Sunday, January 22, 2006

Man Bag

Time and fashion have not only caught up with me – they’ve turned around to bite me. (No pun intended, really.) You see, I started carrying…uh…bags instead of briefcases 20+ years ago. A few reasons for this.

One: the schlep factor. I’d stuff things in one of several briefcases and carry it back and forth to work without actually ever opening it. Ever. Then there was a period when the only things in the case were a few pencils and pens, a pad or two, and whatever book I was reading at the moment.

Two: the weapon-of-personal-injury. No matter what was in it, the steel-ribbed Samsonite briefcase-as-WPI was always awkward and frequently painful, banging into my knee (or someone else’s) at unexpected moments. Plus, I never hand more than one hand free.

Three: regular European travel. That’s when I discovered a whole new set of options, ranging from over-the-shoulder bags to hand-carried models. So every time I went to a different Euro-city, I’d pick up a new model of one kind or another.

Even early on, this led to some interesting exchanges. On a vacation visit to a yarn shop (yes, yarn) in a quaint shopping area of Minneapolis, I waited patiently while Barbara and a sister-in-law picked over hanks and needles. The saleswoman looked at my bag-of-the-moment, looked at me, and said, “It’s nice to see a guy who’s so confident in his manhood that he can carry a purse.” I think that was a Czech bag I’d picked up in Prague; at that point I was calling it a map case. Sue me.

The arrival of cell phones accelerated the opportunities for hand-carried bags…my pockets became increasingly less laden with odds and end. The past few years, I’ve given up trying to disguise the fact that I have a collection of purses. Rugged-looking, yes. Manly. And there are several versions made specifically for concealed-carry purposes.

Bag-wise, I can’t think of a single adverse comment directed my way: it helps to be six-and-a-half-feet tall. But I have recently noted a rise in comments about my “man bag.” Whichever I’m carrying at the moment, I’ve gotten some nice compliments on it. It’s handy, you know: cell phone, pens, cigarettes, credit cards…all the stuff that guys stash in various pockets is handy in one place.

This morning in The Houston Chronicle’s funny papers, though, I read the “Boondocks” cartoon by Aaron McGruder, above. And I thought, “Hoo boy, now it’s gonna get interesting.” McGruder is interesting enough. Enjoy or be enraged by this article about him in The New Yorker. Read his strips to keep your mind aired out.

I’m not carrying his baggage, though. I have enough of my own – usually in my purse.

Cartoon © 2006 Aaron McGruder/Dist. by Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

No comments: