Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Own The Purse

We were on vacation. My husband, our two teenage kids and myself. It was an enjoyable getaway, perusing the craggy streets of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. But I was becoming irascible. It was hot, my feet were hurting, and throughout the entire trip, my husband and my son kept asking me to carry things. It started out innocent. A simple request to hold some sunglasses or concert tickets while they roamed freely like hippies at Woodstock. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more bogged down and more and more grumpy.

Now, over the years, I have become accustomed to being the family pack mule. Once a woman carries a kid in her stomach for nine months ... well, there's always something to carry. But my husband and son kept asking me to carry more and more stuff. To the point where my purse was overflowing and it was the gosh-damned hilliest town on planet earth and we still had a lot of walking to do. So I was beginning to resent the fact that two healthy, capable men expected me to carry all their shit. What am I, a Sherpa? Allergy medicine, cameras, batteries, souvenirs, sunglasses, maps, pamphlets, water bottles, doggie bags, tickets ... you name it, I carried it, uphill, both ways, in ninety-degree heat, over one shoulder like a billy goat leaning to the right for most of the trip. I carried their stuff. Why? you ask.

Because I own the purse.

To understand this story, you must first understand the purse. A purse is not just an accessory like a belt, or earrings, or shoes, casually discarded at the end of the day. A purse is an extension of oneself. A true part of our being. Like marsupials, we women were meant to carry things. And through some sort of chimera-like, capitalistic evolution, we developed an alternative pouch, a womb called the purseA much more fashionable and autonomous reservoir, which may be discarded and upgraded each and every season. It's very practical. And yet, very primitive.

So hopefully you will understand why, on this last leg of our summer Griswald vacation, before leaving the hotel, with my head sweating, feet aching, and a purse that weighed about ninety-eight pounds, I went berserk when my husband casually asked, "Hey can you put these Rolaids in your bag?"

"So that's how it goes! A long time ago I carried your two children each nine months in my belly and now for the rest of our lives you expect me to carry your stuff!"

He gave that where-the-hell-did-that-come-from look. But I was onto something. I suddenly had this epiphany and it all went back to that Da Vinci Code thing ... the womb being compared to the holy grail ... my marsupial theory ... and the real reason why women love their purses so much ... we were meant to carry things. It's in our genes. So I crammed the Rolaids in and drug my ass up another hill.

Unsurprisingly, throughout the remainder of our trip, I began to notice women and their purses. Like cars, they do tell a lot about ones character. First, I saw a fashionable woman with a plausible looking knock-off standing in line at a fancy gift shop. She was the superficial type, shopping alone, probably nothing but credit cards and cash register receipts in that purse.

Next I noticed a simple black purse whose owner was super-model thin and wearing lustrous red lipstick. I imagined her to be carrying her ID, that same red lipstick, and a twenty dollar bill, hidden, just in case of emergencies.

Then there were the gals like me. Who had been declared the family pack mules, schlepping fourteen pounds of crap, uphill, in the heat of June, looking like a frump, cursing the very deign of feminine existence. Needless to say, I was ready to ditch the purse.

Until unexpectedly, in a store window, the clouds parted, a light shone and the weight of my burdensome baggage lifted. There it was, the perfect purse. A brown leather carry-all, not too big, not too flashy, perfectly perched high upon a dusty retail throne, just waiting for it's one true owner. It was then I discovered the true power of allurement. For somewhere upon the top of great mountains a purse store must exist. How else could one explain trekking such distance? Entranced I gravitated toward the purse and practically wept. It was then my daughter, in a purse-like trance of her own, approached and said, "That sure looks like you mom." And I thought to myself, well, if you're going to be the one carrying things, you may as well do it in style.

Dedicated to my son and husband for whom I shall always carry things. And my daughter who loves purses almost as much as she loves soup.


DeeJay said...

Awww...sweet. lol Loved this post.

Carrie said...

What a great post! I shudder to think how much larger (and heavier) my purse will become once I have kids because I'm already feeling like a Sherpa with my current gaggle of purses. They keep getting bigger and I keep filling them up. *sigh*

Hungry Passport said...

While I don’t understand the whole woman-and-her-shoes thing, and I have about as much fashion sense as any doll you’d find at the bottom of the Goodwill bin, purses are another matter, going all the way back. My mother likes to remind me of when I was a tiny child and she made the mistake of carrying me into a department store through the purse department entrance. She says I threw a fit—not for A purse, but for EVERY purse in the store. And I still feel that way about them. There is that extension of personality aspect. All my favorite purses are red, and the bigger they are, the more I like them. But I think primarily it’s the desire to feel like I have everything I need for an adventure. I love to travel, so I think my purse fetish is about the notion of being able to grab the bag and take off on a moment’s notice. As for being the family pack animal, we have no kids, and, I’m happy to say, my husband has no problem carrying his Man Purse. He has more crap to keep up with than I do, so that’s a really good thing. Anyway, here’s to you and that sturdy shoulder of yours! Cheers! Carol

Proud Italian Cook said...

Great post and oh so true! Good for you, what kind of purse did you get?

Rowena said...

Love it! Love it! Love it!

I am definitely the pack mule, and I actually despise buying purses/bags because the one that I really want is never the one that I actually get.

Michelle said...

Hey guys!
Thanks for all the great comments.
We women sure are passionate about our purses.

Proud Italian Cook - I've never been one to buy designer bags or trendy colors. But I do like a good quality purse. I tend to use the same one for a very long time - I'm too lazy to change them out with each outfit. The purse I found is just a plain, brown over-the-shoulder leather bag that manages to hold all my stuff.

Rowena said...

It never occurred to me that there might be a waiting list to join CSA. Over here, either people would just rather shop at the open markets or super markets for the experience alone. Doesn't matter if it's organic or not. At the supermarkets there is but a very small section for organic stuff, and it's not like the produce is that much more expensive (ehm, with the exception of the tuscan melon). I guess I should just be content to be able to grow my own stuff.

Nerissa said...

LMAO! I loved this post! The purse really is something. My mother is of the packmule variety. I really ought to be as well but I have an ongoing fight with my beloved about trim elegant purses. I have to admit, being in france, I rarely see the packmule variety so maybe it's a cultural thing. Yet the man still wonders where is the gum, do you have gravol, where is the handkerchief or kleenex? Men!
I'm also a teacher as well. I don't carry a purse around all day. That'd just get in the way BUT I have what many teachers consider the mini-purse of the teacher kind: The pockets. They carry all things vital to a teacher as well as act as storage bins for kids.

It's definitely a woman thing but I know a log of guys who carry around backpacks pretending not to realize that what they really need is a purse. Backpacks are so much more manly you know... LOL size counts ;-)

Michelle said...

rowena - We don't have many CSA's but we do have more and more farmer's markets popping up and it's nice to go to their small outdoor markets on Saturday mornings and get fresh (usually organic) produce. Actually, I'm a little surprised that you don't have more Organic produce in Italy. Isn't Italy where this whole Slow Food/Organic movement began? I think it's great that you grow your own stuff. Most Americans have gotten away from this and there is a small trend of going back to gardening again. I think I once heard Mario Batalli say that all Italians had a tomato plant or some type of vegetable growing in their yard. Is this true? Pardon the questions - I just love hearing about other cultures and how they eat.

nerissa - Glad you enjoyed the post. And I think you are right, it is a cultural thing, here in Oklahoma I NEVER see a man carrying any type of bag, unless it is a business brief case. I guess Frenchmen are comfortable enough with their manhood to do that. And the women carry big purses. No tiny, elegant purses here, unless we're going to a ball. Not sure why, except that we dress casually and it tends to fit our lifestyle - we are always commuting, so we carry everything in our purses except the kitchen sink. I applaud you for being a teacher. Not an easy job. We have several teachers in our family and I even know a retired Preschool teacher in Camaret, France. My hat goes off to you tired, over worked, underpaid professeurs.