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by Stephen Lautens


November 9, 2001

Men have a deep, dark secret we keep from our wives and girlfriends. It's not something we're proud of, but we do it the moment we're alone in the house or her back is turned.

No - it's not wearing your pantyhose or drinking milk right out of the carton (at least not in my house it isn't). It's actually something that would be much harder to explain if she ever came home unexpectedly and caught us in the act.

When you're not looking, we throw out grocery bags.

You know - those flimsy plastic bags we use to carry our groceries home from the supermarket. Every time we come home from grocery shopping we have another dozen bags to put away. For some reasons, some store clerks insist on using one bag per item. When you get home, no one likes to throw them away because it seems like quite a waste. We figure there must be a use for them. So they get stuffed under the kitchen sink, collect in closets and generally hang around for years.

In our house it gets to the point where you have to fight your way through bales of them to get to the dishwashing detergent. The room in the basement where we keep our jams and jellies always has three or four large bundles of grocery bags rolling around on the floor.

And of course the darn things aren't recyclable most places. In fact, putting them in recycling will contaminate the entire truckload. I've seen websites devoted to trying to find a use for the little plastic devils - everything from window insulation to home-woven rope. I've tried reusing the bags at home, but they seem to be specially designed to tear or split. Or you pull one out only to find that the last thing it held was a wet milk carton. They're too small to fit in a garbage can, or you miss a tiny hole in the bottom and they end up leaking all over the place. The only people who can really use them are dog owners who stoop and scoop - and that's when you especially don't want to find a hole in the bag.

Some grocery stores try to encourage you to reuse old bags by charging a nickel for new ones. I'm not sure it's ecologically motivated or just a scam. A few of my more crunchy granola friends try to bring their groceries home European-style in their own collection of canvas or string bags. That's fine if you don't mind a major investment in carry-alls and are organized enough to be able to round them all up whenever you head off to the store.

The rest of us are stuck with an ever-increasing supply of these toxic, useless things filling every nook and cranny of the house. And to add insult to injury, the women I know seem genetically incapable of just throwing the surplus bags out in the garbage. I don't know if it's the nesting or the ecology thing. But that's where we men come in.

Men are strong and heartless, and used to making tough decisions - like whether to watch hockey or Baywatch reruns.

I know I'm not alone in this, as one of my close friends recently confided in me that he does exactly the same thing to his ladyfriend's supply of plastic bags. When no one is looking, a few more armfuls go out in the garbage.

Like I said, someone has to be strong. I just hope we don't get caught.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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