Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Handbag, My Self

A few months ago I got the idea into my head that I HAD to have a new purse. I spent about a week of lunch breaks at work scouring the web for the perfect vintage-inspired, cabbage rose-covered, summer bag.

One Sunday I even tried to sell KosherCop on the idea of a trip to the mall as the excursion of a lifetime.

"How about we go to the mall? I can look for a new purse and then you can ride the train. I really need to get a new purse."

"You should get a new purse, Mommy. You deserve a new purse. Your purse is shabby."

"Great! Let's go!"

"No. I don't want to," said KosherCop, looking at my shoes. "You should get some new shoes too. Your shoes are very shabby." I couldn't argue with that. My shoes were very shabby, and not in the good way that is followed by "chic". But, it didn't matter. This kid was not going to the mall.

Eventually, like all of my pointless obsessions, I stopped thinking about a new purse and went on with my life.

Then, suddenly, in a dusty corner of the lowest of the lowly shoe stores on the planet - a place where whole herds of "manmade-materials" gave their lives to become strappy pleather sandals - I found the handbag I wanted.

The weird thing is that it was not even remotely the handbag I had been looking for. It is not shabby-chic floral - it's bold with beachy stripes and a slightly retro mod floral pattern. The most surprising thing is that it's a slouchy unstructured affair that doesn't close all the way. My wallet could fall out at any moment and I bought it anyway.

Now I am not slouchy and unstructured. Yes, my shoes may be shabby, but personality-wise I'm pretty much a control-freak. A demanding borderline obsessive-compulsive control-freak. And not one of those Type A control-freaks that is hugely productive and ambitious. If my personality has a type it is probably somewhere around J - I require a lot of downtime. I'm just really particular about that downtime. And my purse.

For the last 10 years I have demanded the same exacting standards from my personal possessions as the people around me.

Seriously. My bag had to have a zippered center compartment for security, yet easily accessible outer pockets to be able to grab metro cards or Datawatch cards at a moment's notice. The material had to be lightweight microfiber or nice leather, but smaller. And it had to fit my planner. Which is, of course, the problem. I devoted almost as much time and attention to finding the right planner/organizer and with each incarnation it grew bigger.

Eventually I was saddled with an overstuffed satchel as my purse and a ridiculously huge organizer totebag - one of the ones that actually hardly fits anything because of the pockets - just to transport my planner. If it wasn't for Shabbat, when I could take advantage of the no carrying prohibition, I'd probably have moved a chiropractor into the house by now.

So when I saw my low-rent bucket bag, it was like a cool ocean breeze blowing a 20 lb. load off my shoulders. And this is not the first time what I was looking for was not what I actually wanted when faced with a choice.

When KosherCook and I became engaged I had us spend 8 months looking for a vintage 1920's estate diamond. They always looked better in the case than on my hand. Then as we were shopping for our wedding rings, I tried on a simple, elegant platinum solitaire - only because it was part of a set - and said, "Ooh!" KosherCook sneaked back later, bought it, and gave it to me under the Chuppah.

KosherCook has since elevated this tale to the level of allegory. The simple utterance of "Ooh" from his overly particular wife has become the barometer by which he judges the worthiness of all major purchases. I have Oohed us into the purchase of our couch, our car, and eventually our house over the years.

And somewhere along the way I have internalized this method for minor purchases, also. My slouchy bag and I have been very happy together over the last few weeks. My shoulder doesn't hurt as much and I no longer look like a pack horse walking in from the parking garage at work. When I carry it I feel light and relaxed. I can leave the house and when that niggling voice asks if I really locked the door behind me, sometimes I don't even get back out of the car to check.

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