Today, when we need to be contactable 24/7 and pronto, I find myself perpetually holding a cell phone in one hand. So one hand is always occupied. When I do put the phone down somewhere to work unhindered with both hands, that’s invariably when my husband will call wondering why I didn’t answer the phone, my daughter will call from school about something urgent, and there will be two unexpected calls from clients. And when I put the phone down, I also tend to forget about it; phoning my phone later to find it is a daily occurrence.
The last straw was last weekend. I was sitting on my verandah reading with my phone on my lap because I was expecting an important phone call. Later, forgetting it was on my lap, I stood up. Like the penultimate scene from Godfather III, I replicated Michael Corleone’s silent scream as it fell down on the stone floor and the screen cracked. This would never have happened had it been safely ensconced in a pocket.
However, none of my clothes have pockets and I wear a variety of them: saris, kurtas, dresses and pants. Saris have never had pockets. I’ve known some sari-clad women to tuck their cell phone into their cleavage—but for that you need a cleavage. Men’s kurtas have pockets but women’s generally do not; grounds for pocket envy. And unfortunately, voluminous pockets on women’s skirts and pants went out with Katherine Hepburn.
Some may shrug this off as an insignificant issue and say, “Carry a handbag.” Does one carry a handbag to answer the front door, mow the lawn, fix the leak on the roof, play catch with the kids, or go for a long walk? Me thinks not. I’ve also tried various other contraptions. I’ve tried a small sling bag only to get it caught repeatedly on door handles and practically strangle me. I’ve tried a clip on the waistband, but that works only if you have Scarlett O’Hara’s 18-inch waist and wear your shirts tucked in or are in the IT industry. I’ve even tried a waist pouch which makes me look either pregnant, like a kangaroo, or both.
Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura had the ideal solution. She looked great in a form-fitting yet practical uniform, had both hands free to click various important switches, and when visiting hostile planets merely tapped her shoulder to call the bridge. Mind you, I think bridge was the only place she could call; she didn’t have the option of a private tete-a-tete with Spock or Jim. Now Google Glass and Vuzix’s similar product can act as Bluetooth headsets. They don’t yet replace the phone itself, but there’s no reason why such wearable technology shouldn’t lead up to wearable phones in the future.
But for now, as long as we have handsets, there’s a crying need for pockets.
I know there are still important feminist issues to resolve and in the scheme of things this seems irrelevant. But is it? What a cruel joke to emancipate women—at least to this degree—and free them for the great and noble tasks of life, only to curse them by tying up one hand with a cell phone. It’s akin to asking Sisyphus or Atlas to do their thing, while holding a phone in one hand. Since God or evolution after millions of years has given us two hands, it seems a shame to put one out of commission.
Lao Tzu would have agreed that it’s the emptiness of the hand that makes it useful. While it’s important to be in constant touch, we also need both our hands free to do the many things we want to and have to. So it would not just be nice but empowering to have a pocket.
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention and here we’re faced with a substantial mother. Just like Coco Channel revolutionized fashion for the better in the 1920s by getting rid of the corset, shortening skirts, and in general making practical clothes that women could move around in—we need another paradigm shift now in women’s clothes: voluminous, stylish pockets that are a staple of all women’s clothing in order to free up our hands. After all, pockets and fashion need not be mutually exclusive. The best of men’s clothes have had pockets for years, whether that be in pants, suits, tuxedos, or even shirts.
Maybe my mistake has been in asking as a single individual. Surely if women as a gender ask for a usable pocket as part of their clothing, Santa and the fashion industry would have to listen. This is not merely an act of charity; there is a big profit to be made. Christmas is now nearly a year away. If Santa talks to the houses of Chanel, Dior, and Zara now, they could put it into their next winter’s collection. And by next Christmas, clothes with big, deep, wonderful pockets would fill the stores.
Then, once more, I could believe.
Ranjani Iyer Mohanty is a writer, editor, and currently pocketless.