I started carrying a man bag when my fanny fell off and the wallet in my back pocket got stuck at the checkout stand. It took me forever to dig it out.
Up until then, I really didn’t need to carry anything but a wallet because my wife carried everything else inside her bottomless purse.
I thought about that after reading a recent piece in The Guardian titled, “Women Are Not Your Pack Mules.”
It was directed at me and other men whose survival depended on their wives’ purses.
Over time, I just assumed my wife’s purse was magic. It didn’t matter what I needed, she would stick her hand deep inside that big, black bag, dig around for 10 to 15 seconds and pull it out.
“Honey. Do you have a wrench?”
“Let me check.”
Bingo. Out came a wrench.
“God. I’m starving,” I’d mutter.
“Here. Have some salami and cheese.”
She would even pull out the cutting board, table cloth and silverware, as I stood open-mouthed, watching her reach elbow-deep into that magic purse of hers.
It got even deeper once we had kids.
“Mommy. I’m hungry.”
Bingo. She’d pull out two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a quart of milk and some cookies.
No matter where we went, I always knew we’d be able to survive months on just the contents of that purse.
She was at her best inside a movie theater, where the magic purse probably saved our family thousands of dollars in popcorn, candy and soda over the years.
“I’m not paying $7 for a small bag of popcorn,” she’d insist.
Once the theater lights went out and the previews began, her hand would reach in and pull out everything from watermelon to bottles of water, to chips and salsa. One time, she pulled out four sandwiches from Subway and a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
The theatergoers around us would look on with envy, the men glancing at their wives’ purses with expectation. The ushers — who poked in and out during the movie — never noticed.
I think I started carrying a man bag around the time I started using a laptop for work. There was no way my computer would fit into my back pocket with the wallet and … as I aged … my needs grew.
By then, I was a “senior citizen” and old guys should only wear a backpack on hikes, or perhaps airports, so long as they don’t wear cargo shorts and black socks. It’s just not a good look.
On any given day, my man bag will hold a laptop, book, wallet, snack (sometimes I leave the snack in there way beyond its expiration) and toenail clippers. When I was young, I didn’t pay as much attention to my toenails.
I also carry a battery-operated nose-hair remover. It might be my imagination, but my nose hair seems to grow twice as fast as it did 25 years ago.
The difference is that I generally don’t carry my man bag socially. I would not, for example, wear it on a date to the movies; hoping, instead, that my date brought a large purse stuffed full of candy and popcorn.
I can’t explain why that is except it probably traces back to some male insecurity, or trauma from the time I had to stand outside a mall store holding my wife’s purse for 45 minutes. Or perhaps that day, I had to buy some “feminine product” and the clerk grabbed the phone and asked for a price check.
“It’s my wife’s,” I said to every passerby, pointing to the purse. Most of them could have cared less but I somehow felt the need to explain, least someone assumed the purse belonged to me.
In her essay for The Guardian, Jeva Lange took issue with the accepted notion that women should be the handbag bearer in a relationship. “It further ‘mom-i-fies’ them as being the caregiver in the relationship,” she reasoned.
I don’t see the problem with being “mom-i-fied.” Every relationship needs a caregiver and who does that better than mom?
When my wife died and I became “mom-i-fied,” I still didn’t carry my man bag socially. Our lives suddenly got more expensive, because all I brought to a movie was a wallet. I realized too late that a bag of popcorn and soda at a movie theater required a second mortgage.
“Your mom was smart,” I’d tell the kids, settling into our seats with a wallet that was $50 lighter.
“If you were smart, you’d buy a purse,” my daughter answered.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.