Saturday, August 13, 2005

My purse

For some reason, purses seem to puzzle men, even though they are straightforward and commonplace. While I can by no means claim to possess an average handbag, I believe I can shed some light on this everyday mystery.

First, please realize that women’s clothing, being inexplicably constructed for fashion above function, rarely contains pockets. The purse, then, besides being a fashion accessory in its own right, serves as a sort of external pocket to contain the keys, wallet, and other personal effects. This much, a man of average intellect might well comprehend. Why else is it my constant companion? Let’s take a guided tour inside to demystify the rest.

My plain, black handbag, an unassuming and inexpensive off-brand, was chosen because it was about the right size for the articles I choose to carry regularly, because black goes with everything, and because it has a divided section that keeps the chaos of my personal belongings divided into neat pockets. There is a pocket for my checkbook (which I must carry mainly because there is a pocket for it, since I usually pay with cash or plastic), a pocket for my cash, a pocket for my receipts, and so on. It is like a miniature filing cabinet and has proved invaluable in allowing me to find items quickly.

In one of these pockets, you will find a four-way pen. It writes in black, orange highlighter, and pencil. It used to write in red, too, but I have replaced that position with a stylus for my PDA. The multi-use tool is a recurring theme throughout my handbag. I prefer to carry a well-chosen few tools with many uses.

In the deep center pocket, you will first find clipped to an outside ring a Leatherman multi-tool, anodized purple, my favorite color. I use this as much for the tool portions—the screwdrivers, pliers, and file—as for the convenience items, like the knife and the nail file. This is by no means a common choice. You would be much more likely to find eyeglasses, cosmetics, or trash in a woman’s purse, but I wear neither glasses nor makeup.

Also in the center pocket, I carry a moist towelette saved from a restaurant, in case I can’t wash up, a case full of business cards, a three-foot tape measure (handy at the garage sales and hardware stores I frequent), some ever-present Kleenex, and occasionally a granola bar and a tube of hand lotion, if I remember them.

On the opposite side, you’ll find a PDA that is downright old by PDA standards. It serves my purposes, though, and I choose to spare neither the money to secure a replacement nor the time to select one. In it are my address book, to-do list, calendar, and email, plus a repository of those meandering thoughts I have bothered to record and some games and e-books in case I find myself bored somewhere. In over three years of carrying the device, I have not finished more than a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories, because I seldom get bored while out and about.

There is one empty pocket, which is also an unusual feature of my purse alone. It is sized to contain a cellular phone, complete with a cutout for the antenna. I don’t really enjoy talking on the phone or paying monthly fees, so this pocket travels empty.

What I have built, through trial and error and a bit of good guesswork, is a compact but functional toolbox that travels with me and suits my needs. I have been known to smuggle entire novels into potentially boring functions. One friend of mine, who travels frequently, has a purse large enough to accommodate her laptop. Large or small, a woman’s purse reflects the woman who carries it: neat or messy, full of makeup, perhaps, or gadgets, or toys to distract her children. In any case, it carries the tools of the trade.


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