I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about getting a pedicure and how it was not a ding to masculinity to have a woman massage your feet. No nail polish, no fancy lotions; I was just there for the foot rub. I’m no Indiana Jones, but I’m no Liberace either. I don’t wear ruffles, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t wear bright red boots, and I don’t carry a purse.
I have a tablet PC which I use for writing. I take this tablet almost everywhere I go, since I never know where I will be when the muse strikes. It even sits on my nightstand just in case an idea comes to me in my sleep–which has happened several times. I have whipped it out in restaurants, bars, at the student union and even in meetings at work. In order to have it so handy, I had to figure out the best way to carry it. A tablet is considerably smaller than a notebook PC and a full-sized briefcase is too cumbersome to tote around. I also have an iPad that I have to carry for work, so now with two tablets, it is really cumbersome.
I decided to find a small case with a shoulder strap in which to carry the tablets to and fro. I shopped for months looking for the right one. Many looked too much like a purse, others were too big or bulky or were too small. I finally found one that is big enough for both the iPad and my Transformer Prime with the keyboard in its case. It even has room for the charge/sync cables and headphones (just in case I need to get my groove on). It is brown top-grain leather with a reinforced shoulder strap. It is not too big and not too heavy. I picked it up at the Wilson’s Leather in Minneapolis (which is in–of all places–the airport) while I was there on a business trip and carried it to my gate for the flight back to Houston. The colleague with whom I was travelling watched me approach, looked me up and down and immediately said “nice purse.”
When I was in kindergarten (or maybe younger) we carried our school supplies (we had no need for text books yet) in a small briefcase-type satchel called a book bag. I remember seeing a kid with a book bag that had a rocket embroidered on the fabric along with his name. I was envious. This was in the days before the ballistic nylon backpacks that kids favor these days. Back packs were still for hiking back then. Most school kids’ book bags or satchels were made of vinyl-covered cardboard, so to see a fabric one with a colorful rocket was unique. I wanted one, but all mom could find in the store were the vinyl kind. Undeterred, I decided to make one myself. I do not know what possessed me to think I had the skills necessary for the task, but ahead I went. I cut up an old pair of jeans and stitched it into the shape of a satchel and I even took needle and thread to try my inexperienced hand at embroidering my name. I sewed a pocket in it to carry the accoutrements of a young boy. I had some little plastic army men, some marbles, and plenty of room for rocks. I remember being satisfied with my efforts and proudly carrying my stuff to school in my new home made satchel. My classmates were also impressed–but not for the same reason I was. They all thought I had made a pretty purse.
That was the last time I carried that satchel. I don’t think I ever carried one again until now. Of course, if you put a shoulder strap on a briefcase, it becomes a satchel. Satchels have a history all their own, as well. Shakespeare wrote of a boy and his satchel in “All The World’s a Stage,” Indiana Jones carried a satchel (technically it was the carrying case for a gas mask, but it still fit the description) and more recently, Jack Bauer carried a satchel in “24.”
I did wear a rucksack in the Army and I have sported a camel back on my bicycle rides. I have toted duffle bags (oh so heavy and cumbersome) and backpacks both with and without frames. And, of course, I have had briefcases, both with and without shoulder straps. They can get heavy and in the way, especially on a motorcycle. So, I opted for a smaller, more specialized briefcase in which to carry my tablet. A very masculine leather satchel. It is not a man-purse, it is not a man-bag and it is not a handbag. And while Zack Galifianakis’ character in “The Hangover” decries the label, what he carried was, in fact, a Roots Village bag, but what I carry is a satchel. There is a difference. If no other than I’m the one carrying it, and I don’t carry a purse.
When I began to carry it at work, colleagues all teased me. I was presenting at a group meeting to around 100 employees and the VP who introduced me asked if I had my iPad “in my purse.” Being the good natured, mature, reasonable individual I am, I merely pointed out–as I have here–“It’s a Satchel.” Most of the employees present had seen “The Hangover,” so the room erupted in laughter.
In the weeks since, the laughter has died down and the snickers have gone silent (for the most part) and I was getting comfortable in my satchel masculinity when the other afternoon as I was heading out the door, with my motorcycle helmet in one hand, wearing a denim jacket and sun glasses, looking as cool as a cucumber with my satchel over my shoulder, a female in another department said: “I never thought I’d ever see a guy with a bigger purse than mine.”