Horror movies don't scare me and roller coasters put me to sleep. Phobias? I have none. Heights, depths, crowds, spaces, strangers, spiders, public-speaking, solo-eating, needles and dentists are afraid of me, not the other way around. Market crashes? No problem, I buy the dips. Place crashes? Not while I'm on board. Computer crashes? Well, you get the picture and I don't want to push my luck.
I am not writing to announce my stoicism to the world. A braggart I am not. Having nerves of steel does not make me the Man of Steel because there is one statement which frightens me to death. I tell you this right now, even the real life Superman would be scared is Lois Lane turned to him in a taxi cab and said hysterically, "Clark honey, I think I lost my pocketbook."
No guys, I'm not here to brag, I am here to commiserate.
As a young boy, I remember seeing the terror in my father's eyes when my mother would say that awful phrase, and I remember the flash of panic which immediately ensued. The mini-drama always played out as follows: Without warning, my mother would frantically whiplash her neck trying to find a purse which inexplicably was not at her side. Realizing she was missing her patent leather appendage, she would drop the grenade onto my father's lap, "Stanley, I can't find my pocketbook!" Ready, set, panic.
Had she actually lost a grenade in the room we might not have worked as fast and as furiously to recover it. My poor father commandeered the situation. He flung himself under coaches, beds, car seats and countertops to find the missing bag. He scattered his children in different directions across the neighborhood. He retraced my mother's steps. He peppered her with questions like a police detective interrogating the sole eyewitness to a crime. He saw his world start to collapse for the sake of a handbag of which he had absolutely no idea of the contents.
Just as he was dialing to cancel the credit cards with visions of DMV dancing in his head, my mother would put a stop to the madness with a simple "Got it!" Mom would raise the missing purse aloft, smile, and carry on with her business as if nothing happened. It was as if she called a "lost-my-pocketbook-fire-drill" and quickly forgot about it.
I did not forget these episodes, however. Whenever they occur in my life I instantly realize that I inherited my father's fear of lost pocketbooks in addition to his minor overbite.
Last month, my girlfriend Jennifer informed me that she couldn't find her pocketbook as we headed home from a Broadway theater. The fear struck and the surge of handbag adrenaline sent me sprinting back into the theater. I fought through an excited Broadway crowd (talk about a tough mission), climbed three flights of stairs (OK, the tickets were twofers) and dove under our seats to look for the missing bag. Luckily, it was still there. Dad would have been proud.
"Got it!" I quoted my mother as I proudly returned her bag, hunched over and panting from my workout in Shubert Alley. Still energized from successfully accomplishing my mission, I decided to press my luck. "What's in there anyway?" I asked,
"Oh, nothing," Jennifer replied. She placed the bag's strap over her shoulder and then started walking as if nothing had happened - just like my mother used to do!
Although I am no sociologist, Jennifer's peculiar reaction leads me to believe that this is not merely a fear passed down by Greenberg males. I think there may be some strong evidence that women actually do carry grenades in their pocketbooks, and even stronger evidence that chivalry is not dead - it's just a lost handbag away.