A long, long time ago, my husband went purse shopping with me, which is why he went a long, long time not purse shopping with me.
There are no perfect handbags. There are only perfect handbags for each outfit and occasion.
There are some things I need to tell you up front:
1) I have owned maybe 30 bags since I got my first one on my tenth birthday. I am not a collector of bags. I am not a handbagaholic. I do not have a purse problem. I may have some shoe and scarf issues, but the purses are under control.
2) I have a few bags I’ve held onto and reused many times over the years — a black silk clutch my mother gave me in college, the itty bitty cross-body patchwork thing that goes on hands-free outings, an enormous denim weekender circa 2005, a chic patent leather putty clutch from 2013, and from 2011, a yellow handbag whose leather may as well be butter.
3) I have had a few bags that I carried for years and years: the blue satchel, the black messenger, the giraffe tote. My friends who read me just nodded and nodded. Iconic Joey bags. They know.
4) I do not buy handbags on a whim. I can’t buy anything bigger than candy on a whim, because I suffer terrible buyer’s remorse. Also, do not buy generic gummi bears.
5) I do not pay full price for handbags. I have not and will not. Won’t happen.
6) Since leaving the job I felt I lived at, I’d abandoned my enormous weekender bag. I’d been carrying the yellow bag. I planned to use the yellow bag through the summer. I wanted time to shop for a new purse.
But then, on any old Tuesday in May, one of the handles on my fine Italian yellow handbag broke.
It had been a rather Scarlet O’Hara day for me overall, so that handle breaking was tops on my NOT-FUCKING-NOW! meter.
Because Dan Antion told me he’d once stapled his pants, I stapled my bag to get me through. So inspiring, Dan. Then I restapled. Because staples for paper are not the best sort for holding together straps of leather. They are, however, inconspicuous and leave only the slightest marks.
This got me by for a while, but there comes a time when a woman simply cannot go on carrying an unreliable bag and she must take it in for repair. My baby!
I dragged out my canvas tote and woefully placed all my preciouses inside it, and went out in search of a new handbag.
The Mister went with me.
The Mister got involved.
See, all I said was how I have exquisite taste. And since we’re talking about a man who carried the same hunter green backpack from 1989-2013 and felt guilty spending $70 (On Clearance!!!) for a beautiful leather man bag, he no doubt hoped his involvement would rein in my spending.
Joke’s on him.
He, too, has exquisite taste in handbags.
Some of the handbags, I don’t even look at, because I know. I know the look of fine construction, I know at a glance. I don’t pick them up and get personally involved with them because I know I am not going to buy them, because I have no business buying them. Unless they are half off. Then I will debate a bit.
Given his lack of experience, The Mister has no wisdom in these matters. He picked up a bag:
“Looks like a bowling bag.”
“Yes, very nice bowling bag.”
“Look at the stitching.”
“This is nice hardware.”
“Oh, I know. Look at the price tag.”
“Mmhm. Is very nice bowling bag.”
He had me in stitches! I’m sorry you weren’t there for all the laughing.
On he went. He could pick out a purse for me, no problem. It turns out his complaints about handbags are my complaints about handbags. His disdain, my disdain.
Design a beautiful bag and then maybe try not to put your name, your brand, your emblem all over the fucking thing. I want to advertise my taste, not my money, and certainly not you.
An embellishment here and there is fine. It needn’t be crammed with detail. I don’t want a chain and a tassel and some bling and a pop of color and a big ass flower all on the same bag. Stahp.
If you want me to empty my purse for the purchase of your beautiful purse, then for the love of leather, show some respect and put some fucking feet on the bottom. I am NOT The Queen of Indiana, I can’t hold my bag all the time. I have to shop and eat and applaud and use public restrooms.
I’ve got a fine European back. It’s ideal for hauling sacks of potatoes up the hill, but since I’m not trying to bulk-up, I don’t want my purse to weigh twenty-five pounds, thank you very much.
We looked at hundreds of handbags.
And I left without a new purse.
Then another day we went to the mall, where The Mister repeated the same commentary and made lots of scoffing noises.
“I thought you liked these. You didn’t look at this section at all,” he said.
“Baby, lemme help you with this,” I told him, “Where we were before? That’s where they go after a season or two. This is where they’re born. They’re full price here.”
After two weeks and eleven shops, I finally got a new bag. Half off.
Everyone says they’re thrilled for me and I’m sure you are, too.
Even though Doris The Red is still new and I will keep her for years to come, next week at the fair, Imma take a serious gander at those hand-tooled leather bags I always ogle.
I’ve got a handle on it.