Fanny packs were manufactured pouches of canvas or leather that buckled around the waist and let people live out their fantasy of being marsupials. My fanny pack was turquoise and yellow, and it ensured that my wallet was accessible and that girls were not. My mother wrote my name in it with black magic marker so that it would not get mixed up with some other kid’s turquoise and yellow fanny pack.
My fanny pack’s greatest journey was on a three-day class trip to Washington, D.C. For months I sold candy bars, saved my allowance, and begged my parents to write a check just so that I could wear my fanny pack to the top of the Washington Monument. I remember being more excited about having my Go-Bots camera and Bronx Zoo wallet at my fingertips than I was about visiting America’s greatest souvenir shops.
I think I will describe fanny packs to my children the way my parents described bell bottom pants to me: everyone wore them. All the kids on that class trip had fanny packs. I won’t go so far as to say that you were not cool without a fanny pack, but it certainly took you a lot longer to get your $10 out for an “authentic” copy of the Declaration of Independence without one.
We were at the Air and Space Museum, looking at the “Spirit of ’76” and wondering whether they served peanuts on it, when a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder. “Look, Mark,” he said, pointing, “that’s kid’s wearing your fanny pack.” And, lo and behold, there was another kid with a turquoise and yellow fanny pack. He was walking away and I followed him into one of the simulators in the Flight Simulator Zone, where you could say “Folks, this is your captain speaking,” into a microphone and then see how creatively you could explain that the plane was not going to take off for eleven hours. It was dark in the simulator and I could not tell turquoise from other shades of blue. And when I emerged, he was gone. For the rest of that trip I kept an eye out for my fanny pack doppelgänger. I thought I saw him by the Lincoln Memorial, but it was just my own reflection in the Reflecting Pool. I never saw him again, and when I returned from the trip I retired my fanny pack.
I hear that fanny packs are back. They’ve added features like cup holders and USB ports, and it is rumored that Lady Gaga wears a fanny pack made of pastrami. I’ve even considered getting a new fanny pack just to hold all my rewards cards. I saw the perfect fanny pack in a catalog and got very excited. It was black, and leather, and had a designer’s insignia emblazoned on the front. I took the picture to show my wife what I wanted for my birthday. But when she looked at it, she looked at me, and, without a word, slowly shook her head.