For all of my adult life, since leaving high school, I have carried a purse. I didn’t realize it, or, rather, wouldn’t admit it to myself, until a few years ago. For thirty years, I have been a man that loves carrying a purse.
I won’t bullshit myself and call it a man-purse, or compare it to something that European men do. I keep lip balm, stamps, and tissue in it. I have a pen, my checkbook, and nail clippers. There is no point in thinking it is anything other than what it is.
I often use it to carry a laptop computer, as I have done many times over the years. But I look to it for a magazine and a throat lozenge far more frequently than I look to it for the laptop. Often the laptop is just a cover for the snacks and nail clippers I keep in the purse.
In the beginning, I called it a backpack. It was loaded with books, folders, and writing utensils. It was very collegiate, and was the fulfillment of the habit I learned as a child walking to school, using a tote bag for my schoolbooks. Nothing wrong with that. But it was those very college years that taught me how handy it was to always have a purse.
During college, I made the choice to try to bunch my classes together–Chemistry followed by Fortran followed by Signal Analysis, et cetera. Being gone from my dormitory for so many hours, I brought all the books and binders I needed, but it was, as of yet, just what I needed.
My father picked out a leather, expandable attache case as a graduation gift. It had sleeves in the lid for loose paper and documents, and a hard-sided main compartment capable of carrying books, a slide rule, and drafting pecils without fear of their being crushed. What I found more useful is that I could pack two sandwiches, an apple, and a sleeve of Pop Tarts and nothing would be damaged.
My first job demanded a great deal of travel (explained in detail here: ). Because laptop computers had not yet been invented, I began to load my leather, expandable attache purse with tissues, No-Doze and a vial of aspirin. Those are gateway conveniences for unread mail, unpaid bills, and secret toiletries. If I’d found a tampon in my purse, it likely would not have fazed me.
I gave up the attache at some point in favor of a soft-sided messenger bag, but it was still a purse. I went through a ritual transfer of contents, as I’ve witnessed my mother and wife do with their own purse, to ensure that everything I need is there.
With the advent of laptop computers, I faced my greatest dillemma for carrying a purse. The problem was that I now had much less room for toiletries, napkins, granola bars, and grooming aids. I began to worry that bringing along a simple tube of hair gel might be a problem if the laptop shifted and burst open the tube. Also, the cases designed for laptops were designed with the laptop in mind, and not much else.
The hybrid backpack-laptop case was a great relief, as it had a dedicated compartment for the computer, and several other miscellaneous pockets and sleeves. I could load that bag up for the weekend, and strap it over both shoulders. It may have been reminiscent of the backpack I used in college, but it was the best purse ever for toting stuff I didn’t need around.
I have slimmed down in my choice of purse. I don’t like the temptation of the oversized backpack, and the hard-sided attache is old fashioned. I now use a slim, leatherette case that fits a netbook, but now I rarely bring the netbook along because I’d rather have room for library books and magazines I’d like to read but don’t have the time.
If fanny-packs weren’t so universally reviled, I might have become dependent on those. As it is, my purse is rarely far from my reach. But when I need an envelope, stamp, and an index card to write a note to a friend, I know exactly where to find them.
Did I mention I’m a man? I guess I’m getting in touch with my feminine side in all of this. Plastering a Harley-Davidson sticker on the side won’t help. I just have to embrace the fact that I carry a purse.