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Not a pocketbook kind of girl

Meredith C. CarrollAspen, CO Colorado

I could never be characterized as a tomboy: My color vocabulary is extensive, I shower nearly every day, and few things thrill me more than flipping through female porn magazines like Cosmopolitan and O while getting pedicures. But ultimately, the girly-girl set and I go our separate ways, due to my aversion to pocketbooks.First of all, I’m so out of touch with the world of pocketbooks that I still call them pocketbooks, not purses. I don’t think other people have called them pocketbooks since my Grandma Nettie, and even then it was only when referring to those she carried in the 1950s.Unlike most women who won’t leave home without a fully loaded bag, I’d be thrilled if all keys could be replaced with some sort of fingerprint technology system, and I could get my driver’s license and credit card numbers tattooed on my wrist. Short of that, since high school, my pocketbooks of choice have been those little woven Guatemalan coin pouches – the two inch by four inch brightly colored zippered clutches in which a tube of Blistex, a hair elastic, driver’s license, Band-Aid, credit card and a single car or house key fit perfectly. All of life’s necessities (minus the chocolate), really, in a convenient carrying case. Plus there’s usually space left, in whatever pocket I shove it in, for a neatly folded Kleenex.I have some amount of admiration for women who have the foresight to pack in their pocketbooks enough to help them survive, say, a 17-part Ken Burns documentary. But if I felt after getting dressed each morning I needed to bundle up my mascara, eyeliner and face powder (along with their respective brushes) and lug them around until nightfall for the purpose of reapplication, I think I would instead reconsider the brand of makeup I was using and try to find something with a little more longevity.The It bag is an endless source of fascination. You know, the pocketbook that can be afforded only after selling a kidney that is in fashion for a limited period, basically until which time some all-knowing yet unseen trend taskforce deems that anyone near It should be ashamed of ever having had an association.No one ever talks about what happens to the It bag when It becomes the bag formerly known as It. Does It get thrown away? Hidden in a box in the attic until the next generation is ready to play dress-up? Donated to a thrift shop or charity that will give It to a woman in a third world country who can’t afford a subscription to Vogue and therefore doesn’t know that she’s carrying a pocketbook that is so last season?The logo bags, the ones with the paid advertisements stamped all over them, are usually the first to come in and out of style. Louis Vuitton pocketbooks – the Murakami with the pastel lettering, the one with the cherries, or the latest with the tortoise chain, leopard print and patent leather – usually make the arms of society belles for a few months before they go by way of the outlet centers for a smaller yet still significant fortune. (Full disclosure: I own the Louis Vuitton Keepall travel bag, but that’s different, because it’s a classic. It just is.) There’s the Birkin bag – of the five-year wait list fame – whose glory faded somewhat when it accompanied Martha Stewart daily during her perjury trial. Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Balenciaga are among the brands whose It bags generally don’t see daylight after being used for three months.I’m secure enough to admit to moments when I’ve coveted It bags. There was the boxy Kate Spade “Sam” black satin-finished, water-resistant nylon pocketbook I used in 1999 (even though it went out with the Macarena in 1996). Somewhere in the deep recesses of my parent’s house is buried an old purple LeSportsac tote with the blue trim, circa 1983. But I ceased believing in the notion of fashion accessories with a function in 1995, when watching the Neville Brothers perform in Rockefeller Plaza in New York and the wallet was lifted out of my Coach mini leather backpack with the gold clasp, the thief eventually using my blank check and credit card for a luxurious Bahamian vacation.I own a Ferragamo alligator bag that’s so lovely I make a point to admire it often, although it rarely leaves its little protective cloth bag, not to mention the front door. I’m always afraid I’ll put it down it somewhere (since I almost never use a pocketbook, I usually forget it under a table or hanging on the door of a bathroom stall when I take one out). Second, I want it to last forever, so I just can’t justify using it more than a few times a decade. Finally, the bag is terribly impractical. It can hold either a Band-Aid and credit card or a hair elastic and key, but really not more than two necessities at any one time. All of which nicely fit into the aforementioned Guatemalan coin pouch.Of course there are some occasions in life that something more formal than a Guatemalan coin pouch is required. Which is why I’m blessed with a husband, who when marrying me unknowingly inherited from my parents the job of carrying my Blistex and driver’s license during special occasions in which I wear dresses or skirts with no pockets. When my husband isn’t available, my car usually is, and it holds way more than his sport coats anyway.Part of me wonders how I would ever be a truly worthwhile mom given my propensity to live life sans pocketbook. After all, my mom can solve the world’s problems 10 times over with what she carries around. Her collection of bags are magic, like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag – whether you need it or didn’t even know it existed, chances are it’s inside her purse.Still, somehow men manage to make it through the day – and life – with just simple wallets in their back pockets (murse, manbag and man-purse users excepted).Besides, I can think of plenty of other things I’d rather carry with me 24/7. And I’m simply too practical to think that my laptop could accompany me everywhere. Although I suppose they now make pocketbooks for those, too.E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.


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