A French friend asked me recently, “David, do I look gay?”
Without a second of hesitation, I replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
“Why?” he said.
“Well, for one thing,” I told him, “You’re French—which makes you suspect. Another is that you’re wearing a pink polo shirt. You also answer your emails quickly and you spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about your hair.”
“And you have a nice butt,” I added for good measure, perhaps because he’s a rugby player.
So how does one tell the difference between a man who’s European or one who’s gay?
It’s difficult, let me tell you.
There’s even an online test so you can see how well you can spot the difference, as well as one for women too. (I failed miserably at both. I can’t help it: unless you’re a water polo player, short hair on women just screams Rosie.)
But for men, makes it especially hard to tell the difference in Paris is the Man-Purse.
Few men in America would be caught dead tossing a pint-size, gay-like bag over their shoulder. But here in Paris, you see them all the time, draped over everyone’s arm—from dapper gents to wanna-be home ‘boyz’ (and the real ones too) with baggy jeans slunk somewhere mid-thigh, caps twisted sideways and weird facial hair patterns that they’ll wince at the memory of once they’re older. (Like those hopefully long-lost photos of me wearing dark brown corduroy elephant bell-bottoms and oversized Foster Grants. What was I thinking?)
But also the government practically forces men here to look gay.
In France, one must always keep their Carte d’Identité on them, and for some reason is much too large to fit in a billfold which would fit in your back pocket of your pants or inside pocket of your jacket. So you need to find some other way to carry it around.
Another part of the problem is pickpockets. While the problem exists everywhere, on crowded métros and elsewhere, a slippery wallet in your back pocket makes you an easy target.
So to many, the Man-Purse is almost a necessity of life.
I don’t have one. And would feel funny about putting one of those little sissy bags over my shoulder and strutting down the street.
But when I go out, I do need to bring along a small messenger bag to hold my goodies, which include my wallet, sunglasses, a chapstick, my Moleskine, my guide des arrondissements, keys, business cards, a back-up chapstick, my Laguiole knife, another chapstick (just in case), the omnipresent zippered trousse of pens that are de rigeur in France, and Carmex.
Maybe because I lived so many years in San Francisco, where things were much cleared, I’m happy to live somewhere where it’s hard to tell. It keeps me on my toes.
It’s nice living somewhere where it’s unclear since it makes every meeting a guessing-game. Even the men with their wives and girlfriends in tow—although usually not at the same time—have a little lilt in their step, if you ask me.
So I’m going to keep resisting wearing a Man-Purse for as long as possible. And if you do ever come across me in Paris, and you see I’m wearing one, please bitch-slap me until I take it off.
Either that, or I’m going to start sporting pink polo shirts, will work more diligently on improving my French accent, and spend considerably more time on what’s remains of my hair than I do now.
I’ll also need to find a rugby club to join.
Once I’m done with all that, maybe I’ll feel comfortable slinging a little bag over my shoulder. And when and if that happens, you can be sure I’ll be marching with Man-Purse Pride around the streets of Paris.
(But don’t hold your breath.)