Monday, January 6, 2014

A History of My Life in Purses

There is power to be found in a purse. There is also plenty of room for despair in a purse. Men are secretly frightened of what we carry in them, and the truth is so are we.

Rummaging in a purse will result in a Pandora's box of cough drops, unused tampons in dubious repair, change the cashier refused to wait for us to put in our change purses, and receipts we vowed to throw away at home and then never did. There are the coupons we meant to use but forgot, an inordinate amount of lip glosses since we can never find them when we need them, and the vitamins we meant to take that one day but forgot.

In short, it's a bag of emotions and feelings that we don't always want to wade through. Here is a short history of the purses I have known.

The clutch. The clutch was invented by a man in order to set feminism back several paces. You don't have a clutch. The clutch has you. What makes it even more cruel is that it usually accompanies you to parties, when you really need the freedom of both hands in order to function. Instead you must dedicate one hand solely to holding the clutch, leaving you one hand to do things like carry hors d'oeuvres, champagne, and relay these things to your mouth politely. If you get through the night without spilling something on your dress which must only be dry cleaned, then you're a much better woman than I. The ultimate sadness of this is that clutches can only carry so much, leaving you to your own personal game of do, marry, or kill. You will be able to fit one lipgloss, some cash, an ID, and maybe your keys if you are lucky. Anything else must stay at home.

The handbag. The handbag was a major step forward in the liberation of women, yet still holds us back in the fact that it can only ride so far up on your arm. The good news is that you can generally fit more into this bag, but the bad news is that it will leave you with strange muscles in your forearm. You'll forever feel self conscious about this.

The tote. The tote is great. Not only can you fit basically the contents of an entire refrigerator inside, but it is oversized, making you look that much smaller with it on your arm. This is the equivalent of the trick of wearing a mens sweatshirt, leaving people to marvel at how little space you take up inside of it. It can also be quite useful as an inadvertent battering ram, and can help preserve the illusion of personal space in crowded subway cars. But like the handbag, you will eventually sprain something carrying it around. You will also tire of carrying around the belongings and wristlets of your friends. So you will revert to the other end of the spectrum, and invest in a wristlet yourself.

The wristlet. The concept of this is a good idea, but like the clutch, it is entirely impractical for the struggles of daily living. You can fit the most essential of the essentials in there, but there's no room for a book, your lunch, pepper spray, or anything else that you might find yourself wanting to shove in a purse during the course of your day. Wristlets are good for short outings to your local coffeeshop, and that's about it.

Enter the satchel. With an arm strap it keeps your hands free, but unfortunately you must again edit your personal belongings to only those necessary. It will be great for a few months, as all novelties are, but you will eventually migrate to a larger bag, which you will again stuff to the brim with things both necessary and unnecessary to your life.

And so we move from purse to purse, taking only the most necessary of items with us. Should a sudden disaster bury me and my apartment in volcanic ash, the archaeologists of the future would no doubt be completely mystified by the flotsam and jetsam within my assortment of purses.

1 comment:

Will said...

"For I have known them all already, known them all: / Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, / I have measured out my life with purses; / I know the voices dying with a dying fall /
Beneath the music from a farther room. / So how should I presume?" -to paraphrase, badly, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock