Papa’s got a brand new bag

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Your Humble Blogger hates and fears change.

This is a perfectly reasonable attitude, I submit, as change is dangerous, uncomfortable and often different from what had been before. When I have at last achieved a state of complacent satisfaction with something—a meal or an outfit or a system of government or a place of employment or a leisure activity or a friend or a style of facial hair—I then want only to maintain or repeat that experience, not to improve it or change it in any way. This is, of course, impossible. Life is inherently unsatisfactory. There are compensations.

One habit of mine, going back to the mid-1980s, has been to carry with me nearly everywhere a shoulder bag. There has been a certain amount of evolution over the decades, as I began (if I remember correctly) with a series of dark red bags and then switched at some point to black ones, with a brief three-year detour into a brown leather look. These satchels were chosen primarily for capaciousness. For some twenty years or so, they were intended to hold a legal-size yellow pad in a metal case, along with a broadsheet newspaper, at least one novel, a half-dozen pens and miscellaneous other supplies. I preferred to have room to slip purchases into the bag as well, or perhaps four or five books if I were working on a project that seemed to require them. I don’t recall regularly using a backpack (I mean, a bag designed to have straps over both shoulders) since I was thirteen or fourteen. I preferred the single shoulder strap, usually let out to its fullest length so that the top of the bag rode at my hip.

I would carry this bag nearly everywhere, as I say. To classes, then to work, to rehearsals, to restaurants, to friends’ apartments for dinner or cards. Not absolutely always; if I were going to a concert or ballgame I would sometimes remember not to bring the thing. But most of the time, my satchel over my shoulder.

This summer, though, I switched from an attaché-case sized thing to a much smaller bag, large enough for a 6"x9" book and only a couple of inches thick. I had actually borrowed it from my Perfect Non-Reader, who hadn’t been using it, and found that I liked it a lot. It’s canvas, pale blue (sort of cornflower blue, but duller in tone or saturation or whatever you call that) and has Circular Gallifreyan writing (well, &#8220writing&#8221) in white. I think it would be sold under the name cross-body bag, but I call it a micro-satchel.

It’s actually a purse.

I mean, I’ve joked for decades about how my satchel was Definitely Not A Purse, and I am going to keep joking about how it is Definitely Not A Purse, because change, but yeah, it’s purse-sized and purse-shaped and even to some extent purse-colored. I call it my incredibly masculine micro-satchel and sometimes my shoulder bag that isn’t a purse. Not a man-bag, because that sounds insulting and profane, and certainly not a murse, which sounds like a misprint in a menu in a Cornish-Swabian restaurant. But it’s a purse.

And I find that I use it much more like a purse than I used my satchels over the last decades. I keep my wallet and keys and cash in the bag instead of in my pockets—during rehearsals I would stuff my pocket things as I called them into my satchel so that my pockets would be empty, but otherwise I carried them in my front trouser pockets. Now, they go in the micro-satchel. And I go fishing in there for things much more frequently—one kind of absurd thing about the satchel is that I would almost never need to open it and take a thing in or out; it would come with me out and come home again untouched as often as it would come in handy. Now I am in and out of my bag several times a day. I keep pens in there instead of in my breast pocket (or jacket pocket). I keep a pair of earbuds in there, and I actually remember that they are in there and use them and put them back, unlike the pairs I intermittently kept in my satchels. I also take it absolutely everywhere, including to plays and concerts and ballgames, as I can sit with it in my lap or at my side or fully under my seat without feeling like it’s getting in anyone’s way.

It’s an odd thing, how different it is, carrying this purse-like bag rather than the attaché-like bag. Now that it’s winter weather (happy solstice, y’all!), I’ve had to decide whether to wear it under or over the topcoat, which it turns out is a question purse-wearers have been grappling with as well. I’ve done the upending-the-bag-on-the-counter thing more than once. I wear it at my waist instead of my hip. I occasionally shop for new ones in other colors or designs, with the idea that they might go well with different outfits. I haven’t yet worried about it being snatched off my shoulder, but then I haven’t taken in on public transit yet, I don’t think.

It’s an odd little accident of history and fashion, innit, the various social pressures and customs that resulted in men having trouser pockets and women having purses? Odd and mostly ugly, like a lot of history, but with odd little facets of beauty, and even here and there a little tiny bit of sense.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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