DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
KITV News anchor Pamela Young, definitely a big-bag person, emptied the contents of her Newport News tote to show what she hoists on a daily basis. Her stash includes a change of clothes, five pairs of glasses, and tortillas for lunch. CLICK FOR LARGE
Purse size reveals a gal's view of life
No purse is too big this spring as designers seem to have taken a cue from fast food and SUV makers and their bigga-mo'-betta philosophies.
This runs counter to my own philosophy as a small-bag person -- my biggest purse is a Tod's satchel measuring about 9 by 5 by 4 inches -- suddenly at odds with a big-bag world.
How did this happen?
The short answer: It was always this way, and designers have simply stepped up to fill a need.
Toss a quarter in the air in downtown Honolulu, and chances are it'll smack a big-bag person. They are legion and in the past have simply been traveling incognito, disguised as two-bag women or shopping-bag ladies.
The small-bag person cannot fathom the survival mechanism that leads the big-bag person to carry every potentially useful tool when home is essentially no more than 30 to 45 minutes away; a drugstore, even closer. A day at work or shopping expedition is hardly an episode of "Survivor," and, in a life-or-death emergency, how useful is that sheet of Kleenex? I mean, my mama told me to always plan for emergencies, but in those days she meant carrying a quarter for a pay-phone call in case a date went awry.
While those who carry big purses lug the same bag day in and day out, the downside of the little purse is that those who do carry them switch them often for fashion purposes, sometimes two or three times a day, and in making the switch, fail to properly transfer all that is truly necessary. Little-purse people get by without wallets, so I've left home at various times without house key, credit card, driver's license or cash -- at times, all of the last three items. That's when I get by with a little help from my friends, the kindness of strangers and an honest countenance.
I guess it takes a certain of optimism to think one can get by in the cold, cruel world without an emergency kit, and for me the small purse is also the ultimate statement of liberation. I'm free to come and go as I please without excess baggage.
Others don't feel that way. One high-profile big-bag person is KITV news anchor Pamela Young, whose journalistic duties make carrying a big notepad a necessity. It's much easier to pull one out of a big purse than to struggle with a little one.
"A big bag is a great thing. I can put a lot in, except that I've got so much junk I can never find it."
This has led to some embarrassing moments.
"I can never find a pen when I need one, so I went out and bought a bunch of cigar-size pens and threw them into my bag. I was ready," she said. "I got sent out on assignment and pulled one out without looking and just started scribbling, but I noticed it was making a scratching sound.
"It was a tampon."
That wasn't enough to make her change her ways. "I feel inadequate with a small bag," Young said.
Organization is no problem for Gina Santiago, another big-purse person, who said, "My purses are always divided into three with a zipper compartment in the middle.
BY NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kathy Arasaki, a small-bag person, shows one of her larger bags, a Coach gold mosaic hobo, still measuring in at a relatively petite 7-by-8 inches.
"I see a lot of big bags now that are square and big enough for people to put files into them. Otherwise, I don't know how a person can organize it. A lot of people with big bags can't even find their cell phones in them."
For Santiago, a product development manager at Hilo Hattie, her enthusiasm for big bags coincides with her commuter mentality, after spending 18 years in New York working in the fashion industry and taking the subway everywhere.
"On the subway a person likes to read, so I always have a paperback, newspaper or magazines, and you always carry water, a snack, maybe a sandwich."
She hasn't stopped the habit, even though she's noticed that her right carry-all shoulder is now lower than her left one.
"The bad thing about a big bag is that it's only going to get heavier; it never gets lighter. Things go in and stay for a while. It's like an empty room. You might put a sofa in it, but when you walk in you think it looks empty, so you go out and buy more furniture. With a bigger space you feel free to fill it."
"I've always carried a big address book. I don't know why," Santiago said, especially now that all her important numbers have been transferred to her cell phone.
Old habits die hard, and that goes for the little-bag person as well.
"All my friends are surprised by how I carry such small bags," Kathy Arasaki, a small-business consultant, said. "I like the look. To me it's more of a fashion accessory than something practical to carry things. And it's sort of a philosophy of life -- how much do you really need? Minimalist is just better. We can live simpler lives.
"I don't like it when there's tons of junk in a handbag. I don't use a wallet, and with keys, I've taken off every key from my key ring except my house key."
In addition to the house key, her list of little-purse essentials is short: lipstick, some cash, her driver's license, a credit card and a pen. "That's all I really need," she said.
Her biggest bag, measuring a relatively small 9 by 10 inches, was purchased for travel. Otherwise, she's more likely to be spotted with anything from 4-by-5-inch wristlets to pochettes measuring 5 by 7 or 6 by 8 inches.
When she meets with clients, she carries a planner and computer case if she needs it.
Arasaki said it's probably easier to turn a small-bag person into a big-bag person than vice versa.
"There are a lot of cute big bags out there now. I think I could be tempted to get one, although I don't see it as becoming my regular everyday bag."
If a small-bag person can change, it's possible that a big-bag person can be reformed. Rose Reed, for one, is trying.
After toting her daily necessities, along with the equivalent of a medicine cabinet, for years, the weight of her handbag was taking its toll on her neck, back and shoulders. A rash of plastic customer loyalty cards and gift cards was the last straw.
"The plastic cards weigh the most. People don't notice but they all add up. If you take out all the plastic from your wallet, it gets much, much lighter. I even tried to stick to one supermarket so I wouldn't have to carry them all."
She's taken to bundling her cosmetics in the lightest case possible, a LeSportsac zippered nylon sack, and she's always on the lookout for lightweight cosmetic cases such as those now made with cardboard instead of plastic.
"Forget the beautiful ones; they're really heavy. Only the young girls don't mind."
For Reed, image and vanity now take a back seat to comfort.
"Someone gave me a nice datebook, but it was really heavy. Now I just use the free paper one from First Hawaiian Bank because it's thin. Even the pen is a free Kahala Mandarin pen because it's small and light and writes pretty well."
In addition to going light, she's learning to leave things behind, even if they're still relatively close at hand.
"I keep a lot of things in my car now: hand lotions, Band-Aids, Advil, Tylenol, hand wipes. It gets icky after a while, so I have to change it periodically.
"I don't think I'm that bad. One of my friends carries everything in her bag. Whatever you ask for, she has.
"One time we were at a Chinese restaurant and were saying, 'Wouldn't it be nice if we had bamboo chopsticks,' because they're easier to use than the plastic ones, and she had it. She had enough for everyone."