Purse cramability factor trumps style

Where do I get ideas for what to write about? They can be as close as the shoes on my feet, the crochet hook in my hand, or the holes in my underwear.

This time inspiration tugs from the purse that’s slung heavily over my shoulder.

I worked late a couple of Friday nights ago. And since I was kidless that evening, I stopped and shopped for a new purse at the Kohl’s department store in Jackson. Major sale on purses, an event always better shopped solo.

Those who have visited multiple Kohl’s stores can appreciate how differences in store layouts can mess with the mind. My mental map of the Battle Creek Kohl’s was less than helpful. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t need to use the bathroom.

I finally located the purse patch. A perfectly profound proliferation of pocketbooks! I find I’m still attracted to the bright-colored, snappy little designer clutches I favored as a young adult. But like a middle-aged man finding himself drawn to his daughter’s college roommate, I had to regain my toehold in aging reality. My handbag needs have changed. I’m now in the parenting stage of life where storage, not style, becomes a momma’s mantra.

I bypassed a dachshund-shaped purple patent leather purse and a trendy, sequined one en route to more substantial handbags that looked like something a country doctor would use to carry his instruments. I favor dark-colored leather for its versatility. With limited disposable income, I literally cannot afford to be lured in by the charms of a seasonal mesh tote.

A medium-sized black bag caught my eye: An attractive Vera Wang that had started out at $159.99 was now almost affordable at 80-percent off. My trained eye estimated how many spare socks, granola bars, and water bottles could be shoved in alongside my wallet, checkbook, calculator, and sunglasses. Not enough cramability.

Next was a bag large enough to hold hockey equipment. I pictured myself fighting with airport personnel over whether my purse qualified as carry-on. The opinions of airline folks would pale in comparison to my husband’s. I’m sure he’d have something to say about luggage masquerading as a pocketbook.

Have you ever noticed how the same man who makes fun of the depth, girth, and weight of your handbag is the first to ask you to carry their stuff for them?

“Please hang onto my cell phone,” Kerry pseudo-asked before a recent rifle match, unzipping my purse and also cramming several rounds of .22 ammo, a pack of Kleenex, and cheese crackers inside. That never would have happened had I been packing the single-section, six-inch square Liz Claiborne alligator skin clutch I swore by at 22.

Once you reach a certain age and/or achieve mom status, your purse becomes community property: An extension of the family junk drawer, complete with bottle opener, scissors, rubber bands, tape, tools, and assorted small toys and food items.

Women extract gender revenge by purchasing embarrassingly large, ostentatious purses and forcing men to wait outside department store dressing rooms, holding said bags on their laps. Whenever I see this, I feel obliged to comment. “Nice purse,” I say with mock sincerity. “Matches your shoes.”

Anyway, I blew a perfectly good hour pursuing purses at Kohl’s that Friday night. Left with nothing except a good case of window-shopping whiplash.

In truth, I stand as good a chance of finding a purse in five minutes as I do in five hours. Sometimes I’m better off to do a “speed dating” version of shopping, limiting scoping out merchandise to a handful of minutes. If nothing appeals, that’s that.

Other times, the self-imposed urgency slaps me into instant decision-making and I make a selection in next to no time. I once went to a car dealership and bought a car on my lunch break. But that’s another column.

I glance at my current purse, a mid-size, twin-compartment, sturdy blackster I picked up for five bucks at a used store. If I go home and rub some black shoe polish into the leather, I can postpone purse pursuit agony for another few months. Maybe I’ll enjoy shopping more by then. Nah.


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