot like robbing a bank – if you’re planning to do it, you’d better get in and get out – getaway car at the ready or not. (Not that I’ve robbed a bank or that you’d find any cash inside most purses in today’s plastic-digital age, but the act itself still feels illegal, inappropriate, and like a good old-fashioned heist.)

A purse is the ultimate black hole, after all.

Women might find this revelation surprising or even irrational. All I can say is that like all unusual phobias, I fear it stems from childhood. Personally, I remember my mother telling me to never go into her purse. I imagine many men have had this same experience. Why? I’ve never asked and I never will. Maybe it’s all about tampons, which in the 1970s were bottle rockets. Not today’s shrink-wrapped, 22-caliber-shaped bullets. Or perhaps it was about makeup – real lipstick, not lip-gloss, or Nina Ricci’s L'air Du Temps toilet water. Woman stuff. (Toilet water? Really? That discussion is for another time.)

Anyway, without the mystery, even if said purse is empty, there is still this natural instinct for men to stay clear of a woman’s purse, even when asked to retrieve the simplest of items: keys, a cell phone cord, or the phone itself. Admittedly, some of this fear is manifested out of respect; but so much more is molded from outright fear. There are sacred items in a women’s handbag and no man feels entirely comfortable – no matter how long he’s been with a woman or a wife – with digging in with one hand, let alone two.

An interesting fact I will say is that the level of fear is dictated by the size of the bag. A large purse is deadly! (Please note: this does not include diaper bags. There are different fears associated with those, unrelated to your own childhood but a childhood you have the responsibility to suddenly shape.) But the big purse is a scary place. Who knows what could be lurking. Granted, I don’t expect to find Taye Diggs’s home address in there (wait, he just started following Courtney on Twitter…hmmmm) or the cell phone number of every UT (Tennessee) football player inside. (Or will I?) I’m not going to find a snake. (Courtney hates snakes!) Nor will I find one thousand dollars in small, unmarked bills – she’s not Bonnie no more than I am Clyde. But that doesn’t stop the man-fear, the rise in adrenaline when Courtney asks me to get something out of her purse for her. Whether you call it a pocketbook, handbag, or clutch, the only difference is the amount of anxiety associated with each size. For example, most men do not consider the clutch to be a “real” purse. It’s a pocket when a dressmaker purposely neglects to include them. Besides, what can you really fit in a clutch? A driver’s license, cell phone, debit card and one tube of Burt’s Bees lip balm? Not so scary, right?  

The men’s version – the wallet, not the European shoulder bag – doesn’t have the same cache. Perhaps it did in the 1950s, when a condom was more common for a man to carry than cash. But I ditched my wallet years ago. Sitting on layers of plastic and paper and leather made me lean and my back hurt. Today, my pocket (my clutch?) is my wallet. Inside: MasterCard, driver’s license, school ID, a couple of Chinese fortunes I find inspiring, and my Books-a-Million and CVS discount cards. Nothing worthy of encasement.

So, what’s a man to do when a woman asks him to go into their purse and get something? With Courtney, I hand it to her holding just the tips of the straps, full arms-length, like it’s a bomb I can’t possibly defuse (do I cut the red or blue wire?), or the way you might hold a pissed off cat who’s just fallen into the bathtub, claws flexing, hair puffed up like a blowfish. I do this, all the while, thinking: take it, take it, HERE YOU TAKE IT!

It’s instinct. It’s natural. It’s the old Berlin Wall; it’s the boundary between North and South Korea. You don’t question it – you just go with what feels right, however naïve this makes you look.

I’m learning, slowly, to let go of my fears. Perhaps the next time Courtney asks me to grab the “brown pouch” out of her purse I won’t pause first. Maybe I’ll let my hand swim inside as though I were a fearless boy growing up in Florida, swimming to the bottom of the deep end with my eyes open, even though the chlorine might sting a little.


Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup
Courtney @ Shiraz In My Sippy Cup

Courtney is a published author, mom, taco enthusiast, and a Star Wars and Tennessee Volunteers fanatic. She's never met a piece of sushi she didn’t like and enjoys an amazing glass of wine and a great cut of meat. You can read more of her wine-induced, sleep-deprived adventures on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy.


  1. Twitchetts BlogspotMay 15, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Anytime I ask my husband for something out of my purse 99% of the time he just brings me my purse and plops in on my lap. It all makes sense now!! Sometime my big purses intimidate me and I know what is in there... (most of what is in there) I often pull things out and wonder where they came from LOL

  2. It is great to hear about parenting from the father's perspective. Really, guys, it is okay to open your wife's purse. It will not swallow you up.

  3. This is just adorable! Your husband is a great writer and I love the man take on things sometimes. Very cute!!

  4. My husband will NOT going into my purse... no matter what. Great post, your hubby is a fantastic writer just like you!

  5. Haha! This is awesome! My husband is the exact same way! He'll hand me the whole thing. He used to try finding stuff for me, but after 10 seconds he would get fussy!

  6. What's it with the fear of the purse? I don't get it but clearly from your post and the other comments, it's a thing... a real fear men have! I have no problem diggin' through J's wallet. #moneyhungry #causeImjobless

  7. Laura Powell-CorbettMay 15, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    Ah my husband has gotten over the fear now and has entered the next stage, the anger that comes with finding anything that is in the abyss that is the bag!

  8. Lol...now that you mention it.....both my dad, father in law, and husband do this. Just bring the entire purse instead of looking through for whatever item was requested. Funny!

  9. My husband will look through my purse to find things that I ask for, but he'll be huffing and puffing while doing it! He used to hand me 2-3 purses that were laying around the house as well :D