David Beckham sports a man-purse, while Andy Rodd…

David Beckham sports a man-purse, while Andy Roddick perfers a racquet. [from DailyMail.co.uk]

Sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical….

I was in New York a few weeks ago, and I wandered in to the famous Strand bookshop. I was about 10 feet inside and I heard a panicked “Sir. Sir? Sir!” Piqued by the panic in the young female voice I was hearing, I spun around, half expecting to find that I had either accidentally crushed 30 people on my way in, or some such terrible scene. I politely queried “um, yes?” To which the young sales clerk replied “you have to leave your bag here, we don’t allow bags in the store.” I politiely pointed out that the 50-something woman about 3 feet from me had not only a huge bag, but a small dog inside the bag, and that the 30-something year old woman in the next aisle over had a backback slung over her left shoulder. The young clerk persisted, “we allow purses, but not bags.” I promptly declared that I was then carrying a purse, and she — clearly losing her cool — replied that I would have to check it at the entry. The thoughts that were running through my head at that point were many, so rather than say something that I would regret, I left — a store that specalizes in sexual discrimiation doesn’t need my business, and frankly, I don’t want to give my business to a store that finds it acceptable to generate hypocrisy along gender lines.

I didn’t give the incident much thought after I left the Strand, until a similar event occurred today. I walked in to a local art supply shop, and was instantly greeted — not with a hello — but instead with “you’ll have to check your bag, sir.” I quickly surveyed the store — and again, I saw 2 women, one with a big tote bag, and another with a purse that was at least as big as my Jack Spade bag. So, I said no, and continued in to the store. A few moments later the manager popped over to say that I would have to check my bag or leave the store. Never mind the fact that as she was saying this, the old lady with the big purse was shoving — literally shoving — a fist full of paint brushes in her flowered, quilted purse. So, again, I opted to leave.

Why do I feel so stronly about this. Well, I figure it this way. I carry a bag because it’s easier than carrying things in my pockets. I don’t really feel comfortable leaving my bag at the front counter, thrown on the floor, for anyone to dash by and grab — at least I think no more so than would a female customer feel comfortable about leaving her purse on the floor behind the front register.

In my bag today, I had my phone (about $250), a Marks & Spencer umbrella ($35), some business cards, in a aluminum Muji business card holder ($6), my favorite Kodak LS420 digital camera ($350), a chocolate Larabar ($2.19), a small bottle of Anthony handcream ($7), a Mitsubishi Signo .5mm black pen from Kinokunya ($3.50), and my homemade journal (priceless). The bag, as I’ve mentioned, is a Jack Spade, and cost about $150.

I asked my next door neighbor, Karen, to empty out her purse today. Karen had a blue Bic pen (.79), her wallet (priceless), a calculator (?), a checkbook stuffed with receipts (priceless), her pink Razr phone ($349), three Brock’s butterscotch candies (.42), a little black bag of makeup, mostly MAC ($49?), a small tube of Curel ($1.09), and a generic hairbrush ($3.79). She also had about $9 in change floating around the bottom of the purse, along with what appeared to be a stray Altoid. Karen said that she bought her purse at Target for $9.99.

So, how is my ‘bag’ different than her ‘purse’? Other than the specific brands of things inside, the only difference is that one is carried by a man, one by a woman. I was almost tempted to ask Karen to take my Jack Spade to the art store, to see if she was asked to check it. My bet is that no one would have paid the least bit of attention. It would seem to me that in a risk-conscious industry like retail would loathe to take ownership of $500 worth of personal belongings. Seems like liability waiting to happen.

So, ultimately, isn’t the bag check policy really just amount to sexism? Now granted, not every red-blooded American guy is going to start carrying a man purse, but for those of us who do (and the nubmers are growing) — take notice, the bag is as handy and meaningful to us guys is it is to you gals. I suppose until the day of equal bag rights, I can get my revenge in the grocery store digging in the bottom of my Jack Spade for exact change, while the row of guys AND gals with purses impatiently wait behind me.

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