Sunday, November 24, 2013

Modern Man

I swore I would never do it and, frankly, it was not something I worried about giving into temptation over. Like answering unsolicited e-mails promising to make various parts of my body larger, longer or more attractive to the opposite sex, or having Britannia tattooed across my chest, it was safely ensconced inside the “Don’t Go There!” zone and I never gave a thought to it sneaking out unawares. But then, quite suddenly, I did it: I bought a man bag.

Don’t judge me; it was my son’s fault.

While we were visiting America a few weeks back, my son came home from a shopping excursion carrying a man-bag (he called it a satchel) so I did the only reasonable thing I could think of: I made fun of him. He didn’t respond with “Well who the f*&k asked you? You don’t run my life! I hate you!” because he’s 32 now and gave up shouting at me some years ago. However, he also did not—as I would have fully expected him to—hang his head in embarrassment and quietly put his pocketbook aside.

Instead, he effused about the advantages of carrying a handbag—um, I mean satchel—as opposed to a backpack. It was less bulky, made you less likely to knock a display case over when you turned around in a crowded china shop and, if you needed to get something out of it, you didn’t have to remove it from you back, put it on the ground and tug at various zippers to find what you wanted.

I was impressed; my son had become a thoroughly modern man, something I would have wagered heavily against when he was 16. I was not, however, ready to go out and buy a purse.

But over the next few days I got to thinking: it was sort of a pain to carry my backpack around all the time. It was in the way and I had to continually take it off to put stuff in it or pull stuff out of it. I could, of course, hang it from one shoulder but then I had to hold on to it and that sort of defeated the purpose. A handbag—um, I mean a satchel—would solve much of that.

I also thought about when I was in school: back then, we carried our books—tons of them—by hand. The girls carried them cradled against their chest, the boys under one arm at their side; this was how it was done because this was how it had always been done and no one thought—or dared—to step outside of the established conventions. Only one or two real odd-balls put their books in backpacks and they were unmercifully made fun of. But by the time my boys went to school, everyone was carrying their books in backpacks, because it made sense.

Additionally, in days gone by (I’m talking many, many days here, not 1987), men used to carry purses (and they even called them purses) because it made sense. That has fallen out of fashion, but it doesn’t mean it no longer makes sense, which got me thinking that perhaps it was time to allow men to carry purses—um, I mean satchels—again. So, unable to embarrass my son during our first encounter, I did the one thing guaranteed to embarrass any child of any age: I went out and bought the same thing he had.

It's a SATCHEL, dammit!

The only unfortunate thing about this is that my newly acquired man-bag (it’s a satchel, dammit!) bears an uncomfortable resemblance to my wife’s handbag.

One's a Handbag, one's a Man Bag (it's a Satchel, dammit!)

I have to admit, it took me some time to work up the nerve to use it. It felt odd and embarrassing when I tried it on in the privacy of my office (that would be the spare bedroom for those of you thinking we live in a huge house instead of a small flat). My wife told me to just go out and wear it like I meant it; if I felt comfortable with it on, no one would notice. And then I thought of the brave (or misguided) odd-balls from high school who, heedless of convention and the backlash they suffered for breaking it, continued to do what made sense. So I went outside wearing a purse (it’s a satchel, dammit!).

And do you know what? It was not only more convenient and comfortable, but—when I looked around—I saw a fair number of other men, both young and old, carrying satchels, as well. It just makes sense.

Perhaps the era of the modern man has truly arrived.

I am, however, keeping “man-bras” securely within the “I will never” camp; wearing one of those can have unexpected consequences.

This is wrong, so very, very wrong.


  1. I like them... makes one look like a writer (which you are anyway).

    1. It will go well with my sweater with the patches on the elbows, then? ;)

  2. Anonymous11:54 PM

    You could always call it a messenger bag as well. Sounds better than man-bag/purse and satchel. Plus, they're in style.

    1. I've been noticing them more and more, so they must be coming into fashion. That would make sense; it's not like I'm ever on the cutting edge of a trend.