The Purse Chronicles



My friend and I recently saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of us that said, “My car always runs as good as my stockings”. Her husband did not understand why we were laughing hysterically in the front seat. It occurred to me that there are many mysteries of women’s daily coping which escape the uninitiated. One of these mysteries is the purse, fraught with an elaborate symbolic structure rivaled only by the major religions of the world.

Betty Harrigan wrote several years ago that not using a purse could soar one’s career path at the speed of light. Of course, she had to recant. There is no end to purses nor to their significance. Recently the “fanny pack” has attempted to make the purse’s function more efficiently designed. Obviously this is a gross judgment in error and evidence of almost unforgivable naiveté on the part of merchandisers of women’s accessories. These bags, when worn in front, side or rear on women, simply look ridiculous. There is no civilized substitute for the right handbag.

First consideration: the size. The minute versions which hold only one hankie, a breath mint, and a pin, are exquisite statements not only of economy but of a magic act. They elegantly state that here is a woman who can maneuver expertly amid the concrete jungle of city night life and still get home in the morning completely unmussed. On the other end of the spectrum is the small suitcase, which, camouflaged as a purse, can equip us for an entire trip to Mecca and back still suitable for being photographed at the pyramids.

Next, shoulder or hand carried? Or, better yet, a purse that can do both. Although when I buy this type, I am constantly confronted with the necessity of making a decision on whether to use the long strap or not. On second thought, scrap this one. Just decide before purchase. A purse should assist your living, not complicate it. Even though the crime stoppers say use the shoulder version, they’ve probably never had their shoulder dislocated as a result of a determined mugger.

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What of sacred materials? Unknown mixtures from unknown lands? It’s all available, but some have longer lives than others. Of course, manufacturers don’t maliciously produce handbags which fray when removing the paper stuffing and immediately after throwing away the price tag and receipt. It’s just that, well, they can be so beautiful when they’re uselessly constructed.

Structure: Compartments are required in the covert operations of daily survival. One small especially sturdy one is necessary for keys, which, as we all know, seek the lowest, darkest level of purse life by nature. Clasps and handle fastenings should have been pretested by special
combat forces before marketing. The interior must be able to survive intense digging and retrieval efforts and the exterior must be able to survive even a car wash and still shine.

Hopefully this guide will help the retail industry and other non-initiates into the divine heritage of the purse. A purse leads a double life. Sure, you think it’s a fashion accessory. It’s supposed to look like a fashion accessory. But women know what it really is. Armor.

One thought on “The Purse Chronicles

  1. Anonymous

    Love the idea as the purse as armor; I laughed heartily. Shirley, you are a creative, talented writer with precious granddaughters (like the peace signs too!) Dianne

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