Am I Too Young to Carry a Handkerchief?

Maybe it's because I'm getting older. Maybe it's because I moved to a warm weather climate. Maybe it's because I'm turning into my father.

Whatever it is, I bought a handkerchief. I bought a whole pack of them, in fact. I did it so I could mop my brow in the Florida heat.

Another sign I'm turning into my father: I just said "mop my brow" without feeling like an old-timey English teacher.

I don't like the word "mop." It sounds gross, like an actual mop. The word just sort of flops there, like a moist, dirty jellyfish. So to say "mop my brow" just gives me an icky feeling all over.

I also hate the word "moist" for the same reason. The phrase "mop your moist brow" may make me throw up. And then we'll need a real mop.

I decided I had reached an age where I needed a new solution for forehead sweat. I'm no longer a college kid who can just wear a baseball hat. Once you hit your 30s, you need to stop wearing a baseball hat during normal work hours. Also, once you graduate college, you have to stop wearing them backward.

Which means I had to start carrying handkerchiefs.

The most important question to answer was whether it was pronounced "hanker-CHEEF" or "hanker-CHIFF." And whether the 'd' was silent. (It is. It always is.) My dad pronounces it hanker-CHEEF, so I decided to follow suit.

I called it a "hankie" once, but my kids laughed at me, so I quit. I'm already self-conscious enough about carrying them, I didn't want to make it worse. I mean, I'm reaching the age where men can just be dorky with a minimal effort.

Last week, I had a nightmare that I was wearing dark socks and sandals.

But I've realized that handkerchiefs are very useful, and wonder why I didn't start carrying one sooner. That's apparently another thing that happens as we get older. Men start carrying more useful things, and wonder why we never did before.

My father-in-law typically carries a pocket knife, two lighters, a key pouch with a small pair of nail clippers, and about three dollars in loose change. That's in addition to his wallet, a small notebook, and two pens in his shirt pocket. And that's just for going around town. When he flies, he carries so much stuff, he has to gate check his sport coat.

This isn't a big deal for women. They've been carrying stuff in their purse from the time they were little girls. But for boys and young men, it's not cool to carry stuff. Once you hit a certain age, you stop being cool, and it's open season on looking like a dork in front of your kids.

I'm still clinging to my coolness by hiding my handkerchief in my pocket.

However, once you start carrying a handkerchief, you realize they're very useful. Like a towel from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, except smaller, thinner, and less absorbent. Also, you can't flick your friends in the ass with a twirled up handkerchief.

Over the last few months, I've used mine to mo — wipe my forehead, clean my glasses, clean my computer screen, and even wipe my mouth when I lost my napkin. Of course, it goes in the laundry at the end of the day, because I don't want to carry a sweat-stink hanky with hamburger juice on it.

The one thing I have vowed never to do, however, is blow my nose in it. Handkerchiefs are not for nasal hygiene. Sadly, you see it in public, like at church. A man will pull a wadded-up cotton square out of his pocket, search it for a clean spot, jam it on his nose as if he's trying to screw on a bottle cap, and then honk hard enough to give himself an aneurysm.

He then inspects the contents carefully, to make sure he's cleared out the offending snotwad, as well as the part of his brain that controls appropriate public behavior, and he sticks it back in his pocket!

And that's the worst part of a handkerchief. A man can blow a golf ball-sized booger out of his head, and he'll carry it with him for the rest of the day.

Lord save me from becoming one of those men who saves his snot. Let me just wipe it on the pew in front of me, like I did when I was six.

Photo credit: UK Imperial War Museum (Public Domain)

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