I hate purse shopping.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Other women happily fill their closets with expensive Prada pocketbooks and Gucci totes, accessorizing with their outfits and switching out handbags as often as they change their underwear. I just can’t do that. I form a bond with my purse. I choose one bag, usually black or brown, cram my assorted rubble into it, and carry that thing with me everywhere, from the grocery store to dinner at the White House (still waiting for my invitation, actually), until the day every seam simultaneously disintegrates and it bursts open like an overripe melon dropped from a skyscraper. Then I have to go shopping for a new one.
This always makes me grumpy. The pressure is horrible. I mean, I am choosing a constant companion here–a personal assistant, a pharmacist, a nanny, a banker, a secretary. This bag will be entrusted with important documents, large amounts of money, and a legion of irreplaceable Hotwheels cars. It must be big, but not too big, because everyone knows that junk expands to fill the space it’s in. It must be stylish, but not too stylish, because, while Paris Hilton can cast her $3000 Louis Vuitton in the trash the day after she buys it (when it’s no longer “hawt”), my bag has to make it for the long haul, and the faux fur trim and zebra print pockets that look so fun today will mark me out for ridicule when I’m still carrying it to playgroup next summer.
As I was explaining to my friend, Marci*, shopping for a new purse is a lot like dating. With each progressive handbag you buy, you learn more about yourself and just what it is you’re looking for. Before long, the scrunchie-wearing teenage girl who bought the ill-advised tiny leather backpack purse (which didn’t have room for more than a pack of gum and enough kleenex to fill out a training bra) has become the thirty-something-but-still-sexy mom who walks into Macy’s with a list of demands and eliminates most contenders on sight because experience has taught her that, cute though they be, they know nothing about a real woman’s needs.
This past month I noticed that the leather loops holding the strap onto my purse were starting to split and fray, and I nearly cried. You see, I had reached Purse Nirvana with the purchase of this bag. It had everything I wanted. A pocket for my cell phone, room for my wallet and PDA, zippers in all the right places. At last I had found a purse I really loved, and already, just nine months into our blossoming love affair, it was threatening to abandon me. Drying my tears, I decided to make a preemptive strike. To take the pressure off, for once I would replace my ailing purse before it became unusable.
At first, I was optimistic. I started at Target, where Perfect Purse and I had first met. But alas, there was nothing there to tempt me among the gold sequins and crocheted catch-alls. Store after store, aisle after aisle, I drove the length and breadth of town in search of beauty and practicality, coming up time after time empty-handed and broken-hearted. I began to despair of ever again finding my match, increasingly certain that I was doomed to wander the earth purseless, my keys and wallet haphazardly slung in the bottom of a Walmart bag.
Paul, bless his heart, didn’t really understand the dilemma. “What is it that you want?” he finally asked in exasperation.
“Well, look at this purse,” I started, holding up the Perfect Purse for his perusal. “See how it has a structured shape instead of just being a big, loose bag? I love that. Also, I like that it has one wide strap instead of two straps, or skinny straps, or short straps. It fits just right on my shoulder. And see how it has this beautiful faux alligator texture? I get compliments on it all the time. It doesn’t make me feel like Frumpy Mommy Lady. And it goes with everything!”
“So…what you’re saying is….you want the purse you’ve already got?” he ventured.
“YESSSS!” I wailed. He nodded and then, not surprisingly, wandered off in search of some activity that didn’t involve accessorizing, women, or weeping.
I have to tell you, I almost gave up. As my Perfect Purse moved closer to collapse, I was resigned to just stepping into Ross and grabbing the first subpar bag that I thought was big enough. Then my sister called.
Amber works at the Target in the valley and, being sympathetic to my woes, had located two purses that she thought might meet my high standards. We drove out to her store and I did my now-familiar once-over of the bag section before she led me to one of the purses she was contemplating. I looked it over, trying not to feel too hopeful. Hmmm….pocket for my cell phone–nice. Good structure. I like the color. Zippers for securing expensive items inside. Ahh…it even has easy access outer pockets for keys and sunglasses. I like that…. I poked and prodded and hmmmed, explored and touched, and, for the final test, asked a wandering salesperson if she thought it looked like a Mommy Purse. She said no. I was falling in love.
Purse in hand, mind nearly made up, I followed Amber to the sale shelves where she said she had seen the other one she liked. She couldn’t find it, but as I was helping her look, something jumped out at me from the bottom shelf.
There, with a 50% off tag attached to it, was an exact duplicate of the Perfect Purse. I couldn’t believe it! How had it come to be here, on the sale rack, on the very day I was shopping in this unfamiliar store? All I can think is that someone, somewhere, purchased it back around the time I got mine, never used it, and then returned it. (Who in their right mind could have returned such a treasure?) I didn’t care how it had happened, it was mine and it was fifty percent off! I lovingly caressed its familiar faux alligator lines.
It was then that I realized I was still holding the new purse on my arm. Logic told me to put it back on the shelf and rejoice in my good fortune. But still, we’d made a connection, and I couldn’t just walk away from that. What could I do?
I bought them both, of course.
New Purse is now sitting in its bag in the back of my closet, patiently waiting for the inevitable day when Perfect Purse II finally goes to that sales rack in the sky. As for me, I’m content. The day will come, of course, when I’ll have to meet a new purse, but, thanks to Amber’s keen eye and Target’s open-ended return policy, that day is a long, long way off. And who knows who I will be by then?
Maybe someone who likes gold sequins.
Now that’s hawt.
*Friends are precious gifts. Friends who will actually listen to a ten minute rant on something as ridiculous as “the theory of purse shopping” without making you feel like you’ve slipped a bolt are downright miracles.