"This is a test, isn’t it?" I asked my wife via Instant Messenger after a long pause.
"No it’s not," she replied, "and you really don’t have to if you don’t want to."
It was too late, though. I’d already agreed.
Back up a few minutes to where I’d told Jennifer that I was going to stop at Long’s on the way home and pick up some medication. Under the new health insurance plan that our company has bought into, co-pays usually are a much more painful experience than they were before (the last time I had to buy my allergy medication and pay a $35.00 co-pay, I wanted to call up Aetna the next day and demand how they could sleep at night; of course, the next day was September 11 and that call was never made), so these visits to Longs just aren’t as much fun as they once were. I try to refill all of my prescriptions at once now and get the massive payments out of the way. So I IM’ed Jennifer and said, "I’m going to stop at the drugstore on the way home. Do you want me to pick up anything for you?"
"Um, not really," she replied.
"Okay," I replied. It was close to quitting time and I was busy hacking up a lung because of my newest cold, so I didn’t type anything else.
But then Jennifer added, "Oh, wait! There is one thing, if you don’t mind."
For some reason I winced. Just a bit. See, I’ve often told Jennifer that she and I have the ideal relationship, because while I’m the kind of guy who would willingly buy tampons at the drugstore for her, she’s also the kind of woman who would never make me do that. But I could tell that our relationship was about to hit a crossroads.
"Mascara," she told me. Which is when I paused, and then typed, "This is a test, isn’t it?"
She was sincere when she told me that I didn’t have to buy the mascara for her. But I’d already made the offer, so I agreed anyway. I quizzed her about brand, style, color, etc., as many questions as I could think of about mascara (I didn’t think that Ph would be an issue but I don’t know that much about cosmetics — as I’m sure she would have no idea why I might prefer one brand of athletic supporter over another, I suppose — and so I asked her anyway). She pondered with me ways in which I could retain my masculinity while staring at shelves of mascara and lipstick. Her suggestion was that I stare blankly and mutter beneath my breath, just loud enough for anyone who might be staring at me oddly, about the wife and her constant makeup needs. I told her that I would probably have to buy a new watch, something particularly manly, that would make up for buying her "girlie stuff".
Honestly, though, buying makeup for the wife isn’t all that big a deal. I can’t honestly imagine the clerk thinking to herself, "Wow, here’s a guy buying makeup — what kind of a fag is he?" More likely (and indulge my little fantasy here), she’s thinking to herself something like, "Wow, here’s a guy buying makeup — I wonder if he’s taken? If he is, that sure is one lucky woman."
Well, I can dream.
It wasn’t that bad, ultimately. I stared blankly at rows and rows of lipstick tubes and mascara applicators, knowing that I’d stared just as blankly at memory chips the other day at CompUSA. I could find no mascara, though, so I did end up going to the woman at the counter and asked her. She showed me where it was, without any inflection at all or any sort of reaction. It was the sort of distracted customer service attitude that I’d frequently assumed when I was working at a video store and people wanted to know where the latest Tim Robbins film was — something inoffensive, not interesting enough for me to watch, and certainly not interesting enough for me to think of the customer as interesting in and of him or herself. So I doubt that the clerk at Longs had any sort of reaction to me — this medium-sized guy with a black beard who probably hadn’t shaved in a couple of days and slightly unkempt hair buying makeup. In all probability, she probably knew it wasn’t for me. CoverGirl probably isn’t, as a brand, manly enough for a guy like me.
Still, though, as I walked up to the counter to pay for the makeup and pick up my medicines, I stopped at one more counter and picked up one more thing to buy.
Jennifer was pleased that I’d gotten the right brand and style and color of mascara for her. I told her it wasn’t all that bad an experience at all.
Besides, my new watch — with the digital compass built right into it — is more than manly enough to make up for one wimpy-ass tube of mascara.