That purse doesn’t match your shoes
I did not think I really heard it quite right, but yeah there it was. My purse did /does not match my shoes. The comment came from a passing man in a church we were visiting to get our pictures taken. It was received as I believe it was meant by the sender. What the gentleman was referring to, was my bag that I carry these days and it was meant both as a joke and a comment on my sexuality. In my mind the comment went over like a bomb.
We were visiting a church
This occurred at a church Sheryl and I were visiting. We were visiting just for a brief few minutes. Our church is doing a new pictorial directory and they asked each of the members to be photographed so it is easier to recognize who is who on Sunday. The photography session at our church was offered a few weeks ago and since I was out of town, we had to go to the makeup session which was scheduled where the company doing the directory was taking pictures for another congregation. Since ours is not a large congregation (about 150 people) we do not rate our own make up session, so it makes sense that the company assigns our makeups at a different location where they are already working. I had never been to that church before and will likely never have occasion again to go there again, so Sheryl and I were just one-time visitors.
Sitting in the hallway after check-in, Sheryl and I were waiting for the photographer to get ready. The whole scene is like a small assembly line, sign in here, wait here, pictures there, and then the sales pitch room over there. It allows two or three photographers to get the photos for an entire congregation and sell the photos with minimal fuss and great speed.
Sitting in the hallway I decided to look in on my blood sugar. My insulin pump was showing I was in range, so I put my purse on the seat next to me and I started looking at my telephone. Just the thing a typical male does, (you know ignore others and look at a screen), when out of the blue I heard a male say that purse does not match your shoes. It was a blind sideswipe as the other male walked down the hallway. After all, what sort of upstanding heterosexual male carries a purse? The guy did not stop or interact, just the comment as he walked past. I will never know if it was meant in jest or a stinging comment; but the remark stung me more than amused him. Perhaps worst of all I did not get a retort. What I got was his back walking away.
What the gentleman did not know of course was the rest of the story. How for instance my “purse” (I prefer to call it brosack actually) is full of diabetes related items. He did not realize that I carry a glucometer, two different types of glucose, an emergency set in case mine dislodges and extra batteries for my insulin pump. He never stopped to find out that carrying a purse is part of what being a modern day, responsible person with type 1 diabetes is about, regardless of gender. He did not bother to understand that I could either saddle my wife with these items or I could break down and buy a functional carry all. He did not understand (or care) that I struggled with the decision to carry one for years and that regardless of his comment, I like my purse. Nor could he possibly understand that in that moment no matter how modern I might seem it instantly took me back to my own sense of gender identity.
Of course, that was all for me to say or in this case not say. What was I to do? I wanted to stand up and start forking the items into his hands and ask if he could carry that crap around without a purse? I wanted to ask who was carrying his cell phone or which medical devices he carried in his pocket? I wanted to paste a sensor and a pump and a 42” tube on his body to carry around. I wanted to ask him how he might feel always being attached, then check his blood sugar and tell him if it was high or low he might die. I wanted to be angry, very angry.
Of course, I said nothing. I sat in stunned silence. I was a visitor at a church and I thought wow, I cannot believe I just heard that. This was made even more real because I tell that joke on myself all the time. I laugh about my purse not matching my shoes. I tell it like a mini story of how I came to have it and what I do with it. I show the contents to others and say you know in a modern world, it makes sense for men to carry a purse. After all, my wallet or pockets could never accommodate all this stuff of necessity.
It was then I got angry. But not with the man who made the inconsiderate comment. I got angry with myself. See, I have made similar remarks to myself and others. I have said things in jest, not to be mean (though I am certain they have been perceived that way) but to make a comment. I was angry because I know how this feels and I wish I could take all those remarks back, of course I cannot.
Yes, that person did not see and will never know I have diabetes and that is why I must carry so many items in my ‘purse’. He will never understand how close he came to my male ego striking out and his being told. But in the end, I let niceties prevail. I did nothing, and later under my breath I said thank you, not for the comment, but for the opportunity it gave me to once again learn that words do hurt. Even those we do not mean to hurt, especially to those of us who have invisible disease. It is a lesson I am thankful for today, the day after it occurred.
PS: I have a great purse, I don’t care what anyone might think of it.