European Living – the Man Purse
Adapting to a different culture can be quite a humorous adventure. Even though western Europe is, in comparison to other parts of the world, a type of sister culture to ours in the US, there still exists between the two a chasm as deep and wide as the Atlantic Ocean itself. There are differences in demeanor, styles of government, theories of nutrition, and almost anything else of which one can imagine, including fashion.
Portuguese people think differently, act differently, eat differently, than any American I know. Sometimes that is wonderful and sometimes it is terrifying.
However, throw in the other types of cultures with ties to Portugal, and it becomes infinitely more interesting. Today, Portugal is infused with people from former Portuguese colonies from around the world. In our churches here we have those who hail from Asia (Macao), Africa (Mozambique and Angola), and South America (Brazil) but all have in common their native tongue.
Knowing the various cultures present and having a strong desire to adapt to our surroundings, my family and I have tried our best to put off many Americanisms and assimilate as quickly and as best we can.
Yet, very recently I found myself roundly rejecting a cultural staple of the younger Portuguese generation – the man purse.
I dare not guess by percentage how many Portuguese men under 50 walk around with what amounts to a lady’s accessory over their shoulder, but believe me, it happens much more often than it should. Sadly though, it didn’t really give me pause until a few weeks ago.
One Thursday night we were cleaning up the church after our mid-week service when I noticed something that resembled a camera bag, only different, draped across the back of a chair. It was small and green with some kind of funny emblem on it. Only one other family was left in the church, so I innocently asked the father if it was his two year old daughter’s toy or play purse. Then, horror of all horrors, he responded, “No, it’s mine.”
Go ahead, yuck it up!
Nina looked at me mortified, but reeling from the embarrassed shock, all I could do was mutter a partially intelligible “sorry” as my mind jetted off into an alternate universe. Like trying to calculate Pi to its conclusion, ever since that night I’ve been trying to reconcile the man purse with universal masculinity, and like the last digit of Pi, it’s just not happening.
Though it’s not good enough for me, I did come up with a partial justification for this crime against God given ruggedness. (Really, could anyone be tough and carry a man purse?) Again, I’m not buying into it, but several factors do play into the pro man purse stance.
First, standard pocket size on jeans and slacks in Europe is much smaller and shallower than in the States. Secondly, the size of the Euro bills increase as the denominations increase. A five is smaller than a hundred. Money is not all the same size here; therefore, wallets are also proportionally larger. Thirdly, belt clip cell phone holders are almost entirely non-existent, and finally a powder brush gets ruined when stuffed in a back pocket. Maybe I made that last one up, but the others are true.
Valid reasons they may be, yet none are convincing enough to cause me to sling a bag over my shoulder and go out in public.
Written by Michael Andrzejewski for the LaGrange Daily News.