I’ve got a trick up my sleeve!

If I said to you “I’ve got a trick up my sleeve” you’d probably think I was trying to be sneaky. Maybe I have secret plan. Maybe I’m going to try to pull a fast one.

Now that it’s pollen season in the south — that wonderful time of the year when yellow dust floats through the air, builds up on our cars, and washes across the parking lot when it rains like a yellow tide — the thing up my sleeve is not chicanery. It’s probably a Kleenex. Or two. Or four.

I got to wondering about the phenomenon of women carrying Kleenex up their sleeves when I was sitting in a meeting last week. I noticed the woman sitting across from me deftly slip a little, folded white tissue out of her sleeve, dab at her nose, and slip it right back where it came from. Oh, she was slick with it. I’m sure no one else noticed.

Why do we hide Kleenex up our sleeves? Is it because ladies’ apparel often doesn’t have pockets? Is it because your granny, and your mama, and your Great Aunt Fanny all did it? Is it because it would appear trashy to pull that tissue out of your cleavage? Maybe it’s likely to get sweatier in your cleavage than up your sleeve. This is the south, after all.

It’s handy to not have to carry a handbag for your Kleenex. I can make it through most any event with Kleenex up my sleeve, a lipstick in my bra on one side, and a $20 bill on the other. Just the basics. If it’s not a tearful time, you can use your tissue to blot your lipstick. And with no purse, your hands are free for cocktails and petite-fours or whatever the occasion calls for.

Personally, I never go to a funeral without four tissues — two up each sleeve. I tend to become somewhat overwrought at a funeral, so I need at least three — one for tears and two for snot. I always keep the fourth to share with the bereaved who have forgotten their four tissues, but if it’s a really sad funeral, sometimes I use them all.

I take four tissues to a wedding too. Again, I’m a threat to well up and leak sentimentality from my eyes. Plus, I always wear a light sweater, mainly for the sleeves, but also because it just might be a sin to show your shoulders in church. Even in the summer. Jesus doesn’t want to see you nearly naked.

Mothers and grandmothers carry a lot of Kleenexes up their sleeves. There’s always a little nose or a mouth to wipe or a piece of gum that needs to be spit out. Plus, when you’re going through “the change” (imagine me whispering “the change” and read why here) there’s always a bead of sweat that needs to be mopped away. In a pinch you can fan yourself with a Kleenex too.

You can carry a hankie up your sleeve, but sometimes they’re too bulky and you look as if your arm is deformed. Plus, you can’t spit a wad of Juicy Fruit into a cotton hankie. And it seems that old lady school teachers have a propensity to put a tissue or hankie under their watch bands. But that way, your semi-sterile accoutrement is waving all out and about in the germy world. Ick.

For me it’s a perfectly folded, flat tissue, or two or four, discreetly tucked just inside the cuff of my sweater. Ladylike. Sly. That way, come pollen, tears, snot, gum, sweat, or lipstick, I’ll always be prepared.

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