When we’re kids, nothing’s cooler than grown-up stuff. And not just the Big grown-up stuff like cars and vacations, but the Little grown-up stuff too, like key rings, shoes with heels that click, and being able to buy your own gum.
Back in olden times (aka the 1980s) when I was just a wee Ruth of 5 living in the suburbs of Chicago, the Little grown-up thing the other girls and I found coolest of all were purses. Our moms had them, our teachers had them, our cool aunts had them; giant, flat Carpet Bags of Mystery. (Hello, 1980s.) And ohhh how we wanted our own! Giant, and flat, and filled to overflowing with Grown-up Lady Stuff, which – as far as we could tell – meant stuffing them with lipstick. And pens. And medicine.
But unless you were blessed with a well-stocked dress-up closet, good purses were hard to come by, so to live our dreams: we scavenged. We threaded shoelaces through holes cut into pencil cases, taped hair ribbons to the corners of crayon boxes… Whatever it took, we made those purses happen, filling them with our big sisters’ cast-off Lip Smackers, colored pencils scrounged from between couch cushions, and Smarties. Rolls upon rolls of Smarties.
Is there a kid anywhere who grew up with Smarties and *didn’t* pretend they were medicine at some point? Surely that was a rite of passage as much as flipping a Big Wheel upside-down and hand-pedaling it to “make ice cream.”
Without a doubt the best part – the BEST part – of having a purse was sharing what was in it. So there we were, a group of girls crowding together after Sunday school, trading lip balms with grit ground into their caps, “writing checks” with colored pencil on the backs of tithe envelopes, and “taking our medicine” by the handful.
“Your doctor piscriped you 7? Well my doctor piscriped me 19. I’m very sick, so I have to take allll of them. Yours too.”
These days I do all I can to avoid carrying a bag of any sort. It’s just one more thing to keep track of, one more thing to potentially lose or have stolen, one more thing to weigh me down should a ’67 Impala ever pull up, window rolled down, voice from within calling out over the thump of AC/DC: “Get in loser. We’re hunting demons.” You’ve gotta be unencumbered, man. You just never know.
Still, I remain fascinated in a way by purses. By their ubiquity. By the similarities in their contents. By the differences in their contents. If I see you have a purse, just assume I’m already wondering what’s in it. In fact, feel free to introduce yourself with your name, and an opened bag. Maybe we can start a trend.
I’m participating in a research study at the local medical college and asked the med student in charge of the project if I could see what was in her purse. And because she’s crazy smart and crazy sweet, she said yes. Natch.
I don’t know what I was expecting. A MENSA keychain? A value-pack of NoDoz? A laminated copy of the Hippocratic Oath? Outside of the flash drive she was carrying to transport images of my brain, it was all so… so normal. Hand cream, a watch, earbuds, a wallet, sunglasses, some lip balm – with nary a stethoscope in sight.
I saw my mom – a teacher – later that day, so I asked if I could snag a pic of the inside of her purse as well.
Apparently she’s all about 4H: health, hygiene, and hsaving hmoney. Which is – I mean that’s a good combo for a person helping shape the minds of future pillars of their communities, right? Good on ya, mom.
And because it wouldn’t be fair to share theirs without sharing my own:
Parking pass, notebook, Kindle, and Moomintroll. I have to say I kind of wish I’d waited ’til I was carting around slightly more interesting contents. So it goes.
Your turn. Have a peek inside your purse/ backpack/ European carryall. What are you carting around?