Thursday, June 03, 2010

The irony

Some things strike me as ironic, and I can't help but be amused.

Take the sight of a young man and his female companion. It's not uncommon to see a guy walking hand in hand with his girl, but what makes the picture look silly (to me, at least) is the unmistakably woman's bag slung over the man's shoulder (sometimes it's a handbag). Most likely manifesting his interpretation of gentlemanly courtesy, the boyfriend thus dons the feminine item, whether it's a floral tote, an LV-emblazoned purse, or one of those trendy baguettes that are absolutely unflattering on the male form!

It may look silly, but I can appreciate efforts on the part of men to demonstrate courtesy. And maybe these young men (and their female companions, obviously) are unaware of codes of conduct such as that which considers a man's carrying a woman's purse to be an absolute no-no. I don't know where such rules are written, but it is simply not done (this, of course, does not include cases wherein the woman's bag weighs a few hundred pounds and the owner obviously needs assistance in transporting the thing).

But what I really find ironic is something I often witness at the MRT station.

So you have the purse-donning man and his girlfriend (thereby "hands-free," thanks to her boyfriend), standing in line, awaiting the next train.

As sounds of the approaching train reach them, they get into position. He guides her to stay in front of him; sometimes she is somewhat beside him while still in front of him, his hand usually on her shoulder.

When the train finally arrives and slows down, all the commuters on queues rustle and press against each other, shoulder to shoulder, as much as they still can, given that there is no more space left between bodies that are visibly getting ready to charge into the soon-to-open doors of the train. One can observe that it looks like a bunch of football players -- sans helmets and gigantic shoulder pads -- psyching themselves up for a tackle. By this time, the girlfriend is normally right in front of the purse-carrying boyfriend.

As the door opens, the purse-carrying boyfriend guides his purse-free companion in a way that looks as if he is pushing her toward the wave of people exiting the train directly in their path. This is a seemingly endless stream of commuters who show no mercy when they make their way out of the train, since nobody wants to get stuck inside and miss his stop.

Meanwhile, the sight of the floral tote-carrying man coaxing his girl in front of him to push on and make her way into the train against the oncoming river of people seems odd. For one thing, she looks like some sort of shield, there to protect the man behind her who has his hand on her shoulder, making sure she is not swept away by the human river heading the opposite direction. What kind of a man would do such a thing, putting a lady in harm's way? And not just any lady -- his lady.

At this point, the tote, satchel or whatever caters to the woman's fashion tastes seems like a suitable symbol in this scenario. He is the boyfriend, but the manly duty of protecting the fairer sex is not being carried out. He is being the lady here -- hence, the purse on his shoulder or slung over his arm or wherever the feminine item is best positioned.

Is this not ironic? A man makes the gesture of relieving his girl of her belongings, then when it comes to that which requires his protection and guidance, he coaxes her to take over. Hmmm.

In cases like this, it seems fitting that she be garbed in shining armor.

* Painting by Alphonse Mucha ("Heraldic Chivalry").
* Cartoonist unknown.


WillyJ said...

Very amusing indeed :-) Those things were unheard of before, though some things do adapt to circumstances.

I'm trying to make sense out of it all. I think there are two perspectives on the matter, depending upon the motives. Nowadays there are signature bags (LV, Birkin?) that cost an arm and a leg. Snatchers would think twice about grabbing those bags if it was the guy who was carrying it for his date, right? I guess it may be a display of gentlemanly courtesy as you say. Unless it was the guy's bag after all :-)

With respect to the train, that makes me wonder what is the best strategy for a couple commuting together. The girl in back or in front? Both would have its own advantages and disadvantages. If the guy goes in front and the girl goes behind the guy, then the girl's back is exposed to shoving and probably some malicious offense coming from behind. If the guy stays behind the girl, then I guess he can protect her better. However if the guy uses her to ram forward, that would be unconscionable. It is bound to be a difficult maneuver either way. As for the bag, again pickpockets would have less luck when the guy holds the purse/bag for her. Also, bags tend to get entangled in the jostling, so I think it also makes sense for the guy to protect the bag as well. I haven't really observed this closely in practice (concentrating on getting into the train myself), so next time I will observe.

petrufied said...

well you know me i take the all-women train so i don't get to observe... haha. maybe the guy wouldn't have to carry the bag for her if there's nothing too valuable in it.

actually i find it funny--commuting with a designer bag. so ...ironic?

sunnyday said...

The solution is to improve the economy so that everybody will be able to afford a car! Hehehe :-)

Willy, you have a point there regarding bag-positioning and snatchers. When it comes to non-train-boarding-related situations, one tip would be this: the man should stay on the woman's side where her bag is. So, if they're walking together and her Birkin is slung over her right forearm, he should stay on her right side, with the bag safely between them.

As for rush-hour oncoming human-river ramming on the MRT, I guess if she is the one in front of him, then she might as well use her bag as a shield and wrap her arms around it like a pillow and hold on to it for dear life :-) She is then protected front and back, and the Birkin is safe and sound.

It would be great if there were a way to make snatchers aware if the bag they were eyeing were a fake (read: cheap, designer-wannabe). Para iba na lang ang pagka-interesan.

Mike M said...

I think I understand why the girl is positioned in front. Remember, the train is probably packed. So unless she is pushed from behind, there is a chance that the guy will be able to get in but the girl will be left behind. This is somewhat analogous to the action of the "pushers" employed by Japanese train companies during rush hour to make sure passengers can get aboard super-packed train cars. Interestingly, the Japanese commuters don't mind.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...