Monday, December 1, 2008

The Perfect Purse, The Holy Handbag

© 2008 Leighann Lord
I have been on a life long quest to find The Perfect Purse. My requirements are few but specific. The Bag has to be fashionable, functional and affordable. I don’t mind paying for quality, but buying a beautiful bag to hold an empty wallet seems supremely counter productive.

In keeping with New York tradition, The Bag should be black. Yes, it’s a bit on the urban gothic side but black really does go with just about everything. I have red bags, brown bags, white bags and, god help me, a pink bag. It was Summer. It matched the outfit I had on at the moment. It was $10. You can see I had no choice. But bag for bag, I get more use out my black bags, than out of all the other colors combined.

The Bag has to be big. I’m a wee bit of a workaholic, perfectionist. When packing my bag for the day my core philosophy is "I’d rather have it and not need it, then need and not have it." Therefore, The Bag also has to be sturdy. The perplexingly popular big-but-flimsy handbag does me no good. Before the day is out one of the straps will break under the strain, and I’ll end up arm-carrying the thing like a misshapen toddler. Not cute. Basically, I need the handbag version of a Timex watch: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

I was recently tempted to buy a sturdy black Samsonite brief case I saw at Wal-mart. It caught my eye with all it’s numerous compartments, sturdy metal zippers and $20 price tag. Could this bag be The One; The Holy Grail of Handbags of which I seek? But what are the odds that The Bag of my dreams would be sitting in a Wal-mart in Poughkeepsie, New York? Possible, but not probable.

The bag, while functional and affordable, was not fashionable. It was an unstylish lump of a bag without an once of pretty. The type of bag destined to end up in my Handbag Graveyard. The corners of my attic, the top shelf of my closet, the space behind my bed and dresser are stuffed with old handbags; one-time promising candidates for The Perfect Bag that for sundry reasons did not make the cut.

I’ve got two Coach bags in the Handbag Graveyard. The first is an old Bucket Bag from the 80s. All my friends at the time had Bucket Bags so, of course, I had to have one too. I took that bag everywhere – school, work, road trips, parties – and it shows.

I recently brought my "vintage" bag to a Coach Store for rehab and repair. The Coach Store Guy looked at the bag, looked at me, and said, "What did you do?" Accusation and judgement dripped from every syllable. He acted as though I were an unfit parent who had abused the bag, and he’d be well within his rights to remove it from my custody and turn me over to the authorities. I smiled sheepishly and said, "I’m sorry. It was the 80s."
So now the bag sits in The Graveyard, unused. I dare not take it out in public. I’m afraid I might be accosted by The People for the Ethical Treatment of Designer Bags.

The other Coach is a messenger bag. I really should have known better. I despise that style of bag for it’s impracticality and difficulty of access. But I didn’t learn how much I hated that style until long after I bought the bag. I feel guilty. It’s a perfectly good bag; mint condition and in much better shape than the aforementioned Bucket Bag. Every now and then, because it’s oh so fashionable, I drag it out of The Graveyard and try to use it; but by the end of the day, I can’t wait to consign it back to the closet.

I consider giving it away. I’m sure this is the perfect bag for someone; but I can’t bring myself to part with it. I think, "What if I change my mind? What if I someday start loving messenger bags and now mine is gone?" And that’s how The Handbag Graveyard grows.

I didn’t buy the Wal-mart bag, but that only made things worse. It renewed my obsessive pursuit of The Perfect Purse. This quest once led me to the mysterious world of diaper bags. I saw one at a friend’s baby shower and was at once enthralled with it’s sturdy but stylish construction and it’s roomy compartments. I was soon trolling through Babies-R-Us with a picture, make and model number. The salesgirl who was helping me said,

"Oh, that’s a popular one. When is your baby due?"
"Um ... not for a few years."

"Oh, I’m sorry. Is it for a friend?"

"Um ... yeah ... sure ... a friend."
She seemed a little uneasy when I began transferring the contents of my handbag into the yet un-purchased diaper bag. I wanted to see if all my stuff fit and if the bag looked good full. Some bags only look good empty. But it didn’t work out. The side pockets, meant to hold baby bottles, didn’t do as well with full size umbrellas. Pocket umbrellas are a waste of time. They are for people who want to get completely soaked while keeping their eye brows dry.

That’s how I ended up in Strawberry’s drooling over a potentially perfect Nine West handbag. Affordable? Yes: marked down to half price. Fashionable? Did I mention it was made by Nine West? Functional? I’m field testing it right now.
"You bought another handbag?" my Husband said.

"Um ... yeah."

"Is that the Wal-mart bag you were talking about?"

"No, Nine West."

"What’s the difference?"
he said.
I gave him my best "Do you ‘really’ want to know?" face.

"Okay," he said, "I’ll go make space in the attic just in case things don’t work out."

And that’s why I love him.


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