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The Search for the Perfect Purse

The purse, otherwise known as the handbag, might be a woman's most important accessory. But even the word accessory minimizes its role in an organized life.
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And now for something superficial:

The purse, otherwise known as the handbag, might be a woman's most important accessory. But even the word accessory minimizes its role in an organized life. For a woman to be ready for anything, she needs a purse -- or handbag, if you insist -- that has the capacity to carry anything that might be needed in any situation.

For that reason, the purse has gotten larger over the past two centuries. In the 1800s, a woman needed to carry only a handkerchief, a comb and perhaps smelling salts. In the 1900s, when women began working at jobs outside the home, the need to carry a wallet, house keys, a lipstick, a powder compact, a brush, tissues, and possibly a sanitary napkin for "those" emergencies required a larger bag.

Today the handbag plays an even greater role. Aside from the aforementioned necessities, a woman must carry her cell phone, car keys, emergency medication, energy bars in the event of missed meals, condoms and a change of underwear for the unanticipated rendezvous, and if towing children around, goldfish crackers, wet wipes, a juice box and toys for entertaining a cranky child.

So what constitutes the perfect purse? Certainly not the pricey designer handbags that are architectural in design and made of the smoothest, softest dyed leather selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

What do these bags lack? Practical features like two easily accessible pockets on the outside of the bag. These provide homes to the two most important tools -- car keys and cell phone. The bag must have a shoulder strap so it can be slung over the shoulder or across the chest when hands are needed for grocery shopping and carrying children or other packages.

The inside should have multiple sections and pockets so one can easily access other necessities like money, business cards, headache remedies, health insurance ID, tea bags and possibly even pepper spray. No matter what the eventuality, a woman needs to find the proper tool in her purse.

The purse must be made of sturdy enough material to hold up for a season and, if you're lucky, a whole year. While it need not be luxurious, it should not look like Queen Elizabeth's old-lady model. What does she carry in there? She has no need for money, a cell phone or a change of underwear one would presume.

So where do you find such a bag? My favorite source is discount stores that carry more expensive bags at reduced prices. I periodically cruise the handbag section in search of the purse. It usually takes a few trips to find one that meets most of the criteria.

Here's one with two pockets outside, but the pockets have zippers. The zippers do not allow for easy accessibility and also have the potential for scraping your hands when reaching for a ringing phone.

Here's one with inside pockets but no shoulder strap. Here's a beauty but with an opening two small to fit an iPad or an over-sized wallet. Here's one made of canvas. Ugh, too cheap looking. Here's one that looks just right but it already weighs five pounds before it has anything in it. Here's one that meets all the criteria, but it's studded with rhinestones. Who designs these things?

So my quest for the perfect purse continues. With each new acquisition, there is a compromise, but I remain hopeful. One day I will find the perfect purse and I will buy five of them so I don't have to worry about finding another for five or maybe even 10 years. That will be a day of celebration and a thank you to the purse gods who have finally heard my plea.