My inner girl is not happy (Where did I leave that purse?)

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Contents of my man bag

Wallet (in the zipped pocket in the main compartment)

Smartphone (in its own pocket, with twist latch on front of bag)

Superman Pez dispenser (main compartment)

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Reporter’s notebook (main compartment)

Two pens, one pencil (main compartment)

Screen wipe (outer zipped pocket)

Flip camera (outer zippered pocket)

Keys (main compartment)

Racquetball (main compartment)

Book: “365 Tao Daily Meditations” (main compartment. Only with great effort doth book fit in man bag)

K-Cup (main compartment)

Mark’s helpful tips for carrying a murse

DO: If you have to stand somewhere for any length of time, tuck the murse in your armpit and cross your arms. You will look like you’re begrudgingly holding the purse for someone. That will still draw sneers, but not half as lethal as if the purse is identified as your own.

DO: Occasionally mutter something like: “Stupid wife. What’s taking her so long?” to further separate yourself from the girly thing.

DON’T: Clutch the bag in a fist and run everywhere you go, because people might think you’re a thief. On second thought, let’s change this to a DO. Even being thought a crook is better than being thought a man who carries a purse.

DO: Whenever you get a chance, leave the bag unattended. Maybe a real thief will snatch it.

DO: Call a friend and talk loudly about beer, women and football.

DON’T: Wear shoes that match the bag, because it will look like you did it intentionally.

DON’T: Go shirtless while wearing a bag. I don’t know how this pertains. I just don’t want you to go shirtless.

DO: In some way, imply or outright say that there’s a gun in your bag.

DO: Scratch yourself, burp, pick your nose. Like a man.

DON’T: Go anywhere near the lingerie section of a store.

DON’T: Tell anyone you got these tips.

DO: In fact, let’s just forget this conversation entirely.

A very, very, very abridged list of mean and hateful comments about my man bag

“Good afternoon, miss.”

“Are you also wearing a manssiere?”

“Be a dear and get me a cup of coffee.”

“The bag looks fine. You on the other hand . . .”

“It clashes with your manicure.”

“Nice purse, loser.”

“Nice murse, loser.”

“Loser.”

“Can I have it when you’re done?”

“You don’t have any pride at all, do you?”

“This confirms my suspicions.”

“Now you have something to carry your other empty sack in.”

I find myself conflicted.

Over the past few weeks, half the people I’ve met out in the world have remarked that I’m a brave soul. A man of singular courage. A fearless fellow who has never said no to a challenge.

The other half implied, through a rich range of verbiage, that I’m a girl. A brave, brave little girl.

It’s the purse I’ve been carrying around. You will note that I did not say “shoulder bag” or “man bag” or any other term that attempts to gild this lily. I am not fooled.

The item I’ve been carrying over my shoulder since the first of the year is a purse, just like your mom carries. Just like all those women fumbling through mounds of crap in search of their wallets at the grocery store check-out. I’ve been carrying a purse, plain and simple.

There. It’s out.

My colleague, who bought the bag for this wretched experiment, insists that it’s an accessory for men. She bought it in the men’s section of some online store, she says. And anyway, a man has nothing to be ashamed of if he carries such a thing. Lil Wayne carries one, after all. Snoop Dogg has been seen with a bag slung over his shoulder and Alex Rodriguez carries one all the time.

The difference, I’d like to point out, is that these are men who have achieved such heights of fame, they can do no wrong. When I hit 40 home runs in the regular season and lure Madonna back to my crib, maybe I’ll be comfortable with a purse hanging at my hip. Until then, nossir. I don’t like it at all.

Allow me to illuminate.

The girls at the Colisee noticed me at once. Young eyes are accustomed to spotting fashion absurdities the way the eyes of a jungle predator are designed to spot prey.

The giggles cut like shards of glass. One girl elbowed another and then that one giggled too. A third girl pointed with one hand, attempted to cover her laughter with the another.

“Nice purse,” said a high school boy who happened to be passing at the time. “Loser.”

I tried to stomp away. But when you’re hauling around a bag commonly used to tote lipstick, eye makeup and tampons, you don’t stomp. You sort of sashay.

I’m pretty sure I’m out of testosterone.

It wasn’t the Snuggie that did it. It wasn’t the crocs or even the salon makeover (which included the removal of every hair on my right leg). I’ve done a lot of these things to get editors off my back. But somehow, letting fashion experts wax my legs seemed like less of a transgression than carrying that ugly purse.

Man-wise, that is.

“Murse, Man Bag, Guy Purse, Manny Pack,” say the people of AskMen.com, true guardians of maleness. “Whatever your taunt of preference, this accessory has received a bad rep for being ultra female, thus, utterly taboo for men to carry.”

It’s true. There’s some deep psychology here. When we were just little boys, our fathers or older brothers warned us away from things like purses and high heels. To mess with these things, even in play, meant weakening certain guy chemicals that reside at our cores. And those lessons stick.

Sashaying around Shaw’s in Lewiston, I felt an almost overwhelming sense of wrongness. It’s ironic that you call such a thing a sack, because, brother, carry around a murse and you feel your own drawing back into you and disappearing.

The people who populate a grocery store are less openly savage about their taunts than the kids at a hockey game. Still, it’s there. You feel both men and women doing double-takes when you pass. You hear the whispers of children.

“Papa, why is that man carrying a pocketbook?”

“I don’t known, Jimmy. But don’t you EVER do such a thing or I will disown you.”

There was an older man the next line over when I was checking out. He couldn’t stop looking at me, although I fancied he badly wanted to. It broke his heart, I think. And every time his glance came my way, I could feel his lament.

Would you just look at that? Men are carrying purses now. Back in day, that would’ve gotten the crap smacked out of you in the parking lot. This younger generation . . . I just don’t know . . .

I wanted to scream at him that it was all just a gag – just another stupid social experiment devised by a team of tittering editors. This bag wasn’t mine. Not really. Look! I’m purchasing cheap beer and chewing tobacco! I’m one of you!

But I couldn’t do that because it would be a cheat, so I simply paid for my wife’s tampons and left the store in shame.

It would be very interesting to know what Lil Wayne, Snoop and ARod see in the man purse to begin with. The rationale, I’m told, is that the man bag is convenient. Why, look at all the things you can carry in there. Imagine, having your wallet and cell phone so conveniently located!

Which is bunk. As things are, I have a handy spot to keep those things for easy access. It’s called my front pocket and my back pocket. The convenience argument is one so flimsy, even the ladies don’t buy it. They carry purses because they have to.

“Most days,” says my colleague Bonnie Washuk, “when she’s dressed for work, a woman has no pockets at all. You have to carry a purse.”

But a man has pockets. Tons of pockets. We know how to dip in and snatch our wallets out with eye-blink speed. Need some change? Let me grab a handful from my front pocket and hook you up.

I had a miserable time using the murse. If I wanted my wallet, I had to dig through the main compartment, my fingers getting tripped up by pens, keys, the metal coils of a notebook. As I pawed, stuff went flying, falling to the floor, drawing more attention to my girlish plight. Worse, I often forgot which item was in which pocket. The phone rings, I end up snatching out the Flip camera instead of the phone. Looking for my keys, I end up with a Superman Pez dispenser instead — and even that stud can’t get my car started.

So painfully awkward was the task of fishing through my murse, I got to wondering if it’s a hassle for women, too.

“Total pain in the (booty),” says Bonnie. “You try to keep what you need the most out in a front pocket. Everything else is just helter-skelter.”

Things are so rough for purse-toters that there are workshops advising how to more efficiently organize your bag. There are expensive gadgets designed to keep the clutter at bay. And we, as men, want a piece of that action?

Not me, sir or madam. I resented every moment that thing hung over my shoulder like an appendage made of pure estrogen. I never found any scrap of convenience that justified the barbs and glares of mean kids and angry old men. It didn’t make me better looking, more stylish or less harried.

I kept the crocs, you know. Kept the Snuggie, too. The purse? If nobody claims it, like, right now, I’ll be happy to run the thing over with my lawnmower and burn the remains in the barbecue pit. After that, I’m off to watch ESPN, grow my beard out and leave the toilet seat up.

They say it takes a few weeks before your testosterone rises back to normal levels, but I’ll get there.

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