I’m a 46-year-old wife and mother who wears a lot of hats, and often those hats aren’t exactly straight on my head. When I was a young teen, I never wanted to be one of those women who had a purse with them all the time. I wanted to buck the trend that a woman needed a bag to perform whatever duties were expected of her when I got to that stage of life.
I fought that cultural norm hard, so hard, often to the point of massive inconvenience or causing significant discomfort to those in my inner circle. Then I became an adult and realized the benefits of a purse far outweighed the negatives—my chapstick was always at the ready, tampon—check, wallet wasn’t getting lost under the front seat of the car, and my car keys had a home.
Now, however, my kids are mostly grown. I am not responsible for their tissues and bandaids and snacks anymore. My husband is a capable man; if he needs something, he can make sure he brings it himself. (This has always been the case—he is a grown adult and no longer lives with his mother.) But there is comfort in a woman’s purse (or pocketbook or bag or whatever it’s called where you live).
In a slightly misguided effort to justify my love/hate relationship with my purse, I’ve compiled a list of items I’ve learned to expect to find in my purse. Mind you, sometimes those items are not there and it can derail my day.
What’s Really in a Woman’s Purse
1. Chapstick. I may or may not have a slight addiction to chapstick. Not the flavored stuff, no. Just the basic black and blue colored tube that works as a deterrent to the sun and a moisturizer to the wind in the winter, because, well, Michigan.
2. Wallet. Money, cards, ID, coins (everyone uses coins still, right? No? Just me? Cool). Sam’s Club membership card, health insurance card, expired roadside assistance card, library card, gift cards with $.57 left on them, Metro card for the rare times I’m in a big city that isn’t even in my state and need to ride the Metro.
3. Readers. Alright, this is a new-ish addition and probably more important than the wallet. What is it with restaurant menus using an 8-point font? Seriously. Also, I refuse to increase the font size on my phone. Readers for the win.
4. Cell phone. This usually gets buried at the bottom and I often wonder if I’ve lost it or left it at home. I haven’t. It’s there, hiding just deep enough to give me a little panic attack. It’s good for my heart.
5. Receipts. Because like coins, everyone still needs a paper receipt. What if the candy bar I bought needs to be returned? I don’t know why I have so many receipts just loosey-goosey in my purse, but they’re there. I do not, however, have a clue where the receipt is for the jeans that were purchased with the wishful thinking that I actually still wear the size I purchased. Those jeans are mine now.
6. Gum. Usually a package with one stick left, or an empty package—that’s the best preparation! Nice to meet you, sorry about my dragon breath.
7. An old shopping list. Like coins and receipts, people still use paper for this stuff, right? If I ever get lost
in the wilderness, I will have paper to start a fire. No matches, but paper.
8. Pen or marker. To cross things off #7. What? Actually I have about 8 of these little writing utensils sprinkled throughout my purse. I can never have too many.
9. Tampons/pads. This is stupid. I’m old and I’m practically over this part of life. Yet, I need to be prepared. Or, better yet, be able to help someone caught off guard. I’ll never stop carrying pads and tampons in my purse. I had period trauma as a teen (different story) and I’ll always be prepared—just like a scout (I always wanted to be one, so this is kind of the same thing, right?)
10. A cute notebook. To write down notes and important stuff. Apparently the receipts and old shopping lists aren’t quite effective. Technology is so unreliable (read: scary and difficult and I don’t want to learn it), so I have to use a notebook to write down my thoughts instead of figuring out my voice recording stuff on my phone. It’s so much smarter to carry another object in my already overstuffed and awkward purse.
11. Ear plugs. I don’t even know what those are in there from.
12. Ibuprofen. Just loose in the bottom collecting dust and crumbs. It still works, right?
13. Sunglasses. In Michigan, it’s sunny for four months each year. The rest of the time, it’s gray or the snow is blinding.
14. Trash. No purse or tote bag is complete without random trash—gum wrappers, half eaten bag of fruit snacks (What? They’re good!), a lid from a water bottle, a broken paperclip (no clue why, but it’s in there), etc.
15. Keys. My car practically starts itself and my home is on the verge of keyless entry (I’m still a holdout on that tech), but when I leave I need these clanky things. My work keys are attached (keyless entry, but the little fob thingy needs a home base). They’re basically just a security blanket for me so I tuck them neatly in the bottom trenches of my purse only to struggle to find them when it’s raining or snowing or three degrees out.
16. Tums. As I’ve aged, this is a necessity. Cheese, ice cream, and all the good, gooey stuff doesn’t get along with my gut anymore. Whatever, I’m gonna keep eating it and regretting it. It’s what I do.
Don’t Buck a Trend Until You Actually Try It Out
There was a time when I had diapers, wipes, teething toys, hot wheels cars (sometimes I still do), toys, food, drinks, and more. Those days are gone and I’m thrilled! Will my bag be bigger sometimes? Oh, yes! My travel purse is always way more full than my daily use purse. That thing gets loaded with books, my kindle, sunscreen, and so much more; I gotta be prepared! (Yay, I am a scout!)
I am sure there are some odd life lessons or an internet quiz about what the contents of your purse say about you or something like that, but honestly, my purse just makes me feel in control (well, most of the time). Do I still hate carrying it? Yes, desperately. But purse fashion and function are a lot better now than 30 years ago. I use a backpack-style purse/bag most days.
I feel most cute with a bag my daughter got me, and I tend to use that on weekends. And for travel, well, all bets are off—I bring out the big one. Also, my new favorite thing: tote bags. I mean, come on! So many functional and fashionable and fun styles to choose from. You could have a different one each day and not get bored.
Portland Leather, Minted, Coach, Patagonia—all brands I love and apparently have a problem with since they take all my money. Whatever, I do what I want. Use a bag or don’t, but don’t go through life avoiding something that makes your life easier just because you want to push back at some antiquated societal norm. I’m not apologizing for my purse; I’m apologizing for having too many…nah, just kidding.
There are some things for women that just…work! Here’s some advice along those lines: Simple (and Funny) Advice for Your Grit and Grace Life – 074