HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 11, 2006, Herald Journal

The battle of the accessories

By IVAN RACONTEUR

When it comes to understanding the difference between men and women, we need look no further than our basic accessories; to wit, our wallets and purses.

The average man on the street has had his wallet for at least a decade. It has no doubt served him through two or three presidential administrations, and, over the years, he has probably owned more vehicles than wallets.

And why should he change? A wallet is a very personal accessory. It conforms to the back of his anatomy, and becomes a part of him.

If he goes out without his wallet, he is unbalanced and doesn’t feel right.

A man has everything he needs in his wallet.

This may include a driver’s license, credit card, library card, and a few assorted membership cards.

There could be a hunting or fishing license, which may or may not be from the current season.

There are probably a few frayed and worn business cards.

The collection probably includes health insurance cards, and maybe some hotel and airline discount cards.

My own collection is rounded out by two really important cards; my press pass, and my Caribou Coffee card. With those, I can get through any situation.

Wallets may contain photographs, and they may even contain cash (although in this age of plastic, that is not always the case).

Men do not go out and buy wallets.

Women will sometimes try to push us into changing by buying us a new wallet for our birthday or Christmas, but we don’t fall for that.

They say they are embarrassed every time we haul that terrible old thing out of our back pocket, but as long as it is still functional, we see no need to change.

The new wallet (or several of them, if we change girlfriends, or get additional contributions from other females in our lives), will sit at the bottom of a drawer until we decide it is time to change.

We put this off as long as possible. We don’t like that uncomfortable break-in period, and we really see nothing wrong with the old one. It is good enough for us until it falls apart, or begins to disintegrate from sheer age.

It is different with women.

Purses are much more of a fashion item. Part of this is due to the fact that purses are exposed, rather than hidden away in a pocket.

The reality, though, is that with women, everything is a fashion statement.

Women don’t have just one purse. They have a collection.

No man has ever changed his wallet to match his shoes, but women do this with their purses all the time.

They have day purses and night purses. They have casual purses and fancy purses, and they all change with each passing season.

That, in itself, is a critical difference between men and women.

Men have no sense of season. We wear cool clothes when the weather is warm, and we wear warm clothes in the winter. Beyond that, we do not understand artificial seasons, except for those imposed by the DNR.

Women are very much in tune with the seasons, and would never think of wearing certain colors at certain times of the year.

We use the term “purse” for the sake of discussion, but, of course, women have a whole range of different names for these things, and they would be sure to explain the subtle differences if we gave them the chance.

One assumes that women carry some of the same things in their purses that men carry in their wallets, but that is pure speculation.

Men don’t really know what women carry in their purses, and we don’t want to know. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.

One does wonder, though, if women even know what they carry in their purses. They seem to spend an awful lot of time digging around in them, searching for things.

It is true that they often appear successful, producing a plethora of items from the depths in different situations, but this could very well be due to trial-and-error, rather than good inventory management.

Another important difference is the amount of money we are willing to spend for our accessories.

Men, as we have discussed, are reluctant to spend anything at all for a new wallet. If they are forced to make a purchase, they will spend as little as possible.

Even though these are among our most important accessories, men would rather have money in their wallets than spend money on a wallet.

Women, on the other hand, might spend a fortune.

This is especially true if someone sticks a designer label on the item in question. Labels like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Coach, Gucci or Fenda will whip women into an absolute frenzy.

Women seem to be able to identify the designer without even seeing a label. To men, a purse is a purse.

The real beauty of these gems is in the marketing.

The “list” price is so grossly over-inflated, that even the “discounted” price is astronomical. Even so, the system allows women to justify the purchase, and they rave about what a great deal they got, and how much they “saved.”

One thing that purses have that wallets do not is a spicy coating of bacteria.

Studies have shown that purses carry as much on the outside as they do on the inside, and are often contaminated with pseudomonas (which can cause eye infections), staphylococcus aurous (which can cause serious skin infections), salmonella, and E. coli.

Women take there purses everywhere. It gives one pause to think that, after coming into contact with shopping carts, bar or restaurant floors, changing tables, and the floors of public rest rooms, the next place these purses land is on tables or counter tops where food is served. Very appetizing.

Some say lifestyle plays a role in the level of contamination. One study showed that people with kids had dirtier purses than those without. The exception was the purse of a single woman who frequented nightclubs. Her purse had the worst contamination of all.

Experts are divided when it comes to the danger of cross-contamination, but the situation is, at best, unsavory.

Women may never understand wallets, and men will never understand purses, but these important accessories and the roles they play can highlight some of the delicious differences between us that help to make life so much fun.