Monday, January 16, 2012

It's in the Bag (or Is It?)

My new bag
Some women are enthralled by cosmetics. Others collect shoes. And some love purses and bags.

If I could say my focus on bags is one of love, that might be a sign of shallow materialism. But what does it mean that I go into minor agonies about the acquisition of a handbag? It is with bags as it is with shoes, for me, I guess - love/hate. I seek not variety, but perfection: One bag that will hold all I need without encumbrance.

Mary Poppins' hold-all carpet bag would be ideal; remember it? Or Hermione Granger's bottomless clutch that effortlessly toted a large tent and many other useful items?

I've always been turned off by large purses. A few months ago a conversation with an imaginative man helped me put my finger on why.

I don't want to carry a big or flashy purse because I don't want to appear "high maintenance"! I don't want to send the message to those around me (or be forced to accept, myself) that I just might be one of those ladies who cannot get along without dragging a huge collection of stuff. Who needs a lot to make her happy. I mean, how shallow can you get? Guys aren't like that. (If you overlook their bulging pockets or the number of apps on their iPhones...)

But my unspoken assumption has been that cool women, women who can keep up with the guys, women who should be taken seriously in the world, they should not need a lot of stuff.

So it is that I failed to pack a right-sized bag for two weeks at school. I just couldn't decide. I brought my computer case as well as my small, unobtrusive purse, but what to do with school books, snacks, and umbrella?

The truth comes out. Perhaps I do need a lot of stuff, after all - maybe because I'm not the cool person I would like to be. I read somewhere that even a normal, healthy person usually underestimates the severity or effects of his/her weaknesses by about 30% (and overestimates strengths or capacity by the same amount). Sobering, eh?

Well, when shopping for anything that might be called a purse, I tend to pick something that would be fine if it were 30% larger. As a result, I often don't seem to have what I'm looking for, or I can't find it because things are crammed in there too tight.

The best answer may be an ergonomic messenger bag or backpack able to hold all I need without being cumbersome.

Well, what was I to do? In the interests of economy, I asked the classmate who kindly offered to take me grocery shopping if she'd stop by the dollar store on the way home. This purse/bag is the result.

I know, it's cheap, shiny, and doesn't quite look like the bag of a person who should be taken seriously. (It's better than the red, alligator-skin one that was also being sold for $5.) We'll see how long it lasts. But it's big enough for the usual purse things along with snacks, gloves, umbrella. Not the books, but I'm realizing that people who teach grad classes pretty much never say, "pull out that book you were required to read and turn to page XX..."

This week I'll try leaving the books and computer in my room and rely on my sleek iPad. And yes, that fits nicely in the new bag.


Gretchen said...

You crack me up. I hope you're enjoying your back-to-school experience. Part of me envies you...part of me shrinks back in horror. :-)

I tried to buy a backpack purse while in Vancouver after Christmas...was so excited that it was 50% off. (I've needed one since our trip to Europe last year when my strap broke) so...I go to get it and say, (thinking it's an unnecessary question) "This is 50% off, right?" And the guy responds, "No, everything but the bags are on sale." GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! Bother. So sad.

Megan Noel said...

well see now, you're not a knitter. when i go places i usually do need a bag big enough for at least 1 knitting project. and since i am often on the bus or know i might spend the night i also need at least one book. then you never know when the mood might strike so i need some art supplies - at least my hard bound sketch book and some pens. and my meds. and then if there is any room left maybe i will see if i can put some extra clothing in there. i <3 my chihuly flight bag with the bright orange exterior and lime green interior. i suppose because it reminds me of him and it's VERY well constructed. my other large purse is a black leather one i got a consignment shop for significantly less than i would have paid for it new. they have some nice smaller purses there at the moment and i might end up with another one if the price is right.

Marti said...

Gretchen, it is a lot of work, but my real job is enough like academic work that it isn't that much of a stretch. Juggling work and school, that's more of a stretch. I consistently get A's in my classes, but I'm not getting graded at work, and my self-assessment would be "spotty"!

Sorry to hear about your shopping disappointment in Vancouver...

Meg, it sounds like you do need quite a few things, eh? Well, better to have what you need, isn't it?