I was at a dinner the other night with a bunch of friends. It was one of those gatherings where it was quite possible to slip in the background and let the flow of chatter wash over you. Happily munching my deep fried calamari, I slipped in and out of the different conversational tides. At the back of my mind, I was just wondering when it would be a good moment to leave and head back to American Idol when Vera piped up, “Can someone explain to me why men in this town carry their girlfriend’s handbags?”
My good friend Anne immediately yelped, “Aiyoh, I can not stand guys like that!”
“I know! Have some balls, I say!” exclaimed Vera with force. And on it went for a bit. Of course, the guys at the table stoutly denied that they’d ever carried their girlfriends’ handbags while the girls looked at us sideways, clearly wanting to give us the benefit of the doubt, but holding out on a final judgment till they’d spoken to our respective partners.
It eventually occurred to me then that Carly, sitting to my side, had been unaccountably silent the entire conversation. I swiveled my head around to her and lifted a questioning eyebrow. She looked at me nervously and, under the pressure of my furrowed brow, finally blurted out, “Well, I’ve actually asked my boyfriend to carry my handbag! But only sometimes, lah,” she added hurriedly.
In the ensuing deafening silence, you could have heard a mosquito fart. Much like a python moves in slowly as it surveys its helpless prey, Anne leaned forward and stared at Carly, turning her head slightly. “Uhm, why?” she finally asked.
“Well, sometimes, it’s heavy! What’s the big deal?” poor Carly said, by now clearly regretting ever opening her big mouth.
“Well, that’s your fault, what!” Anne exclaimed. “Who ask you to put gold bars inside? Right?” She looked around the table. Several heads nodded enthusiastically in response.
Under the verbal onslaught, Carly looked desperate. “But it’s a Fendi!”
“Oh my God, Fendi, Prada. Who cares!” Vera cried. It occurred to me in the dim lighting of the restaurant, she looked a little Uma Thurman did just before she went on her murderous rampage in Kill Bill.
“But what if he doesn’t mind carrying it for me?” Carly bleated.
“That’s not the point, lah!” Annette snapped. “A guy should never carry a handbag. Not even if he’s gay.”
From the other end of the table, someone said firmly, “A handbag is a handbag! If you’re going to make the guy carry your handbag, put it in a big plastic bag. Then I think that’s OK.”
“But even then,” Vera said, clearly dissatisfied with this flagrant attempt to create a loophole in the No Handbag If You’re a Man (Not Even if You’re Gay) Rule.
This is all such good material! I thought happily to myself as I busily committed the key points of the dialogue to memory. Later, back in the little apartment I share with Saffy and Amanda, the girls were unanimous in their disdain.
“Oh, I’m seriously going to have to reassess my friendship with Carly!” Saffy said, her voice heavy with disappointment and her famous breasts heaving with judgment. I frowned at her and pointed out that she didn’t even know Carly.
“That’s so not besides the point!” said Saffy, effortlessly dismissing logic with polluted grammar.
Amanda tossed her luxurious shampoo-ad hair and said that there was something very wrong with a world where it was acceptable for a man to carry a handbag. “A man-bag, I understand, but not if the immediate owner is female. It’s just wrong!” she said, her pretty eyes flashing. Then a thought occurred to her. “Unless, of course, he’s just bought her a handbag from say Gucci and is just bringing it to her. Then that’s perfectly acceptable,” she said with approval, while looking at me.
“Why are you looking at me?” I asked nervously.
“It’s my birthday next week.”
“I’m a writer,” I said. “I make less than 30 cents a word. I can’t afford a piece of thread from Gucci.”
“I couldn’t afford to pee in Gucci!” said Saffy, a miserable look settling on her face.
“There’s a toilet in Gucci?” Barney Chen asked me the next day. He was impressed.
“Would you carry a handbag for a girl?” I asked him. He gave the matter some thought. “Only if there was something in it for me,” he said eventually. “Like backstage passes to see Barbra. But otherwise, no.”
“See?” Amanda said. “Even the gays won’t do it! And they’re usually up for anything.”
“That’s so true,” Barney said proudly.