My Big Purse

(Originally published in Main Line Life 1/23/08)

Scanning the current fashion magazines, I notice with dismay that the trend of gigantic handbags is still with us. Up until now I have resisted getting a purse that could hold the entire contents of my house.

But something happened to me one day as I strode through Saks on my monthly pilgrimage to the cosmetics department for the most up-to-the-minute age-defying potions. I spotted a Big Purse out of the corner of my eye, and it seemed to say, “Buy me now.” I sidled over to it, warily checking out its many looped chains and muscular straps and deep pockets. Suddenly my little purse, dangling so flimsily from my shoulder, seemed to mark me as someone trivial. The Big Purse would confer on me substance and gravitas. I picked it up with two hands (I could hardly budge it with one), and hauled it over to the sales counter where one of the flinty-eyed Barbaras who works there rang it up with a knowing look. It was very expensive, my Big Purse.

The first thing I had to do was get in shape. There was no way I could put all the essentials one needs in such a gargantuan purse, and carry it too! So I went to the gym every day to work on my shoulders, arms, and back. The back is very important and people tend to overlook it. I didn’t want to be ones of those stoopers, who crumple under the weight of their purse. I would stand straight and confident and wield my Big Purse as a symbol of my new attitude.

Once I had the upper body musculature of an Olympic swimmer I knew I was ready at last to carry my Big Purse. And it was a revelation all the cool stuff I could pack into it. My little purse lay in the corner of my closet neglected and sniffling like the wimp it was, as I stuffed in my yoga mat, several litres of bottled water (it’s important to hydrate when carrying a Big Purse), a one pound box of Teuscher chocolates, my laptop, and eighteen pairs of reading glasses.

I still had thirty-eight pockets left, so I walked around the house tossing things in that I could potentially need, keeping in mind the guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security. If I packed properly I could survive any calamity with the contents of my Big Purse. I added my travel pillow, a large bottle of Bombay Sapphire, another pound of Teuscher, a cashmere blanket, the third season of 24, and my slippers and flannel pajamas. If I was going to be trapped in a railway tunnel, I wasn’t going to live like an animal. I added a flashlight, batteries, a portable radio, my daily regimen of vitamins and herbal supplements, and about four hundred samples of “product” I have accumulated over my years of stalking the cosmetics counters.

At last my Big Purse had some heft to it, some mojo, and I was satisfied. The last thing I did after my husband hoisted the thing onto my shoulder, pulling a groin muscle in the process, was to add a small jar of Grey Poupon. I’ve always loved that commercial where the Bentley driver rolls down his window and asks, “Have you got any Grey Poupon?” Up until now I would have been woefully unprepared.

As I set off on my errands, people gave me wide berth. Strangers who used to think nothing of jostling me rudely moved quickly aside. I had to use the wheelchair access doors to get into any of the stores, and it wasn’t easy squeezing into the elevators with sixteen other women and their Big Purses. I set off metal detectors wherever I went because of all the decorative chains on my Big Purse, and a museum security guard couldn’t understand why I needed to be carrying a set of twelve Henckels steak knives. Well, duh!

What it really came down to though, was that even though I was in Paratrooper shape, it still wasn’t good enough for the rigors of the Big Purse. My shoulders slumped sorely, quivering from the strain they’d been under. Then I spotted the latest issue of Vogue at the newsstand. The cover headline screamed Minimalism, the New Black! And the model on the cover was carrying, you guessed it, a skimpy little clutch the size of Britney Spears’s brain. I mean, tiny. There was only one thing to do. I slogged back home, maiming several pedestrians on the way, set down my Big Purse on the coffee table (which promptly buckled under its weight), and retrieved my little purse from its sad corner. It sneered at the Big Purse as we sashayed buoyantly out the door, and I understood just how it felt.

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