Keys, wallet, cell phone, pens. It's time men were freed from the tyranny of the pocket.
I like cooking meat over an open flame. I enjoy watching television programs in which men kick, swat or throw objects across grassy fields. I like movies in which the hero walks away from slow-motion explosions.
And I carry a murse.
I’m here, I’m carrying a bag smaller than a briefcase, get used to it.
My current model has a series of dividers and pockets perfectly sized for keys, pens, a notepad, a cell phone, Kleenex and plane tickets. There’s even room for a book.
It’s made from black nylon with a few dark-gray accents — you don’t want your man bag to look too fabulous.
It’s also branded with the logo of a company known for making Swiss Army knives ... because nothing says manly like an army known for its strict neutrality and tiny knives.
The road to confidently carrying a man bag was paved with insults and sarcastic remarks about my manhood. But to whom do these hypocrites come crying when they need a tissue or a breath mint?
One has to ease into the way of the murse. Many men begin with the type of cases that would not look out of place over the shoulder of Indiana Jones or Jason Bourne.
That perfectly describes my first man bag, which was made of black canvas. It had one large interior pocket covered by a flap with a single buckle. Two pockets under the flap were perfectly sized for carrying everyday essentials: pens, ChapStick, cell phone, tape recorder, magazines for semi-automatic firearms.
That’s the beauty of getting your man bag at an army surplus store. Forget bags treated with water or stain repellent — these bags are drenched in testosterone.
After all, Jack Bauer carried one, and you better believe that no one who called Bauer a sissy would live to brag about it.
The terrorist-fighting hero of the television series “24” never knew when he’d need to haul a cell phone, extra ammo or a severed head. But he wasn’t going to carry all that around in his pockets.
Enter the Jack Sack, “a utility man-purse that accompanies Jack Bauer on his most dangerous missions.” That description is from www.thejacksack.com, a website about “24” that’s occasionally written in the first-person voice of Jack’s bottomless carryall.
“24” isn’t the only TV program to have taken on the murse.
In the “Seinfeld” episode titled “The Reverse Peephole,” Jerry decides to reduce the number of items he carries in his pockets, but his girlfriend asks him to carry a bunch of stuff for her.
So Elaine suggests a carryall sold in the J. Peterman catalog. “It’s not a purse,” she assures him. “It’s European.”
Jerry is mocked throughout the episode, which is also what happened to Joey on “Friends” when he started carrying a “man’s bag.”
Joey is unfazed: “At first I thought it just looked good, but it’s practical, too. Check it out: It’s got compartments for all your stuff — your wallet, your keys, your address book.”
“Your makeup,” Ross adds. Real funny.
It’s easy to make jokes, but that doesn’t do anything to ease the congestion in my pockets.
“One of the fundamental axioms of masculine self-regard is that the tools and appurtenances of a man’s life must be containable within the pockets of his jacket and pants,” Michael Chabon writes in “Manhood for Amateurs.”
His essay, “I Feel Good About My Murse,” is the definitive statement on man bags.
“It was the diaper bag that broke me,” he writes. Having to tote a bag of ointment, bottles and wipes led him to the realization that it wasn’t much of a stretch to carry his keys and wallet there too.
When the kids outgrew the diapers, he wasn’t ready to give up the convenience of the bag. But after trying a variety of knapsacks, satchels and messenger bags, nothing felt right.
“Whatever themed adventure these bags attempted to suggest — soldier, spy, pierced-tongued tattooed bike messenger, laptop slacker — I felt like an imposter, a boy playing dress-up,” Chabon writes. “I needed a purse. A man purse. A murse.”
It’s something I’ve come to accept with age.
Many of us, as young boys, grew accustomed to relying on our mothers to always be at the ready with a piece of Kleenex, a dose of Tylenol, a pen and a scrap of paper.
We’re older now, and are supposed to be self-reliant.
So what should you do the next time you have to sneeze, want to suppress a headache or need to write down someone’s phone number?
Will you go crying to your mother?
No, you’ll reach into your murse and handle it like a man.
Brian Mackey can be reached at 217-747-9587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.