Do You Carry a Handbag or Are You Purposely Purseless and Proud?
Why Are You Carrying That Purse?
Shopping in a department store, people often mistake me for a salesperson.
Individuals ask me where the restroom is, or they will inquire about where to find the designer potpourri simmer-pots. Most seem rather annoyed when I tell them that I sincerely have no idea.
I'm Not a Salesperson
Usually I pay no attention to other shoppers, and don't intentionally make eye contact with other customers, so people naturally assume I am a salesperson.
But perhaps the kinder explanation for their misperception is that, unlike most customers, I don't carry a purse. They think I must be an employee.
Most women cannot imagine shopping without a handbag, but I have found it to be very liberating. I never worry about misplacing my bag, or locking it in the car, or leaving it in a bus or a store dressing room. I laugh at purse-snatchers, or I would if I ever saw one.
I like hands-free shopping, unencumbered by any kind of unnecessary luggage. Why does anyone want to carry around all that extra weight?
This philosophy has served me well, and not just in retail stores.
For instance, at unlimited buffets I don't have to carry a heavy bag back and forth with me between the table and the food stations, or worry about leaving my bag unattended on a chair.
It's not that I have anything against purses. I actually have a strange fascination with handbags.
I often browse a store's purse department to marvel at the variations in styles and innovations in organization that have separate designated places for all of the things I don't need to carry.
I'm also amazed that some of them, even without contents, weigh as much as a complete new outfit with matching shoes.
The Ultimate Giant Handbag!
In Victorian times a proper lady carried a purse to hold proper Victorian essentials like smelling salts ( since occasional fainting was considered ladylike) and a few embroidered hankies (since Kleenex hadn't been invented) a long bejeweled hat-pin (since pepper-spray also hadn't been invented) and a pair of kid gloves (for some forgotten Victorian reason).
These were small pouches that dangled effortlessly from the wrist.
Today's handbags have evolved and, in some cases, are very heavy and large enough to contain all of the essentials to furnish a small apartment.
The Men Are to Blame
Women's handbags were dreamed up by men who didn't want their wives to have both hands free while shopping.
Of course, being conditioned to the idea of carrying a bag, we have learned to shop with the equivalent of having one hand tied behind our backs.
Think of the freedom that being purseless might give you.
Without having to tote the extra weight of a superfluous handbag, you can actually buy more items, like the extra outfit with matching shoes.
(For women) Do you carry a purse?
I challenge you women to free yourself from handbags.
Look in your purse now, better yet, dump the contents on the floor and throw out everything you didn't even know was in there.
Why are you carrying that emergency pacifier when your youngest child is now 23?
Why do you lug around enough cosmetics to do the makeup for the entire cast of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta?
You will probably discover that you have been toting several pounds of unnecessary stuff.
Do you have a sewing kit, a manicure kit, a dry cleaning kit, a first-aid kit, a leatherman multi-tool , a local phone directory and a food processor in your purse?
When was the last time you interrupted a serious shopping spree to do mending, manicuring, spot removing, or to splint a simple fracture?
All of those things can wait until the shopping trip is over. If you think you will need phone numbers, write them on your arm, or consider a tasteful tattoo.
The Fashion Conspiracy
The fashion industry has shamelessly promoted the idea that women need purses-- especially expensive ones.
They play on our fears of being caught without items we never use.
They insist that our costumes are incomplete without a distinctive handbag -- perhaps one covered with Saworski crystals or made in the shape of a horse's head. Why?
Do you remember a few years back when designers tried to promote handbags for men? It didn't fly, did it?
That was partly because men know that they really don't need to carry a lot of extra stuff and partly because men know that when they do have extra stuff, like binoculars, camera lenses and tool catalogs, they can give them to wives who will carry them in their purses.
Why Do They Do It?
What do women of European Royal families carry in their purses? They don't need credit cards, do they?
Does the Queen need a photo ID? Does she even shop? How about breath mints? Would anyone tell her if she needed them?
If any royal personages were to ask me, I would say lose the purses.
With all of those tiaras and sashes and things they are already highly over-accessorized. If they need a tissue, or dental floss, or anti-aging cream, someone in the royal entourage would have it available for them,wouldn't they?
The bare essentials for a commoner's excursion away from home include car keys, drivers license, and credit card, all of which can be carried in a small coin purse that fits in a pocket or attaches to a belt.
When I was a substitute teacher I found there was no good way to securely stash a purse in an unfamiliar classroom. Also, if you are trying to find a good hiding place, it's likely that a lot of people will see where it is. The ultimate fear is forgetting where the hiding place is.
Another sub had an idea-- she locked her purse in the trunk of her car, and only took her keys and a notebook with her to the classroom. I did this too, until the day I heard that her car had been stolen from a campus parking lot.
At that point I made a decision that Thoreau would have applauded. No purse.
In the future we will be able to lock and unlock our cars with pre-programmed laser thumbprint readers. An iris scan will provide our credit/debit information for making purchases. Our medical profiles and even instant access to electronic communication will be sent through tiny microchip implants.
. . . And I'll bet women will still carry purses.