Purse-u-ing the perfect purse

Photo by Linnaea Mallette, publicdomainpictures.net.

Photo by Linnaea Mallette, publicdomainpictures.net.

I’ve been searching for the perfect purse for about 30 years and I’ve finally come to a conclusion: there is no such thing. If you’ve ever tried to dance, as I did recently, with your everyday purse hanging from your shoulder because you can’t fit your digital camera and reporter’s notebook into your party purse, you know what I mean.

The perfect purse has got to be able to hold everything you need, yet still look stylish and feel light.

I think I’ve almost mastered the hold everything part.

My friend Ramey used to joke that anything you ever needed could be found in my purse. Can opener? Check. Band-Aid? Check. Sweatshirt? Check. Tire iron? Check. … Just kidding, I got rid of that years ago!

But I do think I’m a shoo-in to dominate on Survivor, the Purse Frontier, where contestants have to live off the contents of their handbags. After all, I am the reigning champion of “The Purse Game,” a baby shower thriller where you score points for matching a list of items with things in your handbag. I’ve got a whole closet full of jelly-bean-filled-baby-bottle-prizes, but I know my big score is coming soon, which is why I keep finding innovative new items to store in my purse, like that glittery pink Swiss army knife keychain that once said “princess” and now says “prin,” or those handy-dandy dissolvable Listerine mouthwash strips.

Since my son was little, he’s thought my purse was like Mary Poppins’ magic bag, filled with toys and treats and things to keep him relatively clean and quiet. Now that Koss is 7, my purse has become the receptacle of choice for his treasures, not just mine. I’m dumbfounded when I hear other moms talking about emptying their son’s pockets before doing laundry. My kid doesn’t want to look “bulky” and besides, I am Koss’s pockets — or at least my purse is — which is one of the reasons why we had to institute the “you can only take one small rock/shell/glass treasure home from the beach” rule.

When my husband tries to hand me his sunglasses, his wallet, or a frog he just found, that’s where I draw the line. My purse is heavy enough already.

I feel a little bit guilty when they make special requests, (“Mom, do you have a purple glitter crayon and some string cheese?” “Honey, do you have our 1992 tax returns and that New Yorker I’ve been wanting to read?”) then are utterly shocked when I’m not packing their little hearts’ desires.

I wish I could carry around the refrigerator and the filing cabinet with me but my purse is getting a little heavy. Besides, where would the shoe rack go?

In fact it’s so heavy that it’s leaving a permanent mark on my right shoulder. I wonder if there’s a way to make that look stylish, like the next hot thing after piercing and tattooing.

Unfortunately, as you can see from a recent inventory — wallet, keys sunglasses, cell phone, Band-aids, Kleenex, lip balm, lipstick, dental floss, floss sticks, paperback book, magic 8-ball, post-its, Tylenol, pens, notebook, camera, water, hair pick, mints and two changes of clothing — there’s absolutely nothing I could do without.

Believe me, I’ve tried. I have a closet full of nearly new (and now woefully out of style) handbags that aren’t big enough to fit all of life’s essentials. I once got stuck overnight in the Newark Airport with nothing to read and a terrible gift shop selection. There are 5,873 squares on the roof of the United Airlines terminal and I will never again leave home without extra reading material. As for the bottle of water, well, I was once stuck in the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas.

With the exception of last weekend, I do try to lighten things up a bit when I go out at night. That’s when the party purses come out. But these can be tricky too. Some of those adorable little Judith Leiber rhinestone numbers won’t even hold a credit card and a lipstick, let alone car keys. If you need to bring sunglasses, you’re really up a creek. I think what I really need is a purse-onal assistant to schlep my bag, like all the movie stars have when they walk the red carpet.

Yes, that’s what’s missing in my life.

But I wouldn’t want an assistant digging through my bag. Who knows what embarrassing things she might find there. There are only so many places to hide a body. As the Illinois State Supreme Court found, “a woman’s purse occupies a peculiar status and is a possession in which a woman expects supreme privacy.”

And in the interest of full disclosure, the handbag inventory I provided here isn’t quite complete.

Now, for the three straight men and my father who made it all the way through this column — you win! I have your prize right here. … Just a sec … I know it’s in here somewhere…

Originally published in theĀ Santa Barbara Daily Sound.

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