women

What Do Your Characters Carry Around in Their Pockets? (Or, Bite Me, #EverydayCarry)

There’s an exercise I sometimes use on both myself and with writing coaching clients: What does your character carry around, all the time, in his or her bag, or in their pockets? I am obsessed with this exercise: It allows you to get in deep while seeming frivolous; it’s about the character’s must-haves, their daily dependencies.

I like this idea for myself and my friends, too: My friend Peter and I used to talk frequently about the notebooks we carried, and the pens we liked the most.

We met as adventure racers, so we would chat about the must-have stuff in our kit–knives, compasses, rolls of duct tape, things like that. As our friendship evolved, we discovered that we were both analog people who liked letters and other ways of putting things down on paper, so we that’s how we got around to discussing notebooks. I think Peter uses a carabiner for a keyring, and I used to carry one around in my bag for absolute handiness’ sake.

There were other things I carried around with the carabiner. The aforementioned pocket knife and notebook, for instance. Eventually, the list of things I carry around grew to include a first-aid kit, some stamps, pen, obviously. It was just stuff in my bag. But I noticed something really unpleasant awhile ago:

#EverydayCarry

Yes. Yes, hashtagEverydayCarry! I am sure this is not a new thing to most of you, but for me, it is new and also highly distasteful. Everyday carry is a style thing. It has its own wikipedia page. It has its own web site. People post pictures of their “EDC”–YUCK!–and, oh, horror of horrors, the individual items seem to always match each other, like some kind of…oh oh. I don’t know…hipster fashion show, if you could have a fashion show for the crap you carry around in your pockets or in your gigantic briefcase manbag thing.

Look, just look: here is the Wikipedia definition of everyday carry, and no, you cannot get me to cap it ever again.

Everyday carry (EDC) or every day carry refers to items that are carried on a consistent basis to assist in dealing with normal everyday needs of modern society, including possible emergency situations.

Here is one from Primer magazine, which claims to be a magazine that is a “guy’s guide to growing up.” (Cue retching.)

Though no true point of origin exists for everyday carry (EDC), it might just have its roots in the old school gentlemanly approach to daily accoutrements in the 18th and 19th centuries. Back then, it was not uncommon for men to carry items like pocket watches, handkerchiefs, snuff or pipe tobacco tins, wallets, and pocket knives.

Finally, here is one from Gallantry magazine. (Gallantry? Gallantry? Really?)

Boiled down to its basest* elements, EDC refers to the things that one requires to make it through any given day. So, for a caveman, that would mean something like: a bow and arrows for hunting, a small blade for skinning and field dressing meat, and an animal hide satchel in which to haul everything.

People. The preciousness. The self-importance. Say it with me. Beriberi.**

Now look. I don’t have a problem with the idea of everyday carry. I just hate the fact that it has its own name. I hate that, for the most part, the stuff listed as “everyday carry” is expensive. I hate that, on the pages that show off everyday carry from site users, it all looks new. And very, very military. Oh, excuse me. Tactical.

I have an “everyday carry.” Most of us do. You wanna see it? Here.

FullSizeRender 2

I know. it’s fugly. But it does the job. Here’s what’s in it, clockwise, from top left: First aid kit. Pouch what-stores-it-all. Pen. Knife. Tide bleach pen, because girlfriend gets messy frequently. Notebook. Calendar with odds&ends (museum cards, stamps, postcards, etc). Now, I’m not going to lie and say that some of this stuff wasn’t expensive. The pen, for instance, was $20. But that’s because I write for a living and I like to feel good when I’m doing it. But nothing matches. And I use the crap out of everything in that photo. Which is why it all looks like garbage.

I used to think I was mostly turned off by how new everything looks when people post photos of their everyday carry. Kind of the same thing that turns me off of the whole mason-jar thing now. I mean, how many people have actually used their mason jars for their intended usage? Why do they all look so shiny? Why are they décor, for poop’s sake?

But then I read this, again from Gallantry magazine:

Nowadays, EDC encompasses all those items which the modern man carries on his person day-in and day-out to ensure that he is prepared for whatever might come his way.

And I realized what it is that really cheeses me off about these sites, this definition of “everyday carry.” They are all for men. All of them. Not a single one even considers that barrage of stuff that women have to carry around. They are all tricked out in black and chrome and titanium, and oh, far be it from me to think that I can’t carry off these accessories just as well as the next guy out there, but damn. Damn. Far be it from them to admit that women probably have this EVERYDAY CARRY thing down to a rocket fucking science.

[Pushups]

“Eighteenth and nineteenth century gentlemen”? Gimme a break. Those fops–the “gentlemen”–didn’t carry anything around. You know who carried shit around, every day? Women. I mean, look at this thing:

photo: V and A Museum, London

photo: V and A Museum, London

This is a gol-darned chatelaine. Yeah, you over there, the gentleman in the powdered wig, and you too, with the gigantor multitool you claim is for “everyday use”–this is a thing women used to wear around their waists on a belt, with their household tools on it. Scissors. tiny book and pen. Keys. Letter opener. Sometimes, a thimble or a vial of scent, you know, all the better to darn your smelly socks with.

Everyday carry for women goes back years and years, you see. It goes on today. We just didn’t feel the need to pretty it up, make ourselves a hashtag for it. And we certainly don’t need to style a whole photoset of it.

Besides, you’re not fooling me, you #everydaycarry people. I know what your real everyday carry looks like, even if you are wearing a Bell diving watch on your wrist and occasionally admire your own pocket knife. If you’re anything like the men in my life, you are carrying around a too-big wallet that is going to give you sciatica, your phone, and probably a tube of lip balm.

Unless you’re Peter. Then you’re inadvertently lumped into the category of glorified packrats, but I see you. I know you use your notebook and your pen and actually have a reason for your carabiner. You’re okay, in my (note)book.

*Uh, guys? You don’t mean “basest.” That means most lacking in moral quality. So…um. Yeah.

**”Beriberi” is Sinhalese, according to some sources, for “I cannot, I cannot.” It is also a disease resulting from thiamine deficiency. Some days it is my personal mantra. I invite you to use it with me.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.