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RSVPhillippi | SEPTEMBER 2019

Dennis Phillippi

It's Not My Bag

Over the years I’ve said plenty of things in this column I thought would garner negative reactions, and occasionally, they have. But I feel certain that what I’m about to say will definitely get me some angry emails — your purse does not deserve its own barstool. There, I said it. More times than I could possibly estimate I’ve had to ask some woman, “Is someone sitting here?” only to be shot a dirty look as she has to pick up her purse out of a seat and with great weariness hang it from the back of her chair. Or God forbid, put it at her feet. The look is always the same, a dark grimace as if I am somehow hurting her purse’s feelings by making it get off of a chair.  It’s not a person, it’s a handbag. It’s the reason God invented purse hooks.

As a man, I am both baffled and amazed by the whole purse thing.  Sometimes it seems like women lug an insane amount of useless things in their purses. But then there’s that once every five years or so moment when I actually need a pair of tweezers and they magically appear. My wife will be the first person to admit that her purse needs to be cleaned out. In fact, fairly often she has announced that she needs to clean out her purse, but she never makes herself clean out her purse. The task is just too daunting. Her purse is so heavy that it taxes the handle, if that’s what it’s called, to hang it on a purse hooks. That has been the death of a few purses over the years. Somewhere along the line she also picked up the superstition that it is unlucky to set your purse on the floor. So, she is often in a pickle because she won’t let it take up a seat, and the handle or strap or whatever doesn’t have the tensile strength to bear the weight of the thing. It’s just sort of in limbo until she decides the floor is still the best option, bad luck be damned.

My wife justifies toting this behemoth because she, as a woman, needs a lot more things than I, as a man, do. And she’s right. Society puts a lot of strange demands on women that it doesn’t on men.  Women are expected to wear makeup. Generally men are discouraged from doing so, even though I know some fellas who could use a touch of blush. Not only are women expected to wear makeup, they are also expected to carry it around with them in case theirs gets messed up somehow and they are unexpectedly going to meet the Queen. Single guys aren’t really aware of how much of that junk women carry. I only know from having watched my wife transfer it from one dying purse to the next. And she transfers everything.  Getting a new purse is no reason to start the cleaning process. That would just be crazy.  

Women also all carry around a couple of bottles of nail polish. As far as I can tell they’re all roughly the same color, but multiple bottles are still important. Naturally that means carting around nail polish remover, which only comes in a bottle larger than all of the bottles of nail polish combined. There are also hairbrushes, combs, hair ties and barrettes. My wife is beautiful and her hair is straight and simple to deal with, but still she has enough beauty products to spontaneously open a pop-up salon.  

My wife’s wallet is probably the item that comprises the most mass in her purse because she has joined every possible club that gives a person a discount card to hoist around. Granted we do get 10 percent off at just about every restaurant we ever go to, every retail outlet we visit, and every museum we are never going to drop by. That combined with pictures documenting every stage of our nearly grown nephew’s life from newborn to high school senior, receipts she won’t throw away for no discernible reason, and a lone photo of me that is two decades old and you’ve got one crowded wallet,. She doesn’t even carry money in it. I don’t even carry a wallet.

At least my wife doesn’t carry around a purse the size of a carry-on suitcase. Sometimes when I ask a woman to move her purse so I can sit down, I know the look she’s giving me is because it is genuinely difficult for her to hoist that monster. I can’t even guess what a woman might pack in a purse that size. Hardback books?  Explosives? An OED?  

Then there are the women that just have a little clutch. I can’t imagine how they can pare down the essentials to such a small package. My guess is they have an entire drug store’s worth in their car. I picture her having to manufacture an excuse to go to the parking lot because she’s convinced she has to touch up her lipstick.  Lipstick is a product I have never understood. I assume it’s supposed to make a woman’s lips look kissable, but the last things in the world I want to kiss are lips coated with some odd flavored wax. I miss cherry lip balm.  

Still, it’s nice to know if I need a nail file, clippers, a paper clip, a chip clip, a gum eraser, or years-old breath mints, they’re probably all floating around the bottom of my wife’s purse.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t entirely on women. Society makes these demands and women are simply doing what women have done for millennia, taking one for the team. Between makeup, hair styles and painful shoes, a lot is asked of women. Oh yeah, and we also expect them to have the babies. Yikes, being a woman is a pain.