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Lip Balm, Lip Balm Everywhere, and Never a Pen With Ink….

Among the many beloved rituals associated with this time of year, one that is often overlooked is the Ritual Cleaning of the Purse. Possibly this is due to the fact that I am the sole observer of this particular practice, but I find that it dovetails beautifully with the necessity of carrying wads of both used and unused Kleenex, and the fear of dropping a Victoria’s Secret coupon in the aisle before Christmas Eve services. In order to prevent embarrassment, and to feel that I have control over at least one of the bloody messes in my life, I set aside a calm twenty minutes around the Winter Solstice to remove everything from the currently favored bag, evaluate the contents, and put back an optimistic selection of goods and chattels to accompany me on my seasonal rounds.

Onto the dining room table goes everything, in this instance a wallet, cell phone, reading glasses, an iPod, car keys on a ring the size of a dessert plate, a quilted pink makeup bag, a pad of Post-Its, a wad of receipts and coupons, an empty Kleenex package, three used Kleenex, a wad of unused Kleenex, several ticket stubs, a rubber ball, a single earring, a flier for Life Seekers Church, a furry breath mint, an empty Trident package, a piece of newspaper with an address written on it, a tiny first aid kit with nothing but alcohol wipes left, three paperclips and empty but pungent vial of something that smells like a waitress in a health food restaurant. There is a clear hierarchy of what should be thrown away, refilled, wiped off and/or restored to the appropriate spot (where it will be until the first time that I am trying to put a cup of soda in the drink holder while accepting change and holding my wallet. This is the easy part.

Curiously, no matter how often I re-shuffle, I never have a pen when I need one. I have golf pencils, their points covered with some vaguely greasy substance that makes them useless, regular pencils with no points at all, several pens advertising prescription drugs that have no ink or do not “click” properly into writing position, and one dried-up, pink Sharpie marker. Not one of these items can be used to fill out a deposit slip, address a package at the Post Office, or strike items off a shopping list. [I become paralyzed with anxiety and hyperventilate if I am prevented from crossing things off the shopping list as I put them in the cart; I am afraid that I will pick up two of something, plus it destroys any sense that I am actually accomplishing something].

What I have in abundance is lip balm. As of my most recent attempt at reorganization, there were no fewer than six labial lubricants (they come right before the four French Hens) in the various compartments and sub-compartments of my bag. There is a stick of Burt’s Bees, a brightly colored ball with a screw-top full of slightly gritty vanilla goop, something made with hemp that probably belongs to Sam, a cherry ChapStick, something called “Buzz Latte” and a tiny, crusty scrape of Creme de la Mer lip balm begged from a Neiman Marcus counter at least five years ago. After finding a suitable array of working pens (“ink pens,” they are mysteriously called in these parts, as if there were other pens filled, perhaps, with pomegranate juice or the blood of virgins) and putting them in an accessible spot, I tackle the lip balm proliferation.

Burt’s Bees stays in the place of honor, since I actually use it. The Ball O’ Balm is totally useless, but it was a gift from my mom, and she might know if I threw it out, and it goes back in. I need to keep Sam’s lip balm in case he is suddenly plagued by dry winter lips and has forgotten to bring his own balm; it’s icky to use someone else’s. The ChapStick seems like a good thing to keep in case I run out of Burt’s Bees, the Buzz Latte has a really cool package and it’s an impressive thing to whip out when I’m feeling chapped at a ladies’ lunch. They are both put back in the bag. The Creme de la Mer is a tough call. All of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only a quarter inch of tan scum clinging to the edges of the plastic sample vial. No one else would know that it was lip balm that cost as much per ounce as Krugerands, but I do. I had to work hard to get it, schmoozing the Morticia Addams behind the Creme de la Mer counter with a story about how I “loved the face cream but hadn’t tried the lip balm yet.” I tucked it back into a tiny pocket, deciding that it might eventually evaporate completely and take the decision out of my hands.

It’s cleaner now, and I’ll head out today knowing for at least a few minutes that my cell phone is in the Cell Phone Pocket and that I have only unused Kleenex at my disposal.  The pens will disappear into the pockets and purses of others, and be left on counters all over town, and new lip balms will appear, but for today I am in order.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

12 responses »

  1. Ink Pen — Gel Pen — Felt-tip Pen — Fountain Pen — Sharpie —

    I think I used “ink pen” to mean that thing best used for endorsing checks and signing multi-page carbon copies. It generally means, don’t give me one of those gel pens meant for black construction paper or a highlighter. Of course, these days, endorsing checks is as rare as signing multi-page carbon copies. But that’s OK…the blood of a virgin is pretty rare in this town as well.

    Oh, SNAP!

    PS…Burt’s Bees is the bees knees.

  2. In my (clearly debauched) existence, “labial lubricant” means something entirely different from lip balm, gloss or stick.

    My own purse is so vast that I am obligated to do a mass dumping of contents at least once a month. Most recently, I found a size 3 diaper (nephew is potty trained, godkids are much large than a 3), at least 2 matchless mittens and two non-functional cell phone chargers. One of these days, Jimmy Hoffa is going to climb out and offer me a dry martini.

    • You are a dirty old woman, although probably if I’d thought more about that I wouldn’t have written it….

      Your purse is vast; if Jimmy shows up make him stick around and do a documentary. You’ll be set for life.

  3. Ann,

    Funny, I was just thinking I needed to do a bag dump this morning on my way to work because my bag was getting heavy and then I read this–cosmic.

  4. The gooey stuff on all of your pencils in obviously lip balm.

    Also, consider pig pen, and in the Midwest the need to distinguish pen from pin, both of which you might have in your bag.

    • Probably it is. I do have pens and pins, but no ink pins. Unless something is leaking, which is always a possibility….

  5. If you ever run out of lip balm my Arbonne stuff is way better 🙂 LOVE IT. My purse is ALWAYS FULL of receipts, but never the ones I need to return things. It’s really bizarre. At least there weren’t any of those awful Smencils in there 🙂

    • Hmmm…always looking for the next beauty item I HAVE to buy. You are an enabler. 🙂 My bag is a Smencil-Free-Zone, although i admit that there are a couple on my desk…

  6. This could be my favorite of your blog posts. Before reading it I happened to do my own purse (it started with the wallet because I got a new one, and I transferred stuff from old to new–my wallet has almost as much variety, of the paper/plastic card variety, as some purses). I can keep a pen in my purse for no more than a week tops, even when I start with 6 new good ones. Detritus from my purse this time–church bulletins with pencil games in the blank spots from entertaining my son, two unmatched gloves, black felt (a christmas play fix? can’t remember), hershey’s kisses that fortunately haven’t unwrapped themselves (yet), an empty cd case (hoping the CD is in the car player), a mysterious receipt from Sears for a trnspndr? (Transponder? No idea what that purchase was…) and a watermelon-scented chapstick that smells hideous to me but which I’ve used this week because somehow the preferred lip balms have gone the way of the pens. This is only because it’s the season when I need lip balm regularly–the rest of the year I have at least 3 or 4, one of which may be useable.

    And I think midwesterners are commendable in their distinct pronunciation of pen and pin–it was in the South that I couldn’t hear the difference.

    • Thanks! I think you must have a bigger purse than I do. 🙂 Any time you need a lip balm, I’ll share (after a discreet and thorough wiping off)…maybe you’ll give me a pen for it?


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