I don’t do purses. Call them handbags, clutches, pocketbooks – I don’t do them.
Sure, I had my share of ”pocka-books” as a kid – the white, faux-leather one I carried on my First Holy Communion, the pink Liz Claiborne that I badgered my mom to buy me in middle school. Even then, I had no practical use for them. The first was a mere photo prop, the other a lame adolescent status symbol (Liz Claiborne purses were huge at the time, you guys). But both purses were pretty much always empty. Save for a few crumpled gum wrappers. And lint.
Around 13 or 14, I started to rebel against anything overtly girly. And that very much included a purse. So from then on, I stressed to anyone who would listen that what I carried was a bag – a book bag, messenger bag, duffel bag, gym bag. But never, ever a handbag.
I didn’t get it. My friends collected pricey handbags the way my mom collected ceramic knicknacks of farm girls, arranging them in her glass cabinet just so. I didn’t have any interest in collecting and admiring and “arranging just so.” And besides, why all the fuss when my jeans provided me with four perfectly good pockets for storage – and a bonus pair in my coat during the cold months?
I upgraded to a leather satchel when I was old enough to have business cards, a cell phone and a weekly paycheck that required I look somewhat presentable. Still, on weekends I left the satchel at home and stuffed the necessary credit cards, ID, cash and keys into pockets and bra straps. The hands-free approach worked perfectly for me. But it seemed to make everyone else nervous.
“You gonna loose you wallet like that!” my dad would say when I stacked my cell phone, wallet and keys on the corner of a restaurant table.
“Lemme take you to Sears tomorrow and buy you a pocketbook,” my mom would say, gravely. “Please.”
“I don’t do pocketbooks,” I’d say. (I didn’t even touch the Sears part.)
“Well then, a purse?”
“I don’t do purses.”
Some mothers hound their children about their dating lives or the status (tick-tock) of those grandkids. Mine was more concerned that her daughter was walking around in this world purse-less, and with wads of cash stuffed in her bra.
“Time to grow up already and getchoo self a pocketbook!”
Of course, I never did. All that’s changed over the years is that my mom now has a cohort in my mother-in-law, who, whenever she spies me slipping a loose debit card into my pants pocket, averts her eyes as if the gory part of the movie just came on.
But suddenly? I’ve found myself ready to succumb to the pressures of a purse. (I always was a late bloomer.) Because let’s be honest: the iPhone jutting out from my bra strap is doing my cleavage no favors. Also, my nerves are shot from all the times I’ve left my wallet on grocery store shelves and in bathroom stalls.
Which is why my husband and I found ourselves in a Century 21 this weekend. If you don’t understand the weight of that statment, read this. Or, see the Cliffs Notes version that is my husband’s Facebook post on the matter:
We made our way through the hive of tourists clutching half-off designer wares and found the handbag department. My husband took his place against the wall, knowing better than to cavort in the aisles with purse-shopping ladies from Europe. Within a few minutes, I found a serviceable, unfussy purse – what the ladies might even call a clutch. It was the last one, and for only $20! As we elbowed our way to the register, I noticed the clutch had a broken chain-link strap. I had a plan! If I was finally going to make my mother happy by buying a Big Girl Purse, I would go a step further and make her really proud.
“The strap on this purse is broken,” I reported to the cashier. “Can I get a little off the price?”
Walki-talkie radios were spoken into, employees were dispatched.
“You’re welcome,” I said to my husband, sure we were about to save at least five dollars.
What happened instead was a 25-minute wait, an employee who disappeared with the purse to hunt for its replacement somewhere in the bowels of the department store, and a husband who became so claustrophobic and cranky he left me to fend for myself. At the 30-minute mark, and with no sign of the purse returning, I stomped out of the store.
“I actually really liked that purse!” I cried to my husband, expecting sympathy.
“Then you should have just bought it!” (I was catching on to the fact that, today, there would be no sympathy.)
“I was trying to save money!”
“What, five dollars?”
“Well if I would have known it was going to take that long, I would have just bought it.”
“Did you really think it wasn’t going to take that long at a place like Century 21?”
“I thought I was doing a good thing – I was trying to save money!”
“You weren’t even going to use that purse strap if it hadn’t been broken, right?”
And so here I am two days later, still purse-less. And walking around this world with credit cards and an iPhone in my bra.