The Column

The Man with the Sunflower Purse

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic we consolidated all the household’s cards into one place. Because let’s face it, we haven’t done anything without one another for the best part of a year. When one of us happens to be out, the other one is in.

Over the last couple of months though, as the university slowly creeks back to life and my jobs have demanded some presential hours, we’ve been separated. But our cards still have not. They remain bunched together in my sunflower purse (UK) / wallet (USA). Then whoever is out running errand grabs the sunflower purse.

Boy, girl, whoever.

It’s been having a wonderful effect.

Man walks into store.

He’s a regular man buying boy things like whisky. Usually, he’s waved through with nothing but a glance at his ID and a “have a good one.” This time though, when it’s time to pay, he pulls out his sunflower purse.

The cashier immediately brightens. At least her eyes do as the mask conceals the rest of the telling features.

I love your style, Babe!

Where did you get your sunglasses (because my husband wears sunglasses more than the average person and he’s fashioning a 3-inch afro grown in during successive lockdowns)? And they’re off on sweet, small talk that in the depths of pandemic fear has been lost or simply abandoned because of the muffling effect of those pesky masks.

It’s happened every time H. has walked into a store brandishing the sunflower accessory. From endearing name calling like “hunny,” “love,” “sweetheart,” to spontaneous chitchat.

We may seem like faceless robots in this masked society.

One among the millions trying to hustle through life, avoid the pandemic, keep our jobs, maintain humanity, when partly stripped of it by an indiscriminating virus.

There’s not much we have control over at the moment. But trinkets like carrying a non-gender-conformist purse seem a great way to spark human connection, despite everything else.

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