The Rub on Fashion

Her puckered, glistening lips raced toward me hell-bent on decorating some part of my face with glossy red goop. She showed no caution for the clean, white dress-shirt I chose for this crowded, business mixer. The determination in her eyes and the hand she put under my chin (for control) left no doubt that this excited "old friend" was aiming for a mouth peck, but would settle for any part of my face she could nail. I bucked in the nick of time -ruining her aim such that she tagged my cheek instead. As she pulled away I felt the waxy sensation of goop on my face.

"Oops! I got lipstick on you," she confirmed, with the nerve to act surprised that her Mabelline now decorated me. She then smiled a subtle, satisfied smile -like the one that would crawl onto the face of an artist at the sight of her own best painting. After her weak attempt to erase my cheek with two strokes of her thumb she departed. I saw her rubbing her lips together to even their gloss for her next victim.

I continued to "mix" a while before running into a female client I hadn't see in years.

"Hey, how are you?" she said with arms open for a hug. She appeared to be lipstick-safe with little-to-none visible. Relieved, I began a hug with her and was instantly enveloped in the thickest cloud of over-applied perfume I can remember.

"Please let that wetness I feel on my neck not be perfume," I prayed during the hug. I stepped back to realize my prayer was denied. In an instant she had successfully transferred enough perfume for me to share with several more mixer guests. Her smile never faded. But I sensed that it had changed from a "happy to see you" pre-hug smile to a "gotcha" post-hug smile. She completely missed my coughing-hint -a hint that she'd nearly suffocated me. Or was she ignoring it?

I learned that lipstick isn't the tricky transfer. I can sometimes thwart a lipstick transfer if I see it coming. There's no such luck with perfume unless enough conversation has happened to sense the danger. Even then, it's risky. A couple of seemingly innocent hugs at the beginning of a party and a guy could easily smell like White Diamonds for the rest of the night.

After a walk outside to "air out," I met up with a female coworker who was trying to sort a handful of business cards. "Hey, hold my purse a minute," she insisted, placing the purse against my chest. Not wanting to be rude, I took her purple purse (it didn't even coordinate with my outfit) and hid my cheek, hoping she wouldn't smell me.

There is a phenomenon where some women have an urge (subconscious or not) to transfer things they are wearing to men. It provides loads of material for comedians who expose this as a primitive ritual of female, territorial marking. I was aware of it, but hadn't experienced it so directly in such a short time period. Within 30 minutes, I was wearing lipstick, perfume and holding a purse. The lipstick and perfume could be chalked up as accidental if you aren't a skeptical person. But a "hold my purse" is the most efficient, unapologetic, public transfer of feminine attire to a man. If you are a guy holding a purse in public, you must accept the fact that you have been blatantly marked.

When I'm getting dressed to go out, I don't put on anything that I plan to share with any woman with whom I might have casual contact. Nor do I carry anything that I'll need to ask her to hold for a few minutes.

Perhaps next time I go to a mixer I'll arrive wearing my own perfume, lipstick and purse. At least I'll coordinate.

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