By Jenny Gardiner
My girlfriend calls my purse the Let's Make a Deal purse. Remember that game show? Monty Hall would go into the audience filled with people dressed in ridiculous costumes like life-size lobsters and gigantic fuzzy dice and lugging enormous bags full of nonsense, and ask for the most unlikely item. Invariably at least one woman would have it along: the tube sock, the box of Creamettes macaroni and cheese, a jock strap. That woman would have been me.
Purses and me have a long and tortured history. I take my crap-toting very seriously, and over time, as I went from single to married to momdom, my purse-content hauling has ebbed and flowed with the years and demands of life. There were times when my shoulders were slumped from the weight of my purse like a deeply discouraged human being in line at the soup kitchen. And other times when life's burdens seemed to lift from my very shoulders with the elimination of the vast stash of junk I ditched from my pocketbook. Although really, let's be honest. The word "pocketbook" suggests petite, and rarely has petite been in the vocabulary of my purse world.
I'll tell you a great one, one of my purse-hauling high points (well, really, a low point), from back in my single-but-seriously-dating phase. Wayyyy long ago. Standing in line with my teensy-weensy single girl purse at this totally hip-happenin' Georgetown bar. Had to rifle through the mini-sack to find my i.d. And while I rifled, what falls out onto the ground, in front of the bouncer, the boyfriend, the line of desperate bar-goers (oh, and Val Plame. Remember her? Spy girl? I knew her from college and she happened to be in line behind me that night at the bar)? The Sponge. Yes, one of those less-than shining moments in life, when it seems as if everything freezes in place but for you. Everyone is looking at you, at your ever-so-sad contraceptive of the 80's, there, front and center on the cigarette-butt-strewn-discarded-chewing-gum-encrusted pavement, symbolic of nights past at that very bar, no doubt, and evidence of intent for all to see. Thank goodness for low illumination inside bars, as I was able to slink away into the cavernous darkness once past the chuckling bouncer without too much permanent destruction of my pristine reputation, able to mercifully hide my beet-red countenance like a slug hiding beneath a rock.
Alas, soon enough, my Sponge days were replaced with diapers, wipes, ointment, goldfish, animal crackers, juice boxes, baby food and masking tape (no, not to tape over their mouths; masking tape is the best-kept secret of moms the world-over: give your kids some masking tape and all is right with the world): The ingredients of the mom-purse.
Eventually, liberation came. Three kids, diaper free. No more needing to lug the necessities. I saw my purse as a statement of my life and chose to schlep around as little as humanly possible. It lasted for a few humble months. My mini-purses groaned at the snaps and popped open at inopportune moments, spilling the modest contents (mercifully Sponge-free, however).
Soon I realized I needed to size up my purse, especially with the onset of the electronics era: cell phones, iPods, Palm Pilots and the like. I'd taken the extreme approach and it was indeed most impractical. Hence I started increasing my purse size, bit by bit, as I added electronic paraphernalia.
And then one day I realized my purse had taken over. Nearly as large as it was when it served as diaper bag-cum-survival satchel. Only now it's all full of my what-ifs. What if I need a book to read? What if I am stuck shopping at the grocery store and can't stand the Muzak and absolutely have to listen to that new song by Cake on my iPod? What if I'm exposed to the sun for too long and need that SPF 45 lip balm? What if I'm suddenly thrust into a book store at which my book is in stock and I simply have to sign book stock? I mean, I have to have the hot-pink sharpie marker. The "signed by author" sticker. The Sleeping with Ward Cleaver book marks: all accoutrements of one's booksigning venture. Yep, it's all in there. And then some.
The biggest problem is that my current purse is a disastrous compartment-free monstrosity that is a famished creature ingesting whatever goes in, never to be seen again. When I need to find my phone, my keys, all of those necessities of life? Nada. I dig and dig and curse and dig and eventually, sure, I find the stuff. But often it's stuck onto a piece of overheated chewing gum that has dislodged from its secure wrapper. It's tangled in the cord from that unravelled tampon. It's hidden beneath the tissue I cried into at my son's graduation. Nothing is ever where I put it and is always where I least expect it.
Truth is, there's not a purse in existence with enough compartments to contain my disorganization. But a few pockets would provide needed salvation. And once I get past this writing career, I'm fixing to venture into functional pocketbook design (note, I didn't say purse. I'm aiming for reasonable sizing). I know I'm not the only gal out there frustrated with the lack of managerial-orientated purses.
This, of course, is on my to-do list. Right after I finish my WIP. And revisions, and the seven freelance deadlines. And that screenplay I was gonna work on. And then once the house gets cleaned, the dishes washed, the laundry done. You get the idea.
Until then, here's what I deal with. It's not a pretty sight. It's frustrating and non-functional. But I have to admit, the leather is really soft and that's a big plus. What can I say? I'm a tactile kinda gal.
Okay, so here's a run-down of my purse contents.
key chain (pared down from about 15 unidentifiable keys to about 3)
a DVD of Sicily (need to return to my Italian teacher)
a copy of Sleeping with Ward Cleaver (you never know when you'll need it!)
The book I'm reading
The book I'll read after I finish the book I'm reading
Save the Cat, a fabulous book on screenwriting
tampons (I think there are about 12 in various states of undress)
chewing gum (probably 3 packs, in various states of undress as well)
lip stick (3)
lip gloss (2)
tissues (probably 7 or 8, used and unused, but all fuzzy with wear and tear)
the tattered ziploc bag full of discount cards (you know, buy 10 cappuccinos and get one free, that sort of nonsense)
pens, pens and more pens
my book-signing stash (sharpie, etc)
tic tacs (at least 3 half-empty containers, all missing in the bowels of the bag)
Mojo sweet and salty trail mix bar, crushed beyond recognition
reading glasses (and accompanying bulky case)
sunglasses (and accompanying bulky case)
Altoids raspberry sours (way better than cough drops)
credit card receipts, mostly for gas
emery boards (3)
Mojo peanut butter and pretzel bar, looks as if run over by 18-wheeler on very hot pavement
sewing project (needed to get supplies next time I'm near fabric store)
notes, notes of notes, and yet more notes
one very fat overstuffed wallet (stuffed with pictures, receipts and nonsense, no money)
I do hope you've enjoyed this sad little moment of disorganization at its finest. If only you could send your purse pictures for me to laugh at!
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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·´Jenny-:¦:-
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