My husband is mystified by the quantity and variety of bags, totes and purses I own and use. More to the point, he doesn’t understand how or why I could ever possibly need more. Silly man, it is not a matter of need. Of course any of us R.W’s could live with one purse and one tote bag…and a few of those re-useable grocery bags…and one dressier clutch…and one beach bag…and….oh, ok, maybe it wouldn’t be so easy.
It is funny that he may mock my collection, but isn’t he the first one to ask me if I’ve got room to carry his keys, or his cap, or ask if I have any tissues with me, or do I have any gum…. Heck, just the other day my brother asked if I happened to have a measuring tape in my purse – you know, like mom always did.
Our need to carry a satchel falls into two categories: Let’s Make A Deal, and Fashion. I remember as a girl watching the old Game Show and being amazed at the stuff women would have with them when Monty Hall asked for obscure objects. Until I got older and started carrying my own purse – especially as a mom. Weird things would end up in my bag when my son was younger: matchbox cars, half-eaten snacks, rocks, bandaids, dirty tissues, crayons and broken pencils, works of art scrawled on scrap paper during church services…. And if you are also a pet parent, add in things like dog treats and poop bags.
If we happen to be in the midst of some sort of home project, the depths of the bag may contain things like that measuring tape, paint chips, a chunk of wood, cabinet knobs, or screws. And of course we have all of our emergency items that are musts just to get through our busy days: hand sanitizer, lipstick, panty liners, breath mints, a note pad, tissues, a bleach stick, hand lotion, hair ties and perhaps a spare pair of earrings. Of course the basic essentials are there as well, a wallet stuffed with credit cards but rarely any cash, a check book full of receipts, a phone, a hair comb, some sort of pouch to carry store rewards cards, and a key chain that weighs about 20 pounds – not from keys hanging on it, but from charms, lanyards and miniature versions of the same rewards cards.
Our bags become veritable cornucopias of pieces of our lives. We could learn a lot about a woman just by taking a tour through her purse. Grocery lists, to do lists, swatches, notes, ripped pages from a hairstyle magazine, you name it, you’ll find it. Yet reaching into the dark depths of a woman’s bag is not for the faint of heart. Ever ask the man in your life to get something out of your purse? He’ll get that stricken look of panic on his face, then pick the whole thing up as if it carries the germs of the bubonic plague and practically throw it at you to find the item in need.
As for fashion, this rarely aligns with the practical needs of carrying a bag. We have all been duped into buying a purse or tote or clutch simply because it is adorable. Or we have ooh’ed and aaah’ed over some amazing designer bag that would cost more than a car payment. We have visions of strutting down the street with this fabulous bag swinging from our shoulder… then opt instead for one on the sale rack at Kohl’s. And usually when we impulse-buy a small cute purse simply based on it’s looks, we soon realize we are unable to fit anything more than one tube of lipstick and one credit card inside the trendy item. So we must decide – look sophisticated carrying our little slice of fashion that so perfectly matches an outfit, OR be ready for anything life throws our way and carry an ugly yet huge Mrs. Poppins satchel?
Some of the Real Women in my life are organized enough to be able to swap bags each day as a regular fashion accessory. When I try to do this, invariably the one thing I need (like my to do list or my keycard to get into my work building) is sitting in the bottom of the bag I’ve left home. So I tend to be a seasonal purse changer, or I will swap what I’m carrying for a certain event. Other R.W.’s I know really do somehow survive living with just one or two bags. They find something practical that works for them and carry it always. That is the smart thing to do of course, but I’m far too attracted to a pretty fabric or a funky design to be able to say no to a great bag at an affordable price.
Sometimes we luck out and find the best of both worlds: beauty and function. This spring my girlfriend and I went to visit my sister in Texas and one of our stops during our shopping extravaganza was Sam Moon. For any of you not familiar with Sam Moon, it is an accessory store on steroids. It took us about 10 minutes to each find purses we loved. Not only did they have great patterns and colors and were a useful size, but they had a funky pocket on the outside that zipped open from the side. We didn’t understand the point behind the pocket (I assumed it was to carry my iPhone) until my BFF picked up another similar purse that had a tag on it. The tag read: Concealed Carry. Sure enough, the interior of the pocket was just the right shape to carry a small gun. Remember, we were in Texas. Of course now we just HAD to buy the purses, I mean how cool was THAT?! And yes, I carry my phone in the pocket, in case you were wondering.
I guess I can understand why men are so mystified with our love affair with bags. After all, my husband carried the same big clunky utilitarian work bag for years until I got him a cool laptop backpack. He would never imagine using something else. But to us women, variety is the spice of life. If we are going to be called upon to be the carrier of all things necessary, then we darn well want to look good doing it.
The next time I put my purse on the counter of a store and go digging through it, past the wallet and lists and pens and hair ties and keys, trying to find a coupon that has fallen to the very bottom, at least the cashier will have something pretty to look at while I rummage. If it is a female cashier, she will totally get it. She will utter those words all of us in the Secret Society of Bag Adoration love to hear: “Take your time. Great bag.”