09/12/2013 09:58 GMT | Updated 05/02/2014 05:59 GMT

The Other Bag


Photograph from

Walking through the lobby at work, I spotted it immediately. Hanging, totally blasé, in the nook of a woman's arm. But it wasn't just the one. In fact, there were dozens of them, swinging casually from limbs.

A few weeks ago I met a male friend for dinner. As he greeted me, he looked me up and down. I was waiting for some kind of rude outfit observation, but instead he asked, 'why do all women have a second bag?'

I was ready to laugh it off. You can't say all women carry two bags just because you've seen me, and perhaps one other, doing so! But the next day on my way to work, in the same way you can't not notice someone's face mole once it's been pointed out, I couldn't see for The Other Bags, hitching rides on women's bodies. A canvas tote on the shoulder, a paper bag in the arm nook - they were everywhere. Bags containing just, stuff.

According to Council for Relationships, women see themselves as natural caretakers and nurturers, which might explain our recruitment of a second bag. 'They're anticipating all the things that they might need or someone else might need. They want to be prepared, just in case,' therapist Linda says.

That's true for me. The Other Bag makes me feel safe. Don't get me wrong, it's a pain in the arse trying to manoeuvre it on a packed tube (not to mention embarrassing when someone peaks into your Dior paper bag and sees a banana and a clingfilm-wrapped sandwich), and being laden down with bags is my nightmare (dependant on the contents, of course). But knowing I've got an extra notebook, should my diary not suffice, or a pair of trainers just in case I might fancy going to the gym for the first time in two years, makes me feel good.

But while I might feel content with my extra luggage, my body ain't. A study by the British Chiropractic Association showed that the average man-bag weighs nearly 14 pounds alone. If by man-bag contents, they're talking laptops and other gadgets, then it's just as likely that women are lugging the same hefty load. And as simple maths would have it, a stone multiplied by another weighted bag placed unevenly on your body equals a case of lopsidedness, or pain at the very least.

The practical, healthy solution is to get a backpack, big enough to fit all of the 'maybes' into (and no, a cute Topshop leather backpack with straps the width of spaghetti doesn't count). But most of us don't want to be reminded of our school days - the corridor crush and humiliatingly having a Puma instead of an Adidas - and, truth be told, we have a particular taste in bags. For me, that tends to err on the nice leather handbag side, rather than the bulky Duke of Edinburgh side.

But no matter how big our bag, it's likely that we'd still want our trusty deputy by our side. Even if we could fit our entire lives in our primary bag, we'd probably forage for anything, anything at all, to carry in The Other Bag ('you never know when a staple gun might come in handy').

I'm going to try and lighten my load, for the sake of my disgruntled shoulders, if not for sanity's sake. But there are some things I can't take out of the bag. Well, as good old Sod's Law would have it, the day I leave my cauldron behind is the day I'll be required to create a potion. At my journalism job.