Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Purse Words

There are many things I'm known for around this city. My stride, for example (bounding). My Celine Dion impression-slash-obsession. Wearing four cornrows down the center of my head, like a Braided Moses parting the Auburn Sea.

But perhaps what I am most famous for is the huge, huge bag I carry to and from work.

Me, walking along one of Manhattan’s famous “neutral-backdrops”.

Maybe you've seen me: Hoisting it onto subway cars, probably jamming it into your back, or rummaging through it to find an unwrapped Orbit Bubblemint in its deepest corner. I like big bags. I like all bags, but on workdays, the bigger, the better. For a few weeks, I was carrying a satchel that I referred to as my "Mrs. Doubtfire Dominatrix" bag: Very large, very black shiny plastic (picture an overpriced trash bag), with silver studs lining each side. It kind of looks like a banana-hammock for a huge, gay, sado-masochistic giant. Before that, I carried a huge teal pleather bag that one friend referred to as a "gutted crocodile with strap attached." And before that, a long black plastic duffel that was a promo for Ice-T's album "Cop Killers." I didn't make too many friends during those random subway searches, I'll tell you that much.

My large sacks drew stares from the one employee in my office who I don't really get along with. "Wow! I don't even know how you carry that!" she would sneer. "What have you got in there? Goodness!"

"A lady never tells" I would mutter Geisha-style, feeling uncomfortable about my size-obsession.

I had good reason for carrying such a large bag: My apartment is a solid 45 minutes from my office, meaning that if I want to go out after work (natch, obvs, totes), I must arrive prepared. That means lots of makeup, deodorant, jeans, straightening iron, micro-dermabrasion kit, vat of bikini wax, comicly oversized sunglasses, a young Thai boy used to tweeze my brows, epsom salts, Duane Reade club card, and my iPod shuffle (the 20 Gig verzh is kinda chunky, no?).

Anyway, considering this woman still wears a long-strapped leather-patch purse, replete with slots for her credit cards, and no doubt purchased on HSN in 1849 (yes, it existed), I didn't really think it was her place to judge my things, and to be so vocal about it.

The other day, I was perusing the sale corner of my favorite chain store when I came across a smaller purse that I fell in love with. I usually wear small bags when I go out on the weekends -- although when I say I'm wearing my "hobo" purse...

Me & My Bindle

...I usually mean it. But this bag in question was definitely a "work" purse. It was completely against any bag I owned: The straps were too small to fit over my shoulders, and the opening hardly wide enough to allow my incessant rummaging, but I had to have it.

Here it is. Demure, and yet totally impractical.

So, last night I "changed bags", a spiritual act if there ever was one. Sitting Indian-style on a cushion with only a candle lighting my room, I removed each item one by one from the old bag. I pulled out a Starbucks napkin used as a tissue, shook my head and laughed, while placing it carefully in the trash. Oh! My "Harry Potter" movie stub. That was surely a night to remember. What's this? A crumpled pantyliner wrapper? I motioned for the trash, thought twice, nodded to myself, and placed it carefully in the new purse. "A New... Day... Has Come" I sung under my breath while slapping my lap, then my chest, then raising my hands in the air.

When I was done, my new purse was filled like a Tetris trash puzzle, my wallet, keys, book, makeup, etc. My standard commuting kit made the purse difficult to close, and turned it into a veritable 12" x 5" tweed brick. "A New.. Day.." I reminded myself. I was sure when I would next unzip it, a mountain of sporting goods, basketballs, baseball bats, dodgeballs, would come tumbling out and knock me off my feet. If I was lucky, I would open my bag and find all of the Marx Brothers, hopefully alive.

An artist’s interpretation of the inside of my handbag.

Immediately, this morning, problems. I missed my train after taking 3 minutes to pull my wallet out from underneath the flotsam and/or jetsam. I couldn't read my book on the train as one hand needed to hold the pole, the other, the bag. I had to suffer through the entirety of Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings", as I couldn't locate my iPod amidst all the pantyliner wrappers. Indeed, my new purse is proving to be a pain in my Mrs. Doubtfire ass. (Sorry, gentlemen.)

I walked into my cubicle and nevertheless proudly placed my new purchase on the table behind me. Sure enough, within 20 minutes, the other assistant passed my desk, and without fail, exclaimed "Michelle! A small bag! I never thought I'd see the day. How on Earth are you managing?" (I kid you not, she speaks like every villain that's graced the pages of a V.C. Andrews thriller -- don't eat the donuts!) "Fine." I spit out. "I'm getting along fine. Thanks for noticing."

The truth, however upsetting, is that I'm not cut out for this tiny purse. I miss my big bag. I want my big bag. Tomorrow, New York, I will be wearing. My big bag.

See you in the morning, NYC.

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