Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's In The Bag

I have a confession to make. Even worse than my revelation that I could not make Jell-O if my life depended on it. And in Utah, that's pretty serious stuff. (The confession is serious, I mean. Although we're pretty serious about the Jell-O thing too.)

I just spent the past hour shopping for a purse. And now that thud heard round the world is everyone who knows me passing out from the shock. Because here it is, the big confession: I. Detest. Purses. I may have to turn in my functioning female card. (I do buy a lot of shoes, though, so that should make up for some of my failure. Ok, I don't actually WEAR the shoes, but I buy them so I'm counting it.)

In my defense, I wasn't shopping for myself. Mom spotted one my cousin had the other day. It was big, baggy, grey with a rose-like ruffle on the front. Cute, if you're into that kind of thing. And I guess Mom is into that kind of thing because she decided right then and there that if she did not have one for herself she would surely die. And having Mom die right now would really be a problem for me personally, so tonight I headed over to the mall. I furtively looked around. Nothing. Finally I asked for help. I SHOULD have asked for help for Mom because nobody needs this many purses. There should be medication for people who need this many purses.

But I love Mom and we can't have her dying just because some purse caught her fancy. So the clerk and I looked. We searched. The nice girl finally offered to call each and every store and wouldn't you know each and every one was sold out? And I really don't get why this particular one was gone, because there were plenty of other equally huge, flowered bags about, but whatever. And despite the plethora of purses available, no way am I making that call on my own. A purse is purse-onal. (sorry, I'm very tired here. Forgive me my bad puns.) No, I decided she must go herself and find that one magical bag that claims her as its own. Then she'll take it home and stuff it with candy, gum, Kleenex which will soon smell like gum, and heaven only knows what else, because I'm for sure not looking in there. Pretty sure she won't have money in there though. That is just not the way the purse works. At least not any of mine.

So tonight I pondered where and how I developed this distaste for handbags. I suspect it had to do with a particular small beaded reticule I had when I was four. I loved it. I carried that thing everywhere. Slept with it, even. And one Sunday, I realized it was the perfect size to carry not just all MY pennies but all of Tyler's too. Oh, it was a tight fit, but I made it work. True, a couple of little purple beads popped off, but I figured it was collateral damage. Well worth the knowledge that I was carrying a veritable FORTUNE in pennies around with me. And I very happily played with my little purse all through the meeting, until karma showed up and pointed out that purloined pennies have no place in a house of worship. And sometimes karma has really bad timing.

It was at a point during the service where I was meant to be reverently reflecting on holy matters, which apparently did not include "What will happen if I close the clasp then squeeze the bag really hard?" Because that's what I was thinking and that's what I did. Do you have any idea how much noise a few dollars worth of clattering copper makes? On a wooden pew? In a chapel with fantastic acoustics? Well, it's A LOT. I froze. I couldn't even look at my mom. I didn't need to, I knew we'd be nose-to-nose momentarily and so I scooted closer to Dad and looked up at him entreatingly. Being taken out by Mom was most unpleasant. She could time exactly how long I could tolerate having her hand over my mouth muting my wailing before I had to breathe or lose consciousness. Then she'd raise her hand long enough for a quick gulp of air and then the hand came back down. And this lasted for ages and ages because, as we've discovered through similar instances, I don't learn.

Being taken out with Dad? Well, it wasn't Disneyland but it was pretty close. We got to play with the water fountain, and I got to clomp across the stage in my patent leather shoes, pretending I was a tap dancer. Then we'd compose ourselves, arrange our faces in penitent reverence and return to the chapel.

But no, this time I was out of luck. And pennies. Because not only had I created a disturbance I had stolen. Funny the things one remembers. I was certain creating the disturbance had been the more evil of my crimes. It took a minute before I realized that the stealing wasn't my best idea either. And as penance, I had to give Tyler ALL the pennies and worst of all, I lost my purse. It went into The Permanent Box.
The Permanent Box was the final destination of toys that weren't put away, or used as a weapon of war against a sibling, which meant most of mine lived there. Away these things went never to be seen again. I once had a nightmare that I fell into The Permanent Box and had to live there forever and ever. But it was ok, because all my stuff was in there already.

Since the loss of my little purse, I've never been able to love another one. I'm a one purse girl, I'm afraid. And it wasn't until I was about 8 and my cousin pointed out that carrying money in my sock wasn't particularly cool (or clean, for that matter) that I started grudgingly considering purses.

I started out small. A wallet. A wallet was ok. I could stuff pictures of the current crush in there, phone numbers, movie ticket stubs and sometimes, not very often but sometimes I even put money in there.

Eventually I graduated to something a little larger. After all, I had to accommodate car keys. And a driver's license. And lip gloss. And a comb. And, on rare occasions, money.

By the time I hit college I had finally succumbed to bag large enough to contain all my books, notebooks, pencils, pictures of the current crush, and my favorite Wint O' Green Lifesavors. (with which I have struggled with a life long addiction.) Never money though. Because this was college. Money was something spoken of in hushed tones but rarely seen.

Later on, when I did have money, it seemed ridiculous to pay money for something to carry money in, because then I would no longer have money because I used it to buy the purse, so no need to have the purse right? (Sorry, this is how logic works in my head. Be glad YOU don't have to live in here.)

Mom finally decided that, since I was getting married and all I should probably grow up and have a real, grown-up sized purse and she bought me one. We argued for a time about the size. See, I figured out a looooong time ago that there's a good reason men don't carry purses. Know why? Because if they don't have a purse, they can turn their woman into a personal pack mule. Seriously, how many of us have heard, "Honey, would you mind putting this in your purse?" Yeah, I fell for it too, for awhile, but it was kind of a game for me. Because any man who has not been raised by wolves knows, the purse is sacred. I've never in my life witnessed a male looking into a purse. Unless it was a movie and the guy was about to die anyway. So any time That Man wanted to put any of his stuff in my purse, it became MINE. I win!

The purse is sacrosanct. You just DON'T open another woman's purse. I'm not sure why exactly, but I have a theory. It's not like I have anything in there like a pipe bomb, or a sandwich with the image of Elvis burned into it. There's nothing to hide. Nothing I wouldn't willingly display if someone were really that interested. No, it's the PRINCIPLE. I don't know about you, but at my house no area of the building is child/man proof. Nothing is just mine that no one else can touch. I have no secrets. I have stashes of chocolate and stuff, sure, but they're not exactly secret. Apparently. (Looking at you here, Son.)

The purse is the last and only item left to a wife/mom that is totally off-limits to the rest of the family. I seriously grew up believing Dad would get grounded if he opened Mom's purse. If ever he needed something she had in there, he would dutifully fetch the purse, avert his eyes respectfully, and then back away slowly after the transaction was finished.

I myself used to retrieve the purse and bring it, like frankincense and myrrh to my mother and wait at a respectful distance while she pulled from it Kleenex that smelled like Spearmint gum. (I confess, I reached adulthood before I realized Kleenex doesn't actually come from the factory smelling that way.)

So, given that the purse is the last sacred untouchable item in creation for me, why would I so willingly give it up? Is it really that I hate being a pack mule that much? Is it really because no matter how organized I start out, I invariably let it fall and be disemboweled on the car floor? Is it because it's something I have to carry, which means at some point I'll set it down, which means I'll then spend hours trying to remember where I left it? That may be part of it.

But I think it may mostly have been the dance of joy I did the first time I was able to leave the house without a diaperbag containing everything an infant might need to cross the country on his own. It was a joyous day for me when I realized I no longer had Happy Meal Toys, crayons, Baby Tylenol and Hotwheel's cars in my bag and I could put things in there that I actually wanted. The possibilities were endless. A phone! A camera! Sunglasses! Lipgloss and a brush! Even, very daringly, a mirror! A driver's license, Lifesavors and the hand sanitizer I carry everywhere. (Still no money though.)

But my needs are fairly minimal, and so since that time I've returned to small purses. Which for reasons I fail to grasp, bothers Mom. She says they look like little kid purses. And there you go. I've come full circle. I have at last avenged my little beaded bag which perished in The Permanent Box.


Harmony said...

What a woman carries around in her purse can say a lot about her.


Love your writing Stacey! Hope you can get published one of these days.

BrownEyes said...

I love this blog! I was dying of laughter when I was reading it. I think you have a wonderful sense of humor that carries across to your writing and you express it so well. I sometimes hate purses too but then again they are so cute! I can never give them up entirely :) There is absolutely nothing wrong with carrying a small purse. Your shoulders hurt less, your slouch less and the lack of money is felt less :P