Monday, December 12, 2011

The Manbag Debate

Here in San Miguel we don't have cars with us, and consequently find ourselves walking several miles every day, which means that we need to transport any stuff we need to take with us on our bodies. I carry a medium sized purse or bag to contain my necessities, but Mark leaves the house with his wallet in one front pocket, cell phone in the other. He has a camera strapped across his shoulder, a notebook tucked into his pants, and a sweatshirt tied at the waist. A few hours into the day and he is carrying a newspaper tucked under one arm, a plastic bag with a few essentials from the farmacia tied to a loop of his jeans, a bag of sweet rolls from the bakery in one hand and a can of soda in the other.  He is beginning to look a little like a cluttered clothes horse.

Handcrafted leather bag by a local artisan

Mark graciously agrees to at least pose with a 
variety of bags at a local crafts fair

Morral bag, handwoven and used 
by Mexican indigenous men

I suggest the obvious. "Honey," I say, "wouldn't it more practical to have some kind of shoulder bag to keep you stuff in?" He responds by looking at me as if I have just suggested that high heels might be more appropriate footwear than his Skeechers.
"You mean, like a purse?" he asks.
"Well, not exactly." He pauses, as if trying to imagine the impossible.
"Oh, you mean a man bag? No way. Don't even think about it." He says, as he shifts the pastry bag to his other hand so he can remove his wallet, which he puts in his mouth so he can reach for the keys that were buried beneath it. "Anyway, he says between his clenched teeth, "I can carry everything I need just fine without having to cart a bag around."
"I just thought it might make things easier," I suggest.
"Hey, if I can't carry it on my body, I just won't take it with me."
The newspaper slips to the floor as he moves to put the pastry bag between his knees, because he needs two hands to open the door.
I know what he is thinking: Gay. Feminine. Emasculating. It's an image thing, after all, though I know he won't admit it. It's as difficult for my female mind to understand as it is for him to consider my proposal. After all, why deny yourself any conveniences you may need or goodies you may come across simply because you have no place to put them? And anyway, I actually think they are kind of sexy. In a "European" sort of way...

Folkloric - but stylish Guatemalan woven bag

Mark responds:
Firstly, I don't believe it's emasculating for men to carry a purse, with the exception of the type of purses that are specifically designed to be feminine. Like the ones with the embroidered flowers or butterflies dancing in the wind.

Support- a- cause bag hand 
embroidered by a local co op.

The real issue for me is that I don't believe carrying a 'man-bag' would make it easier for me and in fact I believe the opposite is true. That it would make my life more difficult. Here is the logic behind my stance:
If there were no such thing as gravity or space, I would carry around with me every possible thing that I thought would make my life easier and more comfortable. All the items that would solve any problem and address all of the circumstances that may arise during my day. Inevitably, this would lead to hauling around all kinds of excess. For instance, it's not unreasonable for me to suspect that at any moment a 5/16" socket wrench may well be needed during the course of my day so, I might as well have it on me. Or a framing hammer for that matter, along with my wallet, car keys and a Maglite flashlight, the enormous one that holds like 6 'D' sized batteries, box of tissues, nail file, chapstick and box of cocoa puffs. I would be happy to shove it all into my magic man bag and enjoy the security that comes with the knowledge that I am prepared no matter what.
"Oh, hungry? Wait a minute while I dig out this box of cereal and just one more second, now where's that carton of milk? Ah, here it is."

What I'm suggesting is that if I carried a purse or rather a 'man bag' with me, I can assure you that the 5/16" wrench could very well end up in there. Unfortunately, there is gravity and so I need to impose limits, and these limits need to be strict as I battle my arch enemy - gravity. I don't want to be burdened with the weight of carrying every trivial thing that may or may not be needed and so I carry only the essentials, the basic problem solving tools of modern man, and the less of these the lighter I am in this world. Examples may include money, cell phone and keys with a bottle opener on the key chain.
Here is the question I ask myself: Do I want to laden myself with the security of carrying a 50 pound man bag around with me that contains who knows what in order to remedy or rectify any dilemma, or would I rather enjoy the freedom that results from holding only what I'm able to put in the limited space of the pockets of my pants? Obviously, the question answers itself.

Please feel free to  vote for your favorite bag, 
or none at all in the Comments section below


  1. Two words come to mind.....

    1. Back
    2. Pack

    or better yet...

    1. Fanny
    2. Pack


  2. Morral bag - no
    Guatemalan bag - no
    Butterfly bag - definitely not!

    I vote for the leather bag but with a slightly longer strap and it needs to be pushed to the back so it covers your butt. Then get a bike.

  3. A great belly laugh to start the day---------and Mark, I do think you look best with the sort of folk-arty one------!
    Miss you, keep writing,


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