Dorothy Rosby
contributing columnist
During her child-rearing years, a woman’s handbag expands like a maternal belly. And it isn’t just the coloring book, the animal crackers, and the assortment of toys she keeps on hand for emergencies. Her husband, the same man who teases her about the size and weight of her bag, is forever asking her, “Honey, could you put this in your purse?” Then he’ll hand her his candy wrapper. Or his sunglasses. Or his tire iron.
We, the so-called weaker sex, carry the belongings of our entire family on one shoulder. Of course, we wouldn’t do this if there weren’t a really good reason. It’s the old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. I’m surprised more Boy Scouts don’t carry purses.
When my son was young, my handbag was always well-stocked with snacks, wipes, toys, crayons, paper, and some amazing stain-removing towelettes. I never had much money, but I did have little green army men. You never know when you might need an army man—maybe to help you lift your purse.
I had everything my family could need or want, though quite often I couldn’t find my car keys amongst it all. And misplaced car keys and the changing of the seasons were my two major motivations for cleaning out my handbag.
Each spring and fall, I transferred the contents of my purse into another more suited to the season. In my pre-child days, when fashion meant more to me than function, this was a matter of style. Later it just seemed prudent that at least twice a year, I should remove the rubbish that had accumulated.
My son has grown up and left home. There are no more little green army men in my purse. But the last time I cleaned it out, I found, among other things, a letter I thought I’d mailed months ago; my missing car keys; expired coupons worth $12.50; an assortment of candy and gum wrappers, several containing chewed gum; and a petrified hotdog wrapped in a napkin. I’m just glad I don’t use pickle relish.
Eventually my handbag falls apart under the strain and I go shopping for a new one. I can’t help but gaze longingly at the slim, chic versions. When my son was younger, I was always painfully aware that those were for single, childless women who were never forced to quickly dispose of a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich; who never, on a moment’s notice, found themselves entertaining a carload of first graders; and who never had to blow their own nose, let alone wipe anyone else’s.
Practicality always prevailed and I traded up to an even larger model. Even so, I haven’t zipped, clasped, or in any other way, been able to close a purse in years. This is a problem, since, by now, mine is large enough to check when I fly.
But one day recently while I was browsing through the handbags at a local department store, I realized how very tired I am of carrying the weight of my world. And I made a rash decision: My husband can carry his own purse from now on. He’ll be uncomfortable with the idea, of course. But I’ll appeal to his masculinity. What could be manlier than carrying your own belongings?
I’ll encourage him to call his purse by another name if it makes him feel better. Maybe satchel or pocketbook sounds more masculine. What about clutch? VROOM! VROOM!
Before I could change my mind, I picked out a new handbag, a sleek little number with slim, zippered pockets. There is no room for trash or tools in this purse. It’s stylish, even elegant. I took it home and loaded it up. It is lovely. But I can’t get the darn thing to zip.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact [email protected])