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More Dads Receiving Messenger Bags Than Ties

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Martha Rosenberg
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If you told American men twenty-five years ago that one day they'd carry purse-like totes called messenger bags, they would have hit you.

If you told them they'd hear "erectile dysfunction" on TV and they'd be pushing baby strollers, they would have grabbed a tire tool.

In the days of the Camel Filters Man, real men--with their Mark Spitz coifs with a John Bolton mustaches--didn't carry anything (except rope and a Swiss Army knife to take a cigarette break while climbing mountains in Nepal).

Oh, during the work week--when they weren't panning for gold like the Camel Filters Man with a Farrah Fawcett look-alike watching admiringly--real men might carry a briefcase.

But today the 10 pound, spit-shined Mahogany colored briefcase with its gold plated combination lock and feet is considered a Leather Lunchbox, having been retired by the leaner, meaner messenger bag.

Of course women didn't carry messenger bags either in Camel Filters days. They carried practical purses that swung from their wrist as potential weapons like the Queen's in case a date became too foreign--and developed Russian hands and Roman fingers.

For travel, women carried a polypropylene cube a.k.a. a cosmetic case which was so top heavy when you removed the six pound hair drier and hot steam rollers, it tipped over and spilled the Agree hair conditioner all over and broke the mirror.

Families before wheeled and shoulder luggage, carried sets of granite-textured hard plastic pullmans in garish, easy-to-identify-on -the-conveyer colors--that's my bag; the chartreuse one!--that required skycaps to get them to the ticket counter. And strapped on the car's luggage rack to tell the whole world you were going on vacation. Cypress Gardens or Bust!

Even groceries were consumer unfriendly.

Before bags had handles, you had a celery stalk blocking your vision, a wet spot from the ice cream slowly ripping the brown paper bag and could only hold two bags at a time.

And phones? They were heavy, attached to the wall and you had to share them with the whole family.

When you did get a chance to use one, you usually got no answer or a busy signal before the popularity of answering machines and call waiting--as did anyone trying to reach you. P.S. They had no cameras.

(Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote a book called Sex and the Single Girl years before Samantha and Carrie inhabited the national imagination, remembers how women put the phone in the refrigerator so the ring wouldn't wake them up while they pretended they weren't home to appear hard-to-get to suitors.)

But men?

If you told the Camel Filters Man that one day he'd be wearing air fiber Spandex cycling pants, a shaved head and carrying a messenger bag, he'd ask which sports team was hazing him.

If you told him he also be carrying prebottled water with him everywhere he went, he'd ask what's wrong with chlorine pills and a stream?

And finally, if you told him he'd carry an electronic tracking device called a cell phone that would let his girlfriend or girlfriends find him day or night, wherever he was--a device not ordered by the court--he'd be heading back to Nepal.
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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by (more...)

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