Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bag It by Jenny Gardiner

It’s hot out there. At least it should be hot. If it weren’t for that darned global warming that’s turned Virginia--with temperatures hovering in the extremely tolerable 85-degree range--into, well, Pennsylvania this summer. And because it’s hot--or at least should be--I don’t want to tax your brain with heady information that you must digest and process and ponder too much. In these dog days of summer, it’s best to just sit back with a cool drink (and because it’s probably morning while you're reading this, I suggest nothing stronger than iced tea), and brood over nothing more vexing than my plight with purses.

Purses should never be a source of controversy. Well, I suppose they could be, considering the amount of money some people spend on bags that are meant to just haul stuff from one place to another. When you think about it, really, it would be sufficient for us all to just reuse the bags we get every week at the grocery store. After all, half of what is dragged around in purses probably needs to be trashed anyhow (gum wrappers, unraveled personal care items, broken ponytail holders, faded, illegible receipts). I really like purses, but I also come from a long line of people who, shall I say, had issues with carrying things to and fro.

Take my mother, for example. Now, my mother has great taste in fashion and had a closet groaning with the finest of everything when I was a child. She had a purse that coordinated with every outfit, natch shoes to boot (excuse the pun). But that wasn’t her issue with purses. No. Hers was that she always, always, always carried her purse to the bathroom. I could never figure out what she thought we might do to that purse were she to leave it unattended for the brief diversion to the loo. Whatever it was, it was a source of humor in our household and something my mother never lived down.

Sort of like The Queen and her purse. What does a Queen need with a purse? Particularly an ugly purse, which is about the only type of purse you see The Queen carrying. But she always does have one in tow. I suppose if you’re The Queen and you want to carry an empty purse, well then you’re entitled to your little quirk.

When we talk about quirks and carrying devices, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my father.

There was a time that I remember my father carrying a briefcase. But I think the phase was, uh, brief. Almost as far back as I can recall, my father hauled his stuff around in a box. To and from the office each day, his work would be piled into a box, the contents of the box would inevitably overflow the borders of the thing, the corners would give way, and he’d have to resort to taping it up with packing tape. Now, my father had a thing for tape. And he was cheap. So when his office carpets started to fray badly, instead of, say, replacing the carpet like most people, he would find the exact color of electrical tape and tape over the gaping maw in the carpet. The gaping maw smack in the middle of his professional office. Don’t ask. But my point---aside from mentioning my father’s pecuniary and rather idiosyncratic habits---is that my Dad hauled things in ever-enlarging boxes until he got a bad back. And even then, he persisted in trudging back and forth to work with a mountain of nonsense we all knew darned well he’d never get to that night, especially because he was usually snoring away in his recliner by 8 p.m.

I guess the thing is, I probably inherited a propensity to have hauling issues. And hauling issues I have had. I suppose there was a time when I carried a simple little purse into which I deposited a reasonable selection of things I might need while out. But then I had kids, and what I had to carry grew exponentially with each child. As a former Girl Scout, I was determined to be prepared for any eventuality, short of nuclear holocaust, and even for that I’ve contemplated my options, none of which can be squeezed into a purse.

So after spending years of having a purse that grew and spread in size like an unwanted fungus in one’s garden, I reached a point at which I was prepared to declare my lugging emancipation. Casting aside my mega-purses, into which I would often find entire meals, drinks, snacks, kids’ books, medicine, diapers, wipes, ointments, masking tape (I am, after all, my father’s child, and the many uses of masking tape create a great diversion for children, and sometimes they’re even kind enough to tape over their mouths just for fun which gives you a few minutes of solitude), hairbrushes, decks of cards, first aid products, and, well, practically the kitchen sink. So I shunned any purse larger than a breadbox, intent instead on going for sandwich-size.

That lasted about a month till the seams gave way from overload.

I eventually conceded defeat and began to move back up the purse size ranks. But when the aches and pains of middle age became too many to ignore, I knew it was time to downsize to spare my back. Besides, my kids are teens now. I never have to carry anything they need. My girls can carry their own purses!

So in my handbag arpeggio, I’ve rolled back down the scale to a reasonably-sized tote. One that will fit all the essentials: phone, wallet, iPod, camera, pens, paper, nail file, gum, mints, cuticle stick (useful when stuck at red lights), lip balm, water bottle, reading glasses (curse the need for their space consumption), and of course my book. Okay, so my purse isn’t exactly small. But it’s now just my size. Only now, everyone in the family has decided that my purse is the repository of all things they don’t feel like carrying. Such as their books, wallets, iPods, shopping bags, cameras, sometimes even their smaller purses. Last winter, thanks to my son, I walked around with a camcorder in my purse for two weeks, wondering why the bag weighed so much. Even my husband gets in on the act, once surreptitiously tossing his mammoth book into my purse when I’m not looking. As if I wouldn’t notice a 2-lb. Harry Potter tome in my bag. Although I did miss out on the presence of that video camera for a while.

But I haven’t quite recovered for my need to overpack. Last week, while away on business, I tucked a little too much into my favorite black purse, one I save for nicer occasions. By the end of the night, the purse was dangling from one side: the strap pulled right out of the purse from the burden of its contents. I suppose I ought to contemplate a satchel next time. Or maybe a cardboard box.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Ack, purses. My wallet is even a bungled mess. Men have it all figured out--they get us to carry their junk. I always wanted to be able to carry one of those cute, swingy, little fashionable bags, but there's just no way.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

i don't understand those women who carry those cute little lipstick-only bags. And they're always really petite and fashionably dressed and MILF-ish

Laura said...

I don't know, Jenny. It seems painfully obvious to me that your mother knew exactly what would happen if she left her purse sitting out when she went into the bathroom--everyone would put stuff in it! And your dad with his box: truly the uninventable detail. No one could put that in a book!

I feel so protective of you and your purse now. You should start hiding it!

(And I'm w/ you on those women with teeny-tiny purses. I think they must not menstruate....)

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

laura I think you're right! She was onto something...
Do you think that was the reason the Queen was in the habit of toting that purse of hers? just go have her tampax with her at all times? LOL

Daisy said...

Your father needed a crate on wheels. My principal uses one! It has a lid in case of rain, or in our nasty Wisconsin weather, snow, sleet, and more. Today, maybe hail. But I digress. Definitely, a crate on wheels for the dad-types!