The Perfect Purse


I hate purse shopping.

Hate it.

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.


22 responses »

  1. I USED to love purse shopping. I was the one that always had a different purse for each event that took place – shopping, going to church, going out on a date, going to the doctor, etc. But, alas, my purse days are long gone now! Since becoming a mommy, with a budget and no credit cards, I have become…well…you πŸ™‚ I now purchase a purse only when absolutely necessary, and it goes with me everywhere! My most recent purchase came from – get this – Ross πŸ™‚ Yep, It was a Nine West brand that was about 65% off of the original ticket, so I couldn’t resist. However, unlike Perfect Purse, my newest friend is a bag – large, soft, with 2 straps (that, come to think of it never stay on my shoulder), 1 pocket inside for my keys and a smaller pocket for my cell phone. It is even divided into 2 sides which means I can thrown ‘crap’ into 1 side and my checkbook and wallet into the other. I love it πŸ™‚

    Oh yeah! Did I mention this was about the last thing I bought for myself that didn’t in some way involve 1 or all of my kids or hubby? Yep! All mine πŸ™‚

    Gotta love purse shopping, sometimes πŸ™‚

  2. I giggled, actually giggled while reading this.
    I feel very close to you right now.
    LOL:)I used to have this WHOLE drama with my wallet. I had a fantastic wallet my best friend got me in Branson at a leather outlet for my 16th birthday. I still have it. But have yet to ever find THE wallet worthy enough to take it’s place. Although, many have tried. Now I’m down to a silver lemae coin purse….hmmm I could be getting old.

    I have been carrying the same black purse since college. I sometimes switch out for something larger for trips, but in essence, this is THE purse. It has withstood YEARS of my abuse & dried candy stuck to the inside bottom. It’s black leather (no longer holding that wonderful aroma though) and has two silver loops holding each strap on. Pocket on front, BIG pocket for keys, sunglasses, keys & alllllll my wonderful chapsticks.;)
    Then the rest is just a snap closure I can easily undo without taking my eyes off the road to hand search the inside for my wallet, checkbook & anything else I may need while driving. It doesn’t get too heavy, it goes with everything & came from Sears.
    Hmmm they may put me in a classification of “OLD” if I start carrying Big Red in it like my grandmother did hers.;)

    PS I feel my purse I made you years ago is SO inferior now!:)LOL

  3. First of all, Jennifer, if you think that your purse is all yours, I’d put money on it that if you take a look inside and assess the reasons for choosing a bag instead of a purse, it is not, in all actuality, yours. Diapers? Wipes? Candy that you would not dream of eating yourself? Crayons, etc.??? Yeah. It’s not all yours. Sorry to ruin the illusion. If your bag contains none of the assorted items or something similar. Congratulations! You’ve achieved something I’ve only dreamed of. Something on par with 5 minutes alone in the bathroom!

    Now, every man who regularly checks your blog, Katrina, has glazed over and is sitting senseless in front of his monitor. Somebody say “football” and snap them out of it!

    Nice allusion to Kim. Her purse a Walmart bag and her wallet a ziplock baggie. You need to take both of us shopping. My purse actually snapped the metal clip that holds the long strap on yesterday. Not bend or the screw broke. The actual metal part of the hook part broke clean off. I must quit bringing so much stuff home from work. Now, you know that I hate shopping even more than you do, so I ask this self-sacrificing question of you…May I borrow your new backup?

  4. I have never felt more understanding of someone in my life. I completely get the purse thing. A purse is like an extension of yourself, a true best friend…the keeper of your soul really…

    Okay, that might have gone to far. I’m just saying I know what you mean!

  5. I read down to the very end, greedily eating up ever word–in total understanding.

    I have a love/hate relationship with purse shopping…I love to have a new purse, I hate the search…the perfect purse has eluded me. And hence, I have a closet full of “almost perfect” purses.

  6. AMEN!! Well said. EXACTLY how it is. About 15 years ago I bought a Coach bag at the outlets – I even had to mull the purchase over a lunch, but I splurged and bought it and it has been by my side ever since. I only have one, and this one is it. But it has seen better days, and I’m starting to eye others wondering if I could find another that would last me another 15 years.

    I was laughing when I read that you found the exact replica…that’s the ideal, isn’t it? but so elusive. Glad you have a backup, looks like several of us want to borrow it!!


  7. Oh, purses. My husband tries to stick his nose in this area of my life. Which is odd because he could care less about anything else I buy. He hates that I like jean purses. But they match everything I own, they are durable, and they are machine washable – a very important factor for me. When he interrupts my purse shopping by holding up a pink suede number with white faux fur trim and says “How about this one, babe?” I respond with, “Well, it isn’t really your color, but if you really want it. . .” And I continue through the jean ones.

  8. To Kathy – girl I’ve achieved greatness πŸ™‚ My purse is all mine! There isn’t one thing in there that belongs to anyone but me – unless you count the gum that I share with my kids and husband. After growing up with a mom that carried the kitchen sink and all that goes with it, I swore to myself that I’d never let that happen. And so far, I’ve been able to stick by it.

    Now as for the bathroom saga, go read my blog so that you can see that though I accel in one area of my life, I flounder in others πŸ™‚

  9. Should I be envious? I can pretend to understand – just a little bit . . . maybe. I haven’t carried a purse in . . . ah, let me see here . . . nearly fifteen years. I guess they were never much of an extension of myself since I was always leaving them where ever I went. I just carry a wallet big enough to clutch in my hand and most of the time I only carry the credit card I’m going to use to pay for purchases . . . and leave my wallet in the car. I really don’t have to pretend that I have the perfect wallet : )

  10. Katrina-
    I think Perfect Purse is very cute. It doesn’t look like a mommy bag at all. And bravo for resisting the sparkly bag trend, which apparently has incompatibility issues with toddlers.

    I hunted high and low for a purse. Upon purchasing it, I came home to discover it is the EXACT same color as the one I already have. Then I bought a super-cute one in Scotland, forgetting I had purchased one in the U.S. before my trip. I handed that one over to Christy, who was estatic at finding a purse that matched her needs.

    I understand men get very picky about their wallets as well. You’re in good company.

  11. I’m not a blogger, so maybe there is some secret password or magic runes that I don’t know about, but I can’t find Jennifer’s blog. A little help, please?

  12. I agree with kathy – I haven’t been able to get to Jennifer’s blog for a couple days. Not that that has anything to do with my purse. πŸ™‚

  13. Ditto for me–Jennifer said their server went down for a while the other day; it probably is having problems again. Keep checking back!

  14. Hey guys! Just saw all of the discussion about my blog…not sure why you can’t get to it, but it should be working fine! The address is, then you click on the tab labeled “Jennifer’s Blog”. If you still can’t get to it, comment again, but it should be fine – hasn’t been down since last weekend when we had storms that took out our cable modem!

  15. Katrina, Thank you for the nomination for sainthood, but I hardly think that it is necessary. I take delight in participating with you in discourse concerning all issues. You have a knack for revealing the profundity of what some may consider the mundane. However, I rejoice in the acquisition of details–for what is friendship but:1) the knowledge of each others’ stories, i.e. the perfect purse and the significance of the Eagles’ Greatest Hits album in dormitory grooming habits; and 2)
    the acceptance of another’s differences in tastes, i.e. preferring Aragorn to Legolas. No need to praise me for doing what I consider is my pleasure. Keep talking and keep writing.
    Love, Marci

    P.S. My purse, by the way, is a tribute to my marriage. John had it made for me out of his hide (moose, that is). It is cluttered most of the time, and I have to dig down to the bottom to get what I want. The once light dun of the leather now has what collectors like to refer to as “patina”. It is not stylish; however, I occasionally get questions or comments about it from those I assume have a taste for the unique. The main thing is that it is going to last forever, because moose hide is tough! (Analyze That!)You may be surprised to find out that it contains a green lizard skin Gucci wallet that my 17 year-old niece covets. I acquired that wallet, containing Canadian money, at a yard sale for 25 cents. Now we are even.
    Love ya, Marci

  16. Okay, just to let you know, Katrina, you have driven me to the brink of desperation. Because of my dislike for shopping, I have resorted to rummaging through my husband’s collection of odds and ends (mostly odds), acquiring two, small, black zip-ties, and reassembling my purse the best that I may. Do you feel sorry enough for me to use your back-up yet?

  17. Marci–I love your purse story! And yes, the tough moosehide adds a whole new dimension to the relationship analogy…lol! Thanks for taking in all my stories and making them seem worthwhile through the lens of friendship. I’m so glad we’re friends! (The Eagles rule!)

    Kathy–I do feel sorry for you, but not yet sorry enough to surrender the fruit of my month long search for purse-y perfection. However, if you give me some money, I’ll be glad to go into Ross and pick one out for you. It’s bound to be easier than picking out my own, and then you can appreciate it more (whether or not you like it) because of the story behind it. πŸ™‚

  18. You’re a cold hard woman. Just think in three or four years when your purse finally bites the dust, you’ll 1) either have forgotten about this particular fruit and go in search of another, 2) be revolted at the thought of replacing the dinosaur (which has been around for at least 8 years [4 years original+ 4 years close replacement]and does not go with ANY of your current trendy clothes) with yet ANOTHER wide strapped, faux lizard skin number, or 3) (what I guess will be the most likely ending) you will go on a chucking rampage and everything not bolted down will make its way to the women’s shelter thrift store and neither of us will ever get the benefit of your lizardy loot!

  19. lol oh Katrina you have a good blog here. I loved the posting. I have taken to acquiring purses again lately. I don’t use them… just acquire them. I use one purse until I grow sick of it. I designed the one I am currently using – I think the only reason I can do that is because I don’t have kids or a husband eyeing how I spend my mula. Prior to this it was a coach someone else bought me that I lugged around for 6 years. I am thinking of using it again becuase it holds much less than this mammoth thing I hold now.

  20. I was so in love with a Guess?leather backpack ( not tiny but a good size) that i got one Christmas.. i nursed it and sewed the straps on when they tore, took it to a leather shop for treatment and kept on using it even after one strap finaly came off. I kept using it even tho my cat at the time used for his personal urinal (cleaned it out best if could!)
    i still have it! but i dont carry it. its just so perfect i am keeping it for reference in case anything like that comes back to me. i am certain its out of style – but that bag got me through alot. and i looked good doing it!

  21. Lol, I found this blog because I was actually doing a google search for the “perfect purse.” I keep wasting money on cheap purses (and DON’T want to pay an arm and a leg for one either), and they just sit in my closet collecting dust. (A waste of money to my husband.) I would rather not switch purses for each outfit (even if we do live in New York), don’t want to switch to spring or summer purses, don’t want it to be too small to hold all my stuff: cell phone, wallet (finally found the perfect wallet – Tignanello 3.5″x5.5″ accordian – outside pocket for metro card, pockets for receipts, coupons,cash & change inside, half of inside pockets inside a zipper for privacy, and only 4 credit card slots, and license window inside the wallet, yay!),sometimes Palm Pilot, DS Lite, and/or small camera, toilet seat covers (surprisingly scarce in NY) and tissues, and possible knitting project. All this without looking like a gargantuan thief magnet, and a strap long enough to go over my shoulder (hand strap too easy to purse snatch), and thick enough not to be cut easily by a purse thief if on the shoulder. It also has to match dressy or casual outfits w/o looking funny. sigh. . . I was thinking about the dark blue chica bag by redd oxx – but haven’t decided yet. I used to just go with no purse – as a commenter above – but I am too absentminded not to have my wallet attached to me. If it’s in my hand, I will lose it eventually. As a teenager, just carrying stuff around in my pockets worked fine, but that doesn’t really work anymore now that I’m older (and probably not the best idea with pickpockets either. . . )

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