In defense of messy purses
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.