Pursuing a New Relationship

Sometimes I wonder about my own sex.  How can women be so fickle?

They abandon, they discard, they switch — like it’s no big deal, like the words commitment and loyalty meant nothing.  I always shake my head when I meet them or read about them.  Don’t they know how significant their relationships with their purses are?  I guess not.

I’m the old-fashioned type, faithful as a dog.  I buy a new purse once every several years and take it very seriously.  Usually, I spend too much, which cements the relationship immediately.  I have to recall what Pat, my mentor, says about amortization:  The longer and more frequently you wear or use something, the greater bargain it becomes.  Or something like that.  Every time Pat explains it to me, I’m in some kind of shame spiral about a recent purchase and can’t concentrate too well.  But she always explains her amortization theory with so much conviction and verve it’s like being slapped in the face.  You know, the female friendship version of tough love.  It hurts, but it works.

My current love object is a well-worn black leather Ferragamo.  We have been together through droughts and downpours, parts of two presidencies, West Texas and Croatia, stock-market highs and recessions.  We have bonded completely.  I hardly recognize my arm without my purse on it.  But we are having problems together.

Don’t get me wrong: My Ferragamo is still a very attractive purse with many years of service ahead of her.  It’s not her fault; it’s mine.  I have changed — or at least part of me has.  My damned shoulder is giving out, carrying this heavy purse around all the time, with its interior load of everything I might need if I were ditched on a desert island for all of eternity.

My shoulder slants, it aches, it’s screaming for me to stop.  (Don’t tell me to change shoulders.  I’m talking about my good shoulder.  I’d have to be hospitalized if I carried it on my right shoulder a/k/a the bad one.)  I am now officially lopsided, sloping to the left both physically and politically.  I would do a lot for my purse, my faithful companion of so many years, but it’s not like I’m a sherpa or something.  Enough!

So, with the help of a sharp, energetic saleswoman at Coach, I found my new squeeze.  Smaller and lighter and — yes — younger.  This new purse understands me and my needs.  It won’t slow me down.

Carefully, deliberately, I transfer items from my old, trusty Ferragamo to my new Coach.  This time, I tell myself, I will only carry necessities.  I will lighten my load.  I won’t make the same old mistakes.  I’ll make new, different, better mistakes.

The first 24 hours pass lightly and blissfully.  But when I go out, I realize I need to expand my definition of “necessities” to include my compact.  And a pen.  And a small writing tablet.

“I’ll bet,” my husband said, quite unhelpfully, “that your new purse is going to end up weighing as much as your old one.  Wouldn’t that be funny?”

No, that would not be funny.  Not at all.  When you’re in a new relationship, you never need to be reminded that you carry your own baggage no matter who you’re with.

Besides, I remind myself, what do men know about purses?

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

Read one of my favorite posts about the mommy wars a/k/a the battle that won’t die

19 comments… add one
  • Cindy A Link

    Got you beat.  I carry mine until a handle comes off.

  • I love stories about purses.  So does my sister; this story would be great to post at http://www.pursestories.com

  • M A Link

    I had to stop using leather years ago because I was killing myself with all the weight.  They make excellent purses now in light-weight nylon or some other such man-made-material.  I also look for a purse that comes with enough compartments so I am not carrying a heavy wallet.  Losing the wallet drops a bunch of weight pronto…

  • Sheryl Link

    Funny, Ruth! I (and my shoulder and neck) sympathize totally. Because of two neck surgeries, I’ve been scolded for carrying heavy purses. So, I keep on buying new ones, hoping that the next one will be the “one.” Truth be told, it’s me -not them. Too much damned baggage…

  • I’m with your friend. To figure out if something is worth the cost, simply divide that cost by the number of times you’ll use it. Remembering that always helps me shop smarter, ensuring I only buy the things I’ll wear to pieces. (though sometimes I am weak 🙂

  • I am very picky about purses. I spent months last spring looking for a new one. I have many requirements. It must fit over my shoulder, have a cell phone pocket, have a pocket for keys, have an outside pocket to stuff receipts in, have an inside zip pocket for lip necessities and be big enough to hold my stuff. It must zip shut. And it must be extremely cute. That is a large order to fill. But I found the most adorable madras Liz Claiborne bag for spring/summer. I just about cried when fall approached. I had to look for a new fall/winter bag since the one from last year is disintegrating. I found one but I am not as deeply in love with it as the madras. Maybe I will just become a crazy old lady who carries madras all year. Or maybe I need to move to the tropics.

  • Delightful post, Ruth!  I could really relate.  Had to give up a favorite purse for the same reason.  Carrying a big, clunky, over-sized purse does not phase my daughters, but I cannot do it anymore.  I’ve even adopted a fancy canvas job which is light and strong, but fashionable, and has room for a few groceries, if necessary.

  • So much fun. I love your punny title. I so don’t carry a purse (sorry!) but this story is a great read… I wonder how long the love will last?!

  • In the winter, I don’t carry a purse at all. I keep everything in the pockets of my coat. Lumpy? Yes, but I don’t have to worry about finding my purse! Summer is harder, but I tend to use an ancient nylon backpackery affair. I do have a couple of decent purses for when I need to look like a grown up, but they rarely get used.

  • See … the older I get, the smaller my purses get. I wish I could say the same about ye olde backside. Alas, the latter is why I finally understand the draw of both shoes and purses. They simply do not mock me the way clothes do.

  • I’m with Cindy, I tend to keep my purses until they die–battered handles and all. I just can’t seem to pick out purses so I wait until I have to!

  • Ellen Link

    OK, so I look like a turtle, nothing like a stylish woman….but no purse existing can trump my handsome lightweight Swiss backpack.  Yesterday I toted five heavy textbooks plus all the usual female paraphernalia for miles.  No strain.  I always have reading material available if stuck in a situation where I must wait.  There’s room to stash a bottle of Coke Zero (or a dozen bottles).  Plenty of compartments for everything, including a secured pocket for my cell phone on the right strap.  To me, purses are like high heels:  attractive, with understandable appeal, but utterly impractical for day to day living.

  • Ruth, this is so funny and so true! I will use the same dang purse until it literally falls apart–and then some! Why are we so attached to our purses? Maybe because we are literally attached to them, like another appendage.

  • I’ve carried the same purse for three years – a Nine West bag that’s probably more bedraggled than I’d like to admit. I love it though, and it works. How can you beat that? I feel so disloyal giving it up.

  • Hope Link

    Ok Ruth, it’s time for yoga… have you been yogaing lately.  Janice and I want to know (smile) I think there is a pose for that…

  • Cindy A Link

    Love your new masthead.  Let me know when and where I can buy, “What Did I Do to Deserve This?”

  • I love this post! I get really attached to my purses–and wallets. I can carry the same one for a really long time. I like to try to find one I love that’s not trendy at all so it can take me through several seasons (years!).

  • Winston Link

    Besides, I remind myself, what do men know about purses?
    Well, we know quite a lot, some of us!  Years ago I got tired of  keys constantly gouging my thigh, a wallet so thick and lumpy as to cause curvature of my spine from sitting too long on unlevel surfaces and all those coins eating holes through the pants pocket.  One day when that ravenous change had devoured yet another pocket and my ankle was blue from the rain of coppers and quarters, I took the plunge.  I invested in the spawn of all joggers– the fanny pack– and emptied my pockets of all that weaponry.  Quite liberating!
    Slowly, I realized I could carry stuff that I never could before.  A bottle of Tylenol.  A pair of scissors.  An apple.  Spare socks!  Thrilling!!!  Now I could be all the way across town and have at hand anything I might one day suddenly need.  In fact, I had gathered so many Handy Items the zipper exploded.
    I needed something a bit larger.  The next day I pinched that pack together with an assortment of hors d’oeuvre picks and proceeded to Wal-Mart where I found the most divine 35 mm camera tote.  Black.  Genuine leather.  Adjustable shoulder strap.  Three interior compartment flaps.  Seven exterior zippered units for things like checkbooks, cellphone and keys.  I was in heaven!  And I could carry so much more stuff.  I loved it to pieces.  The leather had long ago lost its sheen.  I’d had to tie two knots in the shoulder strap to keep it together.  Zippers became dysfunctional.  Plus, I had aged too.  That camera tote had gotten so heavy!
    Reluctantly, I went shopping for something lighter– but still roomy.  There were, after all, so many things I could no longer do without.  Example: day planners dating back eight years.  My memory was not as sharp.  Suppose I suddenly needed to know what was on my Christmas shopping list the year I had that lower left molar pulled?  Or which summer was it that the dog threw up for two weeks?  Yes, I would still need plenty of room.  I did find a good replacement.  I moved up to a camcorder tote.  Made of padded nylon, it is so much lighter, and there’s acres of space.  Velcro abounds instead of all those clunky metal zips.  Camcorders have so many accessories there’s a generous number of compartments– but the floorplan was all wrong.  It took a long time to decide where to place my things.  Finding things in that new tote was like moving into a new house– blindfolded.  I would occasionally go to the closet and wistfully look at my old tote, now living in retirement beside the shoe rack.  Gallantly, I persevered, and now Camcorder Tote and I are good friends.
    Lately, however, it, too, has gotten a little heavier on my shoulder.  Should I– NO!  Forming a relationship with a new tote is tough.  Maybe I’ll just up my protein intake.  Yeah, that’s it!

  • Ruth, I enjoy the comparison, but while I’m very loyal to people, I have a lot of purses and don’t think twice about upgrading to a smaller, shinier one. 😉

    PS Sorry I missed it before, but I love your blog’s new look!

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