Men with Pens

A pen is a terrible thing to lose. Or so it seems for guys who are particular about their writing instruments.

Most women I know—including me, either have a handful of miscellaneous pens in their purse or none at all. Since I usually carry hoards of pens around, I normally don’t notice if one’s missing, and loaning one out isn’t a big deal. When I’m out of pens, my husband has lent me his but doesn’t like to make a habit of it. He only carries around one pen and I tend to be just as careless in putting his back as I am with my own.

He specifically uses pens with black ballpoint ink. I’ve never seen him carry the kind with liquid gel ink, or any other type of fancy ink. He doesn’t use ones with features or accessories like rubber grip barrels or caps—just the twist or click-shut kind. His also need to have a slim barrel in order to fit in the specially designed pen slot of his leather checkbook cover. Once he finds a good pen, he doesn’t betray it by carrying around other ones. Pens get replaced only when the ink runs out.

One of my brothers has a different approach to the writing implements he favors. He’ll just buy a whole box of the one he likes.  Not all guys are pen specific though. I’ve had male bosses before whose only pen criteria was that black ink be used on paperwork.

As a kid, I remember thinking just my dad was fussy about his pen. He’d grumble if I asked to use it, then hand it to me begrudgingly, and say, “I want it back when you’re done with it!” as if he had the only one left in existence.

Now that I’ve observed defensive behavior among men who carry a pen, accommodating products and instances jump out at me. Besides my husband’s checkbook cover, his shirts cater to a man’s pen particulars. A half inch gap in the flap of his front pocket holds a pen securely in place when not in use and certain businesses he frequents give him pens with all the specifications he likes.

I witnessed pen protection at a wrestling tournament recently when my girlfriend borrowed her husband’s and absentmindedly put it in her purse. Once he realized she hadn’t returned it, he said with a disgusted look, “Where’s my pen!?” She smiled, dug it out, and handed it back to him. He shook his head and quickly returned the pen to his shirt pocket.

When I get impatient digging in my purse for a pen, my husband hesitates in lending me his; hoping I’ll find one before having to loan his out.  When I do borrow his pen, it’s with his supervision. He waits to see if I’ll forget to give it back so he can intercept it if necessary. And if I compliment on his pen’s smooth writing ability, he thinks I’m going to steal it.  

A woman can be just as particular about a pair of blue jeans—picky about the fit, comfort level, style, pants length, or brand. Still, if her husband would like the way she looks in the jeans, any old pen will do to write out a check for them.

column originally published December 14-20, 2008

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