Bags, like anything else we wear, say a lot about us. Are we fashionable? Do we have money to blow? Are we practical? Are we likely to be accompanied by nappy-sporting, snot-bubbling juniors? Some don’t even carry a bag. It’s mainly males. Our society tells them they don’t need bags. But they invariably end up having to borrow or use something from a woman’s bag. And occasionally letting slip at the same time that they’d rather like it if they had a nifty container to hold the mandatory phone, wallet, keys, junk combo that they tote around in bulging pockets or trying to desperately grip onto in clammy paws, waiting for that ridiculously expensive latest model smartphone to hit the deck. Again.
Actually, I know of women who don’t carry a bag either. It seem a little strange the concept of the bag-less woman, as if something vital was missing from her or as if she somehow wasn’t quite complete. Our society dictates that women carry bags, an essential rite of passage along with ear-piercing, court shoes, cutting your hair short and goodness knows what else. (I’m not exactly sure, I never did quite get the whole young lady thing. Still don’t). One of my friends never has a bag on her but once you get to know her, you’ll know why she’s never parted from her coat. That coat is an incredibly complex filing system where she has cards, money, receipts and all sorts of useful things stashed in all the many pockets. It’s almost a Mary Poppins trick, watching her extract things.
Pockets are good. (And doesn’t there seem to be a gender bias too when it comes to those? Other than jeans and outdoor wear, apparently women don’t need pockets. Ever). I like pockets. Pockets have their uses. But I’m a sucker for a bag. I’ve always liked bags, I like putting things in bags, keeping things in bags and storing things in bags. It might be genetic. Apparently my grandmother had the same tendencies, always armed with at least a half-dozen carrier bags at one time.
I am at least a little classier. I’m rarely toting a carrier bag, although cloth bags definitely have their uses, especially as overflow departments. But I always have a bag, or two, with me. I can’t really imagine going anywhere without my bag, my life is in there, plus a few other half-dozen things. Recently, I have made progress. Lately, I will walk to a single appointment with just wallet, phone, knitting, other vital things maybe, probably food, all chucked haphazardly in one simple cloth bag. I have even managed to walk up to the corner shop with just my wallet, not even my phone. But I like the comfort of having my life with me, I like being able to deal with the crises that do occur randomly and sporadically (and even sometimes regularly) in my life. I think also because I have complex health problems, I’m always going to be likely to need some stuff. Not often always, but maybe. My bag is something of a lifeline. Physically and psychologically.
The reason of course that I’m having to carry less is because I find, regretfully and almost shamefully, that I have got a lot weaker lately. I’ve never had brilliant arm strength, I have to carry my load pack-style to be able to get anywhere. But I could always carry a pack. My record was 26 kg. These days, I’m struggling with everything.
Only being able to carry a load on my back means of course that shoulder bags are out. Yes, my handbag is a backpack. It has been for a very long time. Because I’m realistic and practical, I know what my strengths are and I know that I don’t have to be fashionable. (I can’t even see the point of trying when I look at the most of the pointless specimens that pass as handbags on the high street). I even took a backpack to my wedding, much to my mother’s horror. She tried demoting me to a little satin slip of a clutch. I wasn’t impressed with the idea of a bag that needed to be chained to your hand the whole time, it’s not really my style. I’d rather be doing other things, even talking requires hands in my world. There was also the question of size. I even had to carry an inhaler back then. This thing, well, you’d be fortunate if you could even get a tissue in it. No thanks. I did win that round though because one of our bridesmaids’ dress straps broke during the reception. You’d never guess who was the only person with a sewing kit?!
In the summer, I was pretty bad, as you know, and I found that I just couldn’t carry my bag anymore. The smaller packs, especially, have very soft backs, cushioned and padded for all sorts of ergonomic comfort but not designed for support. I needed a firm back. There was also the small problem that about three inches of the seam had come away from the bottom and was threatening to decant most of my bag contents at any given moment. That and the straps were virtually completely threadbare. That and the fact my husband had emptied an entire cup of stinking coffee all over the year before. That and it was actually at least three or so years old too. It’d been a lot of places, seen of lot of action and wear. It had to be retired.
I get sentimental about such things but as I couldn’t even carry it anymore, this time I didn’t really get a choice.
I transferred my stuff into a small camera backpack that we have because those have nice, firm backs. But they’re so padded that you can’t get much in them, regardless of their actual size outside. That and it’s a bag of two halves so you can’t get anything big in it (like a book or a folder or your knitting and definitely never any shopping). And when you do want to get into the bottom half, you have to unzip it all the way round and the whole thing sorts of falls apart, flapping wide open and threatening to spill most of your belongings. The camera bag had downsides. Besides, I don’t really want to look like I’m carrying around a fancy camera or something tempting to twitching fingers anyway. And cameras bags are expensive too, there’s no point wearing this one out and not having it when I actually do need a camera bag.
Eventually, I conceded. And bought myself a new bag. Bags have got very expensive of late and it always seems a waste to spend money on myself. I couldn’t go with the cheapest option because I now have very specific needs. I need a firm, rigid back. But preferably not accompanied by a huge bag, rucksack-style. It’s just OTT. Several ways.
I found my perfect bag in my usual outdoor shop, they keep me in replacement walking stick feet too. (Another extravagance that I grumble over on a regular basis, every three or six months. And I lost a virtually brand new one in some nasty sucking mud in the dark the other week! Husband couldn’t believe it when I dragged him back to the scene of the crime, walking stick foot abduction, at the first possible opportunity to root for it. To no avail though. I’m still indignant at that mud bank).
Having a new bag is one thing, the next is the complicated and long process of transferring the contents. I have spent a very happy evening stockchecking, inventorying and transferring. My life is back in one bag, with plenty of space for knitting and shopping and all the goodness knows what that only I seem to be able to accumulate.
I decided to take a photo, first, because I do that and second, because if anyone is ever stupid enough to try crawling away with my overloaded bag then I would like a record of what was in there for replacement, police and insurance purposes. (Yes, I do have one of those minds that can imagine all possibilities, usually negative). And because I’m the kind of person who not only manages to write a mere one thousand words about their new handbag but takes a photo too, you know you’re going to see it too.
(I tell you what, those mesh purses that they sell in the cosmetic section of the supermarket were genuinely the next best thing since sliced bread. My bag was a sticky shambles before I invested in a containerised solution).