In de­fense of messy purses

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

It hap­pened grad­u­ally.

As a young woman, I started my adult life car­ry­ing an adorable purse that fit only a few pos­ses­sions: small wal­let, car keys, cell phone, Chap­stick. I re­mem­ber stand­ing in front of a mir­ror at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land on the first day of my first se­mes­ter, ad­mir­ing the col­or­ful cor­duroy bag I had tucked be­neath my shoul­der. It looked so­phis­ti­cated. Col­le­giate, even.

That was one of many bags passed down from my mom or gifted on birth­days and Christ­mas, and I once changed them out fre­quently ac­cord­ing to my mood and wardrobe. At 18, I would never have com­mit­ted to a sin­gle bag as my “purse of the year” — too bor­ing. These were fash­ion state­ments, for good­ness’ sake! Would you wear the same pair of shoes ev­ery day? The same pair of pants?

A decade later, and . . . yes, ac­tu­ally. And dou­ble yes, pro­vided they’re clean.

At 31, my tastes are more prac­ti­cal. Plain, even. I choose com­fort over beauty, con­ve­nience over style. My cute cor­duroy clutch has mor­phed into a bloated square of a bag, one that belches gum wrap­pers and tat­tered re­ceipts ev­ery time I dig for my keys.

I’m not into hand­bags as sta­tus sym­bols, so I can’t be shamed into get­ting rid of my ugly-but-use­ful purse of the mo­ment. This baby has faux-leather han­dles cracked from use, and I’m pretty sure the crumbs at the bot­tom are form­ing a com­mit­tee to ad­dress my ne­glect. It gets used and abused day in and day out: car­ry­ing wa­ter bot­tles, re­porters’ note­books, maps, sun­glasses.

I don’t switch out purses any­more. Not un­til the cur­rent one falls apart. De­spite own­ing ap­prox­i­mately 142 (or, I don’t know, 20), I tend to com­mit to one hand­bag for a year or so be­fore it be­comes an em­bar­rass­ing shell of its for­mer depart­ment store self. I’m then forced to move my old coupons, high­lighters and ear­buds to a new purse — and I have get to know its quirks all over again.

My bag might look like the sloppy, dis­as­trous pos­ses­sion of a scat­ter­brained woman, but I ac­tu­ally know where ev­ery­thing is. There is an or­der to my mad­ness. Mostly. Like my child­hood bed­room be­fore it, my tat­tered gray purse is de­cep­tively or­ga­nized. My coupons might be ex­pired, but they are all grouped in the same pink holder. Out­stand­ing bills are pa­per-clipped to­gether (and ig­nored un­til that’s no longer fea­si­ble). I keep pens, Sharpies, etc. in one pocket, and my snacks, gum and mints in an­other.

I can — and do — reach blindly into my purse in the pas­sen­ger seat for a Tic Tac or toll money, find­ing ev­ery­thing by feel alone. It’s so heavy that my old car is fooled into think­ing it’s ac­tu­ally a per­son who won’t put on a seat­belt. I’ve got­ten an­noyed enough with the blink­ing warn­ing light that I have, in fact, just buck­led it in. My $11 in crum­pled bills has never felt safer.

Like many par­ents who have come be­fore me, I’ve ac­cepted that my days of “trav­el­ing light” are long over. On top of my own junk, I now carry all kinds of stuff for my son — Puffs snacks; board books; toys; baby wipes — that be­come nec­es­sary any­time we leave the house. As he gets older, I’m sure that list will grow to in­clude many va­ri­eties of snacks and candy. As bribery, of course.

As you might ex­pect of some­one used to pic­tur­ing worstcase sce­nar­ios, I know I carry many ob­jects that are of lit­tle daily use to me. But I’m OK with that. Do you know how many times I’m asked for a pair of tweez­ers, den­tal floss, Tylenol or a Tide To Go pen and I to­tally come through? Well . . . only oc­ca­sion­ally. Rarely. But some­times! Some­times I am! And yes, I will cer­tainly share my weird stuff, but you’ll have to en­dure my smug­ness. I am noth­ing if not pre­pared.

I’m try­ing to get bet­ter about haul­ing all this junk around, given I’m al­ready over­loaded with a 28-pound tod­dler and his di­a­per bag — and I’ve pre­vi­ously pinched a nerve near my shoul­der from all that weight. But ev­ery time I go to take some­thing out, I think about when and where I might need it. I’ll be ridicu­lously mad I don’t have it. What harm does it cause to be well-stocked?

Some­times I do miss that cor­duroy purse and the free­dom it sym­bol­ized.

But now I’ve got snacks. And I’ll take M&M’s over youth any­time.

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